GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
10201 YUMA COURT
P.O. BOX 1586
MANASSAS, VA 20108
VOLUME TWELVE, NUMBER TWO
LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION: $22.00
MEMBERS OF NATIONAL ADVISORY PANEL
Ms. Sharon Buzzard -- Supervisor of Gifted Education, East Liverpool Ohio Schools and Past President of the Ohio Association for Gifted Children
Dr. James Delisle -- Professor and Co-Director of SENG, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Dr. Jerry Flack --Univ. Of Colorado-Colorado Springs
Dr. Howard Gardner -- Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Ms. Diane D. Grybek -- Supervisor of Secondary Gifted Programs (Retired), Hillsborough County Schools, Tampa, Florida
Ms. Dorothy Knopper -- Publisher, Open Space Communications, Boulder, Colorado
Mr. James LoGiudice -- Director, Program and Staff Development, Bucks County, Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit No. 22 and Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education
Dr. Mary Meeker -- President of SOI Systems, Vida, Oregon
Dr. Adrienne O'Neill - Johnson & Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island
Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis -- Coordinator of Gifted Programs, Elk River, Minnesota Schools and Past President of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented
Dr. Bruce Shore -- Professor and Director, Giftedness Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Ms. Joan Smutny -- Professor and Director, Center for Gifted, National-Louis University, Evanston, Illinois
Dr. Virgil S. Ward -- Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
Ms. Susan Winebrenner -- Consultant, Brooklyn, Michigan
Dr. Ellen Winner - Professor, Boston College
A debate is currently raging among researchers and academics over the relative importance of giftedness as a developmental trait versus the enhancement of human abilities through talent development programs. Academics have divided into two opposing camps, arming themselves with supporting research studies. From our perspective, we are reminded of previous social science and educational debates (e.g., heredity versus environment, acceleration versus enrichment) that have produced reams of journal pages, books and convention papers with little resolution of the original problem. Is the current argument over giftedness versus talent development worth the time and effort? Is there some validity to each side of the debate that renders the sharp dichotomy between the disputants meaningless? Is this split in the academic ranks caused by a pseudo-problem rather than a valid issue that will determine the future of the gifted in the United States? What are some important problems that educators of the gifted should be concerned with studying and debating? We welcome your responses to these questions for publication in GEPQ.
Dr. Linda Silverman of the Gifted Development Center (Denver, Colorado) discusses her reasons for studying gifted children and her philosophy of giftedness. Her statements on these matters are inspiring for everyone in the gifted field, but particularly for those individuals who must engage in constant battles to defend their gifted programs. In the previous issue of GEPQ, Dr. Silverman explained her procedures for assessing gifted children, which are based upon extensive clinical observation and rigorous testing with such instruments as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (Form L-M).
We are happy to present Dr. James Alvino’s article concerning his new web site (www.gifted-children.com). We respect his editorship of the Gifted Children Monthly during the 1980s, and highly recommend this Internet site as a model of how the World Wide Web can be used to increase teachers’ and parents’ understanding of gifted children. Gifted-children.com includes all of the excellent articles that were originally published in GCM and other extensive interactive resources in the gifted field. We wish Dr. Alvino much success in his new venture!
Ms. Vicki Caruana is a teacher of the gifted and parent concerned with designing effective differentiated homeschooling programs. Her article includes basic information and questions that parents should address before deciding to homeschool their children. Ms. Caruana is working on a book (Gifted Education Press) concerned with homeschooling gifted children.
Dr. Michael Walters completes this issue with a stirring essay on the great English poet of gifted sensibility, John Keats.
Maurice D. Fisher, Ph.D., Publisher
THE SEARCH FOR GIFTEDNESS
LINDA KREGER SILVERMAN, Ph.D.
GIFTED DEVELOPMENT CENTER
I am a lifer in this field; it is my calling. From the time I was in high school, I have had an abiding passion to understand giftedness and to help the gifted be better understood. Four decades of examining every aspect of this phenomenon—developmental, educational, psychological, even spiritual—has resulted in a set of beliefs and principles that guide my writing and psychological practice. The two leaders with whom I am most philosophically attuned are Leta Hollingworth and Annemarie Roeper. Although she passed on two years before I was born, Leta Hollingworth has been a spiritual mentor to me; her deep understanding of gifted children, her child-centered approach to teaching and counseling, her extensive research, as well as her poetic essays, have had a powerful impact on my philosophy. And I have been blessed by the opportunity to work closely with Annemarie Roeper, the quintessential philosopher in our field. She has given me greater awareness of the importance of the Self, the child’s perspective of the world, and the interdependence of all life on earth. I have tried to incorporate Leta’s and Annemarie’s wisdom and exquisite insights into my practice. Another strong influence on my beliefs has been Kazimierz Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration, with its five levels of development and overexcitabilities—the wiring for intensity that comes with the territory of giftedness. I never had the opportunity to meet Dabrowski, but my life has been deeply enriched by his theory and by the quarrels, questions and collaborations with my dear friend, Michael Piechowski, who introduced Dabrowski’s theory to gifted education.
I see giftedness holistically, rather than compartmentalizing it into various types of abilities. The manifestations of giftedness emerge in early childhood. There is a different level of awareness and responsiveness, a palpable sensitivity and intensity in gifted infants, regardless of whether they will grow up to be artists or musicians or politicians or inventors or teachers or homemakers. When we look at all the different paths that adults may take in their lives and try to categorize the paths and rank order the degree of recognition an individual receives within a domain, I believe we lose sight of the deeper significance of giftedness. To me, giftedness is not about achievement or about the potential for recognition in society. Nor is it about straight A’s and honors in school. Rejecting these more accepted perspectives has put me somewhat at odds with most contemporary theorists and school-based positions.
I believe gifted children come equipped with more complex, more sensitive nervous systems [complete with overexcitabilities] that complicate their functioning in the world. They tend to ask more profound questions, like “How do we know that we are't part of someone else’s dream?” They see patterns and relationships their agemates don’t see. They have greater awareness of the implications of events, and can have empathy for someone else’s plight, even when they are not in danger themselves. They often are deeply affected by the violence in children’s cartoons, movies, commercials, the Bible, news reports, and in real life. This is not mere precocity—getting “there” faster; it is a qualitatively different way of experiencing life. These inherent differences make them vulnerable in a society that prizes sameness. For these reasons, rather than setting them on the right path academically or vocationally, I believe that gifted children need to be identified early, supported by parents and teachers, and counseled by individuals who understand the internal facets of giftedness, not just the external manifestations or potentials of the child.
Giftedness, in my view, is lifelong. The intensity, sensitivity, awareness, abstract reasoning abilities, complex thought processes, and all the other gifted traits that appear in early childhood remain with the individual throughout the lifespan. (The only exception I have found is short-term memory!) These characteristics create a different life experience for the gifted: A life that may be consumed with the search for truth, the search for meaning, the search for an understanding of the Universe, striving to fully comprehend a single idea, striving toward moral perfection, striving to fulfill a sense of one’s mission, or striving for self-actualization. These differences in cognitive and personality traits, perspectives, values, goals, and life experiences often make the gifted child or adult feel like an outsider in society. In adult life, sometimes it is necessary to be an outsider, to shed consensus reality, in order to observe with greater clarity. But it is painful in childhood to be shut out of the group, and it can be heartbreaking to watch one’s child eating alone in the school cafeteria or not invited to birthday parties.
As I have a background in special education, I see giftedness in many ways as the mirror image of retardation. The degree to which an individual veers from the norm in either direction affects rate of learning, social adaptability, and general functioning. The greater the developmental advancement or the developmental delay, the greater the necessity for modifications at home and at school in order for children with special needs to function optimally. A child with the mental development of a 15 year old and the physical development of an 8 year old has as great a challenge as the child with the body of a 15 year old and the mind of an 8 year old. This “asynchronous” development means being out-of-sync internally as well as with one’s age peers.
Giftedness is complex. It cannot be reduced to an IQ score or a grade point average or a place in history. A much more complex way of looking at the phenomenon is needed to truly understand the needs of gifted children, the concerns of their parents, the existential angst of gifted adolescents, and the particular issues that face gifted adults. First and foremost, giftedness must be seen as central, rather than peripheral, to the individual’s identity. Like retardation, giftedness is a different ground of experience; therefore, it is necessary to look at the individual through the lens of giftedness in order to get a complete picture. That is what we attempt to do at the Gifted Development Center in assessment and counseling with this population.
Probably for budgetary reasons, school systems tend to begin with the assumption that a child is not gifted unless there is objective proof of exceptionality. My colleagues and I at the Gifted Development Center begin with a different assumption. First, few parents have the courage to call an agency with a name like ours unless they have a strong suspicion that their child is gifted. Second, we are not subsidized; families must absorb the full costs of services. Therefore, the expense entailed in determining if one’s child is gifted is also a deterrent to gifted-wannabees. Third, we have developed a lengthy phone intake procedure in which parents are asked to indicate the degree to which their child exhibits 25 cognitive and personality characteristics of giftedness, and to give us examples. Through analysis of 1,000 cases, we have found that if a child demonstrates ¾ of these characteristics, there is an 84% chance that he or she will test in at least the superior range of intelligence (above 120 IQ).
These characteristics in Table 1 are an effective screener, increasing the likelihood that our clients are gifted. Our job is to search for how the giftedness expresses itself, discover its degree and pinpoint relative strengths and weaknesses.
With this information as a starting point, we consciously look for signs of giftedness. If a child fits most of the characteristics, but scores significantly below expectations on the IQ test, I want to know why. Was the child fully cooperative with the examiner? Is there a hidden learning disability? Did the child demonstrate text anxiety? Was fluctuating attention, distractibility or high activity a problem? Were there any clues in the child’s behavior, such as reluctance to guess, withholding information, teasing the examiner, possible illness?
I also look for confirmation of the child’s giftedness in the 7-page developmental questionnaire the parents complete, such as ages at which certain developmental milestones were mastered, moral sensitivity, unusual curiosity, advanced interests, and notable anecdotes. In the intake procedure and developmental questionnaire, we ask about evidence of giftedness (and learning disabilities) in other family members. Both giftedness and learning disabilities have a strong hereditary component. In one study we conducted with 148 sets of siblings, we found that over a third were within 5 IQ points of each other, more than 60% were within 10 IQ points of each other, and 73% were within 13 IQ points of each other. Whenever we find one gifted child in a family, we recommend testing for all the other children, regardless of how “normal” the child may appear to the parents or the school. This advice has revealed an amazing number of hidden gifted children who failed to be recognized because they were not achievement oriented.
I have profound respect for and trust of parents of gifted children. Who has had more experience with a child than his or her parents? My view of gifted children is similar to the perspective of their parents. I look at the child as an individual with a unique purpose in the scheme of things—a child who, by virtue of his or her exceptionality, needs a modified program in order to fulfill that purpose. As I take idiosyncrasies as a given at both extremes of intelligence, I place less emphasis on the child conforming to the norm of his or her age mates. Of course gifted children need to learn what is socially appropriate, but their differences must be respected in the bargain.
Table 1: Characteristics of Giftedness in Children
Reasons well (good thinker)
Has an extensive vocabulary
Has an excellent memory
Has a long attention span if interested
Sensitive (feelings hurt easily)
Has strong curiosity
Perseverant in interests
Has high degree of energy
Prefers older companions or adults
Has a wide range of interests
Has a great sense of humor
Early or avid reader
Concerned with justice, fairness
Judgment mature for age at times
Is a keen observer
Has a vivid imagination
Is highly creative
Tends of question authority
Has facility with numbers
Good with jigsaw puzzles
I feel that gifted children need to find others like themselves—true peers—in order to develop social competence. Therefore, I am a strong proponent of self-contained classes in public schools and private schools for the gifted. As full-day programs for the gifted are rare, and private schools are costly, I also support homeschooling as viable option, as well as interactive computer instruction, radical acceleration, mentorships, and college-based enrichment programs. Many options and enormous flexibility are needed in order to respond to the wide range of needs, abilities, and degrees of advancement in different areas presented by gifted children. At our Center, we explore with the young person and his or her parents a variety of options to see which ones appeal to student and the family.
The staff at the Gifted Development Center is child-centered. We believe that children should be given a voice in their education; they should have input in the selection of a school, in grade placement, in teacher selection, and in curricular adaptations. Children often have a better sense of their own needs than the adults who make decisions for them. We try to increase communication and respect in families by recommending family meetings in which conflicts are aired and children learn negotiation skills.
Another area of focus is on the visual-spatial learning style. In 1982, I wrote a paper entitled “The Visual-Spatial Learner” which described a learning style I had observed in a considerable number of gifted children. Visual-spatial learners think in images rather than words, learn most readily through visual means and visualization, are holistic rather than detail-oriented, have a better understanding of space than of time, focus on ideas rather than format, tend to be divergent thinkers, and may have problems with sequential skills. The majority of underachieving students I have encountered are visual-spatial learners who perform significantly better on visual-spatial tasks than on auditory-sequential tasks. Creative students, certain minority groups, children with attentional deficits, and many highly gifted children tend to have much stronger spatial than sequential abilities. These children thrive in classrooms that use visual and conceptual approaches, and they bomb in classes that rely on lecture, rote memorization, timed tests, and in-class writing assignments. Five years ago, we gathered a multidisciplinary team to develop a Visual-Spatial Learner Identification Instrument, and we are currently conducting validation studies of the instrument. We are also continuously developing strategies to assist visual-spatial learners in the classroom.
Personality assessment is yet another area of interest. I discovered that visual-spatial learners tend to be introverted and that more gifted children are introverted than extraverted. I developed the Introversion/Extraversion Continuum, Characteristics of Introversion in Children Scale, Characteristics of Introversion in Adults Scale, and, with Karen Rogers, a Personal Characteristics Scale. We administer the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory to all families of underachievers who come to the Center for counseling, and have found it quite useful in reframing much of the conflict that occurs around performance.
The Gifted Development Center is a training center for the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (Form L-M), the only instrument with a high enough ceiling to assess profoundly gifted children. For this reason, Riverside Publishing Company has given written permission to use the Binet L-M for gifted assessment until the 5th edition of the Binet Scale is available (in approximately 3 years). The fifth edition will return to the developmental age-scale format of the L-M. I have been invited to serve on the panel that will guide the development of this edition.
At the Gifted Development Center, we specialize in comprehensive assessment, including individual IQ scales; achievement tests; Harter self-concept inventories; projective tests, such as the Plenk Storytelling Test; Characteristics of Giftedness Scale; the Developmental Questionnaire, and the Introversion/Extraversion Continuum, in order to gain a full picture of the whole child. Patterns of subtest scores contain a wealth of information about the child’s learning style, and often reveal hidden disabilities as well as higher than suspected reasoning abilities. My Ph.D. in Special Education from USC has sharpened my skills as a detective of hidden learning disabilities. In addition to cognitive and personality assessments, we counsel children, families and adults using Dabrowski’s theory, Psychosynthesis, Neurolinguistic Programming, and other humanistic approaches. We also offer parent advocacy; phone consultations; the publication of Advanced Development: A Journal on Adult Giftedness, which helps parents understand their own giftedness; publication of various articles (many of which can be found on our website); consultations to school districts; post-doctoral and pre-doctoral internships; courses and presentations. We sponsor a support group for parents of children above 160 IQ and we have created a consortium of schools for the gifted. The Center is involved in ongoing research on the visual-spatial learner, profoundly gifted children, and comparisons between assessment instruments.
I truly love my work and the gifted children and their families I have had the good fortune to meet over the years. They need advocates in a world that is not always responsive to those who march to a different drummer.
Note: I usually overload articles with citations, and I purposely refrained from using any in this article. If you need references, please visit our website at http://www.gifteddevelopment.com or contact the Gifted Development Center at (303) 837-8378.
Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist who directs the Gifted Development Center, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Institute for the Study of Advanced Development. Her books include Counseling the Gifted and Talented and Advanced Development: A Collection of Works on Gifted- ness in Adults. She consults and teaches courses in Australia and the United States and she has contributed nearly 200 articles, books and chapters. She has a passion for the gifted.
THE RETURN OF GIFTED CHILDREN MONTHLY [AS GIFTED-CHILDREN.COM]
BY JAMES ALVINO, PH.D. HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Many years ago, when Arthur Lipper first recognized the need for, financed, and launched Gifted Children Monthly (GCM as it came to be known), he had a dream that it would become the communications vehicle of choice for parents of our country’s estimated 2.5 million gifted children. GCM won many accolades and enjoyed a circulation in the high tens of thousands, but neither he nor I at the time could envision the impact of technology or the Internet as a medium for delivering our message.
Back in 1981, when I became Editor-in-Chief of GCM, my daughter Jaimi was 5-years-old. In a way, she and GCM grew up together. She was 13 when we ceased publication as Arthur, after 10 years of supporting the publication, could no longer provide the necessary subsidy of more than $150,000 per year. Many of my editorials chronicled the trials and tribulations of raising a gifted child for our 50,000+ subscribers. Gifted education has been my career in one form or another for 21 years. It is with this enduring professional commitment and the passion of a father that I have become involved in [GCM again via] Gifted-Children.com as its Executive Editor.
Gifted-Children.com uses state-of-the-art technology to bring extensive user-friendly resources, original content, access to databases, forums, and networks to help parents identify, encourage, and develop their children’s gifts and talents. In this article, I will discuss meeting the needs of gifted children within the context of the advent of the “New Technology,” by which I mean Internet access, interactive communications, and website development.
McLuhan Was Right
The world is, indeed, a global village. This insight -- born more than 30 years ago when the world was still rather “primitive” by today’s standards of modernization -- is especially evident with the interconnectedness of world financial markets and communications. Recent events in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, for example, demonstrate the “village” nature of the globe. U.S. markets are feeling the impact of crises in the markets of our Asian “neighbors.” Near speed-of-light communications brings the news “home” with powerful immediacy. Reaction is nearly instantaneous.
The globe is “wired,” which means that the buffers inherent in a more natural or slower sequence and pace of events in a world divided by oceans and continents have been removed in favor of electronic utilities. Time itself has been denuded of its past-present-future reality, and in its place is an ever-present “now” of simultaneity. Moreover, our awareness of this interconnectedness and simultaneity has increased; our consciousness has integrated our technological facility into our behaviors and expectations. (My own impatience when having to use a computer with a slower processor or modem than I am used to is a simple example of this.)
And we are cultivating this awareness in students. Not only are they more adept than ever at using hardware and software, they are living and experiencing a wired world and discussing this in their classrooms. For example, in the United States Academic Decathlon, an academic competition for high school students that I direct, this year’s “Super Quiz” theme is The Global Economy. Students are learning about world markets, corporate downsizing due to technological advances, and how multinational companies are customizing their goods and services to reflect local tastes and customs.
Such is the milieu in which Gifted-Children.com has emerged. GCM shut its doors in 1989. Gifted-Children.com was not possible then. Now it is not only possible; it is necessary. The new website, taking full advantage of the $150+ million prior effort, is the proverbial phoenix born from the ashes of its predecessor.
The Internet as Medium and Message
Since 1989, the year GCM ceased publishing in what was still, relatively speaking, a non-electronically-networked world, personal connectivity has increased geometrically. Once the arcane domain of researchers, scientists, and military strategists, the Internet has become THE medium and message of the New Technology. Everyone and everything is on-line -- the desirable and the undesirable, gold as well as fools gold. E-mail, chat rooms, usergroups, and bulletin boards provide an endless opportunity for sharing and exchanging information, for barter or just plain banter.
These are among the major benefits of being “personally connected” -- a vast network of diverse resources at one’s fingertips, the capacity for immediate communication, access to every nook and cranny of today’s universe as we know it. The information overload that we began to experience in the 80s was nothing compared to the rate that knowledge is increasing and the rate at which its transmission is now taking place. Of course, there is the exacerbated problem of monitoring for quality and appropriateness, but this has always been necessary, albeit to a lesser degree perhaps.
Over the last several years, as both sophistication and infatuation with the Internet have increased, thousands of commercial and personal websites have sprung up overnight. These are multi-dimensional and serve many purposes: marketing, conveying information, providing actual goods and services, networking. Within the metaphor of the global village, websites may be regarded (from general to specific) as virtual communities, neighborhoods, homes -- all varying in size, scope, and influence, but all accessible with domain name and URL.
The generic Website -- the 24-hour communications (and shopping) center of virtual reality -- is the epitome of the McLuhanesque vision in which medium and message are one: “here I am... this is who I am... this is what I do... welcome....”
The Needs of Parents of Gifted Children
The more things change, the more they remain the same. It is a radically different world from what it was 10 or 20 years ago, yet this generation of parents of gifted children share similar needs with previous generations.
There are five major needs that can be identified: 1) networking and interacting with other parents who are also concerned and struggling with doing the best they can to develop their children’s abilities and talents to the fullest; 2) advocating for appropriate gifted education programs as well as legislation that insures provisions are offered in the schools; 3) interacting with their children in ways most conducive to identification and development of giftedness; 4) problem solving both immediate and longer-term issues as they come up with their gifted children; and 5) gaining access to high quality resources to assist them in their parenting roles.
With GCM, the medium was a hard-copy newsletter published monthly. The message was conveyed through various departments designed to meet the five major needs: Special Reports, Ask the Experts, Home and School Briefs, Idea Place, Teacher’s Bulletin Board, Reading for Children, Buyer’s Guide, and Spin-Off (our “spun-off” pullout section for children).
Despite the success of both medium and message at the time, the down-side of a monthly newsletter (the medium) is now obvious relative to today’s high-tech capacity to deliver information. The negatives include: inordinate delay in getting one’s questions answered; lack of real-time interaction with the source of knowledge or expertise as well as with others who share similar needs; lag time in updating critical information; missed opportunities for providers of resources and consumers alike; inability to compete, in a two-dimensional plane, with what can be experienced “virtually.”
Just as some segments of the newspaper industry have been suffering significant losses in readership, due in large part to TV and other video- or graphically-oriented information and entertainment, over the next generation we may see a sharp decline in special interest publications (the hard-copy versions at least) as more and more of the population becomes wired to the Internet (most likely through cable) and accessibility becomes even more user-friendly.
While GCM as a paper, ink, print, and mail-delivered medium has been surpassed, its content (the message) in meeting the five major needs of parents of gifted children has not. I see this firsthand from the kinds of questions parents are now asking online and how the “timeless” material of GCM offers time-tested guidance and direction for this new generation of parents.
Gifted-Children.com: A Website Whose Time Has Come
All things being equal, then, a hard-copy, and therefore one-dimensional, newsletter or magazine cannot compete with a multi-dimensional website. Round-the-clock access, the potential for immediacy (interactivity and knowledge on demand), and information “refreshed” at varying intervals are superior benefits for consumers. Gifted-Children.com, designed, developed, and administered by Arthur Rosenfield, creator of the useful and successful Access Business Online and BizWiz, is a state-of-the-art medium for meeting the five major needs of parents of gifted children. Basic membership is just $10 per year compared to $24 per year for the original, and less effective and responsive, GCM.
What Goes Around Comes Around
The majority of material offered at Gifted-Children.com, at least initially, is the award-winning content of GCM edited and updated as needed for currency. The 10 year’s worth of archives is being used in several ways: 1) as the basis of each monthly edition, reconfigured for balance of content given the five major needs of parents of gifted children, the multiple categories of the federal definition of giftedness, and members’ stated concerns when they sign up for the service; 2) as a fully-indexed “library” of several thousand articles that members can retrieve at will; and 3) as the impetus and opportunity for sharing and exchanging information and for submitting new contributions under 39 different topic areas.
Topic areas include advocacy, behavior, creativity, development, family, gifted education/programs, guidance, handicapped, home schooling, identification, leadership, learning/thinking, legislation, parenting, preschool, self-image, stress, teachers, underachievement, and many more.
The “Front Page” of Gifted-Children.com highlights and summarizes the key articles of each edition. Typically these include one or two Special Reports, an Ask the Experts’ answer to a common question about raising or educating a gifted child, and eight to ten other articles that provide information or advice to parents and teachers. The “summary” feature -- a brief article description hyperlinked to the complete text -- is an enhancement over the original GCM format and gives members an opportunity to scan and select with optimal efficiency and conservation of time.
“Chat and BBS Forums” are organized according to potential users and/or audiences, although there is nothing preventing anyone from entering any of the Chat areas. Chat areas include a General Lobby, Educators’ Connection, Parents’ Connection, Professionals’ Connection, and Universities’ Connection. BBS Forums are organized by the same five designations.
The capacity for Chat is an innovation of the New Technology and combines several features of an online medium: simultaneity, interactivity, spontaneity, and immediacy or real-time communication. None of this was possible in the days of GCM or even today with traditional print or “off-line” media. Most teleconferencing cannot even come close to achieving the above features to the extent possible with basic Chat.
Chat and E-mail have become the mass communications of choice in the global village, interaction among countless numbers of individuals bound by interest and connected electronically. (Witness the popularity of Chat on services such as America Online, for example.) Just as E-mail has supplanted in many ways snail-mail among the wired of the universe, Chat and E-mail have supplanted use of the telephone for many purposes.
In the future, video conferencing via the Internet -- the technology already exists -- may become as extensive as Chat. In the meantime, monitored Chat at Gifted-Children.com is scheduled two mornings per week; I make myself available in an open forum for members’ concerns or questions. As the website expands, we will be conducting scheduled Chat on selected topics advertised to members in advance. Others who have expertise in special areas of gifted education will assist me with this function.
I’d Like an Answer, and I’d Like It Now
When a parent of a gifted child has a question or problem, he or she wants help sooner than later. Our “Ask the Expert” Page allows members to E-mail questions informally, which I answer... informally. This has an advantage over conventional forms of response that often require extensive research and preparation for publication and tend to be “static” in nature. E-mail responses are “dynamic,” customized, and idiosyncratic -- reflecting the question. Tone is conversational. Opportunity for continuing dialog and feedback exists as parents experiment with the solutions to their problems.
Of course, there are trade-offs, too. E-mail responses may be quick fixes but cannot take the place of longer-term counseling that some children may require. But this goes for any advice that a parent may receive regardless of its length or medium in which it is delivered. At least with E-mail parents do not have to wait up to several months for a response, and the relatively immediate help may significantly ease the intensity of stress and frustration -- for both parent and child -- caused by the problem.
Following are several questions received at Gifted-Children.com to illustrate their uniqueness and their need for customized responses:
1) Baby Talk -- “Our daughter is 4-years-old and exhibits many signs of being gifted. We are concerned about social/emotional issues -- primarily her regressive behavior in some social situations. How can we best guide her? She will act and speak baby-like when uncomfortable. She has a very heightened sense of awareness and will feel awkward/self-conscious when not fully engaged with someone. What can we do?”
2) Disorganized -- “My son is very bright and creative, but he is an underachiever. He is disorganized and he tends to daydream quite a bit. He loves computer games involving battle strategy. His attention is excellent; when he is interested in something he is totally absorbed. Eric has great difficulty writing his ideas down; he doesn't seem to understand how to tackle the concepts. Eric is in grade 7 and he has a lot of trouble getting his work handed in. He forgets to do it, or loses work that has been done. Sometimes he just plain doesn't want to do it. Eric also loses a lot of his personal possessions. What can we do to help him?”
3) Won’t Do the Work -- “I am afraid that I have not been very active with my son's education in gifted/middle school. Specifically, he does not, will not, do the work assigned. The work that he does do is A/B. However, due to numerous missing assignments he is going to fail four classes this marking period. I have concern regarding the level of schoolwork but I don't know where/how to start finding out the problems. I would like to have my son reevaluated but I don't even know how or what [to ask for]. What tests would you recommend? Any other input would be appreciated. Thank you.”
4) Siblings -- “I have two children, the older one being gifted. My concern is for the younger child, and how to make his transition to school easier when he has to follow in his sibling’s footsteps. Any ideas?”
5) Compulsive Behavior -- “Hello! I have a 5-year-old son who is currently in a private preschool. We didn't start him in kindergarten because he was only 4 when school began. Anyway, I think he has always been “high stress.” When he was very little, he slowly shredded his baby blanket. He would just sit and pick ‘fuzzies’ off of it until there was nothing left but a scrap. Later he developed a habit of licking his lips until they were so chapped and bleeding that I had to put a band-aid on his upper lip. He finally stopped that, but now he bites his hands and fingernails, and sucks on his knuckles.
“I wouldn't worry about it so much, except that sometimes he raises blisters and has open sores on his fingers. I try not to make too big of a deal, and we have tried having him wear gloves, but he hates it, and isn't able to do much with gloves on his hands. At night he will allow me to put socks on his hands, and he realizes it is to protect his hands.
“Do you have any suggestions how we can help him to stop this habit and ways to help him alleviate stress in other ways? As far as I know, we are not putting any pressure on him to give him stress, I just think it is internal stress. And when I think of my own childhood, I was the same way. He enjoys preschool and has lots of friends. I observe him biting his fingers and fingernails even when he is playing with friends or just watching TV. Thank you so much for your help! If you need more information, please contact me.”
In each case my response focused on the specifics of the question without having to worry about generalizing it for the print medium. In two cases I requested more information for purposes of clarity before responding. As Gifted-Children.com grows, we will make members’ questions and the responses to them available to all members so all may benefit from knowing they are not alone in experiencing challenges with their gifted children, and so they may also experiment with solutions offered to others.
The Community Connection
“Directory of Members” and “General Directory” at Gifted-Children.com are a registry of members and organizations and associations respectively. In a wired world, these directories can serve as the focal point for immediately mobilizing state or national advocacy campaigns, for supporting or opposing proposed state or federal legislation, for fund raising for gifted programs, for mass communication of urgency or opportunity -- the potential is wide open. Members may communicate with each other easily and at will.
When GCM was at its peak -- averaging a solid 50,000+ monthly subscriber base -- we created Gifted Children Advocacy Association, a de facto advocacy arm that administered 5 percent of GCM’s gross revenues in grants to schools and individuals in support of gifted programs (even though we never reached the point of being cash-flow positive). As Gifted-Children.com grows, GCAA, or a similar not-for-profit entity -- perhaps this time with a broader base of support than just the owners of the publication -- may again be activated to support innovations in identifying, encouraging, and developing the gifts and talents of young people. This time around, all submissions, administration, and awards will be handled electronically.
Yes, A Store Front, Too
Several years ago, when I was first introduced to the possibility of doing business over the Internet, it seems everyone shared two concerns: getting up a “store front” to market one’s goods or services to millions of potential buyers and figuring out a secure way (from the consumer’s point of view) to collect for goods or services sold. In just a few short years the latter challenge has been virtually solved (pun intended), and a great deal more realism and sophistication exists as to what constitutes a viable electronic store front.
Through a variety of channels -- “Bookstore,” “Catalog,” “Classified Marketplace,” and “Buyer’s Guide” -- Gifted-Children.com offers members the latest resources for raising and educating gifted children. The static, two-dimensional ad in many cases will give way to a dynamic, three-dimensional “videomercial” in which consumer may play-test a product on the spot before purchasing it directly via secure server. In some cases the product purchased may be downloaded. This kind of confluence of marketing and distribution channels is made possible only by the New Technology.
Back in the 80s, Apple Computer gave away a lot of hardware that sat in the schools unused. Few teachers knew how to use it, and probably even fewer were convinced that “computer assisted instruction” was anything more than an educational fad. We know differently today. We know that online capacity opens a portal to dimensions of knowledge and experience heretofore only imagined at best. And we know that just like a gifted child who has yet to blossom into his or her full potential, the full power of the Internet to deliver information, products, and services has barely been unleashed.
Gifted-Children.com is at the cutting edge of this “brave new world” for parents of gifted children, “for the parents of children with great promise.” We invite you to visit our website (http://www.Gifted-Children.com) and to join this exciting journey into the new frontiers of parenting gifted children.➸
For more information about Gifted-Children.com, you may contact one or more of the following individuals:
British Far East Holdings Ltd.
14911 Caminito Ladera
Del Mar, CA US 92014
Rainbow Pages, Inc.
330 East 38th Street
New York, New York 10016
James Alvino, Ph.D.
James Alvino Associates
3452 Windspun Drive
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
HOMESCHOOLING YOUR GIFTED CHILD: AN EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVE FOR DIFFERENTIATED LEARNING
BY VICKI CARUANA SAFETY HARBOR, FLORIDA
Ask any teen who has been identified as ‘gifted’ what kind of education fits the way their mind works, and they will give you incredible insight into the needs of gifted children. Here are some of the common responses gifted teens give:
∙learn at your own speed, not someone else’s speed
∙skip over work you already know and understand
∙study things of interest beyond basic schoolwork
∙work with abstract concepts that require more than simple thinking - creative, reflective, analytical ideas
(responses taken from The Gifted Kids Survival Guide (1984) by Judy Galbraith)
How many of our children’s classrooms take the time necessary to meet these stated needs? These needs don’t magically appear in the teenage years. They begin right from the start. Teens are just better at articulating them. Not all gifted children’s needs will be met in the regular classroom. When the statistics show that 20% of high school dropouts are students with higher than average I.Q.’s, it means that one out of five gifted students are not being challenged in America’s classrooms. If your child is one of them, what can you do?
Homeschooling is an option whose time has come. It’s in a revival of sorts -- especially since everyone was homeschooled at one point in our country’s history. This is not a new trend, just an option whose wisdom is being revisited. Is homeschooling right for your child? A number of indicators may point you in that direction.
Have you noticed that your child is becoming more and more complacent in his or her studies? Does your son habitually wait to do his reports until the night before they are due? Is your daughter starting to shy away from going “above and beyond” and just doing the bare minimum required? This can happen as late as fifth grade, but as early as first grade. It’s called “learned complacency,” and it jeopardizes our children’s futures. Our children have learned, quickly as usual, that they can easily squeak by and still get an “A.” Since our schools are product oriented, the almighty “A” is a treasured commodity; one that most gifted students can attain with little to no effort. One teacher proudly boasted about her advanced reading group, and how they always got “A”s on their vocabulary tests. After considering the situation more seriously, she conducted an experiment. Without warning, she tested her advanced class on their new vocabulary words the day she assigned them. Again they all obtained “A”s. She wasn’t teaching them anything. They weren’t learning anything. She was testing them on things they already knew! So the children figure out right away that they don’t need to study in order to achieve.
How is Homeschooling an advantage? As a parent educator, you have the opportunity to realistically assess what your child does and doesn’t already know. Very little time is wasted. Teaching can be targeted to the actual skill needed. Your child has the chance to learn how to work hard for what they value. If it is an “A” they value, then when they obtain that “A” with you, both you and your child will know that it means he has mastered the material presented.
Does Your Child Have a Learning Difficulty in Addition to His Giftedness? Both underachievers and gifted students with diagnosed learning disabilities would benefit tremendously from homeschooling. Not only would their disability or difficulty go unnoticed by their peers, but they would have the chance to work on a task until it was mastered. No one would work ahead of them. If repeated re-teaching is necessary, then the child will be given the time needed. Working at your own pace is crucial to any student with a learning problem, but it’s also one of those indicators that our gifted teens cited as important to them. Some parents may feel inadequate to deal with their child’s learning problem(s). That is only because the schools have made parents feel that way. Remember. You were your child’s first teacher. Homeschooling advocates will maintain that you are also their best.
Is Your Child Becoming a Behavior Problem Due to Boredom in the Classroom? Over achievers and gifted students respond to boredom in the classroom in two distinct styles. Some children (like my own son) choose to engage in non-productive off task behaviors. They might talk, doodle, or disrupt their classmates. Even reading a novel is considered non-productive. If it is not related to the task at hand, then it is non-productive. However, other children who are bored will ask the teacher for additional work, read a book that is about the current topic, or re-read their material to ensure they did it completely and correctly. Both have chosen coping strategies. Teachers and parents will only notice those exhibiting non-productive strategies. However, the children who do extra credit work or read ahead in the textbook discover over time that this strategy makes no difference to their teacher or the outcome of their grade in that class. Even they will begin to shut down and possibly act out.
Homeschooling eliminates the reason for engaging in any of these strategies. When you finish your work, you are done. You don’t have to wait around for the rest of the class to catch up. Behavior problems don’t arise from boredom because boredom doesn’t have to occur, especially if the material you use is both challenging, interactive, and high interest. (More on the curriculum later in this article.)
Different families homeschool for different reasons. If you are satisfied with your child’s current educational setting and his or her unique needs are being met, then don’t mess with a good thing. But not all of us are in a school that is “gifted friendly.” In fact, sometimes quite the opposite can be true. The learning patterns and strategies in conjunction with children’s temperaments and personalities that are set in the elementary years dictate success in future school years. I don’t want my sons to learn that doing the bare minimum is valued and rewarded. I don’t want future leaders who shy away from challenge and aren’t risk takers. I want children who grow up to be independent workers, effective communicators, and strong leaders!
Advantages and Disadvantages of Homeschooling
Experts in gifted education have cited the following as appropriate components to the educational experiences of gifted children:
∙acceleration - skipping levels or grades
∙enrichment - an extension of the regular curriculum allowing the student to use higher level skills
∙mentor ships - pairing gifted students with an adult or students who are experts in a particular study or profession
∙independent study - allows students to work at their own pace and explore in-depth topics of particular interest
∙advanced placement - working at college-level courses while in high school or dual enrollment in college
While traditional schools are struggling to provide even one of the above options, usually not without a fight, homeschooling is defined by all five! That’s the beauty of it. So instead of trying to change the status quo by fighting with the powers that be, give your children what they need when they need it.
Gifted homeschoolers are also very likely to spend time with peers. Co-Ops are a popular way to bring students together with similar needs and interests, and be taught together. It takes care of the social issue for some, and provides a needed break for parents once a week. This leads me to the disadvantages of homeschooling.
Homeschooling is a great undertaking, one that requires careful planning and a special kind of courage. It does not require a teaching certificate, but it does require an attitude that expresses “I am my child’s best teacher!” It is a lifestyle choice; one filled with sacrifices. The first year of homeschooling is especially difficult, fraught with inexperience, low confidence levels, and fatigue. It takes time to both plan well and execute successfully. There is also a certain amount of fear involved. Fear that as the teacher, you won’t do a good job. Fear that you won’t be supported in your decision to homeschool. Fear of the unknown. But keep in mind that these are all concerns common to all homeschoolers. You are not alone. Finding support needs to be your first priority, even before choosing a curriculum. For your sake and your child’s sake.
Choosing Your Curriculum
Admittedly, this seems like a daunting task for beginning homeschoolers. There is so much to choose from. The first step is to determine the “why” behind your choice to homeschool. If you are doing it for religious reasons, then some sort of prescribed Christian curriculum might be your first choice. If you are looking for something similar to what he or she was doing in his regular school, then investigate what those teachers were using and adjust it accordingly to your child’s needs. Because of the unique needs of gifted learners, you need to be flexible in your own thinking when it comes to curriculum. Go ahead and accelerate their reading or math levels, but provide them with an opportunity to conduct an in-depth study of the topic of their choice. That leads us to the unit study approach. This approach has been and continues to be a popular choice among teachers of the gifted. You can purchase complete units or you can write them yourself.
Unit studies traditionally attempt to weave all the content areas into one topic. For example, your third grader may want to study insects. The basic format would go something like this. Read books to and with your child about insect life. Choose spelling words from those books. Write reports, stories, and descriptions about insects. Determine the insect populations and chart them. Learn about and categorize all types of insects. Find out how insects interact with humans. Search everything you possibly can on the Internet about insects. The possibilities are endless. The only snag you might run into here is saturation. So instead of choosing one topic for the entire year, explore two or three.
Know that as long as you keep your child’s unique needs in mind when planning, your homeschooling experience will be successful. There are area support groups, conventions, books, periodicals, and Internet sites all out there willing to help make sure you succeed. Remember, that you are at such a great vantage point teaching your own child. You can watch him or her reach for the stars and actually catch them! As exciting as it may be to be the guiding force behind your child’s achievement, don’t force yourself into your teacher role all the time. You are also a parent, and your child will want you to play that part as well. By the same token, don’t force your child into the gifted role all the time. There are times when he or she will simply want to be a child.
∙Big Book of Homeschooling (Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4) by Mary Pride - these volumes give in-depth resources, curriculum reviews and homeschooling strategies.
∙Unit Studies available from various gifted education publishers (Free Spirit, Open Space Communications, Gifted Education Press, etc.)
∙Junior Great Books from The Great Books Foundation
∙Homeschooling Today magazine
∙The Teaching Home magazine
∙Home Education Magazine
∙Growing Without Schooling magazine
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON HOMESCHOOLING
Teaching your children at home is not a new idea. It is obvious that before there was public education available to all, most children were taught at home since only the upper class could afford a private school. But homeschooling is not uncivilized, nor is it outdated.
John Holt, loosely considered the father of homeschooling, believed that since there no longer was a “good” society capable of nurturing its members, the only alternative was to homeschool. Holt, in his books Teach Your Own (1982) and How Children Fail (1964), takes a radical but romantic view of a child as a flower unfolding as it blooms. He stressed that a teacher should just let the child know roughly what is available and where he or she can look for it. Personal autonomy is the goal. Holt states that the home “is the only human institution that can be genuinely concerned with the individual's welfare.” He classified those who homeschool as the “moral elite” and that it is a hopeful path for education.
Although the above statements define Holt's views, they by no means define homeschooling. But it does explain the radical fringes (which exist in any corner of society) and the reason homeschooling is generally scoffed at by the schooling authorities.
Approximately 1 in 44 children are homeschooled (Ballmann 1987). That statistic can only be an estimate because many students are not registered through the nationally established organizations or state/district home instruction departments. These numbers are unsettling to public educators. Obviously, the recent flight from public schools has not just been to private schools.
Parents who homeschool their children can generally be separated into two camps. One group does it for purely ideological reasons to include their strong religious beliefs. The other for reasons stemming from disillusionment with the present schooling system. The one attitude both groups have in common is the strong sense of responsibility for their child's education. Neither group believes they can just drop their child off in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon secure in the knowledge that they were receiving a quality education.
Even as a teacher of the gifted in the public schools, I was and continue to be very skeptical of if and how the school can meet the unique needs of our children. In my own attempt to determine the best placement for our children, I studied area private schools. I was quickly disappointed. Just because you pay tuition does not guarantee you a quality education. Too often the private schools were even more geared toward teaching the “average” child than to teach to the extremes. Gifted students were too often bored and sometime penalized for their curiosity. Creativity was not encouraged.
Differences in philosophy among homeschooling parents tend to determine how they conduct school in their homes. Those who are motivated by religion, believing they are fulfilling God's will, may follow a prescriptive curriculum and organize their day similar to that of a regular school. The only danger in that is the tendency to work through the scripted program too quickly without providing enriching experiences to expand it horizontally. For a gifted child, this is just as frustrating as a regular classroom! Happily, there are many who only use their catalog-ordered curriculum in the beginning to gain confidence. They can then use it as a foundation and build it into opportunities for in-depth study and creative expression.
Then there are those who choose to homeschool because they are disgusted with public education and believe today's schools are inept (Van Galen, et al., 1991). This group strives to be distinctively different in both its educational environment and approach. The leaders of this group scoff at opposition. They tend to be more liberal in their thinking and run a school that is more child centered. Their school day tends to be more loosely organized and less structured, time-wise. They too, choose their own curriculum, but many times it is not one they purchase, but one they design themselves. The parent is seen as a facilitator and guide (Williamson, 1989). Which type are you? The beauty of homeschooling is its diversity. Each family makes decisions about curriculum and schedules based on the needs of their members.
(1) Ballmann, Ray E. The How and Why of Homeschooling. Illinois: Crossway Books, 1987; (2) Van Galen, Jane A. and Pitman, Mary Anne. Homeschooling: Political, Historical, and Pedagogical Perspectives. Ablex Publishing Corp., 1991; (3) Williamson, Kerr Bennett. Home Schooling: Answering Questions. Charles C. Thomas, 1989.
ESSAY ON THE ENGLISH POET OF GIFTED SENSIBILITY AND IMAGINATION: JOHN KEATS (1795-1821)
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE HUMANITIES IN THE SCHOOLS
“It was in fact Keats’s choice of subjects for the odes that originally perplexed me: why did he write on a quality (indolence),
then to a goddess (Psyche), then to a nightingale, then on an urn, then on an emotion (melancholy), then to a season
(autumn)?” Helen Vendler, The Odes of John Keats. p. 5, 1983. Harvard University Press.
These questions that perplexed Helen Vendler, Professor of Poetry at Harvard University, are really quests into the sensibility of the gifted. The poetry of the 19th century British Romantic poet, John Keats, is an example of the dynamics of sensibility involved in giftedness. John Keats’ life serves as an exemplar for gifted students. Without any controversy, he is considered one of the major writers of the English language. Yet he lived for only 26 years, and his major poetic works were completed in a few short years time before he died. Although Keats obtained a license to practice medicine, he never treated patients because he was dedicated to being a poet. He died at an early age of tuberculosis -- which took the lives of many of the great artists of the 19th century.
His letters are considered to be literary and philosophical masterpieces. In one letter, he described a cognitive and affective response called “negative capability” that he considered necessary for poetic creativity. This is the idea that the human personality can explore the many possibilities of a subject but cannot obtain any single defining answer. It is the intensity of a human experience that should be one’s concern rather than perfect understanding. The concept of “negative capability” is an important product of the gifted sensibility.
One of the most troubling psychological problems for the gifted individual is that of the transient quality of human experience. Keats’ poetry was a search for what the American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, called the peak experience (Motivation and Personality, 1954) . How do we assimilate these moments of deep emotions such as joy, love and grief in a way that allows us to grow both intellectually and psychologically? John Keats felt that it was his mission in life to give his readers the means to integrate the peak experiences of life into a holistic personality. What is so amazing about Keats’ poetry is that one feels as if you are experiencing the same emotions as Keats himself.
It is important to realize the types of experiences that caused Keats to feel so intensely and deeply. The experiences were from both inert objects and living sources. The experience of observing an ancient Greek urn caused an incredible outpouring of emotion. He felt a unity for the ritual that was depicted on the urn; it was almost as if he was being called to be a co-participant. Keats understood that the aesthetic experience was a religious sensation for the ancient Greeks (Ode on a Grecian Urn, 1819 ). He sought to make a fleeting moment in human history into an eternal one that has relevancy for all generations of humanity. For gifted individuals, it is this sensibility of being able to feel the eternal in a historical moment that enables them build upon the great art of the past. Keats saw in the nightingale more than a noisy bird, but a creature that represented art in its truest element. The nightingale sings for the sake of expressing itself; it doesn’t need any critical support. He saw the same trait in the sensibility of the artist (Ode to a Nightingale, 1819). In his odes to melancholy and the season of autumn, Keats saw beauty in two unsatisfying experiences -- being depressed, and the end of summer. He was able to perceive that the entire range of human experience has elements to inspire and enrich us as human beings: “His Soul shall taste the sadness of her might, /And be among her cloudy trophies hung.” Ode on Melancholy (1819). “Where are Songs of spring? Ay, where are they? /Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –” To Autumn (1819).
The language of Keats’ poetry is a wonderful device for diagnosing and developing the sensibility of gifted students. For example, the following phrase -- one of the most famous and intriguing in English poetry -- can be used to ask them stimulating questions about the nature of beauty and truth. It is from Ode on a Grecian Urn: “When old age shall this generation waste, /Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe/ Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,/ ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all /Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”