Often times, you will read or hear people refer to gifted children as “poppies.” Why is that? Where did the term come from?
The story goes that there was once a general who had just conquered a new territory. He didn’t know what he should do with the leaders of the defeated tribes. He could either choose to use them for their knowledge of the land and experience or he could imprison them for fear that they would cause an uprising. He asked his father for advice. His father took him to a field of poppies and, without saying a word, started cutting down the heads of all the poppies that had grown taller than the others. The general knew what he should do. He went back and killed all the defeated leaders.
The term “poppy” for gifted children is used to signify the tall poppies. The ones that have grown taller or faster than the rest. The ones that are at risk of being cut down to the same size as the others. There are 2 ways that these tall poppies are at risk.
First is the risk of schools without programs or services for gifted children forcing them to remain in a classroom where they are not challenged to reach their full potential. Too many schools push for uniformity. They want all kids of the same age to be in the same grade level, no matter their academic level. If you are 7 and going to turn 8 in the next academic year, you are entering 2nd grade…no matter whether you’re performing at a 2nd grade level or a 5th grade level.
Those taller poppies are forced to sit through 6 hours a day of reviewing things they have already known how to do for years.
It’s what causes boredom in school…and when a child, any child, is bored…we all know what happens. They get restless. In school this causes a behavior problem. Behavior problems can sometimes cause teachers to fail to see their potential, causing them to be overlooked. Downward spiral fast….causing underachievement.
The 2nd risk for taller poppies is peer pressure. When you are in school, you have a higher risk of being bullied if you are different than others. Gifted children are different. They speak differently. They act differently. They learn differently. As soon as they realize how different they are, they are sometimes tempted to change themselves to be like everyone else. They start pretending to not be as smart so others won’t know how different they are… again causing underachievement.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I used to work in schools before I became a mom. I have nothing against public schools. I also attended public school in the same district where I worked from K-12. This district had what was called Stretch classes that you had to qualify for. If you qualified, you entered a class that was in your grade level, but you did schoolwork equivalent with the next grade level up. I did not attend these classes, so I’m not sure how they lived up to that, but it sounds like a great idea. However, some gifted children perform far above their chronological age so one grade level advancement does not always do the job.
For example… Asher, if he was performing at a 4 year old level, would be entering a Pre-K class this fall. If we sent him to a school, this is where he would be forced to be. Why? The state law says that a child must be 5 before they can enter any public school in the state. There are some ways to get around it if your child has a birthday close to the cut off, but other than that you are forced to wait. Therefore, Asher with a February birthday, would have to wait until next year to enter kindergarten. Well, he passed kindergarten with flying colors LAST year in our homeschool. So by time he is actually 5 and able to enter kindergarten at a public school he will actually be performing at a 2nd and, depending on how fast he goes through 2nd, possibly 3rd grade level by then. It is very rare for a school to let someone skip 2 or even 3 grades.
I get it…and it’s a tough decision to allow your child to skip that many grades anyway. They will be exponentially smaller and less mature than their classmates. That’s where it gets hard. If your child skips grades they are at risk of being bullied for being small and also for being smart, but they will be working to their full potential. If you keep them back with other students their age, they are around the same size and maturity as their peers, but you are dealing with a bored child who probably will become a behavior problem and probably will not enjoy school.
So what are our options right now…
- Send Asher to Pre-K, knowing he will be back to learning things he knew when he was 1.5 to 2 years old.
- Try to get Asher into a private school for the gifted or a Montessori school that works at his faster pace. Yeah….we can’t even begin to afford that on a single income.
- Homeschool- DING DING DING!!!
So the only solution we have, for now, is homeschooling. This is the best way to help our poppy stand as tall as he can without being cut down to be like everyone else his age.
Stand tall, my poppy!