The Magic Years

My professional life was spent in education. I was an Early Childhood Special Education teacher for sixteen years in the county north of Chicago, Lake County, IL. I had gotten a Masters Degree in Preschool Special Education in 1972, but I was before my time, and the state of Illinois had not started educating its preschoolers yet. I was not able to teach preschoolers until 1990. It is an age I love in children. They are full of energy and love, and respond quickly to instruction. Changes occur within weeks of entering school and continue all year.
As a parent, I had a few clues to my children’s giftedness because of my training. My oldest wanted a watch and I told him he had to be able to tell time first. He learned to subtract from sixty to tell time by the digital clock on the stove. I can’t remember what grade he was in, but it wasn’t second. My second child could imitate musical notes at nine months and explained to me how money works at age 6. My third child held a pencil correctly at twelve months and sang in the church choir at age three.
So in what areas do gifted children show their exceptionality? The areas that I assessed as a teacher were fine and gross motor, receptive and expressive language, social skills, readiness in math and language, and self-help. The newest definition of giftedness is asynchronous development, and it can be exaggerated at this age in gifted children. It is not unnatural to have a child that can read phonetically spelled words but not put shoes on. Another child may be quiet most of the time, but can assemble a twenty-piece puzzle. One of my students had Klippel-Feil syndrome, but could describe the climate in Papua, New Guinea! We expect more mature behavior from gifted preschoolers, since they can understand so much cognitively. However, their behavior can be set back by a trip to a relative or friend’s house or by the birth of a sibling. What is most important to me is good self-esteem. Even children with disabilities can have good self-esteem if the parents do whatever they can to learn about this characteristic. I have put a few of the books I highly recommend on my Goodreads page. I have read them all and used the principles in my parenting.
If you aren’t an expert on behavior, be sure you know about the ABCs of behavior: antecedent, behavior, and consequences. Most importantly, I recommend lots of time outside with them, lots of reading books to them, and lots of activities that include them, such as cooking or recycling, to show that they are an important member of the household and that they are treasured.

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2 thoughts on “The Magic Years

  1. I really like this description of preschoolers: “They are full of energy and love, and respond quickly to instruction. Changes occur within weeks of entering school and continue all year.” Yes, definitely magic years.

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  2. Thanks for your important blog post. I thought you and your readers might enjoy this link to an International Journal of Pediatrics Journal article:

    International Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 420297, doi:10.1155/2011/420297Review ArticleDevelopmental and Cognitive Characteristics of “High-Level Potentialities” (Highly Gifted) Children Laurence Vaivre-Douret1,2,3http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijped/2011/420297/

    For more information, stay tuned for research results of the new Gifted Research and Outreach (GRO) nonprofit organization, http://www.gro-gifted.org/ Disclaimer: I’ve been helping that organization publicize itself, as you’ll see on its homepage and in my recent blog article on GRO.

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