Saturday, April 24, 2010

Enrichment During School Breaks

Soon, schools will be entering their summer break in the U.S. Whenever your school has an extended break, consider it an opportunity to enrich your child's life by taking advantage of programs through universities, summer camps, and travel.

So often, parents don't take the time to find out what's available in their area. Some programs can be very expensive but are great if you can afford them. However, many are low-cost, no cost, or have financial assistance/scholarships available.

Talk to your child about their interests. Depending on their age, either you or your child can research what they'd like to do. Gifted teachers/coordinators, parent support groups, and the Internet can all reveal potential activities.

The objective is not to turn the break into another school term! Your child needs to be engaged in the process and willing to participate. It can be fun and pique their interest at the same time.

Personally, what worked best with my family was turning family vacations into learning experiences. It didn't matter if we were in the Rocky Mountains, on the Pacific coast, at Niagara Falls or at Epcot in Disney World - we turned it into a learning experience.

For example, my daughter was fascinated with dinosaurs as are many young children; but as a gifted child, her fascination went far beyond reading books about dinosaurs. Living near Pittsburgh, our first trips were to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaur bones and to learn everything we could about them. Whenever a famous paleontologist was in town, meeting them or going to a lecture became a family outing.

When we went on vacation to Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument was on the itinerary. While visiting relatives in Texas, we made sure to visit the famous dinosaur tracks. Even while visiting colleges in NYC, we took time to go to the American Museum of Natural History. Today, she is in college majoring in Cultural Anthropology with paleontology still on the back-burner and my son recently moved to Colorado citing memories of family trips there when he was younger!

Oftentimes, my husband and I thought our children weren't paying attention, but years later we have seen these experiences bear fruit in their lives. We have witnessed how our children view the world, the expanded interests they have pursued, and the maturity they have gained through participatory learning. Education outside the classroom can bring about powerful changes in the life of a gifted child.

Updated: April 1, 2015
Photo courtesy of Flickr. CC 2.0

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gifted Education Around the World

If you live in the U.S. and are the parent of a gifted child, you may have given little thought to how parents in other countries cope with their gifted children and their education. In fact, you probably haven't even considered that there are gifted children elsewhere with the exception of foreign students who come to study at our universities. Hopefully, this post will open your eyes to the incredible resources that can be found outside the U.S. and inspire you to want to learn more.

Today, I want to discuss how people approach gifted education within their own countries. In the upcoming weeks, there will be conferences on giftedness in Al-Ahsa, Saudia Arabia and in Sydney, Austrailia. Also, there is a National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) in the U.K. The countries may be different, but the challenges are remarkably similar. The symposium in Saudia Arabia will focus on pre-school and early gifted education programs and identification practices. The Asia Pacific Conference will cover learning communities, dual exceptionality, curriculum, and advocacy among other topics. In addition to NAGC in Britain, a national Gifted Students Academy will open in September of this year. This program will work in conjunction with secondary schools offering enrichment opportunities, student workshops, and teacher training to name just a few of their objectives. The program is sponsored by a consortium of over 20 training companies and individuals.

Many countries have no policy on gifted education and devote little to no resources for educating gifted children. However, parents are working to raise awareness and to petition their governments and departments of education for assistance. They have utilized the Internet to find information and encouragement from parents around the world. These parents have found success in forming advocacy groups for their children.

Ultimately, the more parents continue to communicate and network using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook, the more advances will be seen in gifted education. If you would like to share your experience in parenting or teaching gifted children, I encourage you to leave a comment here at my blog.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

GPS - Follow My Blog for Support

GPS - Gifted Parenting Support! If you enjoy reading this blog, consider following me. In the upcoming weeks and months I plan to share with you the experiences I have raised two gifted children who are now young adults. I will also be providing links to resources for gifted education, gifted parenting, and using social media to connect with other parents and professionals in the field. One friend recently told me, "I wish we had known then what we know now." The purpose of this blog is to bring information and support to those who are just beginning the journey of raising your gifted child. So, I encourage you to add your name to the list of "Followers" and check back often!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Parent Advocacy - Strength in Numbers

One of the best ways to advocate for your child and a strong gifted program in your school is to join a parents' group or organize other gifted parents into a group. As the old adage goes, there is always strength in numbers. Parents' groups are more likely to influence school administrators and school boards when they speak with one voice. This involves communication, organization, and co-operation on the part of parents.

The first step is to talk with other parents in your child's school to determine if a group already exists. If you are new to a district, you can contact the director of special education for information. You can also check the school district's website or your state's department of education website. Information may also be found online at the National Association for Gifted Children where state organizations are listed by state.

If you cannot find a local group but do find one at the state level, investigate the possibility of starting your own group. Talk to other parents to determine the level of interest. Express the benefits to these parents and then decide if you want to proceed. It has been my experience that once a parent initiates the formation of such a group, most people will look forward to joining in when they see the value of the group.

As stated earlier, communicaiton, organization, and co-operation are key to successful parent advocacy groups. Begin by gathering contact information. This can be as simple as asking gifted parents you know for their email address. However, in some situations this can be a daunting task due to privacy laws. Most parents will be happy to share this information. Another way to start the process is to contact your district's special education director, gifted co-ordinator, or gifted teacher. Print an invitation for parents to meet together and discuss the formation of the group. Ask the school district to distribute it to gifted students. If your district already provides meeting space to other outside groups such as the PTA or a band booster club, they should also provide your group a place to meet. Depending upon the response you get, this initial meeting can also take place at someone's house or a local restaurant with a meeting room.

Most state gifted organizations provide guidelines for organizing a local group or chapter. This information can be found on their website either as a download or through the mail. When this resource isn't available and your group decides to organize on their own, simply utilize organizational information from any state gifted site you find online through a search engine.

Finally, co-operation between parents can determine the effectiveness of your group. It is human nature for a parent to be concerned primarily about their own child or children. However, once they realize how much more influence the group can have on what the school district is willing to provide, they should see the benefit to supporting all gifted children.

A strong parents' advocacy group can mean a strong gifted program. By working together parents can foster a good relationship with teachers and school administrators. This ultimately should be the goal of all parents of gifted children.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Are You Raising a Gifted Bully?

Bullying has been in the news a lot lately. It has been around since man had his first sentient thought. It has always been an ugly reminder that being human does not mean we are kind, compasionate creatures. Unfortunately, bullying is all too often ignored or swept under the rug as something each of us just has to 'deal with'.

Most people see bullies as being the bad kid on the block who intimidates weaker kids on the block or the jock who is always picking on the nerdy kid. However, gifted kids can be bullies, too.

An important part of raising a gifted child is to guide them toward an understanding of what it means to be gifted. If you encourage them to believe they are better than everyone else based upon their intellectual abilities without regard to the responsibility it brings, you may be raising a bully.

Sure, gifted children are bullied by their peers. However, parents of these children need to teach them the social skills to understand how to deal with bullies and not succomb to their level of behavior.

I cringe when I hear gifted kids disparage those kids who are in Learning Support. It happens much more often than people realize since the push for inclusion has become the standard in most schools. It is heartbreaking to see a child be called a 'retard' who doesn't have the mental capacity to 'deal with it'.

I am not saying that all gifted kids are bullies. What I am saying is that parents of gifted children have the responsibility to make sure their child does the right thing when it comes to bullying - tell an adult immediately if they are bullied and tell their parents. And above all, respect the gifts they have and act as a positive role model for those around them.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What if my child is not "identified" as gifted by my school district? (Part 2)

Something to remember - school districts often do not make decisions based on providing additional services to groups outside the box. Gifted Education is often seen only as a drain on their budget rather than as a source of pride for the district.

If you find yourself outside the box, there are many resources on the Internet to be found. One of the best programs in the country is located at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth
located in Baltimore provides independent testing. They offer online classes and summer programs. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has a C-Mites program  which also provides independent identification through their Explore test. Stanford University's EPGY in Palo Alto provides for Open Enrollment in their programs which is independent of school district recommendations. It is as simple as doing a search for gifted programs through universities in your area.

Some of the most important education of a young mind does not take place in a classroom. Time spent traveling and exploring their surrounding environment can make a lifelong impression on a child. Trips to large public libraries, science centers, art museums, natural history museums, and cultural events in your local area can easily provide the 'spark' to ignite their imagination.

Always keep the lines of communication open with your child and learn what their interests are when you consider ways to engage them in learning. Few gifted kids are enthusiastic about education if they aren't interested in the subject matter.
Keep in mind that the journey through life for a gifted child can be both lonely and awe-inspiring. Your role, as their parent, can be pivotal in the path they choose.