1. Parenting

Infinity and Zebra Stripes

Mom's Choice Award

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Infinity and Zebra Stripes
Great Potential Press
Parents of gifted kids often feel isolated and alone as they try to meet the challenges of raising a gifted child. This book can help. The preface opens with a quote from Beth, a mother of three:
"...I don't really have anyone I'm comfortable talking with about this. I always feel guilty if I mention that my 14-year-old-son is taking a college math class, because other parents just can't relate."

Skinner can relate and parents like Beth will be able to relate right back as they read about Skinner's experiences raising her two gifted children and advocating at school to get them an appropriate education.

Description

The book covers Wendy Skinner's journey through the birth of her two children to her advocacy for them in school, ending when the children are in middle school and high school. Throughout the book, Skinner demonstrates the importance of parents supporting their children and using a "teamwork model" rather than a "pushy parent" model in their efforts with the schools.

Wendy Skinner
Great Potential Press, Inc. 2007
Hardcover ISBN: 0-910707-81-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-910707-81-7

Guide Review - Book Review: Infintiy and Zebra Stripes

Through the stories of her experiences, Skinner captures the range of emotions parents of gifted kids go through. From the delight of watching her son develop to the slow recognition that he was not like most other children to the concern over what to do about his education -- she covers it all.

Parents of gifted children will recognize the rapid development of her son Ben and her realization that not all two-year-old children can be disciplined by providing a reasoned explanation of appropriate behavior. And like most parents of young gifted children, Skinner didn't recognize her son was different: "I really didn't get it...that Ben was an exception to the rule of most two-year-olds."

When Ben was in first grade, Skinner learned just how different her son was. While exploring the possibility of special grouping for math in school, Skinner learned from the teacher that ability grouping was not an option: there simply were no other first graders who came close to Ben's abilities.

Like many parents of gifted kids, though, the difference still wasn't registering, not emotionally. It wasn't until Skinner discussed the results of IQ testing with the psychologist who did the testing. Children like Ben turn up only once in one hundred thousand children. Skinner responded to the news: "My eyes and breath were caught and frozen by his statement. It was as if I had a sudden shock."

Advocating for an Appropriate Education

Skinner continues by chronicling her experiences as she struggled to get an appropriate education for her son. She discusses the concerns she and her husband had about the best options for Ben and explains how they were able to accomplish a great deal by using honey instead of vinegar as she worked with the school. Their accomplishments are both enlightening and encouraging to parents of gifted children.

Although the book starts with a discussion of Ben and focuses quite a bit on him, the Skinners have two children and younger daughter Jillian is also gifted, but with a different temperament than Ben's. Between the descriptions of the two children, readers are sure to recognize traits they see in their own gifted kids. The attempt to get an appropriate education for Jillian is just as important it is for Ben.

Recommendation

Although I enjoyed the book and recommend it, I do have a problem with it. It wasn't simply the use of honey rather than vinegar that helped Skinner get what she needed for her children. She and her husband were quite involved in the school. Wendy volunteered at school and was the chairperson of the local chapter of her state's gifted association while her husband was a member of the school counsel. As a single mom, I am sensitive to the suggestion that parents need to volunteer and get involved in the school in order to get their children an appropriate education. It should be a child's needs, not the level of parental involvement that determines the services a child receives in school.

The Skinners also had willing teachers and a school system sympathetic to gifted education. As Skinner says, "...our hopes for our children would not have become a reality if we had not had an exceptional public school system and citywide community." This downside to the book, however, is also a plus. Skinner's story clearly demonstrates the importance of a working partnership between the school and the parents to get appropriate educational experiences. In this way, Skinner provides a lesson not just to parents, but to teachers and schools as well. When they work together for the benefit of a child, parents and the school can develop an approach that is "proactive planning rather than reactive efforts."

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