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How To Become an Educational Advocate

by Carolyn K., director, Hoagies' Gifted Education Page

Copyright © 1999

There are two ways to do everything.  The easy way, and the hard way.

The easy way to become an educational advocate, of course, is to go to school and get a degree in education.  Then get your master’s degree and then a doctorate, all in education.  Then, as an expert in education, get a job in a school system and advocate for educational programs there.  That’s the easy way.

Everyone who knows me, knows I can never do anything the easy way.

So I went to college and got a degree in computer software engineering.  And everyone wants to know… How did I end up an educational advocate?

The hard way…. I married another computer software engineer, together we got our master’s degrees in computer software engineering., and together, we had kids.

And our life rolled merrily along.  Yes, we noticed that most of the kids in our neighborhood were a bit slow, but… you hate to make that kind of judgment about kids.  They’ll all catch up eventually, right?  We really didn’t notice anything else.  Our daughter was a wonderful infant, a terrific toddler, a bit active, but lots of fun – she quizzed us on addition and subtraction from her carseat, and insisted that we not give her the right answer the first time, so she could correct us sometimes.  Doesn’t every 3-year-old do that?  She questioned us on everything, from how does the sun rise and set, to how did that baby get inside of you, Mommy?  As you can imagine, the stork story didn’t go over well.  So we told her about the sperm and the egg, but still she insisted, Mommy, if the egg came from you, and the sperm came from Daddy, how did they get together inside you?  She was almost 4 at the time, and being pregnant, I didn’t suspect that other 4-year-olds didn’t ask the same questions.  So I answered her.

We did get a big hint, just before her new sister was born.  She chose to switch rooms, and got to pick her own wallpaper (with a little subtle guidance from us).  It was decided, a fish print, pastel (not my choice), but it was pretty, and suited her.  And as we left the wallpaper store, she turned to us and stated, “You know, my new wallpaper won’t go with the carpet in that room.”  I went home and checked – she was right.  So we went to the carpet store, she walked in, picked up a sample, pale purple (definitely not my choice).  We got out the wallpaper sample, explained about the long and arduous process of selecting coordinating carpet, and she played under the racks for 2 hours while we looked at nearly every sample in the store.  You know where this is going.  She was right, the best choice to go with her wallpaper was the pale purple sample she had picked the moment she entered the store.  She wasn’t yet 4.

Parents, however, are notoriously slow learners, so I’ve heard from many gifted children.

The next fall, she entered pre-kindergarten right on time.  It only took three weeks for her, and the teachers, and the director (in that order), to decide that perhaps she should move into the kindergarten room, for social reasons – she got along much better with the kids in kindergarten – they played her games, and talked her talk.  And the director added as an afterthought, “She won’t have any trouble with the academics.”  That turned out to be the understatement of our daughter’s life!

Kindergarten went well – she completed their kindergarten curriculum in all subjects, and their first grade curriculum in math and reading, and a 2nd grade math CD that had come with the curriculum and the school didn’t know what to do with.  She figured it out - no problem.  She absorbed every tidbit of science the teacher offered, and then some, so the teacher used Magic School Bus books to give the class, actually to give our daughter, more and more detailed science.  It was a great school – a daycare, but with an accredited kindergarten.  But no first grade.

Now to get back to how and when I became an educational advocate.

The following fall, we registered her for first grade in our public school system.  This is when I became an educational advocate.  They tested her, she answered every question right, and still they suggested she repeat kindergarten.  Why?  Because of her age, and her shoe size, but we didn’t take that part seriously at all.  I think they were trying to say because of her size, but since she was bigger than most of their first graders and some of their second graders, they went for her shoe size.  She, on the other hand, was requesting to move directly into second grade.  We still don’t know where she got that idea.  So we compromised, and against the school’s better judgment, she started in the first grade. 

Things went well for… about a week.  After a week, she realized that they were going to go through the alphabet, one letter at a time, and then perhaps get to words.  They were also going through the numbers, one digit at a time, and then they were going to learn how to add and subtract single digits, by the end of the year.  She came home, and her behavior told us that we had better do something about this young lady’s education.  So we started to advocate.

Being a computer programmer, I immediately visited the Internet, and the library.  I read every book I could find about gifted children, found every site in the world on gifted children, and bookmarked them all.  My bookmark file was a mess of educational sites, so crowded that I couldn’t find a single reference when I wanted to.  At the same time, I was asked to write and teach a class for my fellow programmers at work on writing web pages for the Internet. Voila!  Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page was born: www.hoagiesgifted.org.  Later, I was asked to write a class on web page design – making a web page look and work better - and Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page got even better.. Nothing helps me more than having to teach the subject!

At first it wasn’t much, a single page with all my bookmarks, organized and annotated into categories, so that I could find what I needed when I needed it.  It still is all of those things, except a single page.  Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, not much more than a year later, consists of over 100 web pages of information, with over 50,000 visitors to date.  It includes personal success stories from different people with different versions of success, original articles by some of the biggest names in gifted education, and even some gifted child humor for the moments you really need to sit back and laugh at it all.  And it still includes an annotated collection of every useful gifted education web site and book and journal that I can find.

So in addition to using all this great information to advocate for my own children’s education, I share the information with the rest of the world via the Internet, and every parent of every gifted child can use this information to help them advocate successfully for their gifted child’s education.

And that, my friends, is the hard way to become an educational advocate.

But it’s a lot of fun!

Editor's Note: It's been almost 10 years since I published this essay, and nearly 11 years since I founded Hoagies' Gifted Education Page.  Today, Hoagies' Page is over 1000 pages strong, with more than 6.5 million visitors to date.  And Hoagies' Page is not just for parents; there are pages for teachers, administrators, psychologists and counselors, and even gifted kids themselves, in addition to all the content for parents, and others who support and work with gifted children.  Hoagies' Gifted Education Page gives us all the tools we need to be better advocates for our gifted kids, whether they are in our classes or our families.  -- Carolyn


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