Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Gifted Children

I'm not sure how I ended up there, but I started following a gifted homeschooling forum on Facebook. I hadn't delved into the whole "gifted education" thing for quite some time, being too busy with all kinds of other stuff. I only have a few more years with my daughter's schooling and I want to make sure to make the most of it. I do feel like I haven't given all that I should have to her, but that doesn't mean I can't make up for it!

At the same time, I have thoughts of, "Does it really matter to think of her as 'gifted'? Does it help? Does it hinder? Wouldn't it be good to just remember her strengths and weaknesses and target them? What about her brother? He's not the same kind of learner, but that doesn't mean he's not gifted. Hard to tell. But, again, does the label matter? Or does remembering the label remind me that my kids do fit with some of the typical gifted traits and to work with them?"

My dd has always shown herself to be gifted. Never formally tested, but I was, and labelled, and know my own history and see it all in her. Struggling at 4 months to do things most kids don't start really attempting until later. (Oh, I have a memory of taking her in for her vaccination and she was fascinated by the bell the nurse used to distract her. While the nurse and I were talking, this little baby reached out very determinedly, slowly and picked up that bell with its thin stem. When she did it and deliberately shook the bell, she surprised the heck out of the nurse.) She struggled at various stages to do more advanced things; we could see the thought processes going on but she couldn't make her body always do what she wanted it to do! Oh, the meltdowns! (Oh, yes, high sensitivity, from the get-go!) She knew things should work in a certain way and they didn't. First words at 8 months. (Nope, not "mama" or "dada", but "chat" (French: cat). And yes, her cat is very much her beloved.) Extensive vocabulary by 18 months. (We had been keeping track and it just got to be too much! Over 200 words for sure.) Started reading at age 3 by just observing me tutor a grade 1 child, using Reading Reflex. (She learned it all much, much faster than the grade 1 student, too!) Perfectionist. So much more. Hubby asked somewhat early on if I thought she was gifted and I said yes without hesitation.

My ds has always been "different". I'm not sure if the schools would have him labelled LD or not, but I recognize the possibility. (I do recognize, too, that there is Asperger's in my family and while neither one of us would be diagnosable, let's say I can see clearly how we've retained certain clear traits, lean toward that end of things, more so than dd.) He's got his own developmental pattern that is, well, uniquely him. :P He would skip milestones, for example, or would be "late" in hitting one, but when he'd hit it, he would hit the more advanced ones for his age, too. I'm thinking here of his speaking, walking and even drawing and reading. The darn kid was so occupied as a 9-10mo exploring how he could move his legs in various positions while on all fours, that it took him until 10 months to start crawling. (Oh, man, I wish I could demonstrate! It was very interesting to watch. But, it's a clue: this interest in "unusual" things, being focused on a particular area like that.) He was 15 months old before he started walking. Not because he couldn't; he was just too busy doing everything else. Same with talking. It took his slightly older cousin, 18mo and starting to come to our place each day, to spur ds to start walking and talking. Within a week or two, he was pretty much running. As for talking, the darn kid would add 4-5 words PER DAY for the next month! Yeah, the whole milestone thing of  "50-100 words by the time they are 2"... Ha! Oh, and it just hit me, his "different" way of doing things: first word around 9-10 months, then another word, but then when the third word was added, he dropped one of the first words. He only kept two active words in his vocabulary until he was 15 months, but had said 5-10 words by the time he was 1... He's a very different kid.

Ah, the drawing. I still have to locate his Buzz Lightyear drawing. He was not yet 3. He had moved from the typical scribbles to the typical round shapes, but with dots in them ("potatoes" he said they were). Went straight from that to a full out person: head with hair, eyes, mouth, not sure if there was a nose, but there was a body, arms with fingers (too many) at the end, legs and feet with toes. Yeah, he skipped a few milestones there. Oh, hey, and reading! Didn't seem to click, didn't seem to click, then he started reading and that was the end of it. I can't get him to stop. I can't say his reading level is very high, but he has a passion for comics... Lately, Baby Blues. (Is it normal for an 11yo to like Baby Blues so much?)

As I go through all of this, I realize how much I have not regarded his innate abilities as highly as I should. But what am I babbling about? I've been interrupted and lost my train of thought.

I guess I'm just reflecting on my kids, their abilities, the signs of their abilities. Is it important for me to tie it in with gifted education? Before writing this all, I looked up characteristics of gifted kids. One of the common ones was a need for novelty. Oh boy. That's both of them. I thought they were just being difficult, lacking in imagination. No, I think now they need more input, more variety.

I guess being aware of common traits and needs could be helpful, without my getting stuck on "gifted education" or whether my kids are or not. If certain traits are present and there are suggestions on how to meet those traits, surely that's a good thing?

What do you think? Do you have a child you suspect is gifted? Do you keep this aspect in mind when deciding what to do with them?

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