(5 of 6)
Davin eventually came to loathe school. He says he would sometimes do his own research--on whether dinosaurs might have been warm-blooded, for instance--only to have teachers require answers directly from the textbooks. Davin could do many math problems in his head, but he says he was told to use a pencil. Outside class, he often could not relate to age-mates. There were playground incidents, some serious: his mom says that students threw rocks at him once and that he retaliated by giving one of his tormentors a massive wedgie.
By the time Davin was ready to start sixth grade, the family thought he might get along better with older students. He was ready academically; only 11, he had scored 18 on the ACT, just 3 points below the average for college-bound seniors. But the school set up roadblocks common in acceleration cases: administrators said Davin was socially unprepared to skip ahead because he couldn't get along with kids his own age. They also said TAG could meet his needs. Davin says TAG was just "extra homework"--not advanced material--and that he found most of his age-mates immature. "They just like to make fun of certain people, and I wasn't interested," he says.
Gray admits that her school--which has just 350 students in 13 grades and, as far back as she can remember, has never grade skipped a student--wasn't quite sure what to do with Davin. "We have kids who score well, but they weren't in the same league," she says. "And I'll be honest, I don't think we were prepared for a student like Davin. I know his parents were frustrated at times."
But Gray says school officials became frustrated too. She says they have an obligation to make sure a potential grade skipper will excel in all his higher-level classes. (Since Davin had not scored in the gifted range on ITBS's spelling and punctuation sections, the school was worried about his language skills.) Gray also says the school feared that skipping Davin could do more harm than good. Other kids already saw him as "élitist," she says. "And now when you're talking about a fifth-grader going into seventh ... you don't want him to be ostracized more." Eventually the school decided Davin would be able to skip most of Grade 6, but his parents pulled him before Tri-County could fully implement a carefully planned curriculum. "They gave it one day," Gray says with a sigh.
The Knipfers dispute that--they say they tried to work with the school for months--but it's immaterial now that Davin is being schooled at home. His mom teaches him using old college texts and the staggering array of home-schooling resources available online. She also gets help from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, based in Reno, Nev., which currently assists more than 500 extremely gifted children, many of whom have fought acceleration battles at school. Like all Iowa home-schooling parents, Knipfer must submit her lesson plans to the state, and Davin still takes (and does well on) required state tests. Knipfer admits it has been hard at times: she had to cut back on her day-care business. But Davin is much happier. He is closing in on a black belt in Taekwondo and plans to study oceanography in college.