Guiding the Gifted Child
- Maggie Hogan Home-School Author, Speaker, and Mother
- 2002 23 Apr
How can you tell if your child is gifted?
- His bedroom looks like a mad scientists laboratory.
- You never know what you can throw out - was it an experiment or leftovers?
- Your van is part taxi, part lab, and a large part Bookmobile.
- Your 7-year-old has recreated the Roman Empire in elaborate detail . . . with Legos.
- Your 14-year-old speaks and writes a foreign language fluently . . . one of his own invention.
- Your 2-year-old insists on putting together his jigsaw puzzles "color-side down" so it wont be so easy.
- At the bookstore you discover your 9-year-old in the check-out line with $500 worth of science books.
- Your 8-year-old computes how much interest you owe him on back allowances . . . in his head.
- Your 4-year-old cries when she hears news reports about a famine in Africa.
- Your outgoing 5-year-old child strikes up a conversation with a stranger on a plane which results in his deriving a mature grasp of negative numbers. You respond, "Thank you . . . I think."
- You told your son that he and his friends must stay outside to play. Later you find that they took the TV and Nintendo up on the roof. He said that they were, after all, playing outside ...
Perhaps you would like a more formal list of characteristics?
This is a partial list of attributes commonly found in gifted children. Certainly most gifted children will not exhibit all of these attributes. In addition, some characteristics may be hidden and, because of a host of good reasons, may not appear until much later.
- Developed sense of humor
- Does things earlier than peers
- Does things better than peers
- Very different perspective than peers
- Intense focus on one or two hobbies or interests
- Sometimes (but certainly not always) capable and mature for age
- Sees patterns - both concrete and abstract
- Precocious use of language (if verbally gifted)
- Prefers to do math work in head (if mathematically gifted)
- Active imagination
- Extremely competitive
- May show extreme emotional sensitivity
- Original thinker - may be a non-conformist
Then there are other characteristics that may be a little more difficult to live with:
- Supersensitivity or heightened senses (cant stand the toes of the socks to be on "wrong," requires the tags in shirts to be cut off, or overly sensitive to light or sound or environment, etc.)
- Very intense emotionalism
- High energy levels
- May need little sleep
- Stubbornness (the extreme side of persistence :-)
- Unable to finish all projects begun
- Dislikes taking time for precision
- Impatient with details.
Intellectually gifted kids are not always the honors students with the best scores. Some kids dont test well and some gifted kids arent academically inclined. Add to that undiagnosed learning disabilities, boredom, behavior problems, hyperactivity, and you can see - its not always easy being gifted!
It appears to be more acceptable in our society to be athletically gifted, or musically gifted, or artistically gifted, or even socially gifted (leadership), than it is to be academically gifted. Parents need to search out the best in education, resources, and opportunities for their gifted learners, just as they would for their athletes and musicians. Use tact when discussing accomplishments, but dont ignore them either.
All gifted students are not the same:
Use what you know about your child in order to guide and motivate him/her. Some students need to be prodded into working up to their capabilities, while others are perfectionists and need help learning to lighten up.
There is more to life than just academics:
Dont neglect important things like spiritual development, character, service to others, fine arts, etc. Social skills should not be overlooked either. Does your child know how to behave in various situations? Is he/she comfortable with both peers and adults?
Look to families with gifted children who are older than yours. Pick their brains; find out what worked and what didnt. Then be a mentor to a family with younger gifted kids.
Dont assume others can teach your child better than you can. Gifted programs, classes, and schools may look enticing, but look very closely! There is much New Age teaching and other garbage being used as "gifted programs." You know your student better than anyone else. With prayer and reliance on the Lord, you can teach gifted children at home.
More than text books:
Academics are important, but academics mean more than text books. Use resources and activities that incorporate higher level thinking skills. Here are some examples:
- Making books and/or keeping notebooks: give students a place to write those important thoughts. Make a field guide using a camera, plant samples, and reference books.
- Home-made games: assign them the task of designing board or card games based on their studies. This is a great way both to learn and to show what youve learned.
- Encourage them to put on a play, write a newspaper, invent or start a business.
- Use brainstorming in everyday life: help them to organize thoughts and ideas.
Provide them with plenty of opportunities to learn without making it obvious that its "educational." Consider the following activities for example:
- Conversations with adults;
- Interesting hobbies;
- Good magazines and other reading material (fiction and non-fiction);
- Exposure to other languages and cultures; and
- Free time to pursue their dreams and goals.
Nationally Recognized Gifted Programs:
CTY/IAAY: Grades 2 and up. Johns Hopkins University has widely recognized programs for gifted youth. It consists of testing to determine eligibility (it is intended for high-end gifted), camps, workshops, symposiums, newsletters, tutorials by mail, and on-line classes, all created for very gifted kids and/or their parents. Contact:
CTY and IAAY The Johns Hopkins University
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
Duke has a similar program called TIP (Talent Identification Program) which includes a 7th-grade talent search. Duke also publishes a quarterly newsletter entitled "Duke Gifted Letter, A Newsletter for Parents of Gifted Children."
Duke University TIP
Durham, NC 27708
Other colleges and universities in your area may have testing programs, on-line courses, and/or correspondence courses, as well as camps. Investigate carefully, know your childs needs and personality, and pray before pursuing.
Contests and Competitions:
There are numerous contests available. The hard part is picking the one(s) for which you have time! There are well-known ones like the National Geography Bee, Scripts Howard Spelling Bee, and Mathematical Olympiads. Additionally, there are a number of other contests that might be great fun and quite a learning opportunity for your student: "Invent America!" for example. There are books available describing academic competitions.
Gifted Children at Home: A Practical Guide for Homeschooling Families. Are you feeling frustrated in meeting your childs educational needs? This book will encourage you and give a firm foundation for making important educational decisions. This is your guide to searching out the best possible options, resources, and ideas. Written with hard-earned wisdom from women whove "been there, done that," this book is available from Bright Ideas Press (www.BrightIdeasPress.com). The book includes discussion on the following topics:
- How Do I Know if My Child Is Gifted?
- Acceleration and "Skipping" of Grades
- What to Teach and When
- Curriculum Choices
- Preparing for High School and College
- National Programs and Contests
- Reproducible Forms and more
Maggie Hogan is a motivational speaker and co-author of The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide, Gifted Children at Home, and other resource books. She and her husband Bob have been home schooling their boys since 1991. Involved in local, state, and national home-schooling issues, they both serve on boards of home education organizations in Delaware. They are also owners of Bright Ideas Press (www.BrightIdeasPress.com), a home-school company dedicated to bringing the best practical, fun, and affordable materials to the home-school market.
Maggie's e-mail address is Hogan@BrightIdeasPress.com.