catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 48, Num 1 :: 2008.10.01 — 2008.12.15


A parent's view of academic talent development

Our daughter, Jayne, recently graduated from the eighth grade at Byron Center Christian School. Graduation brings a time of reflection, and in looking back at her nine years at BCCS we recognize how blessed we were that her unique academic talents were identified early on by her teachers and our administrator, even before our school had an official program for the academically talented. 


Elementary School

Over the years her needs have been met in several ways, starting in kindergarten with the Literacy Learning model for reading which allowed her to read at her own level. In first grade, she was placed in a first- and second-grade split classroom where she could easily learn alongside the older students in the room. She was allowed to test out of a full year of math, and beginning in second grade she studied math independently, meeting one-on-one with a teacher twice a week to review her completed assignments, introduce new material, and receive the next assignment. In fourth and fifth grade, a small group of students was “pulled out” of the regular classroom for advanced spelling, which included word study and vocabulary. During this time, a consultant from the Christian Learning Center met with us and the teachers regularly, provided ideas for enrichment, and advocated for differentiated learning in the classroom for Jayne and other academically talented students.


Middle School

When Jayne entered middle school, we began to look for other alternatives for math. After taking the Explore test through the Midwest Talent Search, Jayne qualified to take an on-line Honors Pre-Algebra class through the Educational Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) out of Stanford University as a sixth grader. She was able to do her course work right in the classroom with her peers during their math hour, yet was challenged to think and learn in new ways. However, there was very little interaction with her assigned tutor and it was developed by a secular university and not taught from a Christian world view.

After qualifying by taking the ACT, Jayne studied Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 during the seventh grade through the Kent Academically Talented Youth Program (ATYP). This required her to leave school one afternoon each week to go downtown Grand Rapids to the Grand Valley State University campus for her class. Spending time with her academic peers was very beneficial, but socially, she missed some activities at school and being with her friends. Although she did exceptionally well in the class, she insisted that we find something different for eighth grade.


CLC Online Classes

We were tremendously grateful that the Christian Learning Center was piloting their on-line courses and that Geometry was one of the options. As a bonus, Jayne took an Honors English class as well as Geometry through the CLC in eighth grade. It seemed that these classes were designed just for her. Academically, she was challenged to use higher level thinking skills and a few times during the school year she even felt "overwhelmed

 by her assignments % this was a good thing! It was a new experience for her and she had to learn how to break the assignments down into more manageable pieces. 

There was plenty of opportunity for Jayne to interact with her teachers, beginning with an orientation on site at the CLC headquarters and by email and on “Blackboard” throughout the school year. She was also able to form relationships with her academic peers, working on several projects together online and presenting them to the rest of the class at a few meetings. As a motivated, independent learner, the online format of the class allowed her to work at her own pace and on her own schedule. It also allowed her to stay at her school, eliminating the problem of missed work to be made up. Friendships and social activities are very important to her, and she did not feel “out of the loop” because she missed lunchtime conversations or activities like exploratory classes and “pizza hot lunch.” And most importantly, unlike EPGY and ATYP, these classes were taught by wonderful, caring Christian teachers from a distinctly Reformed Christian worldview.

The CLC online classes were truly a blessing and an answer to prayer for Jayne and our family. We are thankful that CLC has taken on this initiative to provide real learning for academically talented students in a format that met so many of our needs.

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