Dutch school education is characterised by a range of philosophies that inform parents’ school options. It ranges from Montessori, Dalton to Steiner-Waldorf to regular schools. My daughter attends a Montessori school in the city. In the primary system, kids are tested twice yearly using national standardised tests which focus on maths, dutch language, spelling and reading comprehension. The tests are usually rolled out by an organisation called Cito and quite a few parents have opinions on the merits or otherwise of citotests/citotoets–some kids do great on tests and some not so good. If a kid doesn’t show their capabilities on the Citotests, this can have implications for their high-school advies. (See previous blogposts about the highschool process). Which quickly brings me to gifted kids/hoogbegaafde, or rather my kid.
Her maths citos have been declining the last couple of years and we didn’t pay that much attention thinking she is young and will catch up soon. Except she didn’t. And her maths CITO bombed. Her other scores were high so the discrepancy between language and maths was becoming wider. A common problem for bright kids is difficulty with automation, eg. times-tables. (A useful tip to combat this difficulty is skipping or throwing a ball: so they focus on the skipping and saying the times table simultaneously which doesn’t allow for distractions and tangential thoughts). Her teacher had told me she believed M was hoogbegaafde but testing probably wasn’t necessary. Apparently, they would give her work that would stretch and deepen her learning. The idea is to deepen with extra topics rather than move up into the next grade to work on a curriculum that’s a year or two ahead. It was also hoped M could attend a public program called Day a Week school ( literally for one day a week ) for very bright kids but unfortunately there weren’t enough city-wide spots for kids who needed it.
As a result, I began to look into a day gifted program called deDNKRS, run by gifted teaching specialists. Her place was secured and school permission was required. I realised it might be helpful to have her IQ and learning style assessed by an educational psychologist and used an agency suggested by school. After some back and forth emails and frustrating meetings with the parent-teacher mediator/IB–er and her teacher, permission was secured for the gifted program. Socially, emotionally and intellectually, she needed to be in a different space where she could feel comfortable, be challenged and learn ‘how to learn’.
It’s a common belief that high IQ kids find everything easy and don’t need any explanations but that’s not necessarily the case. They typically learn very easily and fast and can master difficult topics with ease and ask complex, philosophical questions to seek to understand. But of course they will come across a stumbling block and how this is dealt with by teachers and parents, is key. Test anxiety, under-performance and distractability are not uncommon issues for gifted kids. Luckily, M has no anxiety but she can get blocked when maths is hard and so thinks she can’t do it. We are working on changing this to a ‘can’t do it…yet’ mindset and it’s coming along well.
The maths deficit is being closed quickly with a weekly tutor/bijles which began a month ago. Hopefully, by the start of summer holidays/zomervakantie she won’t need a tutor anymore. Her maths gap seems to have started in Group 3 ( aged 6 ) when she was busy with her own weekly plan ( Montessori kids plan their own work and are encouraged to be independent learners ) and eschewed maths for favourite subjects, like reading Dutch and English books and coming up with creative projects. A strong plus and potential negative of Montessorischools in my opinion, is that kids can plan their own individual work for the week/planning and largely decide in which order they do maths, language, projects and so on. Maths came in as her least favourite activity and so less time was spent on it–to her detriment.
In the deDNKRS class, they work on projects, smart games, puzzles, creative and analytical projects. They learn to collaborate and understand that it’s just fine to make mistakes because that’s how you truly learn and grow. This is a such an important mindset to have and one I wish I had learned when I was young. It’s based on Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset. We have decided not to pursue the full-time hoogbagaafde school option as our preference is to keep her in her current school that she loves.
Listed below are the current options for gifted kids in Amsterdam
- There are four full-time hoogbegaafde classrooms in Amsterdam, each located within a regular primary school, called Amos-Uniq classes. Applications require a Total IQ of 130+ and an interview process. So, it’s possible to move your child from their current school to a full-time public hoogbegaafde classroom.
- Another option is staying in the current school and attending the Day A Week school for one day. Or attending regular school and having a differentiated curriculum and/or accelerate the child into one year ahead.
- Some schools provide an internal enrichment class/plusklas for kids who need extra challenge.
- Saturday class in the city called Phi Science Lab.
- If you are looking for something during the schoolweek ( which requires the school’s permission ), there is DeDnkrs, located in Amstelveen and open to kids from the Amsterdam region.
All the above are facilitated through the dutch language and are aimed at kids attending dutch schools. International schools vary in enrichment options for english-language kids. The latter two options listed are private so are relatively expensive options for parents. The Day A Week is publicly funded and kids are sent there via school. None of these require an IQ score for admission but it will become apparent quickly if the program does not suit a child. They all facilitate out-of-the-box thinking and are logic and reasoning based and require creative thinking. They provoke philosophical thinking and discussion with a strong focus on ‘learning to learn’ and what to do when things are difficult. I’ve added some links to organisations and groups that may be useful to other parents navigating this path in and around Amsterdam. Some links are also not location specific so are relevant to all parents and google chrome does a good job of translating the dutch websites, some of which have interesting content.
My takeaway from the last 6 months: if in doubt, check it out and be persistent!
http://www.giftedkids.ie Irish website offering advice and resources for gifted kids.
http://www.hoagiesgifted.org American-based organisation
https://www.nagc.org American organisation for gifted children
http://www.pharosnl.nl National Organisation for gifted children and their families
http://www.dednkrs.nl Amstelveen based organisation offering educational programs for kids and coaching for schools
http://www.ieku.nl Advice bureau offering coaching and guidance for gifted kids and parents
http://www.edu-en-ik.nl Psychological practice offering diagnostics and treatment specialising in giftedness (Utrecht area)
http://www.navilo.nl Training centre for teachers concerned with talent development and teaching gifted kids
http://www.caringforthegiftedchild.com Amsterdam based psychologist
http://www.hb020.nl Amsterdam based platform
http://www.hobega.nl Advice/coaching for parents
Amsterdam diagnostic agencies
Amsterdam Gifted classes