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Please help me find a good place for my maybe gifted child

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 



I'm new here, but have been lurking for a while.  I'm hoping some of you might have some good suggestions for me.


I have an 8 year old dd who is smart.  I don't know if she is gifted because we homeschool, and she's never been tested.  I do know that she learns stuff really quick, and really easily.  Most stuff she seems to know without me teaching her.  We had to do a year end test for schooling when she had just turned 7, and she was reading at greater than a 6th grade level.  She's about to start a 5th grade math book, but I'm hesitating because I flipped through it, and I'm certain she can do all of it with ease.  I'm contemplating starting with the next level, but don't want her to miss something.  I know most of what I mentioned is achievement based, but it isn't because we have pushed her.  She just knows, or desperately WANTS to know things.  I could list tons, but the point is that she is easily 2 to 4 years ahead of her peers in all areas. 


Because we are on the road a lot, we have done a poor job of developing a good community for her.  This has caused two problems.  The first is I have had no where to talk about the wonderful things she is doing.  It isn't about what she is doing, but that the things she is doing is what makes her her.  I haven't had the opportunity to praise her, or share stories of her because when those things are academic, people feel you are bragging.   Our neighbor was so excited, "Jimmy's doing in great in school.  He can read all 100 sight words.  He had to work real hard to do it."  In the background, Jimmy is beaming, both at his success and his mama's praise.  I can't follow that up with, "DD is about to start math 5.  She's been so excited, she's doing 10 pages of her old math book a day to finish it.  So, dd doesn't know how cool I think she is. 


The second is that she, while having a low-ish self-esteem, is kind of arrogant.  Nothing has ever been hard for her.  We've given her a few physical challenges that push that upper limit, but the list is short.  She just sort of refuses to try the physical things that are hard, and glosses over the rest. 


So, for my question.  We have to find a community where she can really be herself.  She needs a place that is intellectually stimulating, and where she isn't always the one with the answer.  It needs to be hard, but not too hard.  And, we live in a small town.


Right now, she is taking a myriad of lessons, but none of them really address the problem...swimming, track, horse riding, piano, violin...she needs something extroverted, and intellectual.




Thanks for reading, and thanks so much.  I'd appreciate any advice, especially on how to make her feel super good about herself, when what makes her her makes others feel judged.  I feel like I've handled this all so poorly.

post #2 of 11

One suggestion I have is to get an independent test by a center that specializes in gifted children. There are significant differences between bright children that like to learn and gifted children. No sense in crafting an intervention if you don't know what you're dealing with. Gifted children have specific needs but you need to find out in what ways she is gifted, if at all. A really thorough evaluation (which will be about $1500 to $2000) will give you tons of information and make specific recommendations to help her. Good luck!!

post #3 of 11

I have a gifted 10-year-old who is also homeschooled, we also live in a small community. I also have three older gifted kids who were homeschooled until adolescence.


I'm not a big believer in bragging and praise. I think it's perfectly healthy for children simply to know that they are loved and cherished, and that you value their kindness and their hard work. None of that has to hinge on public recognition or praise of their accomplishments. I think that's particularly true when the accomplishments come easily, because it can create an imposter syndrome whereby your child feels unworthy of the praise and believes there must be some sort of accidental good luck and lack of validity in the accomplishments. My eldest dd (now 19) hated doing readings at the local Writers' Festival because writing was something that came entirely naturally to her; the accolades all rang hollow. Yet she enjoyed the positive attention she got performing on violin or piano, because she knew that while she was extremely advanced, she had worked hard to get where she was.


This is a really good article on The Power (and Peril) of Praise with a gifted spin in New York magazine. It's worth reading through to the end. It really encouraged me to think about the nature of self-concept, and about perfectionism, and confidence. There's a fair bit of conventional wisdom about praise and self-esteem that really doesn't bear up under scrutiny.


I've made an effort to ensure that my kids are involved long-term in something that is individually paced and multi-faceted where persistence, hard work and problem-solving are necessary. For us that has mostly been music lessons. I'm surprised that your dd's violin and piano lessons aren't providing her with challenge. Perhaps she either needs a different teacher who will expect more, or perhaps she would benefit from more support and higher expectations from you so that she is willing to put more work into her instrumental study. The sky is really the limit with music instrument study: there's all the challenge a kid could ever need in piano or violin provided they're willing to do the work. It gets more complex, more difficult, more multi-layered the better you get: it really is a case of "the more I learn, the less I realize I know." Music isn't everyone's thing, of course, and if she's not willing to work hard because she doesn't like violin or piano, you should probably try to find something she does like: dance, martial arts, community theatre, math contests, chess training, whatever. But if it's a pattern with her of simply coasting along with minimal effort, she probably needs you to help her learn how to work hard and push through difficulties and temporarily flagging motivation. 


Like you I prefer not to provide that vigorous support and "active facilitation" in the realm of academics. Eventually my kids have all chosen to attend school, and to have them astronomically beyond what a school could offer would have been a major problem. Things like music, though, tend to be much more individually defined: there are no age-grade-levels in piano.


I think that finding something that is individually-paced and persistently challenging also mitigates against a type of arrogance -- the incredulous sort -- that no one could possibly fail to know how to do something. It lets your child understand that sometimes a surprising amount of hard work is required for mastery. When other kids don't know things she does, or can't do the things she can do, it's not because they are lazy or deficient. It's because for other kids this learning requires "the same kind of hard work you had to do to learn sautillé bowing in the Mozart -- remember all those weeks you had to keep doing those exercises before it started to get easier?" It helps gifted kids understand what it is to have to work really hard to learn something and helps them build empathy for others' learning challenges. It also, of course, builds the habits of problem-solving and persistence that get applied to other areas. My dd10 is a beginner at gymnastics and not particularly gifted in her abilities there, but she's spent hours over the holidays working step by step, repetition after repetition -- just like she's done on violin -- at the skills for walkovers.


I've found that a stimulating intellectual community can take many forms. In our case (living in a village of 600, hours away from a large city) it doesn't look anything like a middle school chess club or a congregated gifted class. For my kids it's been far more about mentorships, and about informally mentoring within multi-age, multi-level interest-based group activities.


So for instance, several years ago my ds (now 17) joined a club for kids and teens interested in gaming (PC, Xbox, etc.). It was facilitated by a couple of local computer geek adults as a community service for rural youth. My ds found that the other teens involved in the club were pretty unsophisticated in their understanding of computers and computer games. He divided his time between helping out the other kids and hanging out with the adult facilitators. He gradually got involved in building and managing computers for the club, administering the network, managing the budget and advocating for community support. He's now on the Board of Directors of the society that manages the youth rec. centre and its tens-of-thousands-of-dollars budget, manages their website and their computer network, is part of a peer counselling network, and acts as recording secretary at meetings. His "challenging intellectual community" is primarily adults, but he is also challenged in role as youth mentor.


I could give similar examples of how my 10-year-old's challenging intellectual "community" exists very much outside the box and includes a huge variety of people of various ages. Maybe in an urban area we'd have been able to find clusters of agemates to create an intellectual community for each of my kids, and maybe we'd have been thrilled with that community. Where we are, in the middle of nowhere, with only 5 to 10 kids in each annual cohort, that's definitely not going to happen. And I don't think it has really mattered, at least it hasn't really become an issue until the mid-teen years. 





Edited by moominmamma - 12/28/13 at 7:14pm
post #4 of 11

My suggestion is not to worry too much about it. I completely agree that your daughter needs a community where she can be herself, but that doesn't mean she needs to be around other intellectually gifted people. I have no idea what my IQ is or whether I've ever been legitimately "gifted", but I've always been considered "smart" (though the general consensus seems to be to never give children this label -- see Nurture Shock). I was reading 4th grade books in kindergarten. In 8th grade, I won a state award for scoring higher than the average 12th grader on the SATs. I went to Caltech for college, which most people haven't heard of, but those who have know it's incredibly hard/geeky (think Big Bang Theory). I got my PhD from Stanford.


The great thing was that my parents (postal workers with no higher education) had no idea I was anything other than a fast-learner and honestly, they didn't care. My elementary school principal approached my mom about having me put in a "gifted and talented" program, but she said no without ever asking me, because she didn't think it was important. When I found out later, I was kind of annoyed about it. I still think the program might have been good for me, but at the same time, I think my mom's attitude was more valuable than anything I would have gained from being in the program. When I was growing up, I always thought I wanted my parents to acknowledge my accomplishments, but now that I'm grown, I'm so glad that they didn't. I always worked hard for me and no one else and never felt pressured to be something I wasn't. I knew my family loved me, but never felt like it hinged on how smart or successful I was. I think my love of learning and drive to achieve would have been less if I'd been raised any other way. To me, it sounds like you're already doing a great job.

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Wow.  Lots to think about. 


At 1500-2000, testing isn't an option.  Are there other ways to get a general feel for where a kid is?  Though, I'm not sure it really matters?  It doesn't change who she is.  I have a dear friend who has three children who are struggling learners.  Her 13 year old is at a 2nd grade level.  Her response to my newfound dilemma? "Different problem, same solution.  Our kids need to be able to be themselves."


I don't want to be misunderstood about the praise thing.  I absolutely agree with the problem of empty praise, which means that dd gets almost none, because the true triumphs are few.  And it also means, because of the people around us, that I don't usually even say much about her at all.  The other families' kids her age (also homeschooled) are barely doing school.  We tried to play a game with our local group, and had to give up because the kids couldn't read well enough.  My six year old could manage, and dd reads at a 6+ grade level.  The disparity in our circle is that great.   We just started formal school a few weeks ago because I felt she needed the structure and challenge, and she's WAY ahead. Anything I say just falls flat.  She catches that, too.  And I'm truly not trying to brag, I'm just trying to answer the question, "What did you do this week?"  A few years ago, I just gave up, "Uhm, you know, just the usual.  Hey, did you hear it's supposed to be warm this week?"  A big part of this problem is the travel, specifically moving.  We move with my husband's job every 1 to 3 years, so we have to completely start over.  We just start to get a new network built and opportunities, and then we are gone again. 


She has been teaching herself piano, as our first experience with lessons wasn't favorable.  She starts with a new teacher in a few weeks.  Violin is also fairly new.  I'm really thankful for your thoughts on music, and the struggle.   That sounds perfect.   And, gymnastics also.  I had been waffling on gymnastics but did sign her up again.  I think you are wise to say she needs the effort.  I have been remiss in that arena, and if it takes tears through gymnastics, so be it.  It's so hard for me to know what is pushing and what is encouraging. 


researchparent- I appreciate your perspective.  I have gotten narrowed minded in thinking that if I could just find intellectual peers, all our problems would be over.  That isn't really it, though.  Really, I need to find people who don't roll their eyes at what she thinks is neat.  It's ok if she found a bug in the woods.  Not ok if she wants to talk about nuclear reactors or the Holocaust.   I remember a lady we met at a party once.  We never saw her again, but dd was clearly having a great time with her.  The lady was in her 60s, and dd talked her ear off for nearly 45 minutes.  I was in the other room, talking with some other women.  The lady came barging into the room, interrupting our conversation to demand, "She is NOT five."  Not knowing she had been talking to dd, I was confused.  Once I figured it out, I actually had to argue with her for a few minutes before she gave up, shaking her head, "That's just incredible."  That's what I want for dd.  People to surround her who enjoy her, and who are pleased to hear her thoughts, not people who feel judged by them. 


Thank you all so much for your replies.  I have a lot of thinking to do.  We can figure this out!

post #6 of 11

Something to think about--

Grade equivalencies on tests are really misleading..it all depends on the test that is given. I've often heard parents say "my kid is reading at the 12+ grade level!!" but that is not usually true...this is why.


If the test given is the same test for every grade (as in, every child in every age gets the same test), then the grade estimates are more accurate. The problem is, those tests are longer and more expensive so they are not often used, especially in the younger grades.


Most times, however, a 2nd grade kid is given a test for 2nd graders. Say the kiddo gets all the questions on the test correct. That child would then be at the 12+ (or adult) grade equivalent. Does that mean that kiddo can read college textbooks? No way. What it means is they performed, on that 2nd grade test, the same way an adult would on the 2nd grade test (getting all the questions right). If that same child took the test that the 8th graders were taking, she might come up as a 3rd grade equivalent, because she does not have 8th grade skills yet and would likely get the same number of questions correct as a 3rd grader would.


Say that kid gets half the questions right. Still working on the reading skills for 2nd grade. The grade equivalent would show up as pre-k, perhaps. Does that mean the kid is 2 years behind? Nope. 


I guess I get a bee in my bonnet about those grade estimates. I think they do some damage to kids who hear they are at the 10th grade level (which can get them big in the britches) or whatever and then feel bad because they have no interest in reading Shakespeare. It would be so much kinder to everyone if test results were presented a little more clearly....such as "skill mastery" without the associated balderdash.

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

lanamommy- Yes, I am aware of how tests are normed, and why those sorts of tests don't mean she is working at a 6th grade level.  However, she does read books with a lexile score of 1300 or so without struggle, with speed, and good comprehension.   Also, as far as math, it's not subjective when I know she is about to start a course intended for average 5th grade students, and I know she has already mastered the majority of the material in the text.  I also chat up the parents of public school kids during soccer practices and whatnot, and know that she is working at higher levels in third grade at home than gifted fourth graders in our local public school. 


Again, she's not been tested as far as gifted/not gifted, but she's certainly ahead of the pack.  Here are some examples from around 17-20 months old.  Those few months are very clear in my mind because my husband was away a lot on business and I traveled to see family. 


*could count to 30,

*knew all the colors and 6 or 7 shapes,

*could read a handful of sight words,

*could sing I don't even know how many songs.  lots and lots.

* talk in complete sentences (she had over a 100 words before she was a year old),

*was master of the word "why" and was persistent.  she drove me crazy.  Why is the road curved?  So the rain can run off.  Why?  So there are not puddles.  Why?  Finally I realized if I just gave her the 5 minute explanation up front, she would stop,

* understood jokes, and had intricate questions (like, how does the power plant work, or atm machines),

* one day laid out a bunch of plant starter pots in the yard and said, "Mama, this is my 7."  And she was right.  There were seven.

*could play "mary had a little lamb" on the piano

*could quote several longish books, and would have nightmares about some of them (she hated the runaway bunny.  she would wake up yelling, "I want him to go back!  I want him to go back!"  and when curious George goes up in the air with balloons was intriguing, she would try it, but the kite story was terrifying and she wouldn't touch a kite until she was past 5 years old.)

*could rhyme and would ask me to make up songs that rhymed with random words

*could name several types of trees in our neighborhood


It's actually kind of funny that I didn't realize that she wasn't "normal", I guess. 


And because she is ahead of the pack, she doesn't fit in, and that takes me back to our problem.  Any suggestions?

post #8 of 11

I agree that there is a significant difference in meaning between "doing as well on a 2nd grade test as an average 6th grader would have done" and "doing as well as an average 6th grader on a 6th grade test." Still, in a homeschooling environment I don't think such details of achievement or IQ matter a whole lot. This mom can eyeball a 5th grade curriculum and see that it would present little challenge for her child, graze the cumulative review exercises with her child to fill any gaps and move onto the 6th grade curriculum, slowing down and supplementing if it proves too challenging. There's so much flexibility in what and how and how quickly material is presented that you can simply go with the flow. You don't need to identify whether the student will be able to cope with a straight-up 6th grade classroom experience and then commit to a grade skip or subject acceleration. I also think that when a homeschooling parent says that their child is 2-4 grade levels ahead in subjects, those estimates have in my experience and observation been borne out pretty well if/when those kids enter the school system -- because they're not typically based on in-level achievement testing but upon comprehensive observation of performance with advanced materials.


To the original poster, about the math acceleration specifically. I think what you really need to do is try to find the level that is the most interesting and enjoyable to your child. She will lose interest and become frustrated if she has significant gaps that can't be easily filled, because the new material won't make sense to her. She will also lose interest if the supposedly new material lacks challenge and is intuitively obvious to her. If she's interested and engaged by the 5th grade book even if it seems too easy to you, simply eliminate superfluous repetition and drill exercises and allow her to move through it as quickly as she wants. If on the other hand she finds the 6th grade book much more interesting, set to work on it, and if she reaches a point where she's confounded by equivalent ratios or something she's never been introduced to before, take a little gap-filling diversion at that point. 


I have four gifted kids. Only the older two were tested, and that was done only upon the point of entry into the school system (9th and 10th grade respectively). The testing was to help the school access specific funding on their behalf to help pay for the accommodations that had already been granted. I have a newly-15-year-old taking a slate of 11th and 12th grade courses at school, and a 10-year-old taking 9th grade math, and neither of them has had IQ testing. So in our case formal identification was not necessary for homeschooling and it wasn't even necessary within the school system for some pretty remarkable levels of accommodation. 



post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice, Miranda.  I'll start with the 5th grade book, and see what she thinks.


As for the immediate need for stimulation and people?  I just gave her a Japanese language book that breaks down conversations for ease of use.  I told her if she learned the sections on dining out, I'd take her to a restaurant so she could to talk to someone.  (I heard of a place recently that is owned by an Okinawan lady who apparently loves to talk, and has down time in the afternoons.)  We have been toying with Japanese for a while, but she is bored because there is no where to use it, and the rest of us are far too slow in learning it.  I told her today that I realized we were holding her back, and that didn't really have to be the case.  She's pretty excited, and is holed up in her room making flash cards as I type.  She is also going through the painstaking process of learning to read and write the language, but this immediate feedback will be really gratifying to her.  She is such an extrovert. 

post #10 of 11

Oh yes okay I see. Not necessarily a question about verifying the label, but what the heck to do with a kiddo who is not really fitting in with age mates due to a difference in interests. Gotcha.


Here's what works in our land, even though it's a little unique. We do a lot of volunteer gigs as we travel full time. My 6 year old unschooled kid has friends ranging from a year old to retired people. She plays dolls with grandmas and talks about animal cruelty with college students. Never quite sure what is going to come out and when and with whom, but occasionally she will say that it is boring to play/talk with ____ because they don't get it. She could be talking about the retired person :-) Or Me!


She's tall for her age and has a crazy vocabulary, so she is often mistaken for an older child--thus treated as such, so sometimes folks have been like "wow, what's her deal" when she had a rough time because her socks didn't fit right or something. Kind of like you, I said "well, she's just turned five"...she'd said something like "I can't articulate it right now mom!" before chucking her shoe across the lane.


Anyway, I love to see what happens in the aftermath of frustration/boredom when it comes to figuring out a direction to go with learning. It's just the part about being patient...that can sometimes drive me up a wall trying to figure out what to throw in her direction. She ultimately gets to the place...


The thing I like best about the volunteering is that she can be side-by-side with others learning something new, yet it doesn't depend on how well she understands geometry, Shakespeare, etc. It could mean that she's a great Condor-spotter or a plant identifier. Or, that she completely doesn't follow what is going on and has to be patient as she learns from folks that are sometimes younger than she is.


She tried to "teach" a neighbor playmate who was about 10 or so about how to put together circuits, but the boy didn't have the attention span to hang with it...so she adapted and said, "okay, wanna hear some crazy sounds?" and built something he could try. Later she said "mom, that kid was boring", so we talked to some length about it, and the next day we figured out he knew a lot about cows, so he gained some credibility with her. She has learned that sometimes it's about having someone interesting to spend time with, and sometimes it's more fun when they don't know our stuff.


Eh--not sure any of that will prove helpful--your dd is lucky to have a mom who is trying to save her from becoming arrogant and friendless and such.

post #11 of 11

Op, like you I am trying to find my footing as a parent of a really bright child.  I hadn't put two and two together until recently because it hasn't been that obvious.  We don't do a lot of schooling so the hodgepodge that is his learning just now began to clearly show signs his capacity.  I also don't have other children to compare my son with.  I am starting to see that academics come really easily to him, at least so far.  He is only 7.5 so there is no way to know what the future holds.  In terms of challenges, we have picked art (drawing) as our path and they take classes a couple of times a week.  Both my kids are artistically inclined and they spend a lot of time drawing. There sometimes a lot of frustration and struggle. They both have perfectionist streaks and have a tendency to deem their work not good enough in their eyes.  I am never sure how to handle this really, but I am bumbling through it. My kids are still young but I am keeping an eye out for challenging opportunities.  I find conversations like this helpful and so OP thanks for starting this thread :)

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