Saturday, July 28, 2012

Swannanoa 2012

If there's a place my two younger kids love to be, Swannanoa is it.

She and Dylan love everything about it from the music to the people to the entire atmosphere. Warren Wilson College is in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina just east of Asheville. Image that scenery with Irish music being played in little nooks and crannies all over the campus by people practicing for a class or small groups of people jamming together. We have been going to Swannanoa for the past four years so have a number of friends we love to see each year and we make new friends, too. They meet so many people with a similar passion for Irish music so, whether they are younger or older, they have an immediate connection.

Haley and Dylan had great classes with talented Irish musicians. Haley had fiddle with Liz Carroll for the beginning of the week but a family emergency called her away and Liz Kane took her place. She also took a tin whistle class with Kathleen Conneely. Dylan took guitar and bouzouki classes with John Doyle, Eamon O'Leary, and Donal Clancy. Our evenings consisted of amazing marathon concerts and ceili dances then late night/early morning jam sessions. Haley and Dylan They got to jam with many of the instructors for the week and some other talented musicians in those late night sessions. They also had a blast playing music with some "neighbors" from PA, Rose and Nate, most nights of the week and the four of them put together a set for the Student Showcase which was a lot of fun.

Some highlights and pics...

Haley and Dylan playing in a session with Liz Carroll and Kathleen Conneely.

Haley with Liz.

Dylan accompanying a new friend, Mackenzie from CO.

Haley and Dylan playing "Morning Nightcap" with Kevin Crawford.
 I think I blinded everyone with my flash.

Haley with Eli! "Talk the the hand!"

Dylan accompanying John Doyle's fiddling.

Kids in big session.

Haley with the ceili band.

Eyeball fun!

Dylan with John Doyle.
Tin whistle class performance.

Next up is a quick trip to the Dublin Ohio Celtic Festival for Haley as she joins The John Whelan Band. It will be a whirlwind of fun! We fly home just in time for our Ireland fundraiser next Sunday. Then it's off to Ireland and the Fleadh!
Wish Haley luck!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Broader Definition of Success for Gifted Children

Back in 2008, I read this article and though it was interesting, I didn't necessarily agree with the author's point of view.

I wrote a blog post about my problems with the article back then and was asked to expound a bit on it for this blog here it goes.

I, personally, don't think accommodating gifted children is about creating prodigies, Nobel prize winners, or the next Mozart. When my kids read at 3-4 years old, I didn't automatically think that I was going to create the next Nobel prize winner. My goal was to provide them with materials they found interesting to read but not too emotionally mature for their tender years and to read with them everyday. When Haley began to show advanced musical ability, my goal was not to create the next Mozart. I simply found ways to meet her needs for instruction, performance opportunities, and social outlets. My main goal in homeschooling my children has always been to give them what they need
to feel challenged, give them an education that keeps many doors open for them so they have options, and teach them where they are so they maintain a love of learning and become adults who are able to find a job doing something they want to do.

I have a much broader definition of success than Mr. Gladwell would accept. I believe there are many other important aspects of human beings worthy of being celebrated besides academics or huge achievements. In the article, Mr. Gladwell considered people with over 150 IQ as not having obtained success if they didn't become Noble prizewinners or make huge contributions to some field of study. Many of those in the study did get advanced degrees and go on to work in the field of their choosing leading productive lives but to him, that was not successful enough.  By Mr. Gladwell's standards, I am a failure. I fall under his definition of gifted but I "only" work part-time and chose to put my efforts into homeschooling and mothering my kids. I always wanted to be a mother and consider it my most important calling. I purposefully chose a career that would provide me with flexible hours so I had time to be home and raise my children.  I am happy with my life and am raising three great kids. To me, that is all the success I need.

Not every precocious child will grow into an eminent adult who makes amazing contributions in a some field considered useful to the masses. There are so many factors such as personal interest, internal motivation, creativity, hard work, drive, and a bit of luck that often factor in much more than innate ability. Also, some people have so many interests, they cannot limit themselves to one particular field of study, some are interested in a field/area not many others are interested in, while others make small contributions in their own local area or for themselves that are not celebrated by throngs of people. I think it is very limiting to view those lives as less successful.

If we accommodate gifted children with the only goal being eminence or with expectations for them to contribute in some amazing way, we risk putting too heavy a burden on them. How many gifted children burn out or resist challenge or opportunities because they have the weight of their parents' (or other adult's) expectations on their shoulders? How many have their fragile egos shattered when they don't live up to someone else's expectations?

Mr. Gladwell compares gifted issues in academics and music to sports issues. I think there are some major differences between prodigious abilities in sports and those in music or academics. Few school districts cut back on their football budget or stop 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. I think Mr. Gladwell's ideas are dangerous weapons for schools to use to justify their neglect of the gifted. If only a very small percentage of the gifted will "succeed" (using Mr. Gladwell's definition) then why bother accommodating them at school? Also, discussion of a child's success in sports is much more socially acceptable than discussing their success in academics or music, which are often viewed in society as elitist.

I believe it is important to accommodate while also protecting our kids from pressure, disappointment, or burnout by allowing each child to work with and expand whatever gifts or interests they have whether they be academic, musical, athletic, leadership, etc... Those who absorb information faster and understand more complex concepts at a younger age need accommodations whether it means going faster or deeper or some combination of the two. I fear holding bright kids back or allowing them to coast without proper challenge will be detrimental to their love of learning. Allowing them to learn at their own pace and broadening their education by following their passions and interests keeps the love of learning alive and allows them to experiment in a variety of areas. We, as parents, also need to be careful not to mistake our goals for our children for their own goals/needs putting unnecessary pressures on them. We should also be careful in how we phrase our comments/praise 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 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.

My children 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 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." 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2012

Teaching My Baby to Read is very excited to be participating in the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2012 from July 15-21st. This blog tour is organized by parents who met on The Well Trained Mind Message boards and who would like to help celebrate SENG’s National Parenting Gifted Children Week 2012.
This blog tour is not officially associated with The Well Trained Mind or SENG, but we are parents with experience and insights to share.  We come from different parts of the country, different school choices, and different social and economic backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common. We know that parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding.  If you have ever woken up at 3 AM in the morning wondering “What am I going to do with this child?” then this blog tour is for you!

From July 15-21 the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

On July 15th Childhood Inspired will write about “Loneliness as a Gifted Parent”. Our Roxaboxen Adventures will discuss “Identifying Gifted Minority Students”.
On July 16th Sceleratus Classical Academy will share “Don’t Panic! Musings about realizing that your child’s learning pattern is ahead of schedule.”
On July 17th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature “When School Isn’t Enough; Fanning the Flames of Learning Afterschool”.
On July 18th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about “A Broader Definition of Success for Gifted Children”.
On July 19th A Tree House Education will feature “2E Issues”. Homeschool in Florida will share “Get Out of Your Own Way: How to Listen to the Needs of Your Gifted Child”.
On July 20th Making Music With Kids will discuss “Finding a Good Fit for a Preschooler You Suspect is Gifted”. Barely Educational will offer “Worrying Too Much and Overanalyzing Parenting”
On July 21st Teaching My Baby to Read will feature guest posts. Dancing with Dragons will write about “Teaching the Visual Spatial Learner: When Your Child Thinks in Pictures”.
Teaching my Baby to Read still has room for more guest posts, so if you have something on your heart that you would like to share, please email Jenny via Teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com.