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.

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat


My family has a long tradition of musical ability, including  playing pianos,  clarinets, violins, guitars, baritones and lots of singing. If your family has this ability, there are some inexpensive traditions that can add a lot of meaning to the holidays.

My children and I moved to the Chicago area twenty-five years ago with very little money. We started a new tradition, on the advice of friends. In the evening, we turned off all the lights except the Christmas tree. Then we would sing Christmas carols, ending with Silent Night, which was written to be sung without accompaniment.

My older brother collects instruments from all over the world. Most are percussion instruments, but he played the tin-whistle, I played the fiddle, and the kids all played percussion. It was a great family tradition that continues with whatever instruments we can find.

Besides the typical school concerts and church events, there are other musical gifts for the families that have more to spend. A children’s play or musical is fun for everyone.

A music-less idea I got from a stress book is to shut off lights at mealtimes and eat by candlelight. It quiets the voices immediately.

Another tradition we created was a day we called “Yadnuf,” which is fun day spelled backwards. We would take a day off, if necessary, and do something we all considered fun. The first year we went to the Art Institute in Chicago, which had free days on Tuesdays. (Unfortunately, that has changed: only Thursdays from 5 to 8 PM) The second year we went to FAO Schwartz (not there anymore) and Nike Town. One other memorable trip was to Skate on State, which is ice skating, now housed in Millenium Park. Skates are available for rent for $12/pair with a $1 charge for a locker.

Skiing can be an expensive activity, but cross-country skiing in a snowy forest preserve can cause irrepressible laughter. (Chicago-area preserves information is here.)  REI rents cross-country skis for a family of 4 for $168 for the first day, $76 for following days.

You can see a common thread here is family time together. Although children are seduced by media ads, the truly unforgettable gifts are those that involve having fun together. That is my wish for you for the holidays.