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The Gifts of a Gifted Education

By Allison Barto, Mackintosh parent

I know first-hand that the comfort and security of a right-fit school pays dividends as a child grows into adulthood.  I know because I was fortunate to receive a gifted education from kindergarten through middle school myself. My friends and I grew up loving school. We saw it as an integral part of our lives. We felt at home in the classroom and didn’t want to miss a moment.  In short, we loved school.

Surrounded by kids like ourselves, participating a full-time inquiry-based gifted program, we weren’t grouped or stereotyped by our peers based on our sensitivities, learning style, interests, and drive. We perceived ourselves as “normal kids” because everyone at school shared our intense interest in learning and love of complex games on and off the playground. School wasn’t a chore or something we had to suffer through.

Now, as the parent of a gifted daughter, I’ve learned that a full-time gifted program isn’t just better than other options – it is essential for the highly-gifted learner academically and for emotional well-being.  Since I grew up happily surrounded by kids just like me in school, I didn’t realize how gifted learners can be stressed to the breaking point when the school day is filled with frustration and boredom.

Unfortunately my daughter spent two years at this breaking point prior to enrolling at Mackintosh.  Typical of many gifted girls, she is a perfectionist who wants to do the right thing.  She would dutifully perform what was asked of her and her teachers believed she was a perfectly happy, adequately challenged child.  At home the tears would spill out her anger at the frustration she endured all day at school.  Even when a school tried to cater to gifted children through ability grouping, this differentiation was insufficient to meet my daughter’s needs for challenge, depth, and pace.  Worse, they didn’t realize they were falling short.

Within two weeks of beginning at Mackintosh Academy, our daughter transformed. She was happy, engaged, and intellectually satiated at school, and she returned home each day with confidence, laughter, and eager chatter about what she had learned. We had an entirely different child at home.

Families considering the educational options available to their gifted children often ask whether a full-time gifted program, like Mackintosh Academy, is really necessary. Is it that much better than a challenging academic program or GT pull-out program?  Yes, I believe it is.