Help for Parent of Gifted Underachiever

Question: My fifth-grader has been called a gifted underachiever by her teacher. I believe that school has been so easy for her that she has never learned to work for anything. Also, she has no organization skills. How can I light a fire in my daughter to get her going at school? - Low Achiever

Answer: Your daughter needs a challenge, as academic work has always come so easy for her. Ask that she be tested and placed in a gifted program because her talents exceed the bounds of what is currently covered in the classroom curriculum.

Because gifted children usually spend most of their time in the regular classroom setting, your child needs some classroom assignments that extend and enrich the basic curriculum. To handle a more challenging curriculum, expect your child to need some special help with her study skills, since she has never learned to work.

The way to light the learning fire in gifted children is for parents and teachers to connect the children's personal interests to the curriculum. For example, if your daughter loves music, showing her that music and math both have certain patterns might lead to a greater interest in math. In the same way, a love of horses could lead her to a fascinating investigation in social studies of the roles that horses played in the development of the West.

It is not unusual for gifted underachievers to be disorganized. They especially have problems managing their time. You can help your child by setting some ground rules for homework and fun times so that your child can learn to establish priorities. Also, work with your child on learning ways to manage her time, from writing a daily "to-do list" to following a definite schedule each day.