Sunday, July 17, 2011

On Becoming a Gifted Parent

Today begins National Parenting Gifted Children Week hosted by SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted). You can follow the Blog Tour throughout the week and download SENG's free NPGC Week ebook, The Joy and the Challenge: Parenting Gifted Children .

Twenty years ago today, I joined the gifted community with the birth of our first child. Unlike the Harry Chapin song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”, our child arrived, but not in the usual way. You see … our little bundle of joy decided to join us 7 weeks early. After a month in the NICU, we brought her home not knowing for sure what the future held. Throughout the first year, she reached few developmental milestones such as holding her head up or walking on time which was cause for concern. Those concerns were soon replaced with amazement at what she could do!

The first child can be a daunting experience for new parents. 2AM feedings are followed by 10AM logins to the Internet searching for the latest information on parenting techniques. For the parent of a gifted child … even before they are identified … you are hoping for encyclopedic results to your searches. One day your baby is cooing and the next day you swear they are ‘listening’ to your conversations! Soon, they are engaging in the conversation.

With the birth of our son two years later, we simply assumed that all children could talk by a certain age and that reading was no big deal. We later learned from talking to other parents and then pre-school teachers that our children were indeed advanced for their ages. Subsequent testing and entrance to the gifted program confirmed this.

The road to becoming a gifted parent has many entry points. It is certainly the road less traveled. It has twists and turns as well as bumps along the way. We all travel different paths; but when we connect, there is almost always a special bond. These connections ultimately help us to build bridges over rough waters and share in the joys of our children’s lives.

Although it was not available when our children were born, we now use social media platforms to connect with gifted parents locally, nationally and even internationally. These connections help us appreciate the fact that raising gifted children is a challenging responsibility; no matter where you live or in what circumstances you find yourself.

The past twenty years have taught me that the perfect parent does not exist; nor does the perfect child. The frustration that comes with trying to find the right placement in school for your child, combating the myths that surround gifted children, explaining to teachers what ‘asynchronous’ development means … it will all fade in time. The happy memories remain!

It is easy to become overwhelmed by a precocious child. Once you’ve answered all of the ‘why?’ questions that you can, you one day realize that you no longer have all the answers. It is a surreal and exciting, yet humbling, experience to watch your children grow into incredibly gifted adults.

When you’re having a particularly stressful day with your emotionally intense gifted child, consider this … your child has the potential to one day change the world. Not all parents are so privileged. Count your blessings!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Some Things Never Change … But They Need To!

Take a look at some of these newspaper headlines … “Experts Pity Gifted Child”, “Gifted Children Are a Problem”, “Nation is Asked to Provide for Gifted Children”, “Educators Taking New Look at Nation’s Gifted Children”, “Mere Skipping No Answer to Gifted Child”, “Gifted Children Need Attention”, “Gifted Children Face Problems”. Would you like to venture a guess when these articles were written? I’ll give you a clue – they are all over 45 years old! In this order: 1935, 1940, 1950, 1958, 1959, 1964, 1965.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? Decades of research, advocacy, and bookshelves full of titles on gifted education … to what end? Here we are, one decade into the 21st century, and we are still having to dispel the myths that surround gifted children and how to educate them!

What needs to change? How do we shake things up? Who is going to make a difference in this seemingly unending debate? It is apparent that something or someone needs to make a radical change here. A new strategy needs to be implemented … ‘cause folks … not only are battles being lost, but the frontline is moving backwards. Budget cuts to gifted education are at the top of the list for most cash-strapped schools. The general public is suspect of funding programs for which they don’t believe will benefit them personally.

Some of the answers lie within the articles I mentioned at the beginning of this post. From the Toledo Blade dated November 5, 1993: “Many of America’s brightest youngsters are bored and unchallenged in school, the Education Department said yesterday. ‘The United States is squandering one of its most precious resources – the gifts, talents, and high interests of many of its students,” the report said. … Most classroom teachers make few provisions for these children. … Talented poor and minority students suffer the most.” Sound familiar? It went on to “urge teachers to use new criteria for deciding who is gifted, rather than relying just on test scores, and recommended that they develop new schools to teach high-level curricula”.

In an article dated June 5, 1950 from the Youngstown Vindicator (provided by the New York Herald Tribune News Services), the president of Harvard University, Sr. James B. Conant, warned that “United States leadership in a free world is threatened unless a much greater percentage of the nation’s gifted youth is induced to seek fuller educational advantages”. I’d say that’s about right.

But it isn’t just about the United States or other industrialized countries. It is about all gifted children. They all need the support of their respective teachers, schools, and governments. But who will make the difference? Who needs to have a greater voice in the discussion? There is one group that I never saw quoted in any of these articles. Parents.

Oh, wait! I was wrong. Mothers are mentioned in the 1935 report from the Toledo News-Bee (United Press) … the experts pity the gifted child because they are spoiled by their mothers and are thus handicapped by them. Okay, so they apparently had a lot to learn in 1935.

My point is that not only do parents of gifted children need to be more actively engaged in advocacy, but those players who are already at the table need to listen to them. Many major groups in the U.S. are heading in this direction … and it’s a good direction. I applaud their efforts. Hopefully, their counterparts in other countries will give equal weight to what parents have to say. Too many cultural barriers exist, but with the support of parent advocates actively engaging through social media platforms; change we can believe in will occur!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gifted Parents … Who Cares?

After 20 years in the parenting business, I often ask myself if what I do really makes a difference. If I were a betting person, I’d say the odds are pretty good that you’ve wondered about this, too.

In most professions, you can often judge your worth by how often people ask for your opinion. When was the last time you were asked about raising a gifted child? Did your child’s school ever ask for your input concerning your child’s education? How often do researchers or gifted advocacy groups ask for your opinion? Occasionally, some do (the good ones); but most of the time … not so much.

Considering the state of gifted education in most parts of the world … mediocre to non-existent … perhaps more experts should be talking to parents. We’ve already seen the first decade of the 21st century come and go, yet little has changed in the gifted community. Funny thing is … the world has changed in unimaginable ways since the close of the 20th century! So, what’s up with that?

Social and political change have become commonplace in a world where grassroots movements can come into existence and effect change in a very short time. When someone tweets, hundreds and even thousands listen. It doesn’t matter if you’re 40-something sitting in a plush D.C. office with a state of the art computer or a 14 year old kid in a remote village with a cellphone and internet connection … your voice can be heard around the globe.

Can you see where this is going? It is time for parents of gifted children to stop making excuses and start doing some advocating. There are a lot of kids – not just your own – who are counting on YOU!

The internet and the myriad of social networking sites who call it home have made the task at hand fairly simple. Gifted parents need to connect and communicate. Take your pick from among the many platforms available … Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs … whatever you feel most comfortable with. Let’s get connected!

It will be an exhilarating experience; guaranteed! Parents of gifted children face the same struggles, express concern about the same issues, and worry about their kids just like you regardless of where they live. Coming together to seek positive solutions will benefit the entire community. Who knows? Maybe even the ‘powers that be’ will notice the strength inherent in our numbers. What could be accomplished if everyone worked together?

If you would like to connect with me, follow this blog and those listed in my blog list at right or click on the link in the sidebar to follow me on Twitter! You see … I believe that parents really can make a difference!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Center for Gifted Studies Celebrates 30 Years

Located on the campus of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, the Center for Gifted Studies provides support for parents of gifted students, educational programs and camps for gifted youth, and professional development for educators.

The Center began 30 years ago by offering gifted students travel opportunities. Since that time, trips have included China, Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium.

In 1982, Western Kentucky University incorporated a gifted endorsement for teachers into its graduate program. In the same year, they partnered with the Duke TIP Program – a talent search conducted at the 7th grade level. The next year, VAMPY (Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth) began as a joint-venture with Duke University. Today, it hosts over 200 participants from 21 countries and 6 continents.

In 1984, SCATS (Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students) began as a way for teachers to participate in a practicum which was required for their gifted endorsement. Today, the camp serves over 200 students and offers almost 40 classes.

Two years later, the Advanced Placement Summer Institute was established at the Center in cooperation with the College Board to train and certify teachers to become AP teachers. In 1989, the Center for Gifted Studies became an official center at WKU.

The staff for the Center includes Dr. Julia Roberts, executive director; Tracy Ford Inman, Associate Director; Carolyn Hagaman, Coordinator of Summer Programs; and David Baxter and Allison Bemiss, instructors for Project GEMS Magnet School.

Congratulations to the Center for Gifted Studies as they celebrate their 30th year of service to the gifted community July 2, 2011 on the campus of WKU. Information on the celebration can be found here.