Monday, August 1, 2016

A Dark Day. Social Issues in School

This month's guest blogger is Sarah Reeder.  Enjoy! 
We're in the thick of winter rains when I pick my daughter up from school. She's been crying. Something happened at school today.  

Instead of this isolated incident, her explanation is told as a lifetime of hurting. Even the children who like her often can't stand her bossiness, her rules , her sense of fairness, her inflexibility and sometimes uncontrolled crying. She is mocked for reading constantly, for reading multiple books at once, for finishing work early, for being consumed by perfection and for asking endless questions of any adult in sight. The list, of course, goes on. She doesn't hear her own self-loathing. I do. 

The digs are often subtle. Adults tell her she's too emotional but always in the nicest way. They are 'constructive' not critical. She is 'bright' but 'not a genius' and obviously needs to work on 'controlling her emotions'. I am pulled aside and informed of this by school staff, almost constantly. I'm not certain that they hear the words they are saying. They simply say them. She loves her teachers and will forgive their misunderstanding of her, as is precisely her nature. She's gladdened that, even though she hasn't learned much of anything new this year, she has the opportunity to be supportive of her classmates learning. She's trying not to cry so much when she's upset. A work in progress, she says. 

I am slain by a wave of disgust with myself for spending a single day, never mind years, pretending that my children are average


We take the long way home and I explain to both her and her little brother, a first grader,what it means to be gifted. I mention the tests they each took. I poorly define 'asynchronous'. Tell them how some of their teachers don't believe the numbers. How some believe the numbers, but think they should be taught the same as everyone else. Clumsily explain that literally ninety-nine percent of the world is different than they are. Little Brother demands the numbers. Sister wants proof. Things that they often insist upon when encountering something new.  

Just like we've talked about before, I attempt to explain different is okay. Different is interesting and a light in our lives. It's not 'better than'. It just is. The whole school knows that Johnny is great at soccer. Everyone acknowledges it and accepts as fact that he is an excellent player. It's okay for our strengths to be acknowledged, too. What's more, it's also okay that we're very good at more than one thing. It's just factual. Little Brother jokes that Sister is good at everything. They both agree that he, though younger, is better at math. 

I ask if they are ever lonely. Sister speaks of feeling like she is the only person in all of existence. She feels like none of her classmates care about her. Her teacher no longer calls on her first. Little Brother echoes her thoughts. He is not allowed to share 'his way' of doing things as it confuses his friends in class. He tries to control himself but knows that his boredom makes him angry and that his anger pushes peers away. 

At home, we plot and plan how to make friends that share our interests. How to find an environment for learning that frees them. What dream days and relationships look like. What they want more of and what they could really do without. We talk about teachers being people, too. Subject to jealousy and misunderstanding and oftentimes, a lack of knowledge. Not every adult is equipped to help them grow. No, they are not obligated to be friends with every child who is the same age as they are. It's more than fine that they have better relationships with the hall monitor than they do with their desk buddies. 'Peer' has categories beyond age. Sometimes, the teachers are wrong. 

I apologize for letting them down, as we sit in the shelter of our porch. For not giving them the tools to build up their own light. Adults can be, and frequently are, wrong. Sometimes I am one of the wrong ones. Sister is empathetic and tells me it's okay. We talk about the freedoms of adulthood. In choosing your peer group. We recognize that accommodating others has it's place... but decide that fitting in just to make others comfortable is not currently a part of our gifts. 

Unsurprisingly, they abruptly leave me to go ride their bikes in the rain. Sister says they'll be fresh when they're done -- good as new. The rain is good for that. 

Thanks Sarah, for your insights.

Check out more than a dozen other great blogs on gifted social issues in this month's Blog Hop: Gifted Social Issues. Click here and read them all...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Gifted in Pop Culture: Role Models Required

Note: This blog contains links to products that are Amazon Affiliates links, to the benefit of Hoagies' Gifted, Inc. Thanks for supporting the Hoagies' Gifted community!
One thing our kids want and need to watch and read are stories where they find others "like them."  Other gifted kids, passionate about real-world issues.  Other gifted kids, with strong interests and sometimes stronger fears.  Other gifted kids who work hard and play hard. Gifted kids, as all kids, need books and movies with role models who they can identify with.  They need to know they are Not Alone!  But where can we find such books and movies?

Books

Reading and discussing stories that contain characters kids can relate to is called Bibliotherapy.  Whenever bibliotherapy and gifted kids are discussed, the first book mentioned is the most comprehensive guide to Gifted bibliotherpy: Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers from Preschool to High School by Judith Wynn Halstad.  Some of My Best Friends Are Books offers parents and teachers two features: a guide to using books in bibliotherapy, and a guide to many great titles for gifted kids of various ages, with details of the topics included inside each book. The books included mostly discuss topics related to the social and emotional needs of gifted kids, and each of the titles listed are good choices for your gifted reader.

Beyond Halstad's book, find lots more excellent titles for gifted readers on the Hoagies' Gifted Hot Topics Reading List: On Being Gifted. Looking for non-fiction titles supporting gifted kids as they grow?  My favorites are The Gifted Kids' Survival Guide (For Ages 10 and Under) by Judy Galbraith and The Gifted Teen Survival Guide: Smart, Sharp, and Ready for (Almost) Anything, by Judy Galbraith and Jim Delisle. Judy is the founder of Free Spirit Press, a great place to visit for gifted books. And Jim Delisle... if you don't know who Jim Delisle is, welcome to the world of gifted education.  Check out his books, find him at a speaking engagement, and get to know him.  His experience with gifted kids is priceless!

For kids between the 10 and Under and Teen guides, gifted kids love 
101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Handbook by Christine Fonseca.  Fonseca really "gets" this age group, and has great ideas that guide these "tween" gifted kids not only to success, but to self-understanding, a far more important characteristic than success, in my book.

For lots more titles for the gifted child, from the youngest preschooler to the intense teen, from vanilla gifted to twice exceptional to gifted kids struggling with anxiety, bullying, CDO (that's OCD in alphabetical order, of course!), and lots more, head back to 
Hoagies' Gifted Hot Topics Reading List: On Being Gifted.

Movies

While I prefer a good book to a poignant movie, there are plenty of great movies that were not preceded by an even better book. And when those movies feature gifted kids and adults in a positive way, offering our kids the role models they so desire to find in their entertainment of all forms... that's even better.  But what movies really do a good job at this, without being Disney sweet or far too intense for gifted sensitivities? Plenty!

Hoagies' Gifted Movies Featuring Gifted Kids (and Adults!) offers a wide range of movies, genres, and ages of both characters and the movies themselves. From the ever-hilarious Who's On First? and other skits by Abbott and Costello in The Abbott & Costello Show - The Complete Series Collector's Edition, to non-fiction titles like Akeelah and the Bee about a young girl who must blend in with her inner city schoolmates until she wins the school spelling bee and begins studying for the Scripps Bee, or October Sky about the Rocket Boys of West Virginia, there are plenty of movies that feature gifted kids in positive and realistic portrayals.

When you're looking for something fictional, The Incredibles offers a family of "supers," and the difficulties of being true to your super self while fitting in (some say hiding) in everyday school and work. In other titles, one parent doubts the gifts of the child until something changes their perspective.  How to Train Your Dragon and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs follow this plotline, both with hilarious and heartwarming results. In a more supportive family, Meet the Robinsons takes us on the adventures that can ensue when time travel to the past threatens the future.

Looking for a movie that combines humor with history?  Check out the Reduced Shakespeare Company DVDs! In their original title The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged not only can you catch all of Shakespeare's plays at once, but you can have a riotous good time doing so.  Three men performing 37 plays in less than two hours may seem a bit of a stretch.  Looking for a little holiday humor?  Try The Reduced Shakespeare Company Christmas  Chase those Yuletide blues away with this hilarious spoof of Hanukkah, Kwanza, and an obscure little holiday called Christmas. And there's more!

No list of movies for the gifted would be complete without my eldest's favorite movie.  Picture Shakespeare.  Picture Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker and others, under the direction of Joss Whedon.  Now you're ready for 
Much Ado About Nothing!

These are just a few of the movies you'll find on 
Hoagies' Gifted Movies Featuring Gifted Kids (and Adults!) list.  No matter the ages of your gifted kids, you'll find movies to share, enjoy, and talk about!

Family time is one of my favorite times with our now-grown gifted girls.  We read books, and talked about them.  We watched movies, and talked about them, often comparing them to the books of the same titles that we read first.  And to this day, our 20-something daughters enjoy spending time discussing the movies and books we've watched and read together!

And don't get me started on the Games we play...

This blog is part of the Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: Pop Culture.  Click to read the rest of the great blogs on Pop Culture (and Counter Culture) in this month's Blog Hop!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Math Is Fun!

Note: all product links connect to Amazon.com through Hoagies' Gifted, Inc's affiliates program. Thank you for supporting Hoagies' Gifted, Inc!

Some people cringe when they hear those words... Math is fun.  Fun? Yes, FUN! Math is all about numbers and patterns and graphs and statistics. It's about fractals and computers and nature and ... life!

Our family's favorite parts of math are the fun and games. We've read books about math as bedtime stories, and play math games to make car trips seem shorter, no pen or paper required. Here are a few of our favorites.

Math books are great for independent reading and reading aloud.

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure. The perfect bedtime read-aloud, The Number Devil is all about Robert's dreams.  Robert hates math. In his dreams, he goes on many adventures, led by the mysterious Number Devil. From number triangles to prime numbers, Fibonacci numbers and beyond, The Number Devil leads Robert through the amazing world of number theory, as he learns just how lovable numbers can be!

The Math Curse points out just how much math is life. As the author says, did you ever have one of those days where everything is a problem? 30 minutes with 10 things to do, 3 shirts and 2 pants to make up 1 outfit, and so on and so on. And then there's school... why can't you keep the 10 cookies without someone taking away 3? You're under the Math Curse!

Sir Cumference and the Knights of the Round Table. The first in a fun series, Sir Cumfernece takes us to the land of King Arthur, where Sir Cumference, his wife Lady Di of Ameter, and their son Radius, with the help of the carpenter, Geo of Metry, create the perfect Round table for the King's peace negotiations. Continue folowing Sir Cumference's adventures with The Sword in the Cone, The Dragon of Pi, and more!

When you think of alphabet books, you might think of some rather boring books to teach toddlers their alphabet.  G is for Googol is an alphabet book that is far from simple, and has something to teach kids from preschool to adult.  Do you know how big a Googol really is? What's a Rhombicosidodecohedron?  The Fibonacci series? And lots more, from A to Z! Once you master the alphabet from Abacus to Zillion, check out Q is for Quark, and discover science from Atom to Zzzzzzz.

For tons more great math books, visit Hoagies' Gifted Hot Topics Reading List: Mathematics.

Reading is rewarding, but Games are grand! Math games bring hands-on practice to arithmetic, logic, and other math skills. Our family loves math games while we're in the car or at home.

The 24 Game is a great game at home, but with older kids, we play more often in the car these days.  In the card game at home, Players try to solve a card containing 4 numbers, using those numbers to get to 24.  You might get there by addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Advanced sets include Fractions / Decimals and Algebra/Exponents, using additional math functions to reach 24.

Once you know how it plays, you can play The 24 Game in the car.  How?  In many states, including mine, license plates usually contain 4 numbers and 3 letters. Pull up behind a car and use the 4 numbers to play.  (0 become 10). So the plate in front of us contains 2, 1, 5, 0. Using 2, 1, 5 and 10, one of us comes up with 10*5 = 50 / 2 = 25 -1 = 24! Sometimes we find different solutions to the same plate.  Math is FUN!

Speaking of travel, whenever we travel I keep Math Dice in my computer bag or purse.  The small mesh bag makes a perfect travel case. Inside, find 3 six-sided and 2 12-sided dice.  Roll the 12-sided dice and multiply them to get the target number.  Roll the 6-sided dice and use those three numbers to reach the target. Much like The 24 Game, but with a different target number each time, making it a little more creative and challenging.

A great new addition to my math games collection is Prime Climb. Prime Climb appeals to kids and adults, and helps kids with their math facts and prime recognition along the way. Roll the dice, and add, subtract, multiply or divide to get to the center of the board. :Land on an opponent? Send them back to start.



Math isn't just about numbers. SET is probably the single highest recommended game for gifted kids of all ages. Cards are dealt and your job is to find a set of three cards. Each card contains three characteristics: shape, color, fill, and number. Each characteristic in a set must be the same or all different. So a set might contain 3 green cards, but the cards might have 1, 2, and 3 shapes on them. Those shapes might all be ovals, but they might have solid, striped, and empty fill. Can you spot a set? Are there any sets in the tableau of 12 cards, or must 3 more cards be dealt? For beginners, separate the deck into a single color and have only 3 characteristics instead of 4, plus you'll have two more small decks to use at the same time!

Math also includes construction, and ZomeTool is an amazing construction set. Sets can be simple or complex, and can be used for tons of creative play. There are puzzles, educational units for many grades, and real-life to ZomeTool opportunities. From the Bubble Kit to the Hyperdo, ZomeTool grows with gifted kids through college and beyond!

For more math toys, visit Hoagies' Gifted Smart Math Toys and Games.

Whatever you do, teach your kids (and yourself!) that math is fun... because it is, and it should be. And once they know that math is fun, the sky is the limit!

This blog is part of the Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop on March Math-ness. Please visit all the blogs in the hop by clicking here...

​​SMPGs: The Heart of SENG

Today we have a guest post by Kate Bachtel, current Board of Directors Chair of SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted). Thanks, Kate, for sharing with us!
“The concept appears to be a paradox: ‘Instruction’ and ‘conversation’ are often antithetical, the one implying authority and planning, the other equality and responsiveness. The task of teaching is to resolve this paradox. To most truly teach, one must converse; to truly converse is to teach.”(Tharp, Estrada, Stoll Dalton and Yamauchi, 2000, pp. 32-33)
SENG Model Parent Groups (SMPGs) are the heart of SENG. The objective of these facilitator guided groups is to unite diverse caregivers of complex, gifted children and provide space for each of us to learn from one another’s expertise and experiences in a nurturing, non-judgmental environment. While not counseling or therapy sessions, SMPGs provide space for critical conversations on how to best support the healthy social and emotional development of individual gifted youth.   

In many ways, by encouraging authentic dialogue among caregivers, SMPGs promote harmony and are a model of the continued evolution SENG would like to see occur both in classrooms and society. 

Last year, SENG engaged in a comprehensive evaluation of the SMPG program. We collected quantitative and qualitative data from active SMPG facilitators and recent participants via both surveys and interviews. The anonymous surveys encouraged honest, unfiltered responses and attempted to prevent positive self-impression response distortion. Here are a few highlights of what we learned.

SMPG Participants Report Transformational Experiences. All but one survey participant reported their SMPG experiences exceeded expectations. Additionally, participants rated their facilitators’ skills nearly uniformly as superior. Here is an example of the of feedback we received:

“This group was SO badly needed for my family. Other families I know need a group like this too, but this particular time did not work out. I wish everyone with challenging gifted kids could attend this program!”

“I do not feel alone now.”

“I’ve learned to communicate better with my child, and it is working.”

“I honestly feel this group saved my family!”

“My child is a happier child, my family is a healthier family, and I’m a better person as a result of this group. Thank you!”

SMPG Facilitators Hold Tremendous Expertise and are Mission-Focused. While SMPG facilitators are not trained as clinicians, approximately eighty percent have more than twenty-six hours of formal professional development in the field of gifted. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of participants rated their SMPG experiences as “delightful” or perfect on our Likert scale. The survey also reinforced our perceptions that facilitators are mission-driven. When asked why they facilitate groups, facilitator explanations align with the purpose of SMPGs: to grow understanding of gifted children, remind parents they are not alone and create safe spaces for parents to connect and share.

This year, SENG is prioritizing taking better care of our SMPG Facilitators. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:
  • More opportunities for SMPG Facilitators to connect, share latest research and best practices (including an exclusive, facilitators only event at conference).
  • Additional SMPG marketing and promotion support.
  • Increased administrative support, including with registration and book distribution logistics.
  • Focused attention on recognizing the contributions and achievements of expert facilitators.
  • Creation of an SMPG Board Champion Position. Interested in applying for this volunteer leadership opportunity? Please click here to learn more.  
The SMPG Program Chair will lead decision making for SMPG related program decisions
  • soliciting input from fellow directors as needed.
  • soliciting input from fellow directors as needed.
  • Lead annual strategic framework SMPG program goal creation process.
  • Point person for collecting data to monitor program progress and to report on progress of annual SMPG program goals.
  • Insure program diversity goals are met as outline in strategic plan.
  • Engage in outlined rounding practices to support healthy community growth.
  • Lead SMPG Facilitator recruiting in partnership with the Executive Director.

The Launch of SMPG + Parent Retreats
In response to feedback from both facilitators and participants, SENG will be piloting a one day SMPG + Parent Retreat in 2016. This workshop format will cover core SMPG topics. The structure will alternate discussion with frequent breaks for movement, meditation, lunch and to connect with family at home throughout the day. While the discussions will be structured in a similar manner to the traditional SMPG model, parents will be held in the comfort of tribe for a full day (8am-4:30pm). We expect this format will help us reach families whose schedules do not align with the traditional eight-ten week program. Our goal will be for all to leave feeling relaxed, replenished and empowered with expanded community and expertise. We already have three SMPG + Retreats scheduled for May. 


Registration for the Boulder retreat on May 10th is live now!


Keep a lookout for more to come!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Surviving the Holidays with a House Full of Gifted!


With a family peopled by half introverts and half extroverts, our family has always had mixed needs at the holidays.  In general, we manage to spread the activity over multiple days.  My husband's family takes Christmas morning and evening, with a nice long nap (and a little food prep) in between.  Scheduling downtime throughout our holidays has been our lifesaver for many years.

Mornings used to start very early, at the crack of dawn, with stockings only.  The kids could see over the balcony to the tree and presents below, but nary a stockinged foot could touch the downstairs floor until the 'rents were up.  Stockings full of little gifts and gadgets delay the inevitable while allowing those sleepy parents (us!) a few extra minutes of sleep.

Christmas brunch is at the house with the youngest kids who can't just be strapped into an infant seat.  For many years, that meant our house; now we head out to my sister-in-law's home for a lazy morning of Uncle Brad's homemade eggs Benedict, Aunt Kim's fruit salad, and our monkey bread. Did I mention it's a lazy morning?  We all show up in our PJs!  Holiday sleep pants, t-shirts and slippers grace our Christmas morning photos.  There's time later for dress up, but for the morning, everyone's relaxed and comfy.

After opening the presents from cousins, aunts & uncles and grandparents, everyone heads home for a food-coma-induced nap.  Yes, a nap, in the middle of Christmas day.  I highly recommend it!  This nap / time to play quietly with gifts gives our over-intense kids and their sleep-deprived parents a break before the family dinner.

Gingerbread churchDinner doesn't vary much from year to year, and that works well for this bunch.  Last year we added a pescetarian entree to the beef tenderloin entree for our eldest niece, our future pastry chef and pescetarian (most of the time). But from the sparkling grape juice to the Christmas cookies made at home and at Grammy's in the preceding weeks, consistency creates comfort for intense gifted kids.

Speaking of traditions, we sneak one of our holiday traditions in the weekend before Christmas... Gingerbread Houses! Extended family and friends get together to create our personal masterpieces and enjoy our traditional pre-Christmas meal, Hot Cheese Monkey.  Check out our Holiday Traditions.

The week between Christmas and New Year's includes more family gatherings, on both of my sides.  The highlight here is "Pollyanna."  None of the kids seem familiar with the old movie of the same name, but they all know what Pollyanna means.  In my large Irish family, families with birth-18yo kids exchange names, and instead of purchasing dozens of tiny gifts (there are 22 of us, just at my generation!), we only purchase one present per child we have in Pollyanna.

And once kids are too old for Pollyanna, there's the Yankee Swap!  My kids are both over 18 now and seem to look forward to Yankee Swap more than they enjoyed the Pollyanna gift exchange.  If you'd like to participate, bring a small wrapped gift.  Everyone draws a number; number 1 is the best because you get to go first and last, and in order, everyone picks a present to open.  The catch is, you can pick something from the pile, or steal something that's already been opened. Each gift can be stolen up to two times. It's fun to see which presents are popular (The Math Behind The Simpsons, who would have guessed!) and which you're 'stuck with." If the present is clothing, you must put it on immediately. It's fun to watch aunts, uncles and cousins parading in the passed-down-year-after-year red union suit.  Just remember, wrapping can fool you... as it did the proud owner of a 20-pound bottle of dill pickles last year!

Like other family events, downtime is scheduled into Pollyanna, and a large, loving, calm Irish Setter is a great thing to curl up with on the floor of the rec room.

For our family, the key to surviving the holidays is a combination of family, traditions, and downtime, with a cat or dog thrown in for good cuddling.  Happy Holidays!

This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: Surviving the Holidays.  Click here to read all the great blogs in the hop this month, and enjoy lots of great ways to de-stress the holidays, no matter what you celebrate!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Gifted Testing: A Beginner's Guide

Gifted Testing. What is it? Why should we do it? What are the best tests to use? What do the results mean? And most often asked... How can I prepare my child for Gifted Testing?

How can I prepare my child?

Let's start with the easiest question first. This is easy, you ask? Sure! Preparing your child for gifted testing is just like preparing her for a good day at school. Relax the night before, get a good night's sleep, have a well-rounded breakfast that includes plenty of protein and not too much sugar. But isn't there more to it? Not really. Test prep, while common in high-stress school systems (New York City comes to mind), is not only unnecessary, it can be counter productive. If we parents are stressed over the idea of gifted testing, our gifted kids will be, too. And that kind of stress rarely improves test scores. In fact, with sensitive gifted kids, quite the opposite may be true; stress may lower their test scores.

Meanwhile, a very well-prepped child may score a little higher on the tests... which may be enough to get a high-achieving but not gifted child into the gifted program. Doesn't that help the child? Not at all. That well-prepped child is still the same child, and the extra depth and speed of a good gifted curriculum is unlikely to serve him well. Meanwhile, the social benefits from being grouped with your academic peers are lost on him, as he's no longer with his peers, but in over his head. For more on prepping your child for Gifted Testing, read Aimee Yermish's How Can I Prepare My Child for Testing?

When should I test my child?

This may be a simple question: the school tests all kids in second grade. Or it may be complex: my child is struggling in school, and it seems like the classroom material is too simple, or he is very different from the other kids and isn't fitting in, or she can't sit still after he's completed his assignments. Gifted Testing may be part of a more comprehensive assessment, looking for a combination of achievement, intelligence, possible learning disabilities and more. But when is the right time to test?

The best time for Gifted Testing is when you have a significant question to be answered. You'd like your child to attend a school that requires Gifted Testing for admission. Or there's a higher level classroom available in your own school or district, but your child must "test into" the class. Or your child isn't fitting well in school, and you need an assessment to see if she's ADHD or LD or (yes, it's possible) gifted.

There is one question that is NOT a good question to answer by testing: Is My Preschooler Gifted? We all strive to be good parents, to follow our child's lead, to interact and spend time with them. Whether your preschooler is gifted or not, you will parent them the same way: with unconditional love and support. You will still spend lots of time together outdoors, and talk to her wherever you go. You will still read together whenever you can, and have him help with cooking and cleaning and shopping. Testing to determine if she reaches that "magic" number won't change anything. If Gifted Testing won't change anything, it's not a good time to test.

It's best to wait until your child is at least 6 years old before Gifted Testing (if possible). This way he can skip the less reliable years of preschool testing, when scores are less consistent over time, and kids are more squirrelly with the tester.

For more, read Why should I have my child tested?

What is Gifted Testing?

Gifted Testing means different things in different districts and states. In many districts, gifted testing starts with a group screening test, designed to determine which kids should go on to further assessment to possibly participate in the gifted program. These group tests, including the OLSAT and CogAT, are usually grade-level, multiple choice achievement / ability tests. For gifted assessment, many tests recommend that potentially gifted students are given a test one level higher than their grade level, so that they have "ceiling" room, and the school can differentiate between the high-achieving student who is at the top of her class, and the gifted student who is beyond her current grade level.

Publishers also provide a "margin of error" for their assessment, which should be added and subtracted from the target test score to include either 65% or 95% of the students who should be included in the program. The larger the margin of error on the test, the larger the confidence interval will be. For example, if the margin of error is 3 and the "cutoff score" is 130, then you should include all students who score 130 +/- 3, or 127 and up (since we want to identify all students at 130 *or higher*). The publisher tells us that this interval would include 65% of the target population. If your school wants to be certain to include 95% of the gifted kids in further assessment, they would have to use twice the margin of error, 130 +/- (2*3), or 124 and up. Easy enough. However, some gifted assessments have much higher margins of error. A margin of error of 7, for example, would require students with scores of 116 and up to be included in further assessment, to have the same 95% confidence interval.

Some Gifted Tests aren't tests at all. Instead, they are surveys, with components for the teacher and possibly the parent to complete. This type of Gifted Test requires that the teacher be well-trained on the characteristics of giftedness. However most U.S. teachers receive no gifted education training in their pre-service education, and only those who intentionally select it receive gifted education training in Continuing Education or advanced degree programs. The parents are similarly handicapped, because unless they are teachers, scout leaders or other instructors of same-age children, they are unlikely to know just how different Abby is from her "average" classmates. Even with other children and extended family, the nature vs. nurture research tells us that Morgan's family peer group is likely to be skewed. Her parents will likely have no average child at home to compare to, and may answer the survey questions incorrectly as a result.

Survey-type Gifted Tests are also likely to underestimate the giftedness of non-native-culture kids, and kids who are seen seen as having "difficult" traits such as speaking out when they're finished their own work, complaining about the classwork due to boredom, or moving around in the classroom. Kids who have both gifted traits and learning disabilities are often thought to be "average" because assessments may try to average their strengths and weaknesses. But having gifted strengths and LD weaknesses is far different from being average in all areas!

Some states and districts require individual IQ tests for gifted identification. This is the most accurate means of identification for most students, but like any one-time measure, it may be only as good as the combination of factors that occur at that moment. Does the test style suit the child's strengths and weaknesses? Is the tester hurried or stressed? Many gifted kids can sense this; this sensitivity is one of the characteristics used for identification. Is the child well today? Is he hungry? Is she tired? Is the room too hot, too cold, or full of distracting noises? Is the kindergarten playground occupied right outside the window? Was he pulled from lunch, or recess, or his favorite subject?

The most common individual IQ tests are the WISC and the Stanford Binet. But no matter what Gifted Test your child might take, you can learn more on Hoagies' Page: Tests, Tests, Tests. This inventory of tests given to gifted kids for various reasons includes links to lots more information, no matter what test or assessment is used.

What's the difference between in-school testing and private-assessment? The short answer is, in-school testing gives you results: scores. Private assessment evaluates the whole child, and gives you a report with score, what they mean, implications for education and suggestions for your child's future. Julia Osborn provides more detail in Assessing Gifted Children

What do the test results mean?

Often the test results are more confusing, rather than more clarifying. So much child is in this percentile, with that standard score, and the other grade level... what does it all mean for my child's education? Before you can decipher the results, you may need to ask for a full score report. It's required for the school to make a full report available, but often, they give only a summary, or only a single number that means either she's "in" or he's "out." The federal law FERPA allows parents to ask the school, and see the full score report and any other contents of your child's records at school, including the cumulative folder (usually the one in the office with only attendance and grades) and more personal records kept with the counselor or psychologist.

Once you have the full score report for each test, you can begin to discern the meaning in the results. A quick guide to test scores, and how different tests and their scores compare can be found in What Do the Tests Tell Us?. And for those confusing variations between ability and achievement tests with scores that sound the same, read Why do my child's test scores vary from test to test?

Widely scattered test results don't necessarily mean that your child is both gifted and learning disabled, often called twice exceptional or 2e. But those variations in scores definitely deserve futher attention, and a psychologist should be able to point you towards others assessments that may give you more information on the variations in your child's scores.

Now you know everything you need to know about Gifted Testing!

Well, not really. For lots more information on Gifted Testing, read David Palmer's Parent's Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education**. I stand by my review, as true today as when the book was first published, "Not just every parent of a gifted child, but every teacher and every guidance counselor of gifted children, too, should read Parent's Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education. Palmer explains all in one book, what it took me years of talking to dozens of gifted professionals to learn for myself. And Palmer makes it easy to read, with review points at the end of each chapter - if you're in a hurry, read the review points first, and pick the chapters that answer the questions you have right now. But read the whole book cover to cover when you have time - it's worth it!"

**Hoagies' Gifted Education Page is an Amazon affiliate; Amazon purchases made through this link support Hoagies' Page.

 
This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: Testing. Visit and read all the great blogs, from parents, teachers, students, gifted coordinators and more!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holiday Traditions!

Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a Fiddler on the Roof!

What traditions will your kids remember next year, in 20 years, for a lifetime? Will he remember the piles of presents, or that Grammy and Grandfather took all the grandkids to the theater every holiday? Will she recall that "perfect gift" you bought for her when she was 3, or 10, or 16, or will she remember the year Daddy's gingerbread house was a train station with the town clock on top (it's always 5 o'clock somewhere!), or the year she created a wonderland gingerbread castle that looked a little like Hogwarts, in red and black on a shimmering lake of silver nonpareils?

Traditions create memories.

What are your holiday traditions?

Ours are simple. Every year, on the Saturday before Christmas, Grammy and Grandfather take all the grandchildren to the matinee of the Holiday Panto at our local theater. Each year, the kids search excitedly to see what this year's Panto will be, and what role their favorite actor will play. They have to see Mark Lazar!

Then when they return, we have the family traditional dinner in the oven: Hot Cheese Monkey. One of the kids is sent down to the "dungeon" to catch the Monkey, and we all enjoy this traditional egg, cheese, bread and sausage or ham casserole, served with cooked and raw carrots for the veggie, and pickles on the side, because... well, because it's a tradition, this one passed down from my husband's grandmother, Gran. For some reason, no one seems to need dessert.

And we decorate gingerbread houses. This tradition is old enough to have taken on a life of it's own. The extended family, and now boyfriends and girlfriends, all join us for gingerbread houses, each with his own house and her own theme. And each year their Dad creates his "secret" project. No one knows what it will be until he's done. Grandfather helps the little ones, while Grammy creates amazing snowmen and other hand-built decorations for whoever wants them. As the kids are growing up, sometimes she even decorates her own house!

We collect the decorations for weeks beforehand. There are always graham crackers for constructing add-on porch roofs or school bell towers, ice cream cones for church steeples, and Necco wafers, Christmas colored nonpareils or frosted shredded wheat for roofing materials. There are gummy lifesavers to turn into wreathes, and licorice allsorts that become stepping stones or window candles, roofing materials or presents under Peeps Christmas trees.

And then there are this year's unique candy finds, those special decorations that we've never seen before. These new decorations delight and inspire! A few years ago, it was chocolate "rocks." They turned into a rocky hillside a garden path, and a rock garden for the turtle. No one knows what new surprises are in store for this year!

One year, we had a Jewish gingerbread house and a Muslim gingerbread house. The kids researched to be certain to provide thoughtful decorations, and they learned about different cultures in the process. Gingerbread as social studies!

Another year, we had a spring house with beautiful spring flowers, a lake and a garden path. And another saw a Halloween masterpiece. One year was a "foil" theme - kisses wrapped in various colored foils were stripped and the foil used to roof and decorate. Last year included an attached garage with a lift-opening door and a candy car stowed inside, at the end of the gingerbread house's driveway. I'm told a black-and-white theme might be featured on one house this year; I can't wait to see it!

Like most traditions, this one isn't quite so simple. We collect candies for months before, making certain we have fruit-striped gum and gummy bears to become sleds and their passengers, holiday M&Ms, and plenty of coconut and mini marshmallows, so everyone can have their "snow of choice."

The gingerbread must be made in advance, and even that's another fun family tradition. We've discovered new gingerbread house molds over the years, including last year's coup thanks to a new boyfriend: a gingerbread train mold! eBay is our friend, for buying out-of-print gingerbread molds. We've mastered forming the dough and then peeling it out onto baking trays to speed the process, but baking 12+ houses is still a two-day adventure. We have egg-white powder to make Royal Icing, and we assemble all the houses at least a day in advance of decorating. We learned the hard way that Rome was not built in a day, and Royal Icing needs a day to set firm!

It's worth every minute of the prep to watch our kids and their cousins, and parents, too, sitting around the tables, passing candies back and forth, sharing ideas and keeping secrets until the big "reveal," and making tons of great memories.

And year after year, the question is always the same... not when will we shop, or what am I getting, but what day is the Panto and Gingerbread Houses?

Traditions!


If you still need a little something to wrap, visit Hoagies' Gifted: Smart Toys and Games. You'll find tons of toys and games for gifted kids and families, all reviewed by gifted kids for gifted kids. These are the toys and games that last more than one day or even one play, bringing years of joy, without driving gifted parents completely batty.

Click Next Blog to continue to the next blog in this month's loop, all featuring wonderful ideas for holiday "giving"... Let's say Bye-Bye to Buy-Buy this holiday season, and make memories our kids will remember for a lifetime!

This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop on Holiday Gifts: Bye-Bye to Buy-Buy. Click here to visit the Blog Hop page, and find all the blogs PLUS a bonus Pinterest Link! And from here, you can visit all the great past Blog Hops, including Gifted Advocacy, Gifted Friendships, The "G" Word, and lots more...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Be sure to adjust your own oxygen mask before assisting others...

We've all heard it, whether on a plane or in a movie. In the unlikely event of a change in cabin pressure... Please be sure to adjust your own mask before assisting others. It's good advice. If you try to help others first, you may lose consciousness from lack of oxygen yourself, and be unable to help the other person anyway. It's really good advice.

...Good advice that we rarely listen to in our own lives. Are you the parent of a gifted child? Are you overwhelmed, exhausted, or just plain "spent," trying to keep up with your own life, and your kids? Put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to assist those around you!

But what does this mean??

As with everything else in this crazy parenting journey, the meaning varies with the individual. For some of us, it means going out for a run, whether around the block or 26.2 miles, a marathon. For some of us, it means spending an hour in yoga or meditation; for others it means spending 5 minutes by yourself, alone, in the bathroom. At least for a few years. But even those 5 minute time-outs count.

For many of us, the last time we spent ANY time for ourselves, doing what we wanted to do, has faded into a distant memory, a mirage on the rear horizon. That's not a good thing.

Whatever we do to take care of ourselves, it's important that we actually DO it. It's important to take care of ourselves before we try to take care of our kids and spouse (in no particular order). It's even more important for our kids to see us taking care of ourselves--our minds, bodies, eyes, relationships--they need to learn to do the same thing for themselves.

Whatever you do for to relax and rejuvenate yourself, keep a few things in mind. First, keep your eyes in mind. Our eyes require exercise, particularly, they require changing focal length to keep their flexibility and youth. We laugh at the ads for Presbyopia on the TV or in magazines, but our eyes do age and harden, and the more we exercise them, beginning in early youth, the better. Do you spend your days working on a computer? Take 2 minutes every hour to focus on something outside your window. Better still, GO outside the window and exercise your eyes, lungs, and skeletal muscles all at once with a few minutes walk.

Next, keep those muscles in mind. What we eat is important, but we could consume the best diet in the world and without exercise, we would not be healthy. Exercise doesn't need to mean distance running or lifting weights; it can be walking around the garden and pulling weeds. Winter doesn't mean that you can't go outside to exercise. Put on your heavy coat and gloves and get outside to admire the ice on the trees, the snow on blades of grass, or the view from the top of the ski slope. Summer where you are? Go for a walk around the mall or the library, in the nice cool air conditioning.

Don't forget to exercise your brain! Use it or lose it turns out to be sage advice for more than just our bodies. Recent research suggests that for many older adults, the decline in mental facility is related to their choice to use or stagnate their brains. In other words, learning, solving puzzles, and keeping mentally nimble is as important to offset the effects of aging as exercise and stretching is to offset the effects of aging on our bodies. Yes, the crossword puzzle or Words with Friends really is our friend!

I'm as guilty as the next person. I spent years of my life in the same routine, day in and day out. I sat in my car commuting to work, where I sat and stared at the computer for hours on end. The only thing I exercised was my fingers... typing. I didn't even have a window anywhere nearby to look out and refocus my eyes. Then I came home and played with the kids, but by then it was usually board games... it was dark out. Cooking, shopping, that was a little exercise, but something for my sanity? Not so much. And I must admit, it's slightly easier to do things for myself now that we are officially "empty nesters," though not nearly as much easier as I expected.

We also need emotional "exercise." For those of us with spouses or significant others, this means spending time together. Preferably together alone. For those of us without significant others it may look different, but it's still spending social time with others who do NOT need their diapers changed, their shoes tied, or their homework supervised. You know, other grown-ups. Not just working in the same cube-farm with others, but spending enjoyable time with them, perhaps dining, talking, book club, or many other forms of adult social interaction.

A few years ago, my husband stumbled on it. He found something that gets us outside and has us exercising our eyes in close and distant viewing. Something that exercises our brains in puzzle solving, observation and learning. Something that exercises our bodies, a little at a time (that's all I can handle; I have limited mobility), but for those who are able, offers miles of hiking, biking and even a little diving and climbing, if you're so inclined. And better yet, something that has us spending time alone together, talking, working on puzzles together, then at other times has us socializing with other adults who share our interest. What is it?

All my friends are grinning now. They know what I'm about to say. Some are as hooked as we are; others haven't tried it yet, and perhaps think we're a little nuts. Two are personally responsible for introducing us to our new activity. Yes, it's...

Geocaching. A global treasure hunt that over 6 million people are playing today. The perfect geek, er, gifted adult activity. Every geocache is a puzzle to be solved, a treasure to be found. Some are so simple you can park the car, step out and grab them. Others require hours of research and puzzle solving, while still others require hours of hiking and searching outdoors. There are over 2.5 million caches active on all 7 continents, plus one in the International Space Station, but that's a "terrain 5" - specialized equipment required. And among those 2.5 million there are caches for everyone, no matter how mobile you are, or how much puzzling or hiking you are looking for.

Geocaching has taken us to historical places near and far, including many we never knew existed. We've learned geology at home and in our travels. We've solved puzzles, simple and amazing; we've even created a few of our own for others to solve. We've met tons of people, and made many friends. And yes, we've improved our health. Not bad for a treasure hunt game!

Geocaching is just one solution, our personal "oxygen mask." What's yours?

Click to continue to the next blog in this month's loop, all featuring amazing self-care suggestions and success stories...

This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop on Gifted Advocacy. Visit all the blogs in this hop!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Advocacy... the story of my life

Advocacy. I always said I wasn't good at it. I talk too much, I'm not good at being "politically correct," and I often put my foot in my mouth... at least when it's about my own kids. I get emotional. I'm not a good advocate for them, though I am persistent. That's a good quality for an advocate.

And yet, it's something I find myself doing time and again. Daily, it seems. A cousin who's second grader is facing the new school year having to "prove" himself again before he can get the enrichment that kept him sane in first grade last year. A friend who's 4th grader is going nuts with the mindless math homework, and needs something to encourage him to bother doing it... like harder homework. Another friend who's 9th grader isn't welcome in Sunday School any more, because the leader is suddenly uncomfortable with her being grade accelerated. Advocacy seems to be my middle name.

So what have a I learned over the years? What can I tell folks to help them make their own advocacy better accepted? And why couldn't I have thought of these things years ago, when I was advocating for my kids? Can't turn back the clock, so I'll focus on the future.

And honestly, that's good advice. Don't focus on the past. What can we do today to improve the gifted child's life tomorrow? There's no point in rehashing the past for minutes and hours. It doesn't help, but it does make folks feel bad; usually folks on both sides of the table. When advocating, let's start with today, and look forward.

Take the other person's perspective. That sounds simple, but often it actually is. Yes, the teacher is making life difficult for your child. But sometimes your child makes life difficult for the teacher, too. And then there's the rest of the things the teacher must be to the kids in her class: teacher, mentor, guide, disciplinarian, food provider, and lots more. All the while she may be worried about her own job, if her students' test scores aren't high enough.

But how can you help these things? They're not in your control. You can't do them for the teacher. Ah, but you can make her life easier, by advocating for options that don't require her to work harder. Like what, you ask? Like homework. It's easy to differentiate homework for one student, and when that student is your child, you're motivated to do it. You can even volunteer to share the differentiated homework with the teacher so she can use it with other children. No, she might not have any other 2nd graders who need 4th grade math homework, but hey, at least you offered!

Another important part of seeing things from the school and teacher's perspective is saying "yes." The teacher is concerned that your child might need more time to develop her social/emotion skills? Yes, I had that concern too. I look at the gifted literature, and found that there's research indicating that excess repetition can actually have a deleterious effect on the gifted child. Let me send bring you a copy (send you a link, whichever you'd prefer) to that research when we're done meeting. Now, I can help you with differentiating for my child by....

And how do you differentiate math homework? Easy! Take your child to the educational supply or the wholesale club, and let her pick out a math book from a grade or two (or more) higher, and buy it. When the homework comes home, replace the grade-level worksheets with similar topic worksheets from the higher level book. The second grade homework is simple subtraction? Replace it with multi-digit subtraction, then add borrowing as soon as your child can handle it. The homework is shapes? Replace with more complex shapes. Telling time to the 1/2 hour? Telling time to the 5 minutes. Easy.

This approach solves many problems. It makes the child far less frustrated with the below-level worksheets for homework. He learns that his parents are working on his behalf, trying to bring more learning into his education. At the same time, the teacher sees what the child really can do, what level he is really working at. And this is his level without any instruction!

For my kids, changing out the homework kept them happy for a year or so while we advocated for the next step: subject acceleration, in our case, in math. But these techniques work just as well in reading, writing, science or social studies. For subject acceleration in math, we advocated for several different options, presenting them as a selection for the school to pick from. Some of the methods were more labor intensive at the school (requiring work by the teacher), some required a little scheduling (allowing the child to go to a higher grade for the subject), while others had a cost associated (signing up for a complete online course). We suggested that the online courses would make the teacher's life easier, and our goal was not to make more work for the teacher, but instead, to make her life easier... while still meeting our child's requirements in education.

The next step in advocacy is often a much bigger step: full grade acceleration. But that's a topic for another post.

For more on Gifted Advocacy, visit Hoagies' Gifted: Advocacy page. There you'll find links to research and success stories, and everything in between. Gifted Advocacy guides, Myths vs. Realities, and more.

For more on creating your own Advocacy Support group, read The Care and Feeding of Gifted Parent Groups: A Guide for Gifted Coordinators, Teachers, and Parent Advocates by Wenda Sheard.

Visit the next blog in the Hoagies' Gifted blog hop on Gifted Advocacy

This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop on Gifted Advocacy. Visit all the blogs in this hop!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

You are not alone! Finding gifted community

In last week's Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: Gifted Friendships I shared the research on the importance of gifted friendships in Gifted Friendships: You Are Not Alone!. This week, I'll help you find community!

One of the earliest things gifted parents discover is the sense that they are alone. If you're not in a gifted community, you learn quickly that while other parents can share and brag about their kids developmental, sports, and even academic accomplishments, gifted parents may NOT. For other parents, it's just normal, everyday parent conversation, but for us... so many parents think we're bragging, or worse, just making it up. We learn early that everyone can share about their kids... except us.

We are alone.

If parents lucky enough to land in a gifted community early and often, we may be lucky enough to have a place to share about our gifted kids, too. But even there, there are things we can't talk about. Have a kid who's not as perfect as the rest of the kids in the very gifted community? Better not talk about it, or we may be "blamed" for somehow causing their uniqueness. Or worse, we fear we'll be drummed out of the community, the one place where we feel comfortable sharing all the great things our child is doing.

We are alone, even in our own crowd.

The most important thing that gifted parents need to know, and be reminded of early and often, is that you are not alone! Got a gifted kid? There are many of us out here just like you! Live in a rural area, where it seems none of us are nearby? We might not live next door, but we are in equally rural (or urban, or suburban) communities, feeling similar isolation. Have an exceptionally or profoundly gifted child who is still far different from the "pleasantly" gifted child, a child for whom the normal gifted program is like giving individuals blades of grass to a hungry dinosaur... it's good, but not enough for the dinosaur to know you're feeding it. You are still not alone, even if you feel alone in the local gifted parents group. Or you have a wildly diverse gifted child, who is extraordinary good at some things, but extraordinarily weak at others? You, most of all, are not alone. Even if there is no other child exactly like yours (and there likely is someone, somewhere), there are many other parents struggling with Twice Exceptional (2e, dually identified) kids like yours.

Gifted community is the lifeline for all of us. It's the place we can talk about parenting these wonderful kids. We can share the struggles of education, or the resources of homeschooling. We can commiserate on the lack of programs at early ages, and create our own programs with our critical mass and our unswerving need. We can find a place to brag and to beg, to share the past and consider the future. But how can we find these amazing, amusing, accepting gifted communities?

There are public and private, open and closed communities. We share on Facebook and mailing lists, blogs and boards, behind firewalls and in real life. We meet at formal conferences and casual gatherings across the country and around the world. No matter who or where you are, you are not alone!

Electronic communities are a great way to get started. For open communities with tons of participants, sure to be folks who live near you, start with the major mailing list communities. TAGFAM and GT-Families offer mailing lists for general gifted topics for families and teachers, on lists of the same names. If you're homeschooling your gifted kids, TAGMAX is the list for you, with nearly a thousand other subscribers who share resources and ideas for homeschooling, unschooling, deschooling and more. GT-Special is the list for parents of those tricky-to-parent, challenging-to-educate twice exceptional (or 2e) kids. And TAGPDQ is the community for you if you're the parent of a "more than just plain gifted" child, those exceptionally and profoundly gifted kids who often require more extreme educational options.

Visit Hoagies' Gifted Online Communities: Mailing Lists for subscription instructions and links for these plus hundreds of other more specialized mailing lists, organized by population, country, state, and district or locality. There is a mailing list for everyone!

Looking for a casual community you can just "drop into" when you need a little support? Though they are more public, check out any one of the great Facebook communities for gifted: Hoagies' Gifted Education Page, SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted), and Gifted Homeschoolers Forum are three popular Facebook gifted forums. And there are plenty more. Just search for Gifted and your other interests (your town, your school district, homeschool, etc.) on Facebook.

Looking for something less electronic and more real-life? Check out the U.S. and International organizations listed in Hoagies' Gifted: Organizations. Many offer conferences, summer programs, meetings and more!

If you have testing and your kids qualify, one of the best U.S. gifted communities is the Davidson Young Scholars program. It costs nothing to join, and offers a wide slate of support options, including electronic and real-lie gatherings. Even if you use nothing else in the program, be sure to join your local DIG mailing list, and attend some of the DIGs (Davidson Informal Gatherings) to meet and enjoy others in the Davidson gifted community!

Whatever means you choose, be sure to explore the online and real-life gifted communities so that both you and your kids learn that You are NOT alone!
 

Don't miss the rest of last week's Gifted Friendship Blog Hop. With nearly two dozen blogs on gifted kids, teens, young adults and adults, plus a couple blogs on the value of "invisible friends," there's something for everyone!