Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We'll Be Back Soon...Promise!

It's been a difficult summer.  The last few weeks of June, Chuck's mom started having some pretty serious "elopement" problems with her dementia, which created demands on his dad's health.  And then on July 5th his dad suffered from kidney failure.  After a week in ICU, another week in the hospital, and nearly 3 weeks in an in-patient physical rehab facility, he's recovering nicely though he's now on permanent dialysis.  During the whole process it became obvious that they could no longer live alone and we have moved them into a specialized care facility where they can get the care and attention they need.

We literally just got them moved yesterday and we still have things to take care of regarding their medical and financial needs, but we'll be back to blogging on the GiftedGalaxy soon.

Chuck and Lori

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gifted Children and The Visual and Performing Arts

You might think that this blog, the 5th and final in our series on Areas of Giftedness, should be lumped in with the first blog on creative giftedness. But in the same way that we drew a distinction between general intellectual capacity and a specific academic ability, we’re drawing a distinction here between creative thinking and this area of giftedness for specific capabilities in the visual and performing arts. In the first blog we discussed creative thinking in general, i.e. independent thinking, a sense of humor, standing out from the crowd. When it comes to giftedness in the visual and performing arts, we’re talking about a specific ability to express themselves through the arts.

Just as with specific academic ability, gifted children with characteristics in the visual and performing arts have an uncanny ability to learn advanced modes of expression, whether in art, music, drama, dance, writing, or any other artistic expression. It simply comes natural to them. Both of our children, for example, are prolific writers and have not only tried their hand at creative writing, but have completed complex works and crave time to spend working on more. They also excelled in band (even though they didn’t relish practicing, which in hindsight indicates they had this gifted characteristic but perhaps didn’t have the personal interest that they do in writing).

Children gifted in the arts have great spatial skills and good—although not necessarily athletic—motor coordination. They easily connect the abstract emotional expression with the medium they’re working in (moral lessons in writing, for example, or themes and stories in music). They are observant and study those who have mastered the mediums: if their interest is writing, they enjoy critical literary analysis, or if their interest is dance, they crave watching and attending performances.

But perhaps most importantly, gifted children in this area will want to emulate the masters for their own expression, and you should definitely foster their expression. If their interest is writing, buy them a journal. If their interest is music, find an instrument that interests them, or let them compose their own work (there is plenty of great music composing software out there, like Noteworthy Composer, one of our personal favorite software packages).

We hope you've found this series of blogs useful. If you have any questions about this series, our blog in general, or just want to talk to us about your gifted child, we want to hear from you! Email us at

Friday, April 9, 2010

Gifted Children: Excelling in Specific Areas and Interests

In our previous blog on giftedness in intellectual capacity, we were referring more to a general ability to learn, a broader capacity to learn and excel in any problem solving area. In this blog we’re talking more about a specific—almost preternatural—skill in a specific topic.

Everyone’s familiar with the stereotypical nerd with mathematical capabilities, or the 9 year-old programmer. But the topic can be almost anything, even athletic ability (with the winter Olympics fresh on our minds, who would question whether Apolo Ohno or Lindsey Vonn are “gifted”?) Our son, for example, aced the state biology exam, and our daughter has always excelled in English.

What gifted children who excel in specific areas all have in common, regardless of the interest, are an advanced and natural comprehension of that interest. That subject simply “comes easy” to them. They possess the ability to memorize data, perhaps selectively with respect to their interest, and they will read and study their topic with voracity and an ease of comprehension. And naturally they will excel at their area.

If your child is gifted in a specific area, by all means do all that you can to feed their interest. Get them involved in activities that not only encourage them to develop their interest, but pushes them to refine their capability (for example, Apolo Ohno’s dad didn’t just take him to the skating rink, he drove him to Vancouver to participate in competitions).

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Gifted Children and Intellectual Capacity

This is the characteristic area of gifted children most everyone recognizes, but obviously (the point of our most recent blogs) isn’t the only area. There have been many Presidents of the United States obviously gifted in leadership and certain, specific academic areas (our next blog), who haven’t been particularly gifted with the kind of intellectual capacity we’re talking about here. And of course there have been many artists, musicians, and writers/poets who abound with creative gifts and skills in the visual and performing arts (blog after next) who don’t exhibit gifted levels of intellectual capacity.

Children gifted in intellectual capacity are able to process information in complex ways. This information can be almost anything you can imagine: numeric problems, written information, or even their environment. For example, our daughter exhibited some unique capabilities in this area. Even at the age of only 5 or 6 she was keenly aware of everything in her room (and I do mean everything). She would come home and a few seconds after going to her room, would come out and say something like, “who moved my Pound Kitties?” If I switched the positions of 2 (seemingly) insignificant items on her dresser, she could spot the change within seconds of her return (I know, I did this as an experiment on many occasions to see what she would do). She has uncanny skill with Where’s Waldo.

Gifted children with intellectual capacity can easily formulate abstractions and inferences. They are amazingly observant, even of intangible concepts, and are continually inquisitive. They can get visibly excited about new ideas, and they enjoy hypothesizing solutions. They will employ a complex vocabulary that far exceeds their years and they are voracious learners, though not of topics that you or their teachers may want them to learn.

If your child exhibits characteristics of intellectual giftedness, try to identify the topics that interest them and foster their independent learning in those areas. Take them to the library—the university library if necessary—to explore their interests. Let their teachers know of their specific interests, and encourage them to develop projects or experiments so that they can reach their own conclusions and develop their own hypotheses.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gifted Children and Leadership

Another way a gifted child can express their talents is through leadership. This isn’t just their ability to earn the respect or devotion of their peers (that may be part of it), but more like an inherent capability to assume responsibility long before other children of their own age are exhibiting the same capability.

We think a gifted child’s talent in leadership most likely comes from their own high expectations for themselves. Gifted children usually know that they are exceptional compared to other children and can automatically assume a leadership role in a situation, sometimes inappropriately (like assuming that they should be the team captain, or taking over a group situation even without designation).

Children gifted in the area of leadership will be confident in their abilities of expression, and sometimes supremely frustrated if others don’t “get them”. Despite the physical lack of maturity of their brains (see our previous post) they will tend to make good decisions and can foresee the consequences of their own actions and those around them, perhaps even better than some adults. They are self-confident and organized.

If you child expresses characteristics of leadership giftedness, provide them the structure and organization they crave. Encourage them in activities where they can express their leadership capabilities, but coach and communicate with them if others (coaches, teachers, band directors, other children) don’t see eye-to-eye with them. Keep an open dialog going with the other adult leaders in their lives, and never stop helping them identify ways of expressing themselves.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Creative Giftedness

Every child is unique and gifted children can express their talents in many different ways. For the next few blogs we’re going to explore some of these different areas of giftedness, starting with creative giftedness. While we’re looking at each area individually, keep in mind that a child is more likely to exhibit characteristics of several of these areas; helping a gifted child more fully develop begins with recognizing their gifted talents and tailoring a learning plan accordingly.

We knew pretty early that both our son and daughter were creatively gifted, but for different reasons. Creatively gifted children aren’t just talented artistically or musically, though those are certainly good indicators. Our son expressed his creative giftedness with a complex and quirky sense of humor: think Monty Python vs. Charlie Chaplin. Not to mention the elaborate near-reality stories he used to come home from pre-school with that left us saying, “huh?”

Our daughter, on the other hand, simply stood out. An obviously independent thinker from the time she could smile and coo, she has never shied away from being different. This made for some challenges during her early teen years. I heard an NPR report recently that a neurologist has identified that the teenage mind isn’t fully wired yet and as a result teens didn’t have the ability to fully understand the consequences of their actions. This is pretty interesting and worthy of a future blog or two, but parents of gifted children should remember that headstrong individuality is also a good indicator of creative giftedness.

The child who is creatively gifted thinks outside the box, will devise several solutions to a problem, will challenge assertions, and will readily invent and create. Complex and challenging problems will engage them, and they will express interest in activities that don’t interest other children. They will surprise parents and teachers with behavior that might even border on the eccentric. And yes they might be interested in art and music.

If your child expresses characteristics of creative giftedness, feed their creativity. Find creative activities that interest them, and foster their continual learning and skills development in that area, even if they exceed your own capabilities or understanding of what they’re doing, but if they burn out on it and lose interest, just go with the flow and help them explore their new ideas.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Test Score Obsession

I read an interesting article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution last week entitled “Analytical Learning is the Big Loser in Test Score Obsession.” The article was written by Shannon Howrey, Assistant Professor of Education, at North Georgia College and State University.

In the article, Dr. Howrey talks about the efforts of the Georgia legislature to tie teacher salaries to their student's standardized test scores; i.e. paying teachers based on how well their students do on the standardized state test (the "CRCT" here in Georgia). Some states call this merit pay. Dr. Howrey states that Georgia is trying to "ensure a well-educated, successful work force resulting in a strong economy." But, Dr. Howrey goes on to explain, these bills would essentially do the opposite.

We here in the Gifted Galaxy agree wholeheartedly! Standardized tests measure knowledge and base skills only; memorizing knowledge and performing discrete skills is only a small part of what children need to be successful.

Robert Sternberg, a Yale psychologist and advocate for gifted education who has studied successful people for many years, found that they possess a "triarchic" set of personal qualities. The first of these is "analytical" intelligence, which can be, to some degree, measured on standardized tests.

Equally important, says Sternberg, are two other types of intelligence: "creative intelligence," or the ability to manipulate ideas and think about things in new ways, and "tacit intelligence," or the social/emotional skills needed for dealing well with people. (If you're interested in Sternberg's book, here's a link: The Triarchic Mind: A New Theory of Human Intelligence

Dr. Howrey claims that these skills (all 3 of them) are not only necessary for success, but may be critical for survival in a globally and technically interconnected world. Thomas Friedman, author of “The World is Flat: a Brief History of the Twenty-First Century,” has stated that our country’s ability to compete in a global economy will depend on people with analytical skills to synthesize large amount of information, creativity to apply that information to new ideas and products, and communication skills to lead teams of individuals from a variety of countries and cultures.

According to research by Sternberg, Torrence, Eisner, Renzulli, Reis, and others, children develop these creative and social skills through exposure to the arts, music, and drama; opportunities to apply mathematical and scientific knowledge in experiments and projects; and rich, open-ended discussions of literature and social studies. Dr. Howrey says that these types of opportunities are the exact programs that the Georgia Legislature wants to do away with by cutting funding for them in the near future. She goes on to say that none of these skills can be measured through CRCT scores, "as they require thinking outside the box, not marking inside a box of predetermined right or wrong answers."

State testing can be used to test factual knowledge learned and discrete skill sets but Dr. Howrey believes that the Georgia legislation that rewards teachers and schools for increasing test scores are "dangerously short-sighted" and provide only a small portion of the knowledge and skills that Georgia’s children will need to succeed in the 21st century. And as has been painfully pointed out in Georgia in the last few weeks, tests--even the CRCT--can be manipulated.  Start tying teacher's pay to test performance and the incentive to manipulate testing is that much higher.

It seems very convenient in this time of economic distress when states and school districts are trying to cut every ounce of extras out of their budget that they would push for rewarding only those teachers and schools that increase test scores. The rewards sound like the cheaper alternative and--at first glance--seem logical and a good "business decision".  But learning isn't so cut and dried, and teachers aren't commissioned salespeople.

Besides, we all hear how far American students lag behind other country's students in test scores, yet American workers are--by far--the most productive in the world.  Why are we trying to emulate the education system of less productive societies?

Parents everywhere (not just here in Georgia) need to question their local districts when they start to cut funding for band, orchestra, music, art, etc. and everyone needs to pay attention to the debate over "teacher merit pay".