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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

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Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

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John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

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Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

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April 2, 2014

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Jewish World Review Jan. 20, 2005 / 10 Shevat, 5765

When ‘gifted’ children have problems

By Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg

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A seasoned educator considers some often overlooked issues in educating geniuses

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | By the time David reached sixth grade, he was among the top achievers in his school. A whiz at schoolwork, he was a natural to leapfrog ahead a year. But David was not a gregarious child and, says his father, would have found the seventh grade social scene daunting.

As a result, David happily hung in with his classmates, zipping through regular lessons, tackling bonus questions and then tutoring friends who were having a tougher time.

"It boosted his confidence," says his father. "And it helped the other children because he was from their peer group."

Miriam easily stood out from the other children in her kindergarten class. The 4-year-old was reading picture- less books by the time she started junior kindergarten. She could do both multiplication and division during third grade. "Counting the dots was inane to her," says her mother. "She would write little notes and pass them along to the other 4-year-olds, and get frustrated that they couldn't understand."

Yet, despite her having abilities that obviously exceeded the class level, a suggestion from her mother that Miriam skip ahead to senior kindergarten was rejected by her elementary school principal.

Grade skips by gifted students are rarely allowed today by educators who fear that a child's emotional development could be at risk. Parents who worry about their children languishing in classrooms where they are not being academically challenged are now often accused of pushing their children too hard. So last year Miriam received 15 minutes of enrichment math each day while her junior kindergarten classmates were at recess.

David and Miriam are in good company. In most schools, skipping a grade is such an anomaly that most educators can recall only a few students who were promoted ahead of their peers in decades of years of teaching.

There is no short answer to the question of whether or not to skip a child. There are so many factors that go into the debate and this article will highlight some of the pros and cons. Then you can follow the advice of King Solomon in Proverbs who instructs us to educate each child according to his way.


A child's developmental level is the driver. Some thinking on skipping is that if a child is further ahead academically than where he is placed, the gap can be filled with enrichment programs.

This approach may be sound in theory, but it places a tremendous burden on already stressed teachers to develop individual programs for under — and over — achievers.

Financial challenges are very, very real. Still, it's such a priority and such a basic part of our beliefs that not having the time is not accepted as an excuse. Indeed, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that it is both a legal and moral obligation to build individual programs for children.

Program modifications can mean a complete overhaul of grade-by-grade expectations. These program changes follow a student through elementary and secondary school, so it's possible for a child who is two or more years behind in the curriculum to graduate from high school far short of standard requirements — albeit with diminished expectations for further study.

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The challenge of social adjustment is key for children who move ahead of their age group, particularly those who do so in the higher elementary grades. At that age, a few months can make a big difference in how children view the world, each other and themselves.

"I skipped sixth grade and there were times in seventh and eight when I felt like a fish out of water", I was once told by a student. Children who skip a primary grade seem to weather the change better. Still, the effects continue to be felt into their teens.

Mrs. K. didn't register the impact of her daughter skipping grade three until Rachel contemplated (and then rejected) fast-tracking through high school, doing four years in three. That would have put her two years ahead of students her age and, as her mother moans, "She would have been only 16 going off to seminary. That's too young."

Luckily for Rachel, she had a tight social network of older friends, including a big sister that suddenly was in the same grade, which made the transition a breeze. In fact, Chani was happy to have her sister in her class, although the same can't be said for all older siblings, who can be threatened or, at least, annoyed to find their little brother or sister catching up.

The first motivation and consideration for skipping a child is because the child is bored in school. This may be the first sign of a child that is gifted and skipping is usually no quick fix to a bright, gifted student.

For many parents, the decisions made by some families may not be so obvious. If your child is struggling or finds the work too easy, consider how the school can support the academic needs without promotion. Many schools provide opportunities for students to work ahead of grade level in one or two subjects, either within the same classroom or with another teacher. Some may have special advanced programs available for children formally identified as gifted.

Still, the practice of keeping children within their age group has its detractors. There is some concern that bright children may become bored, a view upheld by some studies. If you don't challenge them, they'll challenge you. Similarly, some parents are concerned that promoting children who are not up to level will dilute the learning of other children.

There is great confusion in knowing the difference between a child that is gifted and a child who has some form of attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD). Too many children are incorrectly diagnosed with a disorder when many of these children are actually gifted. Not providing for their individual needs can be just as detrimental as not providing for the needs of the learning disabled.

Gifted children are at risk for being identified with ADD. Most people, including medical professionals, do not realize that giftedness is often associated with the following behaviors: Underachieving, anger and frustration, high energy, intensity, fidgeting, impulsivity, individualistic, nonconforming, stubborn, disorganization, sloppy, poor handwriting, forgetful, absentminded, daydreams, emotional, moody and low interest in details.

Most adults do not recognize a child that is gifted because they don't really understand what gifted means or they may believe a child is both ADD and gifted. As a result, many gifted children these days are being medicated for a problem they may not have.

Parents, if your child seems very bright have a qualified psychologist evaluate him or her for giftedness BEFORE you accept a diagnosis of ADD with medication.

Many people define the gifted incorrectly. They say that the gifted are supposed to be model students, teaching themselves how to spell and perfect their grammar, win spelling bees, have perfect social skills and become outstanding achievers. This is true of SOME gifted children.

Many others, however, act out and space out in boring school settings, and their increasing anger and frustration may lead to oppositional behavior and underachievement. They may have sloppy handwriting because of fast thought processes, miss details, and be unorganized and forgetful. Some even believe they are stupid.

There is some evidence that as many as half of all children with IQs above 130 get below average grades, and in one study 13% of high school dropouts were gifted. In another study, a full 25% of children diagnosed with ADHD tested so high in creativity tests they qualified for state scholarships.

Gifted children MUST receive an education that fits their needs. If they don't, they should be expected to act out or space out, and it is NOT their fault! Placing them on medication so that they can tolerate a more boring school is absurd.

Why do some gifted children act like those with ADD or ADHD? One reason is that gifted children become bored easily in settings that average people find tolerable (like school or work). Boredom leads to restlessness, and restlessness leads to all sorts of problems. Fast thought processes could lead not only to boredom but also to poor handwriting, errors in simple work, disorganization and sloppiness.

Grade skipping is an excellent option for some students. Children without any serious existing social problems should adjust quite well. Another method of acceleration is to allow a child to attend a class in a higher grade for certain subjects. For example, a second grade child who is ahead in math, but not in reading, would be part of a third grade class for math.

Labeling a child "gifted" can cause problems.

Children who are told they succeed because they are smart often fear failure. They feel they are judged by their level of intelligence and success is due not to effort, but to intelligence. Failure means they may not be as smart as everyone thinks. Therefore, they may avoid trying anything unless they are certain to succeed.

It is much better to tell a child he or she is being advanced because of hard work, because that encourages more effort in the future. You tell your son he is a better reader because he reads more than his friends, not because he is smarter. And that he is better in say, Talmud, because he using thinking skills more than his friends.

While teachers are right to be concerned about the emotional growth of children, being in a non-challenging classroom atmosphere can also be damaging. Some research has shown that moving children up a grade or two can do a great deal of good academically without hurting their social and emotional development. A decade-old University of Michigan study found that gifted students who are accelerated achieve more than those who are not moved up.

Despite the research, educators remain skeptical. "Acceleration works about 95% of the time," said one rabbi, "and the teacher remembers the child for whom it didn't work." So when new children's names are suggested for acceleration, the teacher says, "I don't want to put this child through that experience."

As with everything else, acceleration must be kept in perspective. A full-grade skip should only happen when a student demonstrates he or she is gifted in all academic areas. When deemed correct for the student, skipping in the early grades is better because the move poses a lower risk of negatively affecting social development.

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Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg is dean of Torah Academy in Minneapolis, MN. and a columnist for Yated Ne'eman. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

© 2004, Yated Ne'eman