Friday, November 20, 2015

How to talk about your gifted kid

In the 10th anniversary post, I wrote that we'd be re-visiting some of the topics that sparked the most discussion over the years. One of those questions was how to talk about your gifted child.

Parents want and need to talk about their kids. I'm sure this is somewhat annoying for people who don't have kids, but parenting consumes a lot of time, and most of us want to do a good job at it. Consequently, kids becomes a frequent topic of conversation. Likewise, kids want to hear you talk about them. My 8-year-old was in a play last night (he delivered his one line with great enthusiasm). In the car on the way home, he said things like "Tell me more about my performance." I guess it's good to ask for what you need!

I was happy to tell him that I was proud of him, and that he'd done a good job remembering his line, and I was proud that he was not nervous in front of the crowd.

But that's a different matter from public conversations. For many parents of gifted children, I've heard from readers of this blog, conversations with other parents can become fraught. Parenting conversations on the playground or birthday parties or school pick-ups require some portion of shared issues. A parent whose kid is really struggling with math doesn't necessarily want to hear about how many grade levels ahead your kid is working. I never like the "misery Olympics" of some parenting conversations (over who has it worse) but even if everyone's talking about the wonderful things their kids did, a parent whose kid got his first B+ on a math test may not want to hear about another child's proof he dreamed up in his bedroom at night for fun.

So what do you do? Obviously, other people's comfort is not the only important consideration in life, but when you're in a community for the long haul, it helps to nurture connections. This is one reason that forums for parents of gifted kids are so important (I'll put a plug in for the Davidson Institute's programs here!) Such discussion groups can be safe spaces for parents to chat with other parents who understand. It lessens the weight of having only the people who are there in person.

Some parents go ahead and talk about their kids and figure if it's said from the perspective that you're proud of your kid -- because you are! -- and not implying that this is because you are better at this parenting thing than other people, then it's all good. Let the chips fall where they may. If other people have a problem, they have a problem. Other parents elect to talk more about extra-curricular activities, where everyone's into different things, and there's less straightforward academic competition. I'm curious what strategies Gifted Exchange readers use.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

When to skip a grade, when not to (plus DITD program info)

I had a conversation with a father recently whose highly gifted son had needed more challenge. The school recommended accelerating him a grade. The family didn't want to do that, and wound up putting him in a private school where they thought he could get more individual attention and flexible grouping (there were smaller, multi-grade classes).

Obviously, any situation has its own particular complications. But it got me thinking about when skipping a grade is the right choice, and when it might not be.

My first thought was that this boy's school was pretty rare. Educators in general do not have a positive view of full-grade acceleration. This is why it is a massively under-utilized option, compared to the situations in which it would be useful. Acceleration does not cost anything. It may save taxpayers money! It can be done in different doses (one grade, two grades, etc.) People are often worried about social outcomes, but the A Nation Deceived report addressed those pretty well. There aren't many to worry about. In any case, a quick view around a 6th grade class will show that people mature at incredibly different rates anyway.

That said, it's not perfect for every situation. A child who has extreme gifts in one subject (e.g. math), but is more toward grade level in everything else, would not be made whole by a whole grade acceleration. That child needs an individualized study in math -- perhaps the ability to take college classes early -- and could likely be accommodated in his/her age-grade the rest of the time.

A child who is highly-attuned to fitting in and being like everyone else may rebel at the idea of a whole grade acceleration within the same school. Parents have to make the ultimate decision, but the child's thoughts and feelings need some consideration too. A grade skip may be better done when people would be switching schools anyway, or moving.

Finally, the question is what the other options are. If there is an alternative school available -- a gifted magnet school, perhaps, or a feasible private school that could offer individual attention -- then those options can be thrown into the mix alongside whole grade acceleration.

When do you think skipping a grade is a good option, and when not?

In other news: The Davidson Institute, which sponsors this blog, has several programs with deadlines coming up. Please see below.

2016 Davidson Fellows $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 Scholarships

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development offers high-achieving young people across the country the opportunity to be named a 2016 Davidson Fellow, an honor accompanied by a $50,000, $25,000 or $10,000 scholarship in recognition of a significant piece of work in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Music, Literature, Philosophy or Outside the Box. Applicants must submit an original piece of work that is recognized as significant by experts in the field and that has the potential to make a positive contribution to society. The scholarship may be used at any accredited college or university. The deadline to apply is Feb. 10, 2016. For additional information, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org/Fellows.

2016 THINK Summer Institute – Three-Week Academic Residential Program

The Davidson Institute is seeking gifted teens to attend the 2016 THINK Summer Institute. THINK is a three-week residential summer program on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno where students can earn up to six college credits by completing two university courses. The 2016 THINK Summer Institute will run from July 9 through July 30. Tuition is $3,500 and covers course credits, books and materials, room and board, and the cost of planned activities. Need-based scholarships are available. To qualify, students must be 13 to 16 years old during THINK and must submit a SAT or an ACT score report. The application deadline is April 1, 2016. To learn more about THINK, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org/THINK.

Davidson Young Scholars Application Available

The national Davidson Young Scholars program provides FREE support, information and resources to families of profoundly gifted students. Through an online community and annual event, Young Scholars have the opportunity to meet others with similar interests and abilities, and utilize their talents to maximize their educational potential and make a difference in the lives of others. Parents collaborate with a team of knowledgeable Family Consultants who provide individualized services based on each family’s unique needs, including educational advocacy and planning, social and emotional development, and enrichment opportunities. Once enrolled, Davidson Young Scholars can access exclusive opportunities such as online courses and a summer camp for 8 to 12 year olds. The Davidson Young Scholars application deadline is the first of each month. Please visit the website to learn more: www.DavidsonGifted.org/YoungScholars.

The Davidson Academy of Nevada - Apply for 2016-2017 School Year

The Davidson Academy of Nevada, a free public day school for profoundly gifted pupils located on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, is now accepting applications for the 2016-2017 school year. Classes at the Academy are not grouped by age-based grades, but by ability level, providing profoundly gifted young people an educational opportunity matched to their abilities, strengths and interests. To attend the Davidson Academy, students must be at the middle or high school level across all subject areas and score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ or college entrance tests, such as the SAT or ACT. For admission details, please visit www.DavidsonAcademy.UNR.edu. Applications are reviewed on a monthly basis with a final application deadline of April 1, 2016. Interested families can meet current students and parents, faculty and staff, network with others and ask questions at Academy tours. For upcoming tour dates and to RSVP, visit www.DavidsonAcademy.UNR.edu/Tours .