by Elaine Sigal
In today's society it appears that all children are smart, gorgeous, and gifted! We think that our children are special - and they are - only sometimes they are special to us and not to others. How do we truly know when a child is gifted and not just smart? After we determine a level of intelligence, what can we do to best help our little marvel? I have included at the end of this article, with permission, a piece that has been written by a teacher of the gifted.
Once a child has been deemed gifted, what can you as the parent do? Since you have already made the decision to home school, it is apparent that you have made the first decision. Now what? Is differentiated learning enough for your child? Is changing the curriculum enough? Are more field trips enough? How do you know what to do and where do you find help if you need it?
I have three intelligent children: one is truly gifted. I did not do anything differently for the three. I do not believe that gifted children need to be separate or do separate activities or learn completely differently. I do believe that gifted children can take learning to another level or in some cases stratospheres! I made sure that all my children were exposed to and took part in: sports, music, art, theater, literature, math, science, foreign languages, and history. They became good cooks, they learned how to fend for themselves, they sewed. It is not enough to push children ahead to a higher level in a given subject; they need to help you create the learning experience. Did I care if all my boys went on to become NASA Engineers, Academy Award Winners, or Supreme Court Justices? Of course I care. Did they? No. Might they still? Maybe, but doubtful. I do know that my sons are all excelling at what they love. They are all very well rounded individuals. They all love the fine arts and have developed friendships with people from many walks of life. They are well respected and well liked people. Could I have pushed them harder? Maybe. Would the outcome have been as successful? I am not sure.
Children need to be exposed to all types of learning and activities at a young age and then their learning should continue on to other experiences. Don't stop at just fostering math or science. One of my children has a PhD and is a post doctoral fellow in neuro-science; he also plays the piano, stand up bass, sings, loves opera, music,and theater; he cooks and is a NY Giants fanatic. He loved math as a child, so we encouraged him in math, but also in everything else. Another son is finishing law school, and is an avid gamer. In fact, a few years ago, he was the International Champion in Diplomacy, one of Henry Kissinger's favorite board games. He won a week in France, all expenses paid! He also loves opera, music, theater, cooking, political discussions and literature. The third son is an actor, who is an avid musical fan, loves to cook, reads everything, love sports and teaches. As the song goes, "Who could ask for anything more?" I spent years letting them explore options: I ate some pretty bad meals that they cooked, took them to more voice and acting lessons than I would like to remember, sat at every sports arena, field and rink that they wanted, let their dad work with them on math and science, and read to them - until they went to college. We explored clocks, science, authors, painters, musicians, religions, cultures and the world. We never stopped - much like home schooled parents.
All in all, my best advice is treat the gifted like you would want to be treated. Challenge them to do their best, but not to the point of frustration. Let them experience all that life has to offer and then let them pick what they like and strive to do their best. Let them dig into the weeds of learning and not stay on top of the grass. Let them call some of the shots; just because you don't like something, does not mean that they shouldn't like it. Explore with them and have some fun!
Brandy Metzger, a licensed teacher who has an Elementary certification with add on licensure in K-6 gifted education states, "All children have gifts, but are all children gifted? According to the No Child Left Behind Act, “The term ‘gifted and talented’, when used with respect to students, children, or youth, means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities” (Title IX, Part A, Section 9101(22)) (Page 544).
So, how are parents to know whether or not their child is gifted or merely bright? Here are some characteristics, according to the Tennessee Association for the Gifted, that differentiate a bright child from a gifted child:
A bright child knows the answers, while a gifted child asks the questions.
A bright child has good ideas, while a gifted child has wild and silly ideas.
A bright child is interested, while a gifted child is highly curious.
A bright child answers the questions, while a gifted child discusses in detail and elaborates.
A bright child is in the top group, while a gifted child is beyond the group.
A bright child learns with ease, while a gifted child already knows.
A bright child completes assignments, while a gifted child initiates projects.
A bright child enjoys studying, while a gifted child enjoys learning.
A bright child is pleased with his own learning, while a gifted child is highly self-critical. (Tennessee Association for the Gifted)
Elaine received her BA from The College of New Jersey and her MA in English from Villanova University. She is licensed to teach English, Speech and Theater in two states. Elaine founded and ran a classroom based 'brick and mortar' educational company from 1995 - 2009. Elaine has significant experience matching learners to the appropriate educators and has a large available network in the educational arena. Elaine also taught English on the university level, created adult education courses, managed a credit recovery program, managed all areas of supplemental development, and established a 501c3. She has over 35 years of experience in the education field.
STIZZiL.com - is an online educational resource offering individual and group lessons tailored to any student’s needs at his/her convenience and safety, taught by experienced U.S. licensed teachers through state-of-the-art interactive web tools, such as live web video. STIZZiL will match the best teacher to the right student based on an in-depth survey filled out by the student. Teachers undergo a rigorous background inquiry with only the best chosen to join the STIZZiL staff. All sessions are recorded and archived for student review and quality assurance.