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My Cheetah July 25, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, homeschooling, older son.
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I read this wonderful post discussing the measurable decline in creativity in the US.

When you read things like this, it hits a lot closer to home when you have kids in school. It’s even worse when those kids are gifted.

The older boy was a third the age is he is now when I first heard that he might be gifted. The only reason this was put on my radar is because I brought him to some researchers studying one of the myriad diagnoses that his teachers threw at him. I wanted some experts to evaluate him.

One of the things they threw out as a possible source of classroom conflict was that he was gifted. When I discussed this with his teachers, they said they didn’t think that was the problem because they had lots of students who were gifted.

The trouble with getting teachers to identify gifted students is that they are not on the lookout for kids with great insight. They are on the lookout for kids who are organized and compliant. Some gifted kids are, more are not.

When I finally had him tested by a psychologist who deals with the gifted, I was in for a shock. Saying he might be gifted was a considerable understatement.

The first thing I found on the internet about giftedness was Stephanie Tolan’s Is it a cheetah?. After that I delved into a ton of educational literature, most of which told me that 95% of the time, gifted children are left in an emotional and intellectual black hole in a normal school system. They aren’t challenged, they are picked on for being different, and they are highly likely to suffer depression or other issues because of how many cannot deal with being around someone who is different.

After fighting with the schools and teachers who claimed he couldn’t be gifted, the boy spent that last two years in a program for kids in the highly gifted and above range. The change has been amazing. Many people have commented on how much he has matured. And he has.

I think the change is because he was allowed to grow, to pursue some of his own interests without having them be discounted as ‘extraneous nonsense’ because they didn’t mesh with what teachers wanted him to do, to hang out with kids who treated his quirks as what they were rather than a reason to tease and attack.

But now he’s going to be leaving this school, and the road ahead is not clear for him. We are tenatively planning to homeschool part-time and be in regular school for a couple classes a day.

I have made it clear that his emotional well-being is more important than him being “properly socialized” in school. (What does that mean? He gets to feel like crap because other people are picking on him?) I have seen what a difference it makes to be around other kids who are like him and with teachers who respect him as a person. He’s become very comfortable with himself and gained a lot of confidence.

If I see that slipping away or if I see that he doesn’t have enough time to focus on his talents and interests, he’ll be done with public school.

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1. Chris Gammell - July 26, 2010

Wow, that article about declining creativity is eye opening. I can only imagine the implications for the future.

I was also struck by the mention of children playing alone and left to themselves were a good indicator of creativity. I wonder if that is yet another argument for the North Dakota way of life…creativity through needing to create ones’ own play and enjoyment. If a kid grows up with constant stimulation, when does the time for creativity happen?

Finally, I always recall an article from Scientific American about creativity. They have interviews with three different creativity experts about things that will help to promote creativity but aren’t institutionalized models (i.e. forced creativity). Just things that help to promote self learning and creative play. The article is just a preview unfortunately but I will send you a copy that I printed a while ago.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-unleash-your-creativity

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2. mareserinitatis - July 26, 2010

I may actually be able to get the article, so I’ll check it out tonight or tomorrow.

Actually, I’ve heard this a lot from nearly every area you can think of: people who do well in their fields had a lot of time to think about and explore things on their own as children.

I know a lot of people thought it was crazy the way I was homeschooling before. No spelling tests?! He’ll never learn to spell. I knew that it was more important that he read because he’d learn how the words should be spelled by exposure…and he’d be exposed to a lot more than just spelling if he read a lot. He’s learned a lot about writing and moral issues and everything else through reading. And he’s had time to think about it. Those are the things that kids really need: exposure to ideas and time to think about them.

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