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A Parent’s Perspective: Enrichment Opportunities

June 9, 2007

This article, written by one of our own CGA Campus Representatives, appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of Tempo Magazine – a publication of the Texas Association of Gifted and Talented (TAGT). We received permission to reprint it for YOU!

I have yet to find a parent who feels that their child’s education perfectly fits their child’s needs. No matter how wonderful the educational environment, it is unlikely that it matches their individual needs and interests. Only you with your child’s input are truly qualified to determine which needs are being met. How then do you go about filling in gaps that are inevitably there? Here are some suggestions:

  • Evaluate the total child.
  • Schedule playtime both alone and with friends.
  • Include down time to relax and recover.
  • Balance school work, physical activity, and play time.
  • Identify and fill the academic holes.

My son is now 10 and is in fourth grade and my daughter is six and is in first grade. Early on, I knew my son was a little “different”. What made him different was his intense interest in all things academic. Fortunately he is also a very active child, so I do not have the pressures of trying to make an academically minded child stay active. Despite his love of school and being engaged most of the time, I knew what he was receiving during the school day was not nearly enough. I found myself on a quest to find programs that would both challenge him and enhance his educational experience. Over the years, I accumulated a file full of extracurricular activities. Other parents began to think of me as the extracurricular expert. Really, I was just a mom on a mission. If you find yourself on a similar mission, the following might help you find activities or programs that best fit your child’s needs.

Building a File of Ideas
Where do you get ideas?

  • Talk to other parents – Getting started seems to be the biggest hurdle. I simply started by talking to as many people as I could. My ears would perk up if I overheard parents talking about programs their kids were involved in and I would always step in, ask questions, and write down how to find out more about the program.
  • Teachers / Gifted teachers – See what programs teachers have heard about or had other students participate. What Web sites or resources can they refer you to?
  • Search topic Web sites – Search for topics that interest your child. If your child is interested in ocean life, do a search for sea camp, marine biology camp, or any other possible key words.
  • Search district gifted Web sites – look at your school district’s Web site. Other school districts also can be great sources of information. The following nine Web sites represent just a handful of Texas’ school district’s gifted and talented parent organizations, which include information on extracurricular and summer programs.
  1. Carroll ISD
  2. Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD
  3. Highland Park ISD
  4. Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD
  5. Fort Bend ISD
  6. Katy ISD
  7. Pearland ISD
  8. Clear Creek ISD
  9. Coppell ISD
  • Search university Web sites – Many Texas universities have gifted programs and resources for younger children. At the 2004 TAGT conference, I ran across a fabulous resource for gifted extracurricular activities, “Finding Good Options and Choosing Worthwhile Adventures” presented by Barbara Hoggan with the University of North Texas. Provided was a 14-page handout listing numerous activities in all different academic areas.
  • Join the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) – Within TAGT’s publications, such as Insights, program listings are provided. TAGT also provides another network in which to share and gather information.
  • Attend TAGT conferences – Take the opportunity to attend the annual and parent conferences. As you meet other parents and educators, network to find out about additional program opportunities.
  • Read, read, and read – Read whatever comes your way. Explore the advertised Web sites and follow the links. I have found extremely useful information by following links.

Building a Database
Once you have a file full of possible programs, how do you manage the information? First of all, determine what types of programs are potentially right for you and your kids. Begin with his or her interests. If your child has a passion for something, narrow down the possibilities. Some questions to keep in mind…

  • Are you only looking for summer programs?
  • Does a combination of after-school programs and summer programs best meet your child’s needs?
  • Does the activity need to be close by or can you make arrangements for participation out-of-town?
  • Does the program need to be something that is attended or online?
  • Are there time constraints?

Program information was then organized by age group and grade level, along with a brief description of the program. Contact information and web addresses were also included in the database. Include a section in the database that covers cost. Many programs are very reasonably priced and some even have scholarships or financial aid available. Some programs can be found for as little as $5.

Sharing Information
Share information by providing it to your district’s gifted and talented organization. The more information you share, the more likely you will be to find other parents and children who have similar interests. Programs further away from home can be easier to participate if parents can share transportation responsibilities.

Selecting New Activities or Programs
Try to pick one new activity or program to add to your child’s schedule. Even one additional outside activity or program will greatly enhance your child’s education. Don’t wait for your teachers or school to participate; do it yourself. At the beginning of each new school year revaluate the list. Find what activities are available and appropriate for your child’s age and grade level. Discuss the options with your child. I find each year is like a big puzzle as we determine what is possible to add and what fits in to the schedule.

Create Your Own Program
If nothing exists or is convenient, start your own program. If your child loves chess and there are no chess clubs or chess events that work for you, start your own chess club. It may come as a surprise how many other kids share similar interests. For example, last fall as I was determining what programs we might be interested, another parent and I  decided that we would form our own after-school club. We tailored it to meet our boys’ interests. We combined math, science, engineering and economics, and chose a variety of competitions in which to participate. We sought and gained approval through our elementary school to promote the club and include other fourth graders and were allowed to meet at the school. Imagine our surprise when we had 23 out of the 78 fourth graders sign up for our program. Many parents came  out and helped with the group. We traveled all over the Metroplex for various competitions.

Ultimately you are responsible for your child’s education. Don’t let busy schedules or lack of information hinder your ability to help your child. It is likely you can find an extracurricular activity to assist you if you just take a little time to find it.

Additional Resources

Hilary Pluemer is an active member of Coppell ISD’s gifted association. She has two children in gifted programs. Hilary is the founder of SCHEMES, an extracurricular engineering, economics, math and science program offered through the elementary school. When not volunteering, she spends her time working with select high-end investment clients and businesses. Before becoming a full time mother, she was in senior management for a national investment firm.

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