Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas...

Well, it has been another wonderful Christmas. The children are all off playing with their loot. We have eaten our fill and visited with family. We are now exhausted in a way only accomplished by rising at 5:30am (or earlier) and having a very busy day but nothing that an early night in bed will not cure.

We have taken off a few days from school and plan to get back into gear the first of the year. I needed to catch up on some cleaning and the kids have been working hard and deserved a break.

My little one got a new 1/10th size violin last week complete with a larger 1/8th size bow. She figured out almost immediately where she needed to place her fingers to play in tune without the prerequisite Suzuki finger tapes and her teacher decided to let her go without them. It amazes me what she is capable of sometimes. She played beautifully in her Suzuki Christmas concert on Friday night, doing a solo on the "Dashing through the snow..." part of Jingle Bells then playing her Back Minuet 1 plus a few other Christmas carols including Silent Night which we had never practiced. (That scared me a little because there were only 4 people, besides her, playing and mistakes could easily be heard unlike when there are 10-15 other players.) Afterward she giggled, "Miss Gerry let me play a song I didn't even know!!"

Since getting her new violin, she has been practicing a lot more and playing around with her instrument again. Yesterday she began playing a waltz from her Kevin Burke CD and I nearly cried, it was so beautiful and amazing.

Last night we attended the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Haley's Sunday school teacher was playing piano and I pointed it out to her. She said, "I know and she is making some mistakes, too." (Playing with the songs she was hitting some notes wrong in a few chords which Haley did not miss.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Santa Claus is coming to town in a taxi??

Haley visited Santa on Monday at the local mall. She insisted that she wanted to play him a song on violin as a Christmas present. I took the violin in but let her know that she could, only if it was not crowded so we didn't hold anyone else up.

There was a very short line, 3 ahead of us and 2 behind. The lady helping Santa asked if I was holding an instrument and I informed her of Haley's desire to play for Santa. She said, "Sure!"

So, Haley played "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" for Santa.

Afterward, she wanted to know a few things about Santa...

--Can Santa see me and what I am doing when someone else is sitting on his lap?
(Translation: How much can I get away with while Santa is preoccupied at the mall?)
--Why are Santa's eye brows darker than last year? They are supposed to be white.
--How did Santa get here and where are his reindeer? (Me: I think he probably flies down in a
plane for this so his reindeer are rested on Christmas Eve.) Haley: Does he stay in a hotel then
they drive him to the mall in a taxi?

Testing results...

Yesterday, I spoke with the psychologist who tested Haley. She once again said that Haley was one of the easiest children she has tested in her 8 years testing gifted children. She has intellectual maturity, determination, drive, and a persistant work ethic. She is well rounded and has fairly even development across the board.

Haley tested in the gifted range. Her actual score was not as high as I had expected from all my reading and knowing her early development and how she learns/knows things. The tester did say that in a number of sections like grouping two items out of a number of items according to their characteristics, she seemed to be a creative, out-of-the-box kind of thinker...meaning she did not chose the easiest, most likely combination but the tester said her reasoning for her choices made absolute sense when she explained them (but since they weren't the "right" answers, they didn't get scored). It seemed kind of strange to me that a test of IQ would not take creativity and thinking processes into consideration but I guess it would be too hard to standardize. Also, I have read that these tests are truly for the average child even though many use them for giftedness.

I also have to question whether Haley was truly demonstrating all her skills because I know that she has the ability to look focused when, in fact, she is on autopilot and thinking a million other things. During those times, the casual observer would think she was being cooperative because she never refuses to do anything and will do a fair imitation of what needs to be done. Her violin teacher knows this as well as I do. She often, especially when performing a more difficult task, will go on autopilot and look around the room while playing a wonderful version of the song for her age but definately not as good as she can perform then when finished will ask questions not even remoted related to violin which proves she not thinking.

Haley's verbal scores were slightly higher than non-verbal. She did very well in factual knowledge, vocabulary, and relates concepts well. She also did well on picture completion (non-verbal) and processing speed.

The assessment of her academic skills were, as I thought, much more helpful to me in how I should go about teaching her. She tested above the 99th% in writing, spelling, math, and reading. She is basically functioning like a mid to late second grader though some subtests were slightly higher like word identification. The psychologist also gave her tests in each section that she normally does not do with children Haley's age related to reading fluency, writing fluency, and math fluency. These tests weren't normed for a 5yo because most 5 year olds are not reading, writing, and doing math well enough to take them.

The psychologist told me that Haley was self-motivated enough that following her lead was a great way for us to continue. Haley's scores academically qualify her for CTY's programs until 7th grade when she would need to take the SAT. (Even CTY does not use IQ scores for their admission requirements but, instead, use the achievement of the child.) I am not sure if I will use their programs...mostly because I don't want her online so much for her learning and the cost involved. Also, we have finally found the place in her math program where she is learning new material, albiet quickly but not quickly enough to be bored if I am careful and allow her to go off on a tangent when she wants to learn more.

After having Dylan's reading assessment last year with all it's very specific information and activity suggestions, I am a little disappointed so far with this assessment. I am hoping the written report will provide more of the answers I was looking for.

The psychologist did say that due to Haley's self motivation, following her lead and doing integrative study would be the best way to proceed. She did make a strong case for continuing homeschooling as the best option for a child like Haley. Though I already knew that, it was nice to hear it from someone else.

So, all in all, she told me I have a wonderful, amazing little girl which I already knew.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Adding it all up...

Last week Haley figured out how to do addition of double digits complete with carrying in a matter of minutes. "Duh, Mom, the tens go in the tens column" was her basic reasoning.

A cyberfriend of mine, a college math professor, suggested trying with larger numbers (triple digits, quadruple digits, etc...). I did and she easily applied her reasoning there to add almost any length of numbers given. The next suggestion was working with subtraction and borrowing. I think we'll try that one tomorrow.

Haley's test scores have not arrived yet. I keep waiting for them and researching more gifted sites and reading more books. I feel almost compelled to know what I am dealing with. I feel like I am holding her back with my need to teach sequentially.

I searched Barnes and Noble for more books on giftedness and it appears that I have read them all. The information I have found on websites is all starting to say things I already know but none of it comes close to telling me what I want to know about my own child...real answers. Waiting until Tuesday is so difficult.

I started re-reading A Case of Brilliance. This book comes the closest to telling me detailed information and I thought maybe a closer reading might be helpful. The author tells of small incidents that stand out to her as moments when she should have been able to guess how gifted her daughter was. I have a few of those moments myself. Like when Haley was 21 months old and read the word "Pizza" off a Pizza Hut sign even though we had never eaten there before so she had no reason link the two like kids do with the golden arches of McDonalds. When I asked her how she knew, she said, "Well it says it is really big letters." That sentence alone should have been a clue coming from a child under two let alone the reading that preceeded it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A "Bowl of Flesh..."

You would never know, looking at my beautiful blond haired beauty, that underneath that sweet, angelic face is a love of the dark and scary. Haley has a fascination with Phantom of the Opera that has not ceased or abated since just prior to her 4th birthday. She knows it inside and out, wants to listen to it on every car trip, and sings the highest notes with the voice of an angel.

I found her a Phantom Christmas ornament on eBay and actually found Phantom Barbies but they were way too expensive so didn't win them. The ornament came yesterday so I have heard it's little piece of a song a million times already.

Often when we play with her Playmobil Fantasy Castle, she wants to play Phantom. Sometimes it is an exact rendition of the musical and sometimes it is her own version (of which we have all the way to Phantom #147 so I am told). Last night, thanks to the arrival of said ornament, Phantom was the topic of our play. At first it started with the original, during which I am constantly reprimanded for failing to use the exact wording. Then it transformed into one of the many "sequels" during which the Phantom is now nice and he and Raul become friends and each date either Christine or her newly arrived sister "Christine" ("because their mother could not think of any other names", of course).

This new rendition took a different turn when Haley decided that Christine #2 would give the Phantom a "bowl of flesh" so he could fix his face and look like the handsome man he was underneath.

What 5 year old thinks of these things?

The Dubl Up...or The Double Up Salad

This weekend, Haley created her first recipe, wrote it down, went shopping with Daddy for the ingredients and prepared it herself (including using a knife though it did make me a bit nervous). Here is her recipe (in her own spelling because it's cute).

Th Dubl Up

Mexakin Cheez
Quwkumbers (my favorite because she knows U comes after Q)
Ranch dressing

All Done

It actually made a very good salad that we all enjoyed.

This week Haley easily figured out how to add double digit numbers with carrying. I honestly never cease to be amazed with how easily she picks things up.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Initial Test Results...

Well, Haley had her testing today. It took about 3.5 hours with a couple breaks. The psychologist did the WISC IV, I think, and assessed all her academic areas plus did an extensive interview with me (prior to the assessment I filled out form after form about her developmental history, milestones, strengths/weaknesses, etc... and also an inventory on social-emotional development/behavior.

After the assessment she had Haley sit in another room to color while we talked a little bit. I did not get any scores today, those will come in the mail in the next couple weeks and I will have a conference with her via phone to go over the results in more detail.

During the testing, she let Haley have a couple breaks but said that Haley never asked for a break and would have kept going. After the testing she first commented on Haley's focus, ability to concentrate, and maturity. She said she has done many assessments on very gifted 5 year olds and that assessing Haley was more like assessing a 7-9 year old. She said these skills are more beneficial and will aid her more than any IQ score.
She said that she is positive Haley will qualify for their programs and she is across the board at least a couple years ahead in all subject areas. She also was surprised at how well Haley writes saying that many gifted children have fine motor skills that make writing difficult. Overall she said that Haley was an amazing little girl and she has a very bright future. She did question me about homeschooling and asked if I would consider doing it for the long-term with Haley (I told her of my plans to put the oldest in high school for sports reasons) because she doesn't feel that a school program would meet her needs.

She was very interested in Haley's musical abilities and asked to see the DVD we had made of Haley playing. She said she was amazed by those abilities.

Anyway, I think that's about it for now. I am interested to see what her specific recommendations are for academic instruction.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

To know or not to know...

I haven't even been able to post this yet because I still have such mixed feelings. I have only told Grammy and a few close virtual friends because I cannot bring myself to tell anyone else. Tuesday I am having Haley assessed at John's Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.

I have never really been one to think about testing before and in fact could always list all the reasons I would not test my kids until now.

1. We homeschool so I don't need to advocate with a school system for differentiated teaching or grade skipped in school.

2. I have a firm belief that IQ is meerly a potential to learn and would not change the way I treat/teach my kids because I had this number...I would continue to expect great things from them even if they didn't have as high an IQ as I originally thought.

3. It costs a lot of money.

Well, then, you may ask, why have I suddenly done a complete 180 with Haley?

I know my boys are smart, incredibly smart actually. Newt learns like I learn...sequentially, everything in order as he is taught it or learns it himself from books/experience. Dylan is a hands on learner who is incredibly creative yet not very into school and its trappings. If he can't figure out why he needs to know something then he can't see the point of putting in the effort.

Haley has been different from the start. She met her milestones more quickly, maybe because of them, who knows. But she learns in a way I have only read about in books on gifted kids. She is taught one little thing then suddenly has a huge leap in knowledge and knows how to do way more than she was ever shown.

Some examples:

Reading: She picked up letter sounds from a Leap Frog video at 18 months. She asked me how to sound out small words so I showed her how to blend them then played a few games to teach her. We started the 100EZ lessons book a few times but never made it past CVC words then she started a Phonics Workbook and, before she finished the basic consonent sounds, was reading anything and everything including words with phonics rules I never taught her. The most amazing thing was that she never went through the slow reading...sounding each word out stage (you know, that agonizing for parents stage where you just want to give them the word because you are going to forget what the story is about before they read it).

Music: She is taught the basics on her violin and the first 4 Twinkle variations. From that she figured out every other song's notes before she was taught all the way through Book 4. She played around with her violin and figured out slurs, shifting, and different bowing techniques.

Math: She knew everything from 1st grade in 4 months and the first half of 2nd grade in 2 months. She figured out the concept of multiplication and extrapolated on what she was taught about identifying simple fractions to figure out more complex fraction problems. I don't even know what level her math knowledge is.

These incredible burst of knowledge and the ability to take knowledge and figure out so much on her own have led me to feel like I can't keep up with her. I feel like I need to know where she is and how to best teach a child who learns in this way to help her reach her full potential.

I am also interested in some of the gifted classes offered through CTY and EPGY but need test scores to be approved to take those.

And lastly, I know that now is a pretty good time to get this testing done. She is old enough to be cooperative yet young enough not to ceiling out any tests. Having these scores may help get her into programs in the future.