Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ramblings on giftedness...

Yesterday, as I was typing my introductory thread to a new person on a gifted message board I started- this child can do this and that one can do that, I started thinking. I have been thinking and thinking about it all night and just need to get it off my chest.

Here I am typing in things they can do, academic things,and none of those things even come close to why I think they might be gifted. Sure, those things work as a baseline and give others something to compare them to but they don't come close to measuring the real thing. What I mean is...some profoundly gifted children may start talking in complete sentences at 1 while others may not even start talking until 3 or 4 (like Einstein), some gifted children may start reading at 2 while others may not until 6...Do you get where I am going? Sure, those early, wonderful, amazing, eye-opening achievements may let us know to start looking at whether or not they are gifted but they don't really give us all that much information.

I have been reading book after book after book on giftedness and learning theory, etc. I know I have been searching for answers but until last night I couldn't really put into words exactly what I have been searching for. What I really am trying to know is exactly what is this giftedness and how can I use what my children were given to help them live the most fulfilling life they can lead? How do I know what they were put on this earth to do or if I can't know then how do I help them achieve what they were put on this earth to do without knowing?

Pretty lofty goals, huh?!?

I have been reading the whole nature vs. nuture argument and depending on which book or study I read, each leans a different way. One book states that the child is born with the potential while another says that they can be lead in the direction to develop higher potential. In a book by Shinichi Suzuki (the violin guy), he talks about this school class he developed where he took a group of preschool children and taught them to memorize haiku (and many other things) and even though the children were not selected for their ability but randomly, after the program all had IQs above 150. Pretty amazing stuff, right. But if that were the case then why haven't people picked up on that and done it more broadly to make every child have this high IQ.

And then really, what is IQ?

Most of you know that I am a physical therapist and I work with kids under 3. I do developmental assessments. When Haley was 3, the State of NJ started using this new test for every child. Well, when I received my kit I took it home and tested her (the test is for kids up to age 6) to get an idea of the items and how the scoring works, etc... She tested at a 6 year level in everything except gross motor (which ended up being 4.5 yrs) and in many cases hit the ceiling on the test. I think social-emotional skills were the only other area she didn't hit the ceiling and that was because many items dealt with being in large groups like in a school setting and she never was.

Anyway, nothing in the test tested anything but what she could do. I think the real thing that makes her gifted is the way she looks at the world. How do you test that? How do you quantify that? I don't think there is really a way. I mean, how many children who are barely over 2 years old ask questions about God and how he can see everything in the world? How many are so fascinated by death yet afraid of it at the same time? How many kids can look at a person and be able to catch every detail of their mannerisms and behavior so they can do an impersonation that hits so close you can guess who they are doing and you say, "Yeah, they do do that"? How many constantly make connections about everything, notice everything, and remember everything, even the most minute detail of their existence?

Then you have all of that information and what do you do with it? How do you help them to be who they are supposed to be instead of some depressed wreck of a person who becomes so out of touch with the world they can't function?

Many of the books I read say that most of the geniuses of the world who make the biggest contributions to society had some horrible event or stress in their lives like someone close to them die or alcoholism or abuse. Who wants any of that for their child? There is so much information out there to teach them and so many possible ways to do it. How do you choose which way is the best and what should they really know?

I am a person who likes to have all the answers and often times, even in this area, I can come up with something that is good enough or maybe better put, the best I can do. With my boys, it was a little easier. I just give them the most information they can handle and teach them whatever they ask to learn plus the information and skills I think they need to do well in college. With my oldest, I provide him the best wrestling coaches I can afford and take him to as many practices as I can. The boys seem to learn linearly and they easily learn whatever I teach them.

With Haley it is becoming a little harder. She seems to grasp entire concepts without seeming to have been taught. She picked up letter sounds from a DVD before she was 18 months old then learned to blend them. I gave her a few lessons on the blending and she seemed to stop working on it for awhile. Then out of the blue she can read anything and everything, even utilizing phonics rules she was never specifically taught.

Also, if she was really put on this earth to play violin, I don't know what it takes to do that and have to rely on other people to help me more. This is a completely different realm and a very expensive realm at that. I started her in violin just to make her better at math and give her a skill she could use to relieve stress. The cost of lessons was one thing but now we are going to a more expensive teacher and foregoing the big family vacation out west so she can attend an institute with wonderful teachers. It doesn't matter to me one way or another whether violin is her calling or just is a direction she will go that will help her and teach her life lessons for other adventures but I want to give her everything I can just in case that is what she ends up wanting to do.

It is a huge responsibility to make these decisions and I have to make them, clearly keeping in mind that I cannot become so involved that I start to make her do violin because we have made such and such decision. It has to continue to be fun for her and something she wants to do.

Okay, I think I have rambled on enough and gotten some of this out of my system. There are so many hard questions. I think it is hard being a parent no matter whether your child is gifted or not. I think it is just an extra burden/gift when they are. Maybe more of a responsibility than a burden. I feel a huge responsibility and many times I am just fine with the decisions I make and other times I find myself second guessing everything. I guess in the end, no amount of reading is going to tell me exactly what I want to know because no one really knows but I will keep reading and looking for pieces to the puzzle.

It is like the parents who ask me when their child will take those first steps. I can teach the parent to give them all the skills necessary to be able to walk- balance, strength, coordination, trunk control, etc... but it is really then all up to the child whether or not they have the courage and determination to take those first steps. Some children, who I think will never be able to walk do, while others who I think should be walking, don't.

I don't know why I expect to know more about my own kids because it is the same thing. I can give them all the skills but in the end what they do with their lives is their own choice.


Unknown said...

Hello; this is Colman. I have been researching homeschooling and giftedness for about two weeks and happened to stumble upon this blog after looking up "pros and cons of homeschooling + giftedness + music" into the Google search engine! I found this page you wrote on giftedness and I can not stop thinking about it.

I always felt that from an early age; I was different. From what I have been told, I was able to talk at a very early age, and I taught myself how to read a few months later. I often wondered if I was crazy, or if was truly different from everyone else. I get so lost in my own philosophical thought, I start questioning everything I thought was a reality. It got so bad, I thought that I was better than everyone else; I became toxically egocentric. In school, I have always felt bored, unchallenged, and I've always felt that I'm learning at a slow pace.

Suddenly, when I was in third grade, something happened that changed my attitude on everything. It was around this time my friends started showing me YouTube videos of child prodigies of every kind: intellectual prodigies who were able to perform calculations faster than a calculator, musical prodigies who sounded just as good as adults, and so on and so on. But as my stubborn self, I thought to myself, "There's no way they're smarter than me." I thought that they were just raised in an environment where they spent all of their lifetimes being taught how to do these things. But still, there was a doubt in my mind: maybe I wasn't as special, as different as I had perceived.

Starting in fourth grade, I researching Eastern philosophy on the nature of the human being. I started coming to conclusions, and in a notebook that I still have, dated "9/1/14, I wrote the following:

"Every single choice you make and reaction you have is a product of what you were exposed to in your lifetime. That brings a question to mind: When we strip away all of our life experiences and genes we received from our parents, who are we? I am no longer the fair-skinned, blonde, musical kid who plays the piano. I'm just a being living inside a human body. When I take my human self away, I believe there are just two things left: self-motivation, and awareness. The strength of those two things are what I think produces a gifted child. These two things create each simultaneously, and they are interconnected. That is why SELF-MOTIVATION and AWARENESS are truly what you are."

I look back on that, and I think, "gosh, that was deep..." but I still stand by my conclusions from that time.

I firmly believe that all of us have a gift, though some just have an easier time accessing it. I have been gifted with the gift of music. My self-motivation makes me strive to master it, and my awareness is my gift; it is how I naturally understand it.

My ramble is over. I hope you're able to see this.


ptmom said...

Hi Colman,

Hard to believe that post was written 10 years ago. So many things have happened and I've learned so much over those years.

I think you are right. Self motivation and awareness are key. Innate intelligence can be a starting point then add in experience and learning but without motivation and awareness, the most innately intelligent person in the world might never succeed at anything. When children are young, it might be possible to force or coerce learning and talent into them but there eventually comes a time when they might rebel or burn out and at that time, it is left to their own motivation and awareness to go on with their lives.

Good luck in your endeavors!!