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When your child is “different”….

When your child is different
Lesedauer: 7 Minuten

“Lisa forms grammatically complex sentences without errors.”

“Ehm, yeah right. What else,” I thought. In my hands, I held my daughter’s first school report.

But let’s rewind a few years.

I was determined to become a mother at a young age. That worked out. Six weeks after my 22nd birthday, Lisa was delivered by cesarean section. Too thick head – that should also prove to be true in a figurative sense.

When Lisa was six days old, my grandparents came to visit me. I opened the door for them, Lisa in my arms. My grandmother later told me that she was a little scared because she was looking at an awake baby and not a newborn. This is how it went on. Lisa started talking at 8 months, formed complete sentences at 16 months, put on her tights by herself at 18 months, and sang along to English songs in the car at 20 months. “Don’t speak” by No Doubt, for example. For me, this was completely normal. My friends all didn’t have children yet, and I had no means of comparison.

Of course, I knew that Lisa was quite clever and perhaps a bit earlier in everything than the average child. But I didn’t think much more of it. Everything was great in kindergarten. The kindergarten teachers were great. We spent a lot of time out in the woods, building playgrounds, etc. And in the afternoons, when I came to pick Lisa up, I often found her in the after-school group – “They do much more exciting things there.”

All great.

Catastrophe: School

And then? Well, that’s when school started. Community Elementary School in Wuppertal. Or rather, I should say the “school disaster”. Lisa turned into a class terror. Because Lisa was bored and not a “good, quiet girl,” she came up with a lot of nonsense. The school had just introduced differentiated instruction, so I made an appointment with the class teacher, Mrs. A, who was also the principal of the school. When I asked her to give Lisa challenging tasks in the free-learning hours, she replied: “Lisa has to do the tasks for everyone first, then she can get more.” I thought, ” You realize something?”. How am I supposed to explain that to a smart kid? “Then you can get more,” sounds more like punishment than differentiated instruction. And so what I had foreseen came to pass. Lisa was bored to death, did more and more stupid things, the class teacher got more and more angry, Lisa did even more stupid things. A vicious circle.

In another parent meeting, Mrs. A then told me: “Well, I don’t know what to do with Lisa anymore. I yelled at her in front of the whole class that she was the biggest school monster we’d ever had, but that didn’t impress her one bit. Lisa just stood up and said, “And you know what? I’m going to behave this badly until I get out of here.”” Ms. A thought Lisa’s reaction was totally out of line, but you know what was really out of line?

Teachers at the end of their rope

“Ms. A, it can’t be that you, as a teacher, have no other means at your disposal than to embarrass the child in front of the assembled class and think that’s right, too.”

Until then, I had been trying hard to keep Lisa in check and have a positive influence on her so that the school day went smoothly for everyone. Now I was in fight mode. Don’t get me wrong. Of course, a teacher’s nerves get the best of them, and Lisa was certainly exhausting. I talked to Mrs. A several times and literally begged her to keep the child busy in class. That would have been easy. Lisa was interested in all kinds of things. She would have enjoyed learning things she didn’t know and would have been a valuable part of the class community. Just like in kindergarten. By the way, I talked to the kindergarten teacher again. I wanted to know if there really had never been any problems. Mrs. L got really angry and wanted to march straight to the school to take the teacher to task….

Sometimes you just have to talk

That was when I started looking for a support group. For parents of highly gifted children. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Just talk everything out and get some tips. I had already thought that the other parents also had to deal with massive problems, but when I heard that about half of the highly gifted children now went to lower secondary schools and special schools, I was stunned. I then talked to Lisa’s former kindergarten teacher again because I knew that her father was the principal of a special school and she confirmed to me – according to her feeling – this unbelievable number of highly gifted children at special schools.

You wouldn’t believe how often I was told at that time: “Be happy. A highly gifted child.” But you know what? It doesn’t matter whether your child has a learning disability, is particularly sensitive, has to deal with strokes of fate, suffers from an illness or is highly gifted. If your child doesn’t fit into the system, you are – to put it mildly – screwed.

I then managed to get Lisa to skip the second grade. At first, Mrs. A didn’t want that. For that, she would need an IQ test, and she would only allow highly gifted children to skip.

Every child is gifted

Short note from me: intellectual giftedness, that’s the official term. I believe that every child is highly gifted – in his own way and if we adults do not spoil it or break it.

Okay, we had an IQ test done. Lisa was clearly in the gifted range. But then it occurred to Mrs. A that she would have to learn cursive writing in the first semester of second grade and that Lisa would have to learn this first in order to be allowed to jump. “Mrs. A, are you serious? If this child, who is bored anyway, is now supposed to practice cursive for six months, what do you think will happen?”

Ms. A ultimately agreed. Lisa learned cursive writing in a single afternoon during summer vacation and was allowed to attend third grade after summer vacation.

The jump to third grade saved Lisa from the worst, but the two years were far from happy. I saw how my child suffered every day from the school situation and could do almost nothing about it. There were hardly any schools for highly gifted children at that time. I found two boarding schools. But Lisa did not want to leave home. At that time, I intensively campaigned for a teacher to come to the parents’ group and learn about giftedness. I looked for further education courses that could have been attended on the advanced training days. Nothing interested the school as a whole or the individual teachers. Once I was told: “The problem of giftedness doesn’t exist, your daughter is just difficult, this time we chose “skateboarding” as a training for ourselves, at least we’ll get something out of it.” Crying, being angry or laughing? None of it helps.

I then gritted my teeth. Told myself over and over that we’d get the two years around. I instituted reward programs. Actually, the teachers needed them, but I tried to keep my child “on track.” Lisa was the one who paid the biggest price.

There are alternatives

Based on the experiences from the parents’ group, it was clear to me that I could not send my child to a public secondary school. I am sure that would not have worked. So I started looking for private alternatives early on. I quickly found what I was looking for. A private Montessori school with a maximum of 15 children in the class. Learning with head, heart and hand. In the morning there were lessons for all and in the afternoon each child could develop the lessons of the morning. Either they could repeat the subject matter with a wide variety of materials, or they could receive build-up material and delve deeper into the subject. The school fees were a lot of money for me at that time and my whole environment thought I was stupid. But after a trial week that Lisa was allowed to attend at the end of the third grade, it was clear: This is our school.

Unfortunately, Lisa only went to this school for four years because we moved away. But I am still grateful to the school today for what it accomplished. The school had the best teachers – clearly, because rotten apples could be sorted out immediately. 15 children per class was luxury, each child got their space and the children’s learning achievements were shared with parents four times a year in detailed learning reports. The school building was a listed building and the children were made aware of being proud of it and taking care of it. There were freshly cooked school lunches. The first lesson did not start until 8:50 a.m. and the children did not need to carry school supplies. The learning content and the external conditions were almost optimal.

There are also great teachers

I know that there are also teachers at public schools who do great work. My younger daughter has been able to get to know many of them. But I also know that the school system attracts far too many rotten teacher-apples who don’t care about the children at all, but rather – as one teacher once so naively put it to me: “Get in good, sit in fat and never have to get out again.” She was referring to the civil service system in Germany. And above all, I know one thing. My Lisa is not an isolated case. If your child deviates just a tiny bit from the norm of the high-functioning student, there’s a good chance she’ll be robbed of the best time of her life when she starts school. The time that should be carefree and full of joy: his childhood.

My very personal conclusion:

It took me almost 25 years, but when Lisa was in elementary school, I thought almost every day that I should actually start a school. But I never really pursued the idea because, of course, every private school in Germany is also subject to state regulations – even if it is allowed to determine many things itself. That didn’t seem to make much sense to me.

But now – as there are more and more remote jobs, as we are all connected to the Internet wherever we are – the dream is becoming reality. I put together all the concepts, the ideas that have been fermenting in me for a quarter of a century, present them to my strong, since critical partners and together we create a concept that is not only optimal for families who want or need to be on the road, but also for all the children who, for a variety of reasons, cannot find a good place in a regular school. For all those children whose parents realize that they want more for their child than an educational level that is quite ok.

At UNBRICKED, all students are “highly gifted” because we support your child in finding and developing his or her inclinations and talents – his or her own personal superpower.  So that your child can take the key to a successful and happy life into his or her own hands.


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