Creativity and Productivity

When I first saw the topic for this month, I thought, “Oh, goodie! Creativity!” Then I saw the word productivity. Uh. These two are not related. The more I thought about it however, the more I could see a link between the two.

But first, let me expound about my experience with creativity. When I was young (1950s), I was told, “You’re just like your mother. You can’t draw at all.” This was from my mom, so I figured she should know. When I was skipped from early first grade to late second grade, I was put into a classroom with a girl who could draw like a professional. In second grade. This only reinforced my belief in my ineptitude. Fast forward to 1974. In an attempt to add elementary education to my list of certificates, I took a reading class and a drawing class. Guess what? I could draw! It was perfectionism that interfered with my developing that skill. I could never make it look the way I wanted. With the right instruction, however, I could make it look the way it really was. I think creativity is similar. My mom taught me to sew when I was nine, and I have sewn ever since. She told me her mom could make her own patterns and create anything. On my father’s side, my great-great-grandfather was a tailor. This kind of creativity was highly valued in the days before patterns. My grandmother learned to quilt from her grandmother and aunts who ran a boarding house after the tailor died. I have inherited the obsession with cutting up fabric and sewing it back together. It is more environmental than genetic, although it tends to skip a generation.

As a teacher of children with behavior issues, I found the need for creativity. A friendly psychologist, Tom Mabee, once said, “We find out they don’t like oatmeal, so we serve it with raisins or put sugar on it, or bake it in a cake. They aren’t going to learn if we just keep serving them the same food.” He was referring to reading. Luckily, I began to attend conferences and I learned about learning disabilities. I began to teach everything differently.

As a stay-at-home parent, I found my children loved anything to do with crafts, cooking, and painting. So we pretty much did it every day. I didn’t care what their products looked like. I loved them because they reflected each personality so distinctively. We made Christmas ornaments in the fall, play dough in the winter, and painting as often as I was willing to clean up  the mess. I wasn’t really trying to encourage creativity, but their behavior was so much better when they had something specific to do. I had not yet realized that any of my children were gifted.

I returned to school and learned about computer programming. Here was another demand for creativity. There was not just one answer to every problem. The more I could think like a machine, the more my programs ran. I taught high school for two years with students who kept wanting me to give them the “right” answer. I refused.

I finally landed in early childhood special education. I love preschool kids because you can see changes within weeks. Whenever we did an art project, I would make a point of complimenting each kid on something different. “You have such strong lines in your painting. I love the colors you chose. Look at those circles!” The children realized I wasn’t looking for a certain result and they responded. I could do the same with behavior. One year, I gave them green and blue paint and played La Mer by Debussy. Without any comments from me, the paintings all looked like ocean waves. That was a real eye-opener.

Late in my teaching career, I began to write. I needed a lot of encouragement, but I got it from teachers and mentors. I realized this week that I am a writer now, five years after retirement. Education will always be a love of mine, but writing requires tremendous creativity and support. Regardless of the mode they choose, the best support we can give our gifted children is noticing their creativity.

Productivity can be unrelated to creativity, such as my productivity making cathode ray tubes at the Methode factory south of town. A group of college kids worked there in the summer, making the tubes and computer parts that probably don’t exist now. We were very productive, but I wouldn’t say it involved any creativity. And I come from family of people who started lots of things they didn’t finish. Is it productivity if it is something that never gets used?

However, productivity is important in the workplace of ideas. We need lots of new ideas to solve some of the problems that have plagued humanity for ages; waste, pollution, inequality, prejudice, and poverty, to name just a few. We can only draw upon the ideas that are out in the world at the time we are trying to solve these problems. If your child has a passion for Legos, for example, she might be the adult who solves affordable housing. An artist may grow up to illuminate some dark corners of our psyche. Musicians are already trying to create sounds of the universe. Will they help us understand chaos theory? Reading the biographies of famous scientists can show just how they were inspired and changed the world.

I think the best way to encourage creativity and productivity is to notice it. Call attention to it. Discourage perfectionism. Allow messes. Keep an open mind. Read about it. Practice it yourself and you will think of many more ways.


This blog is part of a blog hop by Hoagies Gifted Education Page.




Spiritual Intelligence and Anxiety

I was privileged to see Dorothy Sisk present at a gifted conference in Louisville, Kentucky on Spiritual Giftedness. She had begun studying spiritual intelligence many decades ago. I had kept one of her articles and found it after I got back from the conference. My notes from that conference can be found here.

Kathleen D. Noble (1) defines spiritual intelligence as containing “the capacity to think, to plan, to create, to translate ideas into reality, to adapt to changing circumstances, to find and solve problems, to reflect upon and communicate well with self and others, and to grow from mistakes.” She goes on to cite Emmons’ five characteristics and added two more of her own. To my friends and relatives who are atheists, this is hogwash. What you see is what you get (wysiwyg) in their worlds. Even those people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious have a hard time accepting the concept of God, Allah, Nirvana, or divine guidance.

Personal experience, however, has led me to believe that there is a spiritual world beyond the physical, however ill-defined. Some individuals are more keenly attuned to it. My first experiences came from the church, the First United Church of Palatine, to be exact. As a youth, I sang in the choir and attended youth activities. The lofty ideals I learned there have led me to have a better life, free of the negative emotions that eat up so much of our time and energy. I then proceeded to reject the church and all things religious for fifteen years. I learned that God will let me do whatever I want and suffer the consequences for it.

My second experience was hearing a lecture by J. Krishnamurti in Saanen, Switzerland. My younger brother had given me one of his books and I was staying in a dormitory. Up walked a friend from college and told me of Krishnamurti’s visit to a nearby town. He had been raised to be a famous guru, and rejected it all to tell people not to be followers, to follow their own path. He talked about experiencing life without mental filters. At the time, I couldn’t even imagine such a thing. Now I struggle to be aware of my filters.

Fortunately, circumstances led me back to church and to twelve-step groups. They provided the support I needed to get to know myself and extricate myself from all the trouble I was in.

That’s where my anxiety comes in. I know there is a loving power that wants good things for me, but that power will allow people to be selfish and cruel, hateful and crazy. It also allows nature toact according to natural laws. Young gifted children can be overwhelmed by the horrors they see on television, from floods and fires to refugees and war. Parents can and must reassure them that they are safe, but many people are at a loss to explain something as simple and profound as death. I have heard it said many times that we are spiritual beings in a material world. The spiritual dimension helps me accept reality as it is and do good things with my life. It doesn’t prevent difficulties from happening, but it helps me get through life.

This post is part of the bloghop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education Page.

hoagies philosophical and spiritual

(1) Noble, Kathleen, Spiritual Intelligence: A New Frame of Mind (Advanced Development: Journal on Adult Giftedness, page 1, The Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, Inc., Volume 9, 2000)

Balance Isn’t Everything

Most people think of balance as being “all things in moderation” but the balance for a gifted child may be going completely wholehog (as we say in Illinois) into their latest passion. I was so relieved the first time I heard it was okay to have a passion for something. It made sense, of course, when I thought about Picasso or Beethoven. However, gifted individuals can get lots of negative feedback if they only have one topic to talk about, or if they are talking about some phenomenon that occurs in space because of an advanced physics concept. Being intense is the nature of gifted people. Expecting them to conform to outside expectations is a disappointment waiting to happen. Giving them time to do what they want does not usually result in boredom.

In my experience, boredom usually occurred when my children were tired or not feeling well. If they said they were bored, I would tell them to take a nap. No one is ever bored when they wake up from a nap. This is, of course, in the summer when they are not confined to a single room for hours. In summer school this year, I have had some students express feelings of boredom. I wasn’t sure if it was tiredness, a lack of interest in the projects, or just peer pressure (think middle school). I gave them choices and didn’t hear any complaints, even if one of the choices was “Do you just want to watch others?”

In the school my children attended their first few years, there was no gifted program. I was so worried about one child being bored, I took in a stack of things for him to do if he got done with the schoolwork early. Unfortunately, he was too social for that. He got up and talked to others when he was done. Luckily for him, his teacher didn’t mind. The previous year, his teacher had folders of fun activities to do if he was done with required work. My favorite was to research about Hersey’s chocolate. He got to eat a chocolate bar when he finished it.

What can you do if your child is telling you he/she is bored? I have found it often doesn’t help to list off things you think they might like to do. Perhaps asking them what they would like to do might help. If they can’t come up with anything, a walk outside might refresh and get oxygen flowing to the brain. One of the most effective ways to get my children to find another activity was to ask them to help me with mine.

My children are grown and gone now. My task is to keep myself from being bored. Down time actually helps my creativity. A period of rest from any activity usually gives me a bank of ideas to draw on, whether it’s writing, quilting, reading or cooking. When I begin again, I am refreshed and full of energy for the task at hand. This blog post is part of the Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop. Click on the link below to see the other posts.

Travel is Better Than School

For those of you about to embark on a trip with your children, I salute you, and I envy you. It is no fun to go on a vacation alone. Going with children is not easy and there will be trials, but it will give you some of the best memories you will ever have. Here are a few things I have used in the past to help my children endure long car rides. Normal activities such as sewing, knitting, and reading are always assumed, although it doesn’t work with some families because of car-sickness. One of my favorite games to play was The World’s Greatest Travel Game. It is available for auto, train and bus. There are 50 cubes inside two plastic frames. Children can turn over a cube if they see the item that is pictured. This kept my children amused for hours, even when we were going through rural areas without a lot of things to see.

A couple of games we played that I think everyone has played were Find Letters of the Alphabet in Order and find state license plates. My kids also looked for duallies (sp?) which are trucks with two tires on each side in the back. You can also count boats, trailers, campers, etc. Our favorite memory game for waiting in restaurants was “I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking…” They have to mention an item in alphabetical order and repeat all the items that have been said before.

One of my best surprises was when I had checked out the audiobook The Hobbit from the library and I begged to play it for just a half hour. Everyone groaned, including the hubby, but part-way through the first chapter the narrator said something about squishing someone into jelly and I heard a little giggle from the back seat. They were hooked and we listened to the entire book.

My family was known for its tempers and there were times that we lost them, but I wouldn’t trade that travel for anything in the world. We saw Wisconsin, South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa in our tents and campers. My son has hooked his family on camping, too. They have been to South Dakota and Colorado and are going to Yellowstone this summer.

Although we were not camping, my daughter and I took a trip to the Grand Canyon the summer after she graduated from college and went to Guatemala in 2004. She and my oldest son camped with me in Galena, IL for a nice weekend away. We even ate in restaurants that weekend (luxury camping). We have camped in 8 inches of rain and had a blast. We’ve camped under tornadoes without knowing it until the next day. Although there have been some less than ideal camping trips (cold and rainy is good camping weather) we have always enjoyed ourselves. The mechanics of travel can be grueling, especially if you camp, but the hikes we have taken in wilderness have created a peace in my spirit that only nature can fill. Families will have a common bond like no other.

To continue this bloghop, click on the link below.



It’s the insoluble problem that comes to mind in the middle of the night. The coworker who blew up at me for making a mistake, a government that is composed of mostly generals arguing with a country that has nuclear weapons, a relationship with a sibling that has ended, regrets over actions not taken, having a decision to make that could go either way, running through the list of things to do in the next month; these are the things that I think about if I wake up during the night.

Problems with overthinking can occur in early childhood if children are empathetic and aware of what’s going on in the world. With horrible news streaming in every day (and I am a news hound), children are exposed to horrible things happening all over the world. How are we going to help them cope with the seamy side of life? When six people were murdered a mile from our house, my daughter slept with me for two weeks and refused to go in the basement because there might be dead people down there.

How about problems when topics are covered in school, like slavery, war, the Holocaust, the labor movement, or immigration. There are so many to choose from. How does a parent help a child who overthinks? There are some links at the end of my article that might help, and reading books on mental health issues is a part of my reading every year. When my son was a senior in college, he had a course in business ethics that showed videos of the Holocaust, Apartheid, Rwandan genocide and more. His grades fell, he dropped enough classes to pass the rest, and he made up the courses that summer before and after he got married.

Some problems are not so easily solved. A loved one’s mental or physical health problems can cause long-term obsessive thinking. Anxiety can be so debilitating that it interferes with sleep or with going outside one’s house. In these cases, counseling or medication may be helpful. I am a grateful member of two support groups and recommend them to many people.

Finally, decisions can be difficult if an individual is trying to weigh all the options. Often, overthinking can hurt students who look at problems differently. Their scores on tests can reflect the fact that they have taken too long to answer fewer questions, or have seen several answers to difficult problems. Extremely intelligent children (180+ IQ) may see and do things their own way, regardless of the consequences. Children with high IQs often don’t care about our schools’ reward systems, and make choices that camouflage their abilities.

Lolly Daskal has suggestions for overthinking on her web page “10 Simple Ways You Can Stop Yourself From Overthinking”. Another page with suggestions is The Positivity Blog, “How to Stop Overthinking Everything: 9 Simple Habits” by Henrik Edeberg and this one, too: “How to Forget the Past, Live in the Present, and Not Think About the Future” (no author listed).

I hope you find these pages useful.

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop. If you wish to follow other posts about overthinking, please click on either of these links.


What shall I be when I grow up?

One of my favorite teachers of all time, L. C. Smith, asked our German class what career we were thinking about doing as an adult. The room was perfectly silent for a long time. I nervously piped up and asked something that totally blew the atmosphere (sorry Mr. Smith), but what I was trying to say was, “How do you decide?” When you have musical ability, athletic ability, math and language abilities, how do you choose? I don’t remember what else what said that day, but I remember the questions — his and mine.

Life has a way of choosing for a person. I got mono my freshman year of college and my Calculus grade dropped to a C. I changed my major to German. I minored in Scandinavian because of my strong family ties to Sweden. I returned to school in Preschool Special Education because there was a stipend. I went back to school in Technology in Education to explore other careers and increase my public school teacher salary. Now, I hope others of you have been more purposeful with your lives. It wasn’t until I retired that I got to choose what I wanted to do with my time: quilt, write, sing, teach gifted children, and help others. Since these things don’t pay well in many cases, I needed my pension to support myself.

As a parent, I had children who were gifted in many areas. The oldest loved athletics, and excelled in math and language. He is programming computers, which is a wonderful blend of math and language. On his weekends, he runs up tall buildings or runs marathons and triathlons. My middle child was also gifted in math and language, but prefers music and theater to athletics. He keeps school district technology running effectively and is active in his church. My youngest was gifted in language, music, visual art, and athletics, but also loved the theater. She sings with the Atlantic Symphony Chorus when she isn’t helping people with voice therapy or exercising.

Dabrowski groups “overexcitabilities” into five categories: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional. After hearing Dorothy Sick speak, I believe there is another area that individuals can show giftedness: spiritual. Her article can be found here: . She defines spiritual intelligence as:

Spiritual intelligence (SQ) is the capacity to use a multisensory approach—intuition, meditation, and visualization—to access one’s inner knowledge to solve problems of a global nature. SQ includes awareness of unity or connectedness with self, others, the community, the earth, and the cosmos. SQ is important for individuals who want to explore questions in life: Why are we here? What is our relationship to one another, to the community, and to the universe?

Creativity can exist in every field: science, math, music, art, dance, writing, and interpersonal activities such as teaching, therapy, medicine, even sports. I believe creativity is the combination of several intelligences: emotional, imaginational, and spiritual. It can be blocked by telling individuals not to waste time on something because they wouldn’t earn any money from it, that they are no good at it, or any number of discouraging phrases. Individuals with great talent may overcome these messages, but often have fragile egos that take the words to heart.

How do you encourage a child to “find their bliss,” as Joseph Campbell often said? It is one of the hardest things you will do. I encouraged my children to “go for it” with everything they loved, but it can be difficult to watch them struggle with the realities of life. My daughter had a double degree in Choral Performance and English when she graduated from college. She was not able to get a job singing, and went to work in advertising and eventually workmen’s comp insurance. Extremely unhappy, she went back to school at great expense and found a career she loves, voice therapy. I worked in special education because of the need to support a family, but my heart was in gifted education. I do recommend occupational testing. My first choice of occupations was Forest Ranger! If only I’d known! I was happy to see that special education was among the top five choices. People are fascinating and I have always wanted to help them achieve their best selves. Your child may have passions as they are growing and they may never return to them, but they can always use the knowledge gained.

Here’s a list of books I found very helpful. Some of these were already posted at so I won’t repeat those here. More recent books are

Living With Intensity, edited by Susan Daniels and Michael M. Piechowski,

anything by Joan Franklin Smutny,

Freeing Our Families From Perfectionism, by Thomas S. Greenspan,

30 Essays on Giftedness 30 Years of SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted), edited by SENG,

Smart Girls Gifted Women, by Barbara A. Kerr,

Introvert Advantage How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Olsen Laney,

Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, edited by Sal Mendaglio.

Counseling the Gifted, edited by by Linda Kreger Silverman

 multipotentiality This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop. If you wish to follow other posts about multipotentiality, please click on either of these links.

Executive Function

“Executive Function”  is a relatively new term in educational psychology, finding its origin in studies in the 1980s concerning attention, cognitive control, and regulation/ or management of cognitive and emotional processes. Some of these include

  • working memory, such as remembering instructions
  • reasoning
  • flexibility
  • problem solving
  • planning, execution of plan, and prioritizing
  • multitasking
  • self-monitoring
  • task initiation
  • organization (1)

structural differences in the brain based on the family you were born into.

One’s ability to get along with other people can lead to better health, better income and less time in jail. (2)

How does it develop? It is thought that the prefrontal cortex controls behavior through interactions with other parts of the brain, although this has not been verified in all studies. (3)

“Adults can facilitate the development of a child’s executive function skills by establishing routines, modeling social behavior, and creating and maintaining supportive, reliable relationships. It is also important for children to exercise their developing skills through activities that foster creative play and social connection, teach them how to cope with stress, involve vigorous exercise, and over time, provide opportunities for directing their own actions with decreasing adult supervision.” (4)

Further suggestions are given on another page (5)

The best research I found was a scholarly article that examined

“computerized training, noncomputerized games, aerobics, martial arts, yoga, mindfulness, and school curricula. All successful programs involve repeated practice and progressively increase the challenge to executive functions. Children with worse executive functions benefit most from these activities; thus, early executive-function training may avert widening achievement gaps later. To improve executive functions, focusing narrowly on them may not be as effective as also addressing emotional and social development (as do curricula that improve executive functions) and physical development (shown by positive effects of aerobics, martial arts, and yoga)”. (4)

This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop



“At a Glance: 8 Key Executive Functions”
By Amanda Morin


Video Center on the Developing Child is at:




Interventions shown to Aid Executive Function Development in Children 4–12 Years Old
Adele Diamond, Kathleen Lee, Science. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 Aug 23.
Published in final edited form as: Science. 2011 Aug 19; 333(6045): 959–964. doi: 10.1126/science.1204529
PMCID: PMC3159917
Article PubReader PDF–2.3MCitation
accessed at on Jan 28, 2017