Sunday, October 31, 2010

The ABC’s of a Gifted Child

One of the first words a gifted child discovers is the word “aha”! This is when they realize that they understand things others do not; especially their peers. The next word is a no-brainer for gifted parents – the dreaded “b” word. You know … bored! Fortunately, the solution comes in the form of the “c” word – challenge.

Research in gifted education continues to reveal that gifted children need to be challenged and when they are … amazing things begin to happen! And when they aren’t – which is far too often – their world becomes dark and lonely.

As the parent, it becomes incumbent upon you to do your best to challenge your child whenever possible. Most parents work very hard at getting schools to provide challenging work, but that leaves a significant amount of time to be filled. It may seem overwhelming at first, but dealing with the consequences of having a bored child can be much more difficult in the long run.

One of the best ways to challenge a gifted child is to engage them in conversation. Make it meaningful! Find out what interests them and then do some research on the topic so that you can talk to them intelligently. Discuss current events and world issues. Don’t be afraid to talk over their level of understanding. (Schools use this technique by accelerating students, offering dual enrollment in higher grades, or ability-grouping.) They will catch up before you know it. And play devil’s advocate once in awhile. Remember, they aren’t always going to agree with you on everything. Once they make up their minds on an issue … well, you know! It actually can be very stimulating and enjoyable for both parent and child. I like to call it, “gifted bonding”.

As your child gets older, rigor needs to be introduced into the way in which they are challenged. Sometimes, parents need to seek help at his point. An excellent choice is to find a mentor for your child in the area of their interests. A mentor can introduce higher level thinking which will motivate a child to learn more and reduce the stress which comes from being bored. Introducing more and more complex critical thinking tasks can improve a student’s growth in that area considerably. It enables a student to have a more positive self-image academically.

Another excellent source for finding challenging opportunities is to enroll your child in academic summer camps in your area, gifted classes (such as, Super Saturdays) at nearby universities, and national programs that can be located on the Internet. Peer-socialization is an important bonus with these activities. Friendships made here can last a life-time and provide long-term benefits in helping your gifted child to understand that they are not alone.

It’s important to remember that all the effort that goes into parenting a gifted child can pay off with incredible dividends in their lives. It is such an awesome experience to see that smile when they fulfill their goals and come to realize that it was their parents who supported them all the way!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Social Media and Gifted Advocacy

In a recent post, blogger Jennifer Dublino (“Will Social Media Enable Humanity’s Next Evolutionary Step?”) 10/12/2010) stated, “Social media is … enabling global consciousness because it allows us to harness and coordinate the collective intelligence and talent of large groups of people.” These large groups of people have the ability to solve problems together that they would be helpless to do on their own. Dublino also sources James Suroweicki’s book, The Wisdom of Crowds, as saying that solutions to problems solved by the group are better than any individual answer.

Why not apply this same concept to gifted advocacy? For almost 100 years, researchers have studied and analyzed gifted children. Their studies have been written, peer reviewed, and rewritten. Concurrently, gifted education has been tried, reformed, and re-tried. To what end? Today, it faces elimination in many parts of the world. It is time that a solution is found to provide appropriate education for these children. It is obvious that individual attempts have not worked.

Peter Gloor of MIT’s Sloan Center for Collective Intelligence coined the term, ‘Collaborative Innovation Network’ which he described as, “a cyberteam of self-motivated people with a collective vision, enabled by the Web to collaborate in achieving a common goal by sharing ideas, information, and work.” Such an interest-focused global community already exists and has been working on this problem for almost a year now. I refer to Global #gtchat on Twitter. This group of people is committed to making a difference in gifted education through their “collective vision”. The network is admittedly in its infancy, but has made great strides and has branched out to connect in a myriad of ways to enhance the process with Facebook, blogging, email, and virtual worlds as well as Twitter. Participants have proven that cultural differences, foreign language proficiency, and proprietary resource issues can all be overcome and that global collaboration is possible.

We are at the dawn of a new era in advocating for gifted education. It does not matter where a child resides – Malawi, England, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., South Korea, Hong Kong, Ireland, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Russia – they all need our support. These children cannot wait any longer … a gifted mind is a terrible thing to waste! The world cannot wait any longer … we need bright minds to solve the ever growing number of complex issues facing humankind. This sense of urgency resonates throughout every chat in which I participate. It has allowed parents, educators, psychologists, and advocates come to the realization that we all share common experiences when it comes to gifted children. Come join us on this incredible journey we've begun to make the world a better place by appropriately educating our gifted children!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thinking About Thinking

The thought occurred to me recently that I like to think. Furthermore, I like to think about thinking [metacognition]. My ability to do this is an integral part of my humanity. Perhaps that is why I find it so appealing. I like thinking so much that I decided to research the ‘idea’. It turns out that a lot of people … intelligent people … have been thinking about thinking for a very long time. I learned (although I think I already knew) that there are many different kinds of thinking – critical thinking, creative and innovative thinking, purposive-kinetic thinking, meditative thinking (a favorite of mine), and hyper-alert instinctive thinking. Who would have thought there were so many ways to think?

But this is a blog about gifted parenting and the children they parent. I've come to the conclusion that teaching gifted students how to think more effectively is the most important thing we can teach them. It provides fuel for their insatiable curiosity. It trumps subject matter, job training, gym class, and learning how to select color coordinated outfits for the first day of school. By encouraging gifted children to think and providing them with an environment conducive to good thinking, we help them to fulfill their potential as leaders, problem-solvers and decision-makers.

Teaching any type of thinking seems to go in and out of fashion more often than mini-skirts. But, it’s no laughing matter. It is, in fact, critical that we encourage critical thought. Parents play an important role in this facet of their child’s education. Some would argue that critical thought is second-nature to gifted children. It may be for some, but our society has de-valued the need for it in many insidious (classroom inclusion comes to mind) ways and our children will suffer the consequences.

So, where did the idea of critical thinking come from? Most people would agree that Socrates had a lot to do with it. He loved to ask questions! In fact, it was his fellow Greeks that gave us the word ‘critical’ – kritikos – being able to discern or judge. Socratic questioning can be used to develop critical thought because it seeks a depth of understanding in a systematic way while considering the plausibility and truthfulness of the answers being sought. In 1605, Sir Francis Bacon defined critical thinking as a “desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and hatred for every kind of imposture [fraud].” I think he summarized it quite nicely.

In her article, Discovering the Gifted Ex-Child (Roeper Review, August 1994), Stephanie Tolan writes, “Our relentless focus on achievement rather than the unusual mental processing that constitutes giftedness makes the necessary recognition and understanding difficult if not impossible for many.” She goes on to say, “… it is in childhood that the gifted individual begins to form that critical sense of self, his initial understanding of his own mental processing, his own mind.” This speaks to the crux of the matter – gifted children have a unique capacity for critical thinking.

“… it is in childhood that the gifted individual begins to form that critical sense of self, his initial understanding of his own mental processing, his own mind.”


Why don’t many of our schools teach critical thinking? Critical thinkers have a knack for challenging the status quo. And the status quo likes things just the way they are. It can be difficult to control a thinking populace. Another consideration to keep in mind is that teachers of critical thinking really need to know what they’re talking about! It’s one thing to teach ‘out of the book’ … something administrators continually stress to their faculty as a good thing … it’s quite another thing to reach outside the box! Finally, critical thinkers are truth seekers and what constitutes ‘truth’ these days has been marred by charlatans posing as media experts and politicians as well.

Zoe Burgess, in a recent blog post, asked the question, “Can We Teach Creative and Critical Thinking?” She provides excellent suggestions for how critical thinking can be taught and cultivated through modeling by the teacher, project-based learning, cross-curriculum teaching, and service learning. Assessing this type of learning requires the teacher to move out of their comfort zone. One must possess the ability to pose questions of students which will allow them to demonstrate their depth of understanding.

As the parent of a gifted student, where do you start? Provide your child with a place to think; an area with resources to aid in thinking. Encourage them to get rest and provide a healthy diet. Value their independent thinking through discussion and listening to your child. Prompt their thinking through Socratic questioning. In their book, Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life, Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder list 9 strategies that students can use themselves to develop critical thinking. The full list can be found here. They include using wasted time, keeping an intellectual journal, and by redefining the way one thinks about oneself. Good advice for students and parents alike!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Emotional Intensity – A Preview

As parents of gifted children, we have all experienced emotional intensity – theirs and ours. It can be a positive experience, but far too often it becomes a frustrating one. These are the times that try parents’ souls.

They don’t come with an instruction manual!” How many times have you heard that phrase? Today, parenting guides are a dime-a-dozen. However, they offer little help or hope to frazzled parents of gifted children.

Enter Christine Fonseca’s new book, Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings. Wow! How I wish I had known and understood the concept of emotional intensity and its implications for gifted students and their parents when my kids were younger. Would I have reacted differently to their outbursts (and mine)? You betcha! Do I have regrets? Some. Will reading this book cause an ‘attitude adjustment’ on my part? Most likely.

To be honest, I have only read the first chapter of this book as it was just released yesterday. You can read it at  http://bit.ly/bjWN6h . The First Stop on the Blog Tour for Emotional Intensity can be found at author Michelle McLean’s Blog http://bit.ly/9Ra2tQ (Chance to win a free copy of the book with blog comment through October 8th!) Another interview with Christine can be found at http://bit.ly/9xy8V6 . The book can be ordered from the publisher, Prufrock Press, http://bit.ly/aQ9PT3 (currently out of stock at Amazon).

You can be sure that I’ll have more to say once I finish reading the book! Stay tuned …