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.

hoagiesboredomwww.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_balancing_boredom_burnout.htm

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.

www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_traveling_with_gifted_kids.htm

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Overthinking

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.

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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: http://www.positivedisintegration.com/Sisk2008.pdf . 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 https://lwallin.wordpress.com/ 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 understood.org 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

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(1)

“At a Glance: 8 Key Executive Functions”
By Amanda Morin
https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/executive-functioning-issues/key-executive-functioning-skills-explained

(2)

Video Center on the Developing Child is at:
http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/executive-function/

(3)

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11065-006-9002-x 

(4)

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/executive-functioning-issues/executive-functioning-issues-and-learning-ways-to-help-your-child

(5)

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 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3159917/ on Jan 28, 2017

Intelligence and Emotions

Emotional Intelligence

When I was in graduate school, I learned about a psychologist named Piaget. His theories of development were the first to gain widespread acceptance. His insistence that children must pass through certain stages in a certain order were helpful in some ways (lowering expectations for children to be “little adults”) and not so helpful in others (inhibiting gifted children from asynchronous development that is their hallmark). Other psychologists have added to this theory and have created other models to explain how humans pass from one stage of life to the next. Most of these theories of emotional development have not found their way into public vernacular, except perhaps Freud.

Eleven years ago I read the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. It was encouraging because it identified specific behaviors that Goleman said would be helpful to success and were not tied to IQ. While others disagree with that, I am glad someone finally got around to writing about behavior for the public. As a special education teacher, I have had many students with emotional and behavioral issues. Anything I could do to enhance their learning interested me. So much of it is common sense. If you are fearful or distracted, learning is going to be much harder for you. Children suffering from physical or sexual abuse are not going to be interested in a history unit about Native Americans. Learning to set firm but nurturing guidelines is essential to all healthy relationships.

More recently, I learned of the work of Kazimierz Dabrowski. His work made good sense to me as well. Individuals who have high intelligence quotients have some pretty distinctive characteristics. It was a relief for me to learn that individuals with an IQ in the top 5% or 10% are quicker to experience emotions. I learned at one conference on Highly Gifted children that they experience pain more strongly (I didn’t think to cite this information at the time). So it may be more turbulent in homes of gifted individuals, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Dabrowski offers a theory to see these disturbances as “positive disintegration.” I like to say that positive disintegration is when you feel your world falling apart around you, but it is really leading you to a better place. In Dabrowski’s theories, it is necessary to pass through these in order to reach a higher level of understanding.  I don’t pretend to sum up three centuries of developmental psychology in such a short post, but I do offer it as a ray of hope for families who think things are not going well in their house. The fallacious portrayal of highly gifted individuals as misfits and emotionally disabled does a great deal of harm. If you are concerned, I recommend reading everything you can get your hands on, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you think someone needs it. Here are some titles I recommend.

Traits of a Healthy Family, by Dolores Curran

Guiding the Gifted Child, by James T. Webb, Elizabeth Meckstroth and Stephanie Tolan

Parents’ Guide to Raising a Gifted Child, by James Alvino

Enjoying the Gift of Being Uncommon, by Willem Kuipers

The Gifted Kids Survival Guide II, by James Delisle and Judy Galbraith

The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids, Sally Yahnke Walker

 

hoagiesemotionaliq

This blog is participating in Hoagies Blog Hop on Emotional IQ

http://www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_emotional_intelligence.htm

Why Not Accelerate?

I was a young child that benefitted from acceleration. I began school in Chicago in the second semester of age 5, but moved to the suburbs the following fall. I remember holding my hand up a lot in first grade. I have a memory of the teacher feeling embarrassed because she couldn’t call on me all the time. Whether that memory is accurate or not, I was lucky. I had a mother who went to the school and demanded that I skip into second grade. She didn’t rest until it happened, either. My mom had skipped two years in school, but she had gone to a one-room schoolhouse with few students. She had to wait two years to go to nurses’ training because they were not flexible about age at enrollment. My dad’s schooling had stopped with high school, mostly because of the Great Depression.

By the spring of 1954, I had been placed in a second grade classroom. I was a shrimp, immature, and starting to make friends with kids that had already been together for 2 or 3 years. All of those are reasons given for not accelerating kids. Luckily for me, I had no problems making new friends, and the only thing that suffered was my cursive.

Even though I was accelerated one year in school, I still remember being very bored in classes where the teacher taught the curriculum whether we knew it or not. I graduated 70 in my class of 700 even though I took all advanced classes every year. I am not bragging. I am merely hoping that you will see how bleak my education would have been had I not been accelerated. My sons skipped two years in math instruction. What would they have done if they had not been allowed to do so?

In a perfect world, every teacher would be able to assess prior knowledge before teaching a unit, adapt that unit to each learner no matter what their abilities were, and move the class as a whole through a topic of importance. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any teachers that can do that, including myself. I taught students with disabilities and now teach gifted students, and there are always one or more students who elude my best planning. Let’s open the possibilities to students when the traditional route is not working.

One avenue of adaptation that I recommend is using technology. The uses of technology in education are numerous enough to fill many books. Just think, however, how much more compelling history would be if students were able to access original materials such as letters, photographs, videos and newspaper articles. Many years ago, Judy Harris wrote a series of articles about Internet projects that inspired teachers all over the world. Here is a list I made of the different uses:

1. Interpersonal exchanges such as keypads, global classrooms, electronic appearances, electronic mentoring, and impersonations.

2. Information collections such as information exchange, database creation, electronic publishing, tele-fieldtrips, and pooled data analysis.

3. Problem-solving Projects such as an information search, electronic process writing, sequential creations, parallel problem-solving, virtual gatherings, simulations and social action projects.

This list was made before virtual reality, videoconferencing and curating. Creating web pages is so easy now, any child can do it. Blogging is required in my local school district in the middle school. I know of one student who did not do well in school, yet had created a world in Second Life complete with currency and culture. Technology is not an answer to every ill, but it is one tool that can be used to keep students interested and actively learning. Even a teacher who is not knowledgeable about technology can allow students to use it, or better yet, learn from the students. Assistive technology can help those students that are twice exceptional, too. As a parent of a gifted child, you may need to acquaint yourself with the many uses of technology to help your student.

Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop

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