Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Article on giftedness...

This article came on a couple lists I frequent and I thought it was interesting though I didn't agree with it, per se....

I had a few problems with this article...I think there are some differences between prodigious abilities in sports and those in music or academics. Great adult athletes were not always the greatest child athletes. Their bodies may not have matured as quickly as others, they may not have had a drive as child athletes, and many child athletes burn out due to adult pressures and expectations (okay maybe there are some similarities there). Some music abilities such as identification of pitch need to be obtained with early training. An adult beginning music study may or may not ever develop perfect pitch.

I, personally, don't think that accomodating gifted students/kids is about creating prodigies or Nobel prize winners or the next Mozart. When my kids read at 3-4 yo, I didn't automatically think that I was going to create the next Nobel prize winner and when Haley began to show advanced musical ability, my goal was not to create the next Mozart. My main goal has always been to give my kids what they need and teach them where they are so that they can develop to be their best, love learning, and become happy, fulfilled adults.

I also think there is a much broader definition of success than those in this article would accept. They considered the people with over 150 IQ as not having obtained success because they didn't become Noble prizewinners or make huge contributions to some field of study. Many of them did get advanced degrees and go on to work in the field of their chosing. By the standards considered in the article, I am a failure. I "only" work part-time and chose to put my efforts into homeschooling and mothering my kids. I am happy with my life and am raising 3 great kids. To me, that is success.

I agree that a precocious child may not grow into a successful adult. There are so many other factors such as internal motivation, hard work, and a bit of luck that often factor in more than innate ability. I do think that those who absorb information faster and understand more complex concepts at a younger age need a faster pace in academics. I think the problem comes when adult expectations put pressure on those young minds. My kids may never be Nobel prize winners or world class athletes or play at Carnegie Hall but they will have spent their young years learning at the pace that suited their individual needs, be equipped with all the tools they need to pursue whatever goals become their dreams, and will have parents behind them who will support them no matter what they determine to be their "success."

The author of the article compares gifted issues to sports issues. I think his comparison is wrong. I know of no school district who cuts back on their football budget and team try-outs for fear that some kids will be disappointed and not make it to a pro career. Unfortunately, when it comes to giftedness in academics or music, many schools around the country are cutting budgets (or have no funding to cut) and neglecting gifted kids.

So, how do I think we protect our kids from pressure, disappointment, or burnout...

We allow each child to work with and expand whatever gifts they have whether they be academic, musical, athletic, leadership, etc... We teach them at the pace they work best no matter what they are learning. We, as parents, need to be careful not to mistake our goals for our child for their goals/needs putting unnecessary pressures on them and we should also be careful in how we phrase our comments to our we tell them they performed well because they worked hard or do we tell them they did well because they are more gifted than the next child. Kids have no control over their inborn ability level but they can control the amount of effort they put into their activities which may help them to deal with disappointments in a more resilient way.

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