By Michelle Muratori
If you have a smart kid, someone who really loves to learn, school should be a breeze — a place filled with engaging learning opportunities and a supportive community of teachers and classmates.
But in my 15 years of working with hundreds of academically advanced precollege students and their families at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (cty.jhu.edu), I’ve learned that for many bright children, school poses a number of academic and social challenges, which can take their toll not only on academic performance, but on social and emotional well-being.
Fortunately, parents and educators can play an important role in helping academically talented kids make the most of their school experience. Here are a few examples of how to help bright children succeed in the classroom this year:
Your seventh grader loves math and science but their report card says otherwise.
It could be that your child is underchallenged at school and may need a more appropriate level of learning. Explore with their school how they can be challenged not just through subject acceleration but with enrichment activities like independent projects that allow them to pursue a topic in depth.
Your kid who loves to learn says they are bored in school.
Engaging in hands-on projects can help young learners develop interests, deepen knowledge, and bring the material they are studying to life. Learning through making something can inspire students and help them feel engaged in the process and more connected to what they are learning.
Your bright fifth grader says they hate school because they have no friends.
Help your child connect with peers over a shared interest. If a child loves math, encourage them to start or join a math club at school, or explore academic activities outside of school, such as math competitions and summer programs.
Your aspiring novelist has a meltdown when their latest book report gets a B.
It’s not uncommon for bright students to internalize extremely high standards, which can turn into immobilizing perfectionism. Help them rein in unrealistic standards by establishing boundaries, modeling flexibility, and understanding that no one is perfect.
Your sixth grader, a World War II expert, regularly forgets to hand in social studies homework.
Executive functioning is a skill that can be learned. Talk to your child and their teacher and brainstorm some possible solutions, like setting a homework reminder alarm on their phone. By making children accountable and involved in the solution, they are more likely to follow through and be successful. If your concerns persist about any of these issues, seek professional advice from a school or independent counselor.
About Michelle MuratoriMichelle Muratori, Ph.D., is a senior counselor/researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and a faculty associate at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.
This story originally appeared in the Oct./Nov. 2018 issue of Make: magazine.