April 2008
Educational Options Newsletter
In this issue

School is Not Real Life

Boys in Primary Grade Classrooms By Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D.

A client couple recently asked me to observe their nearly five-year-old son in his small private school K-1 classroom (that's kindergarten through 1st grade). Their little boy was already tested and found to be exceptionally gifted, so the school was willing to accept him into their program before he was five years old. But he hated school and wasn't making the progress that anyone had envisioned. They told me that the teacher, a young woman in her first year of teaching, was interested in whatever recommendations I might make to "engage" this child in learning at school.

First, I watched the eight little girls vie for top spot by finishing all they were asked to do quickly and perfectly. The girls set to work immediately when the teacher told them what they were to do. I watched the four little boys slide around in their seats-or fall off completely-or get up and walk around, ask to go to the bathroom, rip holes in the paper with pencil and scissors, put their heads on their desks, and otherwise not even begin to do what they were asked to do. The boy I was asked to watch behaved in all the "wrong" ways just as his parents had been told, but absolutely the same way as the other boys in the class.

Is sitting still and doing exactly what the teacher tells you to do a prerequisite for a good life? Is there something wrong with the boys or with the schools for expecting all children to sit still and be quiet? When schools tout their "developmentally appropriate" curriculums, do they talk about allowing active young boys to explore, handle objects, run around, and use their kinesthetic, visual and spatial abilities, the primary learning modes of males? We need to ask ourselves, what is "developmentally appropriate"-and in what ways-for whom?

I am a high intelligence specialist, but when the parents of a bright boy come to me because they are considering early entrance to kindergarten (starting school before the usual age five), I almost always discourage it. The home, preschool, and kindergarten environments are almost always more boy- friendly than grade school because they are more flexible and allow more free choice for the children, much like a good Montessori school. . . . continued in Column 2

Keeping Up With Dr. Ruf . . .


As of this week, the Educational Options office hours will be changed for the summer. Email and phone inquiries will now be answered from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday and then either Wednesday or Thursday (one or the other depending on our client schedule). As always, we will continue to respond to your questions as soon as possible.

In the hopes that we have now seen the last of the snow, we wish you all a wonderful Spring!

Sincerely, Kathy Hara, Editor

School Is Not Real Life, continued from Column 1

It makes so much more sense to experience one more year at home or in preschool, go to kindergarten for another year of flexibility and playtime, and then skip 1st grade. This way, the child still goes through school somewhat faster, but needs to spend less time in the more structured grade school environment. The problem with this boy's school placement is that it was more like a 1st grade than a kindergarten classroom, and he really didn't need to be there yet.

What did I recommend? I told them he shouldn't even be in school yet. A good daycare would fit his current needs better at this point. At the most, he should go half days or only two to three days a week at this age regardless of his intellectual abilities. In another article I will tell you how much bright kids really learn-or don't learn-in school.

Food for Thought

Here is a website devoted to the exchange of opinions and ideas that has attracted discourse from all over the world. Edge Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit private operating foundation, was established in 1988 as an outgrowth of a group known as The Reality Club. Its informal membership includes some of the most interesting minds in the world.

The mandate of Edge Foundation is to promote inquiry into and discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, as well as to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society.

The site has archives that go back to 1996, and also features an annual question going back to 1998. The question in 1998 was "What Questions are You Asking Yourself?" This year's question is "What Have You Changed Your Mind About? Why?" and the site posts 165 replies from Alan Alda to Anton Zeilinger.

In Minnesota: Museum Adventure Pass

School will soon be out, and that means kids will be looking for fun things to do. In Hennepin County, a library card can be used to find more than books!

The Museum Adventure Pass, available for check-out at all metro area public libraries, gives library users free admission for up to 4 people at participating museums and other organizations. From the American Swedish Institute to The Works: A Technology Discovery Center, there are 19 fun locations for entertaining and educational day trips.

A Personal Note

Over the weekend of March 28, Dr. Ruf and her husband, Dr. Larry Kuusisto, drove to Michigan to pick up their long anticipated standard poodle puppy. Named Juuno Kuusisto, this curly black ball of energy has already doubled his weight. But he's learning quickly and is already showing signs of being a good family companion.

Losing Our Minds
Dr. Ruf's book, Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind, is available through Great PotentialPress or Amazon.

Learn More

"The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education."

- Maya Angelou

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