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

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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.

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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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.

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Picky Eaters?! Great Tip from a Occupational Therapist

I have written about picky eaters before and for any new readers… I was a SUPER picky eater growing up. I would not eat many foods and luckily the foods I did eat were fairly healthy. Well, now I am blessed with my own picky eater. She has a list of about 15 foods that she likes to eat and there is no amount of coaxing, bribery, trickery, etc. that can convince her to try foods she doesn’t like.

I get lots of parenting advice about this topic. “She will eat if she gets hungry enough” is my favorite. I always nod my head and say, “Yep, I guess she will”. But in my mind, I want tell them that she won’t. She would rather go hungry then eat something that smells funny, looks different, or that she just doesn’t think she will like.

So for now, we just try to remember, she won’t be eating creamy peanut butter sandwiches that are cut in circles when she is out at a business lunch!

Our occupational therapist gave us a great idea the other day- have her just touch the food and put it up to her lips and even in her mouth. She is allowed to spit it out but she needs to work on getting it into her mouth.PickyEater_300x

So we will try that- but I know she will outgrow some of this. I know as she gets older, she will eat more food. So I work on not being frustrated when I cook a great meal and she wants a peanut butter sandwich. 🙂

Summer, Trackout and Enrichment Camps

Parents!! I am going to write just a few blog posts next week about really great camps/ enrichment ideas for kids in the Raleigh area. Please let me know if you know any ones I can share with other parents.

Also- Carolina Parent is hosting a camp/school fair at the end of February and have listed all the vendors. Great place to get some information about what is around the area.

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Wake Academy is on Pinterest

Pinterest is a fantastic place for organizing web resources. I have to admit, I didn’t want to do one more social website but I love this one (thanks Kristi!).

I have tried to go back through all the blog posts and links on our website to categorize them so it was easy for parents, teachers, and me to go back and find them.

I have found articles and resources on: characteristics of gifted children, perfectionism, sensory, inspirational people, gifted preschoolers, camps, resources for parents, etc. Check it out!!

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Raising A Gifted Boy Reader- Parent’s Perspective

Written by: Amy Sherman
My 8th grader has a teacher who is  trying to differentiate in the classroom by allowing kids to choose books from a grade leveled reading website and answer the online questions for points.  She’s doing her best with 30 kids 5 times a day. The problem is: none of the books that he reads are ever on the site – he usually reads adult non-fiction. So he has his sixth grade sister use the site to find books which she has read – usually a few years ago – and then she answers the questions for him!   Also, the questions are simple yes/no answers to see if the book was actually read.
Well, so I try to find enrichment classes around town, only to discover that there are a plethora of math, robotics and science enrichment classes – but nothing that revolves around reading, speaking, debate,  thinking and comparing or history literature studies. Nothing – all math, legos, science, and more math.  In order to find what I’m looking for to help him stay challenged; I have to hire a high school or college professor for a one-on-one class!
All this work on my part is coming too late though – He has this firmly engrained belief that he should not do anything different with his mind and talent. It’s not cool. 
Let’s just say I’ve read a LOT of articles and books on giftedness over the past 13 years, give or take. So something has to be pretty “wow” to, well, make me go “wow,” or in other words make my “I Wish I Could Have Read This Years Ago; It Would Have Explained/Helped So Much” list.
An Interview with Roland S. Persson:  The Talent of Being Inconvenient (First Published in The SENG Update Newsletter, June 2010) is one such article.  Dr. Persson looks like a member of the World Wrestling Federation or the older brother of Mr. Clean, but is in fact a Professor of Educational Psychology at Jönköpping University in Sweden, where his research focuses on giftedness, with an emphasis on social context and the gifted individual in society.
So what blew me away in this interview?   It’s the first time I’ve heard someone provide a coherent framework for understanding that which I’ve been clumsily trying to put forward these past 2.5 years in this blog, namely that verbally* gifted kids (and by extension I guess, adults) have it harder vis a vis their artistically and mathematically/science gifted peers.  (*IMO, verbal giftedness goes beyond facility with reading and writing.  It is sophisticated vocabulary, persuasive argument, deep interest in–and the precocious ability to question, analyse and think critically about–philosophical, ethical, moral, sociological, political and historical issues.)
“Geeky” mathiness–particularly among boys–is what our society typically reads as “gifted.”  By and large our school systems are pretty successful in meeting that need.  Not perfect, but there is a greater openness to and ability to provide acceleration, as well as a burgeoning math/science pipeline in place to foster and reward this type of gift (think math competitions, science camps, scholarships and mentorships, etc.).  Musical artistic talent too tends to be celebrated and rewarded. It’s “okay” for kids to be prodigies in these realms and it feels like summer programs for kids are chock-a-block with theater and art opportunities.
Meanwhile verbal talent is seen as somehow commonplace (“Everyone catches up by third grade and learns how to read”), thus serving as the source of endless frustration for parents trying to work within school systems to find appropriate educational pathways. Frankly, I bought into the mainstream construct too.  It was only in the wake of a CTY SET ceremony that the reality was spelled out for me.  “Just look at the awards program,” this gifted expert told me.  “There is an entire page, four columns in small type of kids who made SET in math (700+ on the Math portion of the SAT before the age of 13).  Meanwhile, there is a quarter of a page, two columns in larger type of kids who reached the same mark on the Verbal section.”
Okaaaay.  Light bulb going off.  It explained why even in gatherings of EG/PG kids, my kid still had a hard time finding “people.”  There truly aren’t that many.  Throw is the gender skew at the very far right of the bell curve and there really aren’t that many.
But back to Dr. Persson (whose research/writing I’m now going to have to seek out).  My “aha” in the interview was his Hero, Nerd and Martyr taxonomy of giftedness.  He writes:
Somewhat simplistically, perhaps, I construed societal functions as Maintenance, Escape, and Change, typified by the more common parlance expressions of Nerd, Hero, and Martyr…. Gifted individuals interested in, for example, technology, medicine, or finance—“the nerds”—all serve supportive functions in society. They are rarely controversial because their skills contribute towards maintaining society, its leaders on all levels, and its power structure as a whole. Also individuals gifted in sports, music, and the arts are much appreciated. A few are rewarded more for the moments of release from stress that their gifts offer. They allow us for a moment to escape into a very positive experience. As scientists, we go to great lengths to study the constituents of their skills.
However, when it comes to gifted individuals having the potential to change the social world by their knowledge and insight, they are rarely as appreciated as their colleagues more devoted to maintenance and escape. We tend to fail to realize the consequences of having an uncanny grasp of cause and effect, so typical of the academically gifted. When confronted with certain conditions and decisions, the gifted individual is very good at understanding what the outcome will be. However, being one voice in a group of others less equipped to foresee the results and problems, who in the group is inclined to listen and acknowledge the single and voice differing in opinion and conclusion? If this individual is being contrary to the leadership, harassment and being contrary to the leadership, harassment and persecution are sure to follow in one way or
another. Interestingly, it rarely matters whether the gifted individual is right or wrong; he or she poses a threat to the credibility of authority. Again, history is full of examples, and “martyr” is sadly an appropriate term.
The greater the prestige to be lost, the more severe the battle to retain dominance and authority.
Or, as Ellen Winner (1996) put it Gifted Children: The gifted are risk-takers with a desire to shake things up. Most of all they have the desire to set things straight, to alter the status quo and shake up established tradition. Creators do not accept the prevailing view. They are oppositional and discontented.