Welcome to a collection of thoughts, questions and interesting links relating to giftedness ..............
You may also like to check out my website where you will find more information for children, parents and teachers.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Managing without the Instruction Manual

Parents with gifted children have perhaps an even more challenging journey than some other parents. The regular parenting manuals don’t provide a lot of helpful information or comfort for the parent of a baby who only naps in the day time and whose night time sleep needs are far less than others the same age, or the child who is stacking a dozen blocks in a tower at 12 months of age, or the child who is holding conversations with strangers at 18 months of age. There is no doubt that life would be more straight forward if we knew what to expect, where to turn for help or if we had something to tell us the ‘right’ way to proceed when our child threw the next challenge at us.

However parenting seems to demand that we remain flexible, that we brainstorm and analyse options, that we think creatively, problem solve and investigate options. It demands we shift from the safe mindset of a ‘Knower’ (who would have absorbed the manual) to the less certain one of a ‘Learner’ (in many ways just like our child). Young children are inveterate learners, interacting with the world around them, persisting and trying out ideas. They are investigators, questioners and problem solvers.

Perhaps then parenting is Nature’s way of making sure we remain learners, that we model the process of learning for our children. Perhaps the reason it is more challenging than we might have chosen is that life will be challenging for our children and they need us to model managing the challenges.

For them to have the best resources in order to grow into healthy, happy people who feel at home in the world and who can face what life throws at them intelligently and cheerfully, they need to see us continue to learn as well.

One of the best things we can do is to articulate the process of not knowing and how we navigate it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Where are our gifted girls?

There is essentially no difference between the degree of giftedness of girls and boys, however far more boys are identified as gifted.

The recent EXPLORE testing prompted me to look anew at the children whose parents had sought consultations with Thinking Ahead  in the past 5 years or so.

Only 38% were girls.

Checking other samples in Australia and the USA, this pattern is repeated (40% girls reported by the Gifted Develpopment Centre in the USA, 42% girls reported by Fiona Smith of Gifted Minds in Australia).

Of the students who registered for the EXPLORE test this year, about 28% were girls, slightly up on last year where it was a little under 20%.

Both teachers and parents identify giftedness in boys more often than in girls. As boys are also more likely to act out their frustrations when curriculum does not meet their needs than girls, perhaps this accounts for it in part. Perhaps it is that many gifted girls choose to blend in from an early age, tend to sit still and do neat work and so slip by unnoticed.  Perhaps compliance is mistaken for 'happiness' with the situation. Maybe it is just that many people still dont expect to see giftedness in girls.

It is a real shame if the 'glass ceiling' exists low enough and early enough to distract us from seeking out and encouraging our gifted girls and boys equally and providing opportunities to develop their talents and potential.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What does Happiness look like and where might we find it?

Last year I mentioned that, more than high scores, the priority for the parents I speak to is for their child to happy. Indeed it is something that we want just as much for ourselves.

Since the later part of 2009 I have read a lot about happiness, looking for some clarity and perspective, hoping to come across keys that might prove enlightening. Plenty has been written about the topic and it pops up in all sorts of places. Some people have made Happiness their ‘project’, you can attend conferences or retreats where you have the opportunities to explore the idea but we are still unable to ‘bottle’ it.

Perhaps underlying everything is ‘meaning’. Happiness is associated with purpose and passion, with taking on meaningful challenges and not running away from difficulty. It has far more to do with the pursuit of non trivial challenges than having nothing to worry about. There is a feeling of energy, absorption and satisfaction that comes with it.

This sounds very much like the concept of ‘Flow’ which was first introduced to the world by Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi in 1990, the match between skill level and degree of challenge leadign to sustained effortlessness.

Children will spend hours improving their skills or pursuing projects in areas that interest and challenge them, mastering dance steps, practicing guitar chords, practicing their joke telling or refining a computer game. These activities real, their learning is messy in imprecise and not being sure they will get it right (at least not the first time), can be disconcerting. Yet in spite of that they are ‘happy’ to do it and they feel a degree of satisfaction in their progress or success.

If this is the case, what role does school play in children’s happiness?

How often does your child feel a passion and purpose in relation to their learning at school? (is there a difference when they are learning in other settings?) How often are they engaged in challenging, non trivial (in their mind) tasks and feeling energised and satisfied with their efforts?

How much does the child’s school experience impact on their willingness to engage in real, messy disconcerting activities out of school?

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