Thursday, April 4, 2019

Belonging: My Casual SENG Testimonial

A guest blog by Pamela S. Ryan

The first time I walked into a SENG conference, unsuspecting and unintended, I was blindsided by an aching earnestness like none I had ever known. It beckoned a sort of authenticity I had eschewed nearly a lifetime ago. The feasible divulgence of the complexity & intensity with which nearly all things are regarded was a far cry from the contrived communication I had spent my youth perfecting—always customizing my message for each audience, to flatter or humor or offend, to enlarge or defy or extend—everything engineered like an elaborate game of chess, but only ever with a modicum of the truth, if any. In this shocking, shining moment of epiphany, I realized that I might be experiencing the sensation of community the majority of the human species feels when it enters a grocery store or a concert, a school or a soccer match, an affinity with a population of like-kind, the resonating commonality of residing within the safe hollow of the bell. We who rim the edge are left raw and alone, dramatically separated by the rarity of each other, and pressed to distrust the realities we experience, as the remainder of our species defies our sensations and denies our awareness. We learn to translate our assessments into tones with lesser vibrational spectrum, and endeavor to hear them as if they are our native tongue. But here I was, having stumbled in from the urgent curtailed terseness of digital to the palatial broadness of analog (and a potentially infinite beyond). This was the moment I had spent my life reticently relinquishing hope for; This was the moment I regained the freedom to be alive, and the privilege to be—unfettered & unabashedly—me.

This blog is part of the Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: The Power of Belonging Click for more blogs on The Power of Belonging!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Gifted Adults: Finding Your Tribe

My family spent this past weekend in a hotel 5 hours from home. We joined attendees from a dozen states across the U.S. and two Canadian provinces. The conference we attended was for Gifted families, in particular those who self-identify as "highly or profoundly gifted." The theme this year was "Tribe." Adults and kids, parents and elders to tots of only a few months of age, spending the weekend together, learning about new and old topics in giftedness, but mostly just spending the time Together.

The keynote was P. Sue Jackson from the Diamon Institute. During various sessions Sue talked to us about Profoundly Gifted kids and young adults, and we watched her movie, Rise: The Extraordinary Journey of the Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted Child. The most important message I took from the movie was, it's OK to be a profoundly gifted person, no matter what that looks like.  The kids in the movie were all lucky; they had supportive parents and other adult relatives. They were appreciated. They found ways to be themselves, even if it wasn't easy to do so. Even when who they are wasn't appreciated by the traditional people around them: peers, teachers.

Mostly, all the sessions talked about Tribe, about belonging, about finding your tribe, and helping your kids find their tribe.  About how it's not enough just to have acquaintances, but we all need true friends, those who truly "get" us. How to create tribe spaces in public that will encourage tribe to come to us.  How to find existing tribes through online and real life interest groups, from chess to geocaching, video games to libraries. And mostly, how to find and keep that "tribe" for more than one or two weekends a year, at this Beyond IQ conference, at the PG Retreat, perhaps at a three-week CTY session each summer.

My kids thrived as they do every year in the Young Adult program at Beyond IQ. A bunch of kids from the earliest teens to the 20-something without kids, this group offers discussion, and even play.  Topics might range from underachievement to existence, mindfulness to writing your own user's manual.  Whatever is discussed, the Young Adults enjoy their time together.

Why is this Togetherness, this Tribe so important to the gifted individual, child or adult?

Brené Brown says in her TED Talk Finding our way to true belonging,
"True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are." 
We need each other; we need to belong. But so many of us find that, in day to day life, that belonging only comes at the cost of adjusting who we are. We need to find a place where we can be ourselves, and not worry about being unacceptable, being kicked out of the tribe. 

That is the Tribe we need to find.

I'm grateful to have had decades of Beyond IQ conference for my family to spend with their Tribe. I'm grateful that my eldest found belonging in CTY Summer Programs, so much so that after 6 years of participation she now teaches, helping younger kids find their tribe through their interest in spending three weeks of the summer learning Inductive and Deductive Reasoning.

How and where do you find your Tribe?

This blog is part of the Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: Gifted Adults.  Click for more blogs on Gifted Adults!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Beyond Academics... What should we be teaching them at home?

Gifted kids will learn lots of academics... Maybe not the academics we'd like them to, and maybe not
"demonstrating" their abilities in the way the schools want them to, but still, they will learn. But there are more than a few things they won't learn in school, and really need to know by the time they get to college and "adulting."

Some of these things are obvious, but perhaps get missed because they used to be covered in junior high Home Ec class.  Like sewing on a button or fixing a blown out seam in your pants.  Or even like doing their own laundry.  You'd be surprised how many kids get to college before they have to wash their own clothes, or get out a tricky stain.  And iron a shirt...?  Why?  Because you need to look professional for those interviews for internships or full time jobs! And not everything comes out of the dryer looking ready-for-prime-time.

Basic cooking is another skill kids should have developed long before they leave home.  How to scramble or hard boil an egg, or fry up a hamburger, because not all college kitchenettes include a microwave. How to make a simple meal for yourself, when the kitchen closes before your ride home at the end of the semester. Or an easy-to-eat meal for six.  Cooking for your study group is a useful skill, too.

Do your kids know to register and vote, once they turn 18?  Do they know what the primary process is in your state, or how it varies in other states they might move to?  Have they volunteered at the polling place?  Do they know the little issues they might be asked to vote on?

Do they know how to fill out forms?  How about the answers to common questions... parents' names, birthdates and birthplaces.  Yes, I had to answer those very questions for my 23-year-old today, filling out her passport re-application.

Other things are less obvious, but perhaps more important. Teach them how to balance their checking account, without depending on the ATM to tell them how much is in the account... because the ATM doesn't always include all the withdrawals that are due to come in. Teach them how to establish credit by taking one of those very tempting credit cards that banks are offering our college kids, often right in the college union building. And teach them how not to spend more money than they can pay off each month, to establish good credit.

Do your kids know the importance of paying their bills, especially their health and car insurance bills, that can often be difficult or impossible to reinstate if they fall behind.  And any loan payments.  I watched my neighbor's 28-year-old son have his car repossessed from his parents house, where he tried to "hide" it from his creditor a few months after he stopped making payments. He thought he could save money by skipping payments! It wasn't what his parents thought they taught him...

And once they're gainfully employed, they should know how to begin making deposits to their retirement accounts immediately, because the magic of compound interest makes those early deposits the most valuable to their eventual retirement, even if they cannot imagine it as they're just getting started! Friends recommend teaching our kids how to make intelligent purchases in the stock market alongside more reliable IRA deposits; I must admit this is something we were unfamiliar with and did not teach our kids.  I wish we knew more ourselves!

And then there's self-advocacy. By the time our kids are in high school, they should be doing their own advocacy, whether it's talking to teachers, or negotiating class schedules with their guidance counselor. My eldest worked for years as a college instructor at a large university, and you would be shocked to learn how many parents called her each December and April, trying to advocate for their college student children.  This should never be!

There are the standard dating rules: always carry enough money to catch a Lyft home.  Always meet a stranger in public for the first time. Never leave your drink unattended. No means no, whether you are a man or a woman.  And if the other person is drunk or otherwise incapacitated, help them home... because drunk or incapacitated is the same as No.

If your young adult is going away to college before they are 18, there are other things they should know... like the law for statutory rape in their college state. It doesn't matter if they consented. Not something you might want to discuss, but something you should discuss.

As part of our family "driver's ed" we taught the girls how to change a tire, and yes, we made them actually do it.  Park safely on level ground or block the wheels, jack up the car, and change the tire. That is a lug wrench, and that's where to find it and how to use it. And then take the leaky tire to the mechanic for repair or replacement. We taught them how to deal with the mechanic, too!  Also how to check the oil, antifreeze (when it's cool!), transmission and brake fluids. And of course, how to jump the car. That gets trickier when Dad drives a Prius. We were lucky enough to have access to a stick shift, so both girls can drive stick, too. One still is!

I've asked my girls what life skills we taught them, and what we should have taught them, and this is the list we came up with.  What skills are you teaching your kids, beyond academics?  What should you be teaching your kids?

Visit the rest of the blogs in our Beyond Academics blog hop by clicking here... there are some really great ideas, worth your time!

-- Carolyn K., Hoagies' Gifted Education Page

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Gifted Elder Issues… I’m not that old!

This month’s topic for Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop is Gifted Elder Issues, and I wasn’t going to join the hop.  Seriously, I’m not old.  Yes, at the local diner I’ll be old enough to dine from the “seniors” menu at my next birthday, but that’s a whole YEAR from now!

So why are you reading my post?

Last weekend I had the privilege to attend a women’s retreat with a number of my gifted friends.  Most of us weren’t seniors by any definition; a few were.  But we got to talking about Gifted Elders, as many of us were dealing with the subject from one side or another.

I spent many years dealing with my Gramma’s elder issues.  The mail order prescription company had computer-voice prompts she couldn’t quite make out with her age-related hearing issues, so I took over managing her prescriptions the year Part D insurance was introduced. I helped with her doctor’s appointments long before she needed me to drive, so that there were an extra pair of ears to listen and a spare voice to advocate with her.

I helped her visit apartments and evaluate them when she decided to sell the house she’d lived in since the end of World War II.  We closed up and sold the house, and six years later, closed up and gave up her apartment to move in with her son, my uncle.  Even then my participation continued, and in addition to managing her prescriptions, my gracious husband and I took lunch to her every Tuesday, covered my uncle and aunt when they traveled, and spent every day with her that summer she spent in hospice. I miss Gramma every day.

So I guess Gifted Elder Issues do apply to me.

I’m grateful to my in-laws, who chose a tiered retirement community. Independent living, assisted living, nursing care, memory unit (hopefully they’ll never need that!) and more, all in one complex. But there are still issues for our “sandwich” generation. Right now, our biggest issue is starting the car left behind when they disappear to the south for the winter. This elder issue I can handle!

But what about us? 

I don’t have any answers.  I don’t even know the questions yet.  But we’ll learn as we go along.  I know that there are things we should take care of at an early age: 
  • Will. What happens to your things when you die? Your children?  Your house?  Every parent should have a will that specifies what happens to the children should they die, and how your funds should be managed to support the children.
  • Living Will / Advanced Care Directive. Not only should you create this document, but you should also discuss it with your nearest relatives, who may be faced with making decisions regarding your health if you become unable to do so.
  • Document your Digital Life…. And hand on the key!  What happens to your online bank accounts when you die?  How do your spouse or descendants get the access they need to finalize your affairs?  Who is in charge of your Facebook / Twitter / Google+ / Pinterest account?

    Facebook has a new setting, the Legacy Contact setting.  Go to Settings, General, Manage Account and select the individual who will be in charge of your account when you die.  Decide if you want that individual to be able to download the content and pictures from your account; the default is that they may not. 

What else will we face as Elder Issues?  We can learn together.  Comment below on other issues that come up as we age.  And let’s help each other.  It’s much easier when we’re not alone!

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

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!

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!