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?


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.


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 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!