Finding the Gift in Your Child
Gifted Learners Resources
By Vicki Bentley
“Stir up the gift of God which is in you .” (2 Timothy 1:6, NKJV)
When we were first considering home education, I was unsure about my own ability to meet my children’s needs. Not only did we have a daughter born with cerebral palsy, but I had two children classified as “gifted and talented” by the local public school. Speech therapy and occupational therapy in a home environment weren’t nearly as frightening to me as the thought of challenging my “GT” kids! I was so afraid that I could not offer a motivating, stimulating environment equivalent to that of the local school program. And I was right .
Instead of producing an equivalent program (i.e., limiting our own “gifted and talented” situation to one or two half-days a week), we were able to tailor our entire program to the accelerated learning and creative development of our children! Instead of having to wait for the rest of the class to catch up in math, they could move ahead at their own speed. Instead of halting their fascination with the topic at hand because the bus was coming, our children could delve into their latest passion for hours or days or weeks at a time. And one child’s passion was usually contagious, infecting her siblings with at least a functional interest in the topic, as they worked together to learn, create, read, experiment, explore, and discover.
Along the way, I made a discovery of my own—all children are gifted. Not only did our school-labeled “gifted” children flourish, but our “challenged” child could grow beyond the limitations the world had wanted to impose. This child who would supposedly never speak not only learned to talk, but she sang, performed in radio “plays” with her sisters, and memorized Scripture and completed service projects—to be crowned one of the youngest Missionettes Honor Stars in our district. This child who would “never walk” became one of the most entertaining players on her varsity softball team, with other parents attending practices just to watch her ball-catching “ta-daaa!” gymnastics in the outfield.
Academic giftedness is not the only measure of intelligence—it’s just the most easily discernible in a typical scholastic setting. According to theorists such as Howard Gardner, there are many different types of intelligence, including:
As parents, whether or not we agree with the psychology behind such theories, we recognize that some of our children may exhibit great talent in some of these areas, while other children excel in other areas. In addition to teaching our children the basic skills and content areas, we can encourage our children to delve more deeply and excel in their own areas of interest or talent.
Maybe you don’t have any doubt about your child’s giftedness; you just aren’t sure what to do with him! If your child is capable of working ahead of his age-mates, think in terms of his ability rather than his grade level, and let him move to the next stage of his learning.
However, in many cases, it may be less obvious to you that your child has potential far above that considered average for his age; many children who display ADD-like or highly distractible tendencies are actually gifted learners. Do you have a child you were sure was gifted until her performance started lagging behind her potential? She could be “twice exceptional,” or what Dianne Craft terms “gifted with a glitch.”
Maybe your child exhibits symptoms of dysgraphia, such as being “allergic” to a pencil and moaning and groaning when any writing is required. This is the most common learning glitch for kids who are gifted learners. Because of the combination of giftedness and this writing glitch (which it looks like they could surely overcome, since they are so bright), these children are often labeled as “lazy, sloppy, or unmotivated,” when in reality they have a bona fide learning glitch that can easily be overcome at home using specific methods.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that this child’s emotional or social maturity is likely not at the same advanced level as his cognitive maturity, so it is important to have realistic expectations. The precocious 5-year-old may have the vocabulary and reasoning abilities of a much older child, but she will often behave like, well, a 5-year-old.
Thanks, Todd, for the reminder to appreciate and nurture the gifts in all of our children!
(This article was adapted from the Early Years email newsletter, May 2010.)