Comfortable in His Own Skin
Since moving our elementary-age son to Steppingstone about a year and a half ago, he has blossomed in ways that we as parents couldn't have imagined when we made that decision to move him. We moved him for purely academic reasons, and he has greatly benefitted by the ability to learn at his own academically appropriate level. What surprised us, however, is the extent to which he has benefitted emotionally as well.
I am a strong advocate for public school education, having gone through the public education system myself. We took the difficult decision to move our son from the second-best public school in the state of Michigan (according to MEAP scores) to Steppingstone because the public school district was unable to fully challenge him academically at the lower elementary school level.
We are very happy with the academic program at Steppingstone. Within several weeks of our son's first day at Steppingstone, he was assessed by the teaching staff and placed into the appropriate groups for his level, for each subject individually. This assessment of his academic capabilities is an ongoing activity that continues throughout the school year. In addition, the program is rigorous with high academic standards. What we weren't expecting as a result of the move to Steppingstone was how our son would benefit emotionally.
Our son is advanced verbally, which gives him an air of maturity. Sometimes, even as his parents, it's easy to forget that he is still a 9 year old. As a result, with his vocabulary, I would have expected him to tell us if something was upsetting him at the public school. Perhaps he knew deep down that something was not quite right, however he wasn't able to verbalize it at the time.
At the public school he was a popular kid by many measures, known by all the kids and well liked by his teachers and the principal. He was close friends with one child, but he mostly preferred the company of adults. At any school function, he was usually found chatting with the teachers, principal, or parents. Another sign that something wasn't quite right was that he never wanted to talk much about his school day.
At Steppingstone, he has found children to whom he can better relate, as well as an encouraging environment. In the company of his new classmates, fun and interesting ideas are welcome, no matter how unconventional. Right after the move to Steppingstone, he was more willing to share stories from his school day. He told me that one of the kids in his class laughed at one of his quirky jokes. This may seem like a small thing, but he was thrilled because that had never happened at the public school.
We were quickly able to understand that he had not felt comfortable enough at the public school to fully reveal who he is for fear that the other kids would tease or make fun of him. Steppingstone is a very safe environment for gifted children to express themselves. Children are encouraged to be creative and there is zero tolerance for making fun at the expense of others. At a recent Steppingstone event, I noticed that he spent most of the evening in the company of his classmates, something that he had rarely done at his old school.
Finally, he appears to be more confident about who he is even among his old public school friends. We keep in touch with his old classmates primarily by continuing his participation in the Cub Scout pack at his old school. A few weekends ago, we attended an overnight campout and a few of us parents started talking about our son's new school around the campfire. The Cubmaster for the Scout pack told me that he has really noticed a difference in our son since the change in schools, that he is more confident and outgoing.
Overall, we are very happy with the progress our son is making at Steppingstone. We moved him primarily for the academic challenge that Steppingstone could give him, but he has also benefitted emotionally from being around children to whom he could better relate and the safe environment in which to express oneself. Thanks to Steppingstone, he is more comfortable in his own skin.