Monday, January 27, 2014

Gifted sons, gifted daughters, and Google searches

A little over a week ago, the New York Times printed Seth Stephen-Davidowitz's analysis of Google search data. One result? Parents are 2.5 times more likely to search for the phrase "Is my son gifted?" than "Is my daughter gifted?" Parents are also more likely to search for "Is my son behind?" or some other phrase implying that a child is having academic problems than searching for similar phrases about their daughters, but the difference is less pronounced, he notes.

So what are we to make of this? Stephen-Davidowitz notes that girls tend to have more developed vocabularies at a younger age. He also notes that in schools, girls are more likely to be in gifted programs than boys.

It may be that parents are, at least in the privacy of their internet searches, more concerned with their sons' intelligence than their daughters'. Parents turn out to be more likely to search phrases like "Is my daughter overweight?" vs. "Is my son overweight?" -- implying that people are more concerned about girls' looks than their brains.

That would be unfortunate -- though probably not terribly surprising. Of course, as some parents have mentioned here, sometimes gifted girls very much want to fit in, and so will hide their intelligence or do their best to act like all is well in school. If boys are more likely to act out when frustrated and bored, this might create a crisis situation that then triggers an internet search for answers.

I'm curious what Gifted Exchange readers think of this article. In your experience, have you seen parents be more likely to advocate for gifted sons vs. gifted daughters?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Practice and improvement

I'm back after a holiday hiatus, and ready to start posting (occasionally) on Gifted Exchange, now in its 10th calendar year. That is starting to be some serious longevity in the blogging world!

My 6-year-old got a Wii for Christmas. He is particularly enamored with Mario Kart. On Christmas he started trying to play, and had a hard time getting through many a course. He'd steer wildly, fall of the course, and often end up in 12th place (out of 12 in each game).

But, video games being designed to keep you playing, he persevered. We let him play a fair amount -- it was holiday break, after all -- and within 72 hours, he'd improved a lot. He'd come in near the top of races, and pretty soon was winning against the computer. Something similar happened with the 4-year-old. He plays less often (he can't turn on the system by himself) but he can complete most courses and occasionally does so with reasonable speed.

It is one of the great wonders of the world that when we devote time and attention to something, we can improve. Often dramatically. Video games are designed to make this fun. But we can figure out a lot about our interests if we observe when we willingly do this in other spheres.

The 6-year-old also turns out to love lists and charts. He spent weeks studying his school phone directory, figuring out which classes were the biggest, which had the kids with the first last names in the alphabet, etc. Over the past few snowy days, he's been making a Star Wars dictionary. Each page has a letter, and each letter is illustrated by a character (What, you say, there aren't any Star Wars characters starting with some letters? He got around this by making up his own). He's also given each character a strength rating, and charted this in a color coded system.

Of course while doing this he's practicing writing and graphing. But I'm not having to nudge him to do this, the way I have to nudge reading actual stories right now. When we're intrigued by something, we practice without it being a chore. That's not to say we don't need to practice things that do feel like a chore. Sometimes joy comes later on in the process. But it's even more fun when it comes early.

Blogging has, over the years, become my writing practice activity of choice. I don't post often here, but I'm posting close to daily at www.lauravanderkam.com, and 3x/week for Fast Company. What activities do you most enjoy practicing? What do your children practice without nudging, and what have you learned about their interests from that?