I realize this is a controversial topic, and I'm genuinely interested in a variety of responses. DH had such testing done as an adult, and he feels it would have helped him if he'd had access to the results earlier in life. Of course, he was schooled, so it's harder for me to see how this might benefit an unschooled child.
My kids have not been tested as unschoolers but two were tested after they entered school. Dd was tested at 14 in order to secure a wee bit of extra funding for the school, and we were happy to comply because they were being amazingly flexible and accommodating of her needs and desires for time off school for travel and extra-curricular learning. The results confirmed her as very highly gifted with even strengths across the board. Not particularly useful information, as we had known that all along -- but it brought that bit of funding. Ds was tested at 15, which was when he made the decision to enroll in the local high school. In his case we requested testing, because we realized that he had some issues with writing, and we knew that because he was entering school it would be good to document it so that he could get accommodations during standardized exam situations. His "gifted with dysgraphia" diagnosis confirmed what we had pretty much known all along, and the label was useful in terms of getting his needs formally recognized and supported.
Dd13 just started school and has not been tested. She is pretty happy in multi-grade classrooms, grade-advanced in math, science, music and creative writing, and has not needed or asked for anything more than that, so neither we nor the school see any need for testing.
Dd9 is still unschooling and we have absolutely no plans to test her. She is working on average 4 grade levels ahead in academic areas and we have found it relatively straightforward to meet her needs. There's nothing about her learning that makes me wonder about a masked learning disability.
I honestly don't see any need to test unschooled kids for giftedness unless a learning disability is suspected.
Interesting question. We did it because my son was in school at the time and we needed something to help us better understand and advocate for him-- I probably wouldn't have seen a need if we were already homeschooling/unschooling. Now that we are, he can do what he likes at whatever level is appropriate, However... I actually think it has beenhelpful for me to have the information. I think it helps me to better understand his asynchrony, his huge energy and demand for knowledge, his independent-mindedness and strong will etc. He's a quirky kid and always has been, and the assessment did shed some light on this. It also showed a wide scatter in his scores, ranging from very high to quite low-- helpful for me in understanding his lack of interest and avoidance of certain things (ie. handwriting!). Having said that, I don't think I'd bother with testing for an unschooler unless my child or I were having particular concerns and felt more information about this would be helpful.
Cross-posted with you, Miranda! Sounds like we are in agreement though. Nice to hear such positive stories about a school being so flexible and accomodating :)
Thanks, Miranda and Cassidy. The main benefit I can see in our case is that it might help us to better meet the needs of our child who is more asynchronous and has some pretty intense sensitivies. We're having some conflicts with the other kids related to DD's demands that everyone refrain from making any noise (even throat-clearing, clinking a glass, etc.) when she is engrossed in a project like art, writing, or playing computer games. This is the same kid who takes at least fifteen minutes--sometimes as long as thirty minutes--to put on her socks and shoes in a way that is sufficiently comfortable. This has made us late, on many occasions, for playdates, lessons, etc., causing additional conflict. DH and I each have some of our own auditory/sensory sensitivities, and in DH's case they may have actually masked his giftedness as a child and caused self-esteem problems.
I realize that getting a global picture would probably involve numerous tests, so it's something we'll have to think about.
I haven't had it done, but I could see an advantage if you were having trouble finding appropriate resources for your kid, and wanted some feedback about what might be a better fit.
Personally, before I paid for full-on IQ testing, I would (and have!) look into one of the Talent Searches (http://www.tip.duke.edu/ http://cty.jhu.edu/ http://www.ctd.northwestern.edu/numats/ http://epgy.stanford.edu/overview/index.html) and do above level testing. It's much cheaper than IQ testing, and gives useful information, IME.
For sensitivities, I found the Spirited Child books helpful.
Dar, good question. I think DD would probably test as gifted, though I have to say I'm really not big on the whole concept of giftedness--or learning disabilities either, for that matter. In this case, DD has both the auditory and sensory issues, plus some areas of remarkable ability. Becaue of the combination, DH is concerned she won't perceive herself accurately. As I said before, he was schooled, and didn't get good grades, then later in life got into law school because of high scores on the LSAT, and later had additional testing that showed a high IQ. By that point, he'd lived a decent part of his life plagued by self-esteem issues related to his quirkiness and his difficulties in school. He thinks if he'd known about the high IQ earlier, he would have had a positive background against which to view his areas of struggle.
Anyway, at this point I'm not sure I want to go through with testing, because I'm pretty sensitive to all my kids' needs, and I'm working on helping my daughter with the sensitivities (having some myself), and I'm not convinced formal labeling of any kind will change things. My daughter spent seven weeks this fall in a Montessori program , which turned out to be a mistake, and during which time she probably did suffer some self-esteem damage, but we're solidly back in the unschooling camp now, free from many of the doubts that plagued us earlier.
Well, I always thought it would be fun to be tested like that and see what the results were. Now I'm moving along in years and am just a shade less brilliant than I used to be. (LOL) Would have been fun to see the answers.
So, that could be a reason if your kid is interested.
Miranda, I'm overjoyed that spring arrived early this year so we could ditch the socks in March (except for dance class, where tights are required). I recently began looking into the noise-cancelling headphones, and it's encouraging to hear that your daughter had good results with them.
I think that having some idea of how your child compares to a mythical average child can be enormously helpful if your child is interested in pursuing their interest outside the home, and you're trying to determine what classes and resources might be a good fit. I have a child who is an excellent writer. Knowing that she is fairly advanced made me feel comfortable signing her up for a class that was aimed at kids somewhat older, and it's been a WONDERFUL thing for her. Before testing, I knew her skills were good, but the test helped me understand that she was well above average, and so we didn't need to wait to take advantage of this class.
If you do everything individually, and all needs can be met by the parent there might be no point to any kind of testing, but as soon as you are mixing with other people, it's helpful to know what you need, so you can ask for it. In the simplest case, I've found it helpful, when I was looking for book suggestions, to let the librarian know I was looking for books for, say, an 8 year old reading at an 8th grade level. It's a special case, and they can help me more easily if I can clearly explain my situation.
I wouldn't push anyone to test if they didn't feel a need for it, anymore than I'd suggest someone should step on a scale. But in certain circumstances, I think it can be a positive tool.
but as soon as you are mixing with other people, it's helpful to know what you need, so you can ask for it. In the simplest case, I've found it helpful, when I was looking for book suggestions, to let the librarian know I was looking for books for, say, an 8 year old reading at an 8th grade level.
My point is that in order to say "she's working at a Grade 6-8 level" you'd have to assess her somehow, formally or informally. If you don't have a teaching background and you don't use a lot of curriculum, formal assessment can be an easy method of gauging at what level a child is working.
But Harry Potter is written at a 5th grade level. The back cover of most popular kids' books lists the reading level. There's a start. Most people remember learning multiplication tables in 2nd or 3rd grade, so if your kid is doing multi-digit multiplication, or long division, it's a fair guess that she's beyond 3rd grade. And anyway, I don't see why knowing that your 8-year-old's IQ is 136 or 145 tells you that she's a good fit for a science or writing program intended for 10-to-12-year-olds. You're far more likely to gauge that sort of thing by knowing her interests, her social and academic affinities, her learning style, what academic material or skills she has already mastered, and her motivation -- rather than her intellectual potential. If anything achievement testing might be helpful, but I don't see why IQ testing would be.
I haven't felt the need for IQ testing myself, but I know people who have found it tremendously helpful. When they did the testing, they got more than a number, the psychiatrist who did the testing told them things like "people who test at this level are often ready for X at age Y" and so they were able to start looking for resources and start networking so they were ready to meet needs as they arrived. Other families had suspicions of learning disabilities confirmed. I believe it's also helpful in a "no, you're not imagining this" kind of way.
Lots of people do well without any kind of testing, but I think it has its place.
The risks I see in testing lie in embracing whatever predictions the doctor might make to too great an extent, or deciding that your child is a member of a special elite class of humanity. I think that either one could be mitigated by a careful parent.
FWIW I think that in an ideal world, it wouldn't be necessary to quantify intelligence, because everyone would naturally understand how to parent the kids they have. But sometimes people do need help, and testing can be a means to get it.
Thanks everyone for the additional replies. As I said, I'm really not big on the idea of "giftedness" or "learning disabilities" as labels. That said, I've found it more difficult to know how to be helpful to my daughter than to my two boys. My daughter seems to be wired much more like my husband. She is very creative/artisitic and has excellent problem-solving skills; she can commit impressive quantities of dialogue/conversation/television commercials (even in foreign languages) to memory after hearing them once; she has sensory and auditory sensitivities and yet has a craving for risk-taking physical activities and novelty (loves wild rides and has expressed interest in bungee jumping and downhill skiing). At the same time, she's not yet reading fluently and has some minor articulation issues. So when she tried Montessori school (she really wanted to try school, and it was the only decent option in our fairly rural location), the teacher immediately held these things against her, denying her access to some of the more challenging works because "There's a sequence, and we have to follow it." Whether or not this was a violation of Montessori principles is pretty irrelevant at this point.
My husband had a similar experience; he was probably nine before he read fluently, and he, too, was assigned to speech therapy. No one suspected how bright he was, and he struggled through the rest of school bored and yet considered an average or worse student. He got into a selective liberal arts college on the basis of his high ACT scores (and later into law school based on high scores, despite his sub-average GPA), and the world of higher education was pretty much a revelation to him. Later IQ testing confirmed him as "gifted," but he also had the testing done with a battery of other assessments that he found useful in understanding himself, directions in which he might want to take his career, etc. He emerged with new confidence in himself and a sense that the sky was the limit.
So that's the background. I've read extensively trying to find out more about how my daughter is wired, and the descriptions of visual-spatial learners seem mostly on target. The notion of the "Edison trait" also rings true. I realize these are also labels, and I'm not so interested in them as labels as such; I'm just trying to figure out how I can better identify with my daughter, who learns in a way that is very, very, different from what I experience.
Laura, thanks for the response. Interesting that you mentioned summer camp. I was considered starting a new thread about how unschooled kids fare in camps and other programs not specifically for unschoolers. We've done some day camps but passed on others because I didn't think they were set up to deal with kids who are used to lots of autonomy and/or kids who are naturally outside-the-box kinds of thinkers.