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Carol Bainbridge

Gifted Children

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The Struggles of Gifted Children

Tuesday April 15, 2014
Struggles? "Oh come on," I hear some people say. "Gifted kids have it made!"   No. No, they don't.  When people say that, I know immediately that they don't know gifted kids and what their lives are like. Sure, they learn faster and more easily than other kids and therefore tend to get higher grades, but giftedness is about more than  school.  (And don't even get me started on underachievement and the "danger" of straight A's.) Annemarie Verweij, in her blog entry, Being Gifted is NOT a Gift!!!, explains the struggles of gifted children quite well -- and with a touch of the anger and frustration I often feel when encountering the attitude that gifted kids have it made. Here is what she says about her own children:
My children are very sensitive. They feel everything. They know which people are sad or not, even if these people pretend to be happy. They know when people lie, they know when people say they know what they mean, but actually don't get them at all. They feel lonely.
If you're the parent of a gifted child, you may recognize some of this. If you aren't the parent of a gifted child, take note of what Annamarie said. Too bad, you say? All kids are sensitive? I can hear dozens of responses. However, while all kids may be sensitive, there is a question of the intensity and the depth of sensitivity. It's not just sensitivity either. If you want to truly understand what being gifted is like, then imagine spending most of your time with people who have IQ's of 55.  Do you think they would understand you? Would they get your jokes? Now I don't mean spending an afternoon with them. I mean quite literally most of the time in your life. I'll make it easier for you.  You can imagine that some of the people have IQs of 70. We can even mix in some with IQs of 85.  This is what it's like for many gifted children, particularly highly and profoundly gifted children. And it helps explain why they often feel lonely.  If you have an average IQ of 100, then the difference between your IQ and that of someone with an IQ of 55 is 45 IQ points.  That's the same difference that we have between an average person with an IQ of 100 and a highly gifted child with an IQ over 145. But average IQ's go up to 115 points, so there is sometimes just a difference of 3o points. That's the same as the difference between someone with an IQ of 100 and someone with an IQ of 85.  That's better, right? But what about the difference between an IQ of 145 and and IQ of 85?  That's a difference of 60 IQ points.  That's the difference between someone with an IQ of 100 and someone with an IQ of 40! Notice that there is no value placed on any group of individuals. No IQ group is better than another. The purpose of those comparisons is to demonstrate what it's like to be gifted. There's more, but it's definitely not all roses. There are quite a few thorns that come with it.

Easter Fun and Games

Sunday April 13, 2014

Families celebrate Easter in many different ways. Whether you are religious or not, it's still a day for the family to spend quality time together. There are several Easter family activities the family can do together, such as watch a movie.  Families can also play some Easter-themed games (or at least games with bunnies and carrots.  Little ones can enjoy reading some books about Easter and the Easter Bunny, including those with their favorite characters like Elmo and The Berenstain Bears.

Is Your Child Gifted?

Tuesday April 8, 2014

I'm not going to make any excuses or shy away from answering that question. Yes, my child is gifted. I will admit, though, that it did take me a while to feel comfortable with that answer. In fact, the first time someone suggested to me that my son was gifted, my response was "All children are gifted." No. They are not. (See Michael Clay Thompson's response to that claim.)

Some people, though, like Melissa Bollow Tempel, continue to make that same claim and say that their children are not gifted. In her article, "My Children Are Not Gifted," Temple says of her children, "Sure, they are smart, but all children are smart." (Um...no, they aren't.) She lists many of the talents and awards of her children and says that they are the result, not of any inherent intelligence or talent, but of privilege.

According to Tempel, her children were simply lucky that they came from a home where both parents work and could afford the enrichment opportunities for her children and get her oldest child into the local middle school for gifted and talented kids. Apparently, she feels guilty about providing those opportunities for her children, and says that she doesn't "think the guilt will ever completely fade."

Here are the problems that I see. First, no parent should ever feel guilty for providing whatever opportunities they can afford to provide for their child. But one's ability to afford those opportunities has nothing to do with whether a child is gifted or not. And that leads to another problem. People still seem to think that nurture is what makes a child gifted rather than nature. The nature/nurture debate is an old one, but we know enough now to recognize that children are not born with equal intelligence and talents.

And that brings me to the final problem. Every child should be nurtured so that his or her intelligence and talents are optimized as much as possible - and that includes gifted children. Our schools, particularly those that serve poor communities, do little to find and nurture gifted children. That means that it is up to the parents to provide enrichment for their children, the parents least able to provide it.

Privilege does not make a child gifted, but it helps parents provide nurturing opportunities. We should be working to see that all gifted children get those opportunities rather than denying that giftedness exists outside of privileged environments.

Is College Right for Your Child?

Sunday March 30, 2014

Just because a child is gifted doesn't mean he has to go to college.  Whether a child goes or not should be determined by whether it is the best fit for him and his interests.  We all want what is best for our child and so we usually think that college is what's best. But is college the best choice for your child?

Where's Waldo?

Saturday March 29, 2014

Have you hunted for Waldo with your child?  It was always quite a challenge to find him and the  other items on the check list.  But it was also a lot of fun.  And it was a good lesson in perseverance and patience!

So where is Waldo?  He's not just in the Waldo books. You can find him now online!  Whereswaldo.com has four scenes to search...and more.

Is Ability Grouping Really Regaining Favor With Educators

Sunday March 23, 2014
When I was a little kid in grade school, we were grouped by ability -- bluebirds, robins...  Teachers (without any aides) managed to present lessons and then individualize further instruction as they moved from group to group. I was still a bit bored in school, so I can't imagine what my son must have felt like many years later when there was no ability grouping  and he was in a heterogeneously grouped classroom.  I argued often against strict heterogeneous grouping with no ability grouping, all to no avail.  (I almost felt evil for suggesting any kind of homogeneous or ability grouping.) However, I recently ran across an article from last year suggesting that educators just might be taking another look at ability grouping.  The article,  Grouping Students by Ability Regains Favor With Educators by Vivian Yee, notes that "Teachers and principals who use grouping say that the practice has become indispensable, helping them cope with widely varying levels of ability and achievement." I am not surprised. This doesn't mean, unfortunately, that ability grouping is accepted by everyone.  It's not.  In her article, Yee does offer some of the objections to ability grouping.  Still, it's good to see that educators are starting to take another look at ability grouping and are finding ways to eliminate the parts of it that people had objected to. What other education options are available?

Is Advanced Verbal Ability a Sign of Giftedness?

Monday March 17, 2014

The answer to that question is yes!  Some people have wondered how I can possibly say that advanced verbal abilities are a defining characteristic of giftedness.  I can say it because it's true.

I think some people might misunderstand what I mean, though. It doesn't mean that every gifted child has advanced verbal skills, but I feel comfortable saying that most do.  Some gifted children are more mathematically gifted, but many of them also have excellent verbal skills. They just aren't particularly interested in letters, words, or reading. They are more interested in numbers.

Other people have seen flashcards used to teach young children to read and so believe that early reading is not a sign of giftedness.  However, in order to learn and use language and in order to learn to read, the brain must have developed to certain points. If the brain isn't developed sufficiently, no amount of teaching and encouragement is going to help.

To learn more about advanced language and reading skills being a sign of giftedness, take a look at terms and concepts related to language and reading.

Tell me what you think! Click on the Leave a Comment Link.

No (Gifted) Child Left Behind

Saturday March 15, 2014

Some time ago, I wrote about the No Child Left Behind Act.  I explained the Act and said that this Act gave schools little incentive to meet the needs of gifted children.  Years later, I feel somewhat vindicated.

In his article,  No (Gifted) Child Left Behind, Chester E. Finn Jr. (Senior Fellow and Chair, K-12 Education Task Force of the Hoover Institution at Standford University) says this: " Though we've made enormous strides in K-12 education, we are neglecting our smartest and often poorest kids."

Parents who have money can pay for resources outside of school to meet their child's academic needs, but poor parents of gifted children must rely on the schools to provide the academic setting their child needs.  When schools have no gifted programs, poor gifted children are likely to languish in classrooms.

What do you think?  Click on the Leave a Comment Link.

Ban the Word "Bossy"?

Tuesday March 11, 2014

Have you heard the latest call to ban a word? The offending word this time is "bossy." Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Office of Facebook, believes that being called bossy keeps little girls from wanting to become leaders. She says that by middle school, fewer girls than boys want to lead and if the girls are asked why they don't want to lead, they answer that they don't want to be called "bossy" and don't want to be disliked. Sandberg's solution to this is to launch a campaign to ban the use of the word "bossy."

It does seem to be true that little girls are called bossy more often than boys are and don't want to pursue leadership roles. But I wonder how much of it is tied to the word "bossy."  Boys are seen as exhibiting leadership skills rather than being bossy. But I also wonder about the meaning of "bossy" and the meaning of "leadership skills."

When I think about the behavior that I'd call bossy, I don't think of an assertive leader. I think of someone who wants to have their way and orders people to do things. Being assertive isn't the same as being bossy...at least not in my view. Being bossy isn't being a leader. But being bossy might be a sign of someone who wants to take charge. Perhaps instead of banning the word "bossy," we should teach children who want to take charge a better way to do it.

Tell me what you think!  Click on the Leave a Comment Link.

State Education Savings Accounts?

Sunday March 9, 2014

If you were smart and could afford it, you created an education savings account for your child when he was born and added to it on every birthday. It's a good way to save money for a schooling after high school graduation.

But what about educational needs before graduation? What about a state savings account that parents could access to provide services for their disabled or gifted child?

That's an idea proposed by the Florida House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee. How exactly would this work? Would parents get vouchers? No. This is something different. Parents who want to take advantage of this program would have to first register as homeschoolers. They would then be able to use the money in their child's account for services they wish to take advantage of.

These services include homeschooling materials, private school tuition, tutoring, therapy and more, as long as the services are approved. How much would the parents get for their child? The state would put about the same amount of money that would be provided to public schools to meet the needs of the child, whether disabled or gifted.

I imagine some of the same complaints would be lodged against this proposal as are lodged against other programs that provide parents with some choice - they take funding away from public schools. My feeling about it - at this point anyway - is that as a parent, my primary concern is with the needs of my child. Sure, I care about all children, but I don't want to sacrifice my child for some "greater good."

And while this kind of program can help parents pay for private schools that can better provide for the academic needs of their children, it also helps parents who choose to homeschool.

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