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Should Gifted High-Schooler Take College Classes?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My high schooler is academically gifted. She's a freshman in Pre-Calc and Physics. In her junior year, the counselors advised me and my husband to send her to a neighboring college for math and science. However, she wants to take a few classes over the next summer at a community college. Preferably Calc, Japanese, and art. The school counselors don't advise us to do this since they are afraid that she is too young to participate in college classes. Should she be allowed to take these classes or not? Do you think we support her too much?

A: I am assuming that your daughter's school counselors' recommendations that she not take these community college summer classes are based on her teachers' observations that she would not fare well in these classes. If being "too young" merely refers to her chronological age, it is not a sufficient enough reason to prohibit her from attending these classes. If being "too young" refers to her not having the intellectual and/or social maturity to participate successfully in these summer classes, that's another matter.

I suggest that you and your daughter ask this community college if she might audit a few of their classes during the remainder of their school year, thus allowing her to experience this level of academics first hand. Knowing that she wants to take summer classes there, I bet that they would grant this wish. Based on how she feels about the classes and the coursework, she could make an informed decision about whether or not taking these summer classes would be in her best interests. She may even be able to audit several classes of the very courses (or ones similar in content and difficulty) she wants to take this summer.

As for your concern that supporting her "too much" might lead to her not having the social life of a normal high schooler, I would ask her whether she feels disappointed her present social life. If you or she believe that her academic pursuits are seriously hampering her social development, a reconsideration of her academic/social life balance would be in order.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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