Summer Ideas for Gifted Students

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Parents often ask me for summer or track out camps for gifted children. In the Raleigh area, we are lucky to have lots to choose from- nature, sports, engineering, arts, music…

How do you find one that is perfect for your gifted child? Or that challenges them? Or understands their needs? Or best- one they can find other like-minded children that understand them. As I always say, they are not better than other children, but they are different (see past posts!).

The National Association for Gifted Children has some great guidelines for helping parents find the perfect camp.

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For my Raleigh parents, here are a few camp ideas:

My favorite local camp is CrazBrain– highly recommend

I LOVE this camp!: Camp SMILE

Another one at NCSU: The Engineering Place

Two of my favorite nature camps: Hemlock Bluffs and Harris Lake

Music Camp (rave reviews from other parents): Camp Musart

Another nature one: Piedmont Wildlife Center

Interesting Teaching Concept

Finland is restructuring how they teach- removing “subjects” and teaching “topics”. For some reason this new teaching concept interests me. I can’t wait to see how it all works and the learning that happens. Definitely a different way to view teaching.

Historically, Finland has been studied by other countries all over the world as a model educational system. I found this general article about the fascinating educational philosophies in Finland on Smithsonian magazine website and this quote stood out:

There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.

Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.

Fantastic Camp for Science!!

Here Comes A New Idea for a Camp!

Signing up for camps, after school activities, and enrichment opportunities can be stressful. I have spent hours looking through the local town program guides, websites for camps in the area, scrolling Facebook for ideas, and asking other moms what camps they love or recommend. The great thing about our area is all there is to choose from but it can be overwhelming.

Well… on Friday, I decided to drop into a new science camp in the area- Crazbrain. I had met the owner a few weeks ago and wanted to see it in action. Last week, the students were doing a CSI camp! What??! I happen to love CSI shows and was curious about the activities.

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When we got there, the children had safety goggles, gloves, and were swabbing desks for blood (each desk represented rooms in a pretend house). They were really simulating being a real scientist- And they LOVED it! They quickly told me all about the activity and were eager to demonstrate to me how to use the solution to determine if there was “blood” in the room. Once the tested the q-tip for blood, they recorded the results and marked the rooms on the pretend floorplan a.k.a scene of the crime. At the end they had to come up with some theories about what happened at the crime scene.

IMG_5421 Kids love participating in hands-on activities and simulations. This camp is fantastic for budding scientists or curious kids.

Why is Early Education Important?

I am often asked about the importance of having the appropriate learning environment for gifted students. I loved how these educators answered the questions in an article titled: “Love the Child, Not the Gift”

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Why help gifted students? Because the first rule of education is “do no harm.”

 JON: What are the most important reasons why we need to invest in gifted students?

SIDNEY and FELICIA: The first rule of education is to “do no harm.” There is considerable research suggesting that gifted students can be harmed if they do not receive appropriate educational interventions. This is especially true in elementary school and among at risk populations, such as children who live in poverty or children who have both gifts and disabilities. The harm can manifest as disturbances in social and emotional development, such as behavior problems, depression, loneliness, and alienation. It almost always manifests as lost academic potential. Hence, the first reason to invest in gifted students is to ensure that they are not harmed by their school experiences. We might call this a moral imperative for investment in gifted students. A second reason to invest in gifted students is to enable them to fulfill their potential.  Gifted students by definition have unusual capabilities, but those capabilities cannot be fully realized without a long process of talent development. For gifted individuals, talent development is a prerequisite for self-actualization. We might call this a humanitarian reason to invest in gifted children. The third and final reason we propose for investing in gifted students is because of the potential return that investment might yield for society. Gifted individuals have tremendous potential to benefit society as adults, whether they choose to focus their talents on raising their children, excelling in their professions, performing at high levels in the arts, making discoveries in the sciences, and/or creating inventions that enhance our lives. We might call this the pragmatic reason to invest in gifted children—the investment may return substantial gains to society in the future.

Never Reaching True Potential with Gifted Children

Do all gifted children reach their potential? Do they know what it means to fail and keep trying? Do they put themselves in situations to push their abilities? Often the answer to all these questions is a definitive “NO”.  What can we do as parents to help? IMG_5094

Reaching their potential can be difficult for gifted children- either because the environment does not encourage or force them to the limits. Sometimes they are scared of failure and will do “just enough” to still remain at the top but are at a comfortable level for their abilities. As parents, the easiest way is to demonstrate failure. I know this might sound crazy and it can be difficult because normally adults have the coping skills to deal with failure. For example, if we turn down the wrong street while driving, you can verbalize your mistake your child and recognize how you dealt with the mistake. If you make a new recipe and it is terrible, you can talk with your child about how you were willing to try something new and it didn’t work. Point out how it a learning moment and you won’t make it again.

Unfortunately they often do not have the coping skills for when they do fail. I NEVER want to set my children up for failure but it can be a good skill to understand how to cope. For example, we recently went to a bike park and it was all new for our family. My husband and I modeled to the children (not in a formal way) how we felt to try something new and what would happen if we failed. There was a few moments of falling off bikes or ramps and we would make a quick conversation about picking yourself up and you had to keep working at it to get better. Our youngest learned how to ride on the ramps quicker (much to the dismay of the oldest) but it provided an opportunity to talk to the oldest about how to keep working on it and get comfortable. He wanted to give up a few times and we encouraged him to keep at it.

Here is another great article about gifted kids and the importance of failure and learning how to work towards goals.

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What do test scores mean for gifted children?

Testing does give an idea of strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles of children. Sometimes it can give us an idea of perfectionism and if there are learning disabilities.

I always encourage parents for the individual testing because it does help give them a good indication of the best learning approaches for their child. I don’t advocate for more testing but this type of testing can often be perceived as fun by children and helpful to parents and educators.

For gifted parents, I found this easy chart today to give you a general idea of how the scores can be explained. Very general!

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What do you think? More recess, less, or none?

What??!! Recess isn’t mandated? I just read an article that a break in the day for children is not required by law. I am in shock and had no idea. I just assumed since in the adult world, breaks are mandatory, it would be the same for little bodies. Nope. Since the push for testing and assessments, it seems that other facets (like social skills from recess) of the lives of children are not as important to develop?

Recess is vital in my opinion. Not just for a mental break but for social interactions, imaginary play, games, and there is a lot of research about the benefits of just moving our bodies around.

If adults want a break during the day at work, don’t you think children do too?!

Educators Issue a Call for Mandatory Recess

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What is the difference between gifted education and academically rigorous education?

A friend just sent me a link to a discussion board that posted this question. I LOVED it because I think some of the confusion with gifted education comes with the battle between pushing the children and how the curriculum is approached with gifted children. Sometimes meeting needs of the gifted is not how far you push them.

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One person’s answer was amazing and wanted to share it:

This is by no means a scientific answer. I’m doing my best to describe what I have seen as a tutor, and a parenting in education consultant during the past 20 years and presently. As a description rather than a prescription, consider this:
Imagine a a horserace around a track; and then imagine a steeple chase.[1]

Galloping around the track, the horserace, is about finishing the race quickly and strategically. Like Academic Rigor, the horserace is about finishing fast.Academic rigor is characterized more by having a curriculum like a horse race. It typically includes activities involving rigorous testing/scoring and competition/rankings, such as doing an academic decathalon, taking a zillion advance placement (“AP”) classes, learning Latin, history, maths, sciences, English Literature (or literature in one’s native language), Writing, Classics, and playing games like Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy. I have seen many high school students take a rigorous course of study with many AP classes, get advanced standing in college, test well on standardized tests, memorize much — and move quickly into grad school in any field. The goal of academic rigor seems to prepare students to take the next step in their educational/professional lives. The study which pre-med students do — biology, chemistry, botany, physics, maths — prepares students via academic rigor for the study of medicine.

The steeplechase requires a horse and rider working as a unit to analyze what’s coming and to prepare an approach so as to finish first most gracefully. There are all kinds of configurations and maneuvers for horse and rider to learn together. The configurations require agility and flexibility. Like Gifted Education, there is a focus on meaning, ability, and expanding capabilities. Gifted education provides a more qualitative experience for the student. That is, the pursuit of individual excellence guided by inquiry — using a student’s interests and abilities — creates the academic excellence we see in those who are motivated by using all of their capacities, ideally without regard to competition. Gifted education goes deep into subject matter of interest, connects interdisciplinary resources, and provides for an education that has depth and breadth, and does not always include the goal of standardized testing, competition, ranking, etc. The goal is the expansion of the student’s abilities to the fullest extent possible. Rigor can be part of that expansion, but it isn’t always necessary unless the academic goal is competing against those who have had an academically rigorous education.

Gifted education is much more intrinsically motivated, more fluid, and sometimes rigorous. Academically rigorous education is traditionally never fluid, is historically structured externally, and is even now designed to narrow the pool of students competing for X.

I have seen students move from gifted education to rigorous academic education. I have seen others move from rigorous education to gifted education. The students who receive gifted education during elementary school and then switch to rigorous study during middle and high school seem to me to be the most well adjusted and successful students of all.

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[1] Here is a description of steeplechase (a type of horse racing) for those unfamiliar with the event: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steeplechase

*Picture from Wikipedia

Anyone Going Stir Crazy?

Snow day, again??!! I am not sure where everyone else lives but in NC we have not had a fun winter. It has been dark, wet, and dreary. To top it off, the past two weeks there has been snow. Maybe some people love snow, but I do NOT. Where we live, everything shuts down- schools, roads, grocery stores , etc. (maybe a touch of my sanity too). My kids are quickly running out of things to do and I think they have even gotten tired of fighting.

So today, I found a few ideas that I thought I would share.

Everyone has a different parenting opinion about technology… so no judgments. Here is a great list of STEAM apps.

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Another idea is creative story starters- you pull a sentence out of a jar and kids make up a story.

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Pick Your Battles

Yes- all parents know that you have to pick the battles you fight with kids. Actually, I think everyone (parent or not) has heard that phrase. The hard part comes with what battles do you pick? Which ones do you fight and which ones do you walk away from? Which ones are important enough or meaningful to fight? Do you fight over socks? Do you fight with what to wear to sleep? Do you negotiate what to eat for dinner or just fix something and they can eat it or not?

One battle I have chosen to give up on (for the most part) is what my daughter wears to school. She is in preschool and honestly, who cares? The teachers don’t and certainly the students don’t notice. So I decided that why should I? I do battle when we are going out to dinner or to church… but for school, I decided just to let her wear what she wants to. It has made our daily routines much easier and about 20 minutes less without a battle!

Here is one of her outfits- green striped tights, green athletic shorts, warm boots (because she refuses to wear socks, she wears warm shoes), white shirt, her silver Ariel jacket and a beautiful athletic headband. She was happy and it gave me a smile that morning on what she picked.

carly outfit