Leslie is the type of person and mom that when I'm in crisis mode I always wonder what would Leslie do, think, or say about this? With her youngest and my oldest being closer in age, she's been there, done that, she's got a good head on her shoulders, and dispenses advice or empathy with ease.
A few years ago her family began a journey. A journey with many purposes, goals, and fulfillment. With both parents being educators, they set out overseas. They have now lived on three different continents with many travels along the way. From my viewpoint, it's always been great to read about and live through them! Also, interspersed throughout her post I've placed her photographs that she sent to me to share as well.
|On a boat in Fukuoka, Japan|
Thanks to Tyson for having such a great idea and welcoming me on her blog.
If I tell someone that my son is the starting center of his school basketball team, I would be congratulated and asked questions about his stats or how his season is going.
If I share that my daughter won an art competition for her most recent painting, I would be told how wonderful that is. People might even want to know more about her journey as an artist.
If my son makes first chair in the school band and scores high marks at the state level of competition, people would gladly want to hear about his accomplishments.
But if instead I tell someone that any or all of those same children are gifted, the reaction is extremely different. Now I'm bragging. Now I think my children are better than everyone else's children. Now I want special treatment when all I want is for my children to be challenged and properly educated.
“A child miseducated is a child lost”. – John F. Kennedy
“As a society we must be able to admire ability, to support ability, to celebrate ability and to nurture ability. It must be as socially acceptable to support genius that is intellectual as it is to support genius that is athletic.” – Michael Clay Thompson
In general, there is a stigma in the United States attached to being identified as gifted, and there is definitely one in actually admitting in public that your child is gifted. I want to use this opportunity to share with you a little bit about what gifted is and to help take that stigma away...if it's not your child, then it might be your neighbor's child, your cousin's child, or your best friend's child. I believe that with knowledge comes understanding and acceptance.
The federal government defines gifted and talented as “Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”
Simply put, students who are identified as gifted learn differently and have different needs educationally. Where as most of us progress through education from point A to point B to point C, and so on. A gifted student often makes an intuitive and seemingly incomprehensible leap from point C to point G or even farther. I'm paraphrasing, but I once saw a quote that said that every child has the right to learn something new every day. If the class is learning about point C and the gifted child has already passed that then that child is not learning something new. Unfortunately teachers (and I speak as a teacher) aren't educated in meeting the needs of this group of students.
All that parents of gifted children want is that their children receive a challenging and enriching education; unfortunately, many do not. Without being challenged, they are unable “...to fully develop those capabilities” as outlined by the federal definition. I could write a novel about what educating children who are gifted should be, but Tamara Fisher at “Unwrapping the Gifted” does a much better job of describing the academic NEEDS of these children – "GT is NOT..." (As a side note, I highly recommend reading her entire blog. She is an articulate advocate for children who are gifted.)
“...it is disturbing...to realize that the population least likely to learn and achieve its potential is the highly gifted.” – Joseph Cardillo, Gifted Children: Nurturing Genius (Part One)
“Until every gifted child can attend a school where the brightest are appropriately challenged in an environment with their intellectual peers, America can't claim that it's leaving no child behind.” – Jan and Bob Davidson with Laura Vanderkam, in Genius Denied
For those who are unfamiliar with giftedness, many assume that parenting a child who is gifted is an easy and envious position. In fact, for many parents of children who are gifted, the exact opposite is true. Gifted children are often very intense. They are often very sensitive. Many gifted children experience asynchronous development; for example a first-grader may read at an eighth-grade level, may write at a first-grade level, and may have the social-emotional age of a four-year-old. Many gifted children are perfectionists, which can have some negative side effects. Parents often have to actively advocate for their gifted children to be recognized and properly educated – this can take a toll on the parent as well.
“All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent.” – John F. Kennedy
Gifted children who have not been challenged in school may become underachievers and unmotivated. For children where being successful at school often comes easily, they develop a misconception about the relationship between effort and success. This becomes a negative when that same child avoids taking risks because everything has come so easily. Teachers and school systems that look at a gifted child and think “he's fine, he's got it,” or “she knows what she needs to know for this year, so she's ok” are effectively dismissing the needs of that gifted child.
|In the Philippines|
“The surest path to positive self esteem is to succeed at something which one perceived would be difficult. Each time we steal a student's struggle, we steal the opportunity for them to build self-confidence. They must learn to do hard things to feel good about themselves.” – Sylvia Rimm
Much of what I've experienced and written about today are based on my personal experiences and observations, but unfortunately these experiences are not the exception in the world of dealing with children who are gifted. I wouldn't change one thing about who my children are, but I would change how they are perceived, educated, and accepted in the world around them.
“Our kids are normal. They just aren't typical...” – Jim Delisle
If you're interested in learning more, here are some great websites for additional information:
- National Association of Gifted Students
- Hoagies' Gifted Education Page
- Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG)
- Advocates for High Ability Learners
Thank you, Tyson, for sharing your blog and allowing me to talk about this topic! I hope that I was able to share a little slice of the world of giftedness with your readers.
I think that no matter who we are, learning something new everyday is an amazing and important thing. I learned something new... or maybe it just opened my eyes to it even more. I never thought about the wide range of difference in their development. It is a shame achievements cannot be shared in the same manner as other children. Just like all stigmas and stereotypes, I hope we can banish one at a time with awareness! Thank you so much Leslie to take time out of your busy life to write about something so near and dear to your heart. I fully appreciate it! Best of luck to you and your family on your continued journey!