Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thanks for everyone who took time to comment on my post Is It OK to Say “Gifted” from the last week. Usually I respond to my commenters via email (by the way, you might want to check if you have “show my email” checked in your blogger settings), but this week I was struggling to find time for it. So I will try to answer to some of the comments in this post. First of all, I was blown away with how many of my blogging friends were in TAG programs – even though I am not really surprised reading their blogs and seeing how they successfully lead their children to love learning. I want to stress that I am not against differentiated education at all. In fact, I do believe that magnet schools or special classes are probably the best way to accommodate students with special talents. What bothers me more is “early gifted identification”. In online world I’ve seen parents saying that their toddler is gifted because he/she can recite ABC at the age of 18 months. I’ve seen parents testing their children IQ at the age before 3. Sometimes “giftedness” is used to justify obnoxious behavior like “oh, he is acting out because this activity is boring for him”. Let’s be honest – young children are already very much full of themselves. They don’t need another label from us which will make them believe they are even more special than they already are. Sooner or later they are going to find out someone who is smarter or they will learn to avoid activities that might jeopardize their view of themselves as “the smartest guys in the room”. And then there is the whole other aspect of learning to respect and value people who are not as quick in learning as they are. I see a lot of merit in a passionate comment by Discovering Montessori: “Lets teach our children to uplift those who are not as smart. These "gifted" children are needed everyday in the classroom. To help a fellow student which allows the "gifted" child to build leadership. They help the teacher to not lose their passion.” I hope that instead of “learning ABCs with others” (by the way, I suspect that in our school district pretty much every K student knows them anyway) my daughter can spend her K year in our neighborhood school learning how to make friends and how to help others. It will be at least as valuable to her as any academics that she could learn in a more competitive environment.

25 comments:

Phyllis said...

I used to belong to a co-op of mixed aged children and I wanted to have classes of wide age range so that the older children could mentor the younger, but no one else agreed with me. My idea was much like you were saying about the gifted building leadership skills. No one else agreed with me. I pretty much have that concept with many of the activities I do with all of my children together. My older kids have learned from the experience, too.

Christy said...

I agree with you completely. Collin learned so much more than I expected in Kindergarten because he was a mentor. There were two autistic boys in his class and C learned a lot from them even though neither of the boys can express himself verbally. It was a very rewarding year. C does not have any special needs children in his class this year, but he is still working as a mentor with children in his class who need help with math or reading. Some people prefer that their children are in groups with other children at the same level academically, but I notice that C does well with mixed groups. It increases his confidence in his own abilities and he is a very good helper.

Debbie said...

This post really struck something in me. I remember always being the one in class that was teamed up with the kid in class that was not as strong academically speaking, and I always loved it until the kids made fun of me for having to sit by these kids all the time. Then I got tired of always having them around me every minute I turned around in school. My point is teacher's can over compensate with the brighter child in letting them help teach the slower student, and this is not always a good thing either. Sometimes when children are put in this position in the early grades, when the work does start to get harder, they have formed the teacher mode more then the learner mode, and that can hurt their ability to absorb new material.

Joyful Learner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joyful Learner said...

I deleted my super long comment. Basically, I agree with Debbie.

Infant Bibliophile said...

Very interesting. I am going to go look back at the comments now (can't remember if I even commented). I agree with most of this, but I'm not sure about this part "They don’t need another label from us which will make them believe they are even more special than they already are." I tell my son he's clever or say, "how do you know how to do that, are you 8 years old? what? only 2?! wow!" etc. all the time. I may be totally wrong and raising an egomaniac (time will tell!), but I figure he will meet plenty of people in his life who make it their mission to knock him down a notch or two. I like to think it is my job to raise him up as high as I can, in every way. (I think we "know" each other well enough that you won't mind me expressing disagreement here). :)

Infant Bibliophile said...

I see now that I didn't comment on your original post. I had a thought, but never got around to stating it succinctly. I just wanted to say that I feel this issue comes up a bit when we're in playgroups with other moms sometimes. None of our kids are in school yet, so that makes the issue a little different too. When they see things that my son is doing (like reading or geography), and they get concerned about their own kids (I'm not saying they SHOULD be concerned, or that they all do, just some), then I think there are only a few things I can say or conclusions they can draw. 1) they're not doing enough to teach their own kids. 2) they'll think my son is particularly gifted. 1 insults the parent, 2 sort of insults their child I guess. I usually try to sway them more toward something like, "oh, they all learn different skills at different times. They have so much time. Our son still needs to work on x, y, or z." Really though, his Dad is brilliant and I always did extremely well academically, so he probably IS naturally gifted. I'm not sure there is any harm in admitting that. I would hope if our neighbor's son was the child of two pro soccer players and racing around the field like Pele, they would just say, "Yup, he's gifted when it comes to sports alright," rather than pretend that level of skill is "normal." And then I'd want them to give us a few pointers. See, still not very succinct, which is why I didn't comment before. :) And I still keep debating whether to post this!

MaryAnne said...

Your approach sounds similar to my own. Mike and I always excelled in school, and so I won't be surprised if my children do the same. But I worry that the term "gifted" may lead them to value one thing (academic excellence) over other attributes. I hope to raise children who will appreciate the many different strengths of their peers, and who will do their part to leave the world a better place than they found it. And while I do want to give them a strong academic foundation, there are other very important things for them to learn, such as how to make friends and identify opportunities to help others.

Joyful Learner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Infant Bibliophile said...

@MaryAnne loved your comment!

Debbie said...

I wanted to add I don't like labels placed on children, I watched as the schools labeled my daughter Developmentally Delayed. While yes this does describe her, and I will use this to explain to others why she is such a slow learner and does not process information to her benefit. I did see where being labeled this at the age of 4 put up walls that inhibited abilities we knew she had.

While when asked about Selena, especially when people do not understand her spirit, and brightness we will refer to advanced for her age, our pediatrician did use borderline gifted as a reference about Selena. I however feel strongly that to have her labeled anything at such a young age could in fact have the same results as I seen in her mother. I see other children here in the blog world that are more advanced then Selena in some areas, but who lag behind in other areas. I just don't think that people rather they have learning difficulties, or are advanced need labels at all, they all deserve respect and to be encouraged in their natural abilities as well as their emotional needs.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

So I'm thinking, if so many of our blogger buddies were in TAG - does that mean this is the nerdy end of the blogosphere?

Debbie said...

Good question Leah! Though I never thought of myself as nerdy!

Discovering Montessori said...

Thank you so much for allowing comments on your blog whether disagreeable or agreeable. These types of topics really allow me to reflect. I always enjoy your blog and look forward to reading about the fun learning activities you and Anna do. Thank you for sharing!!

Joyful Learner said...

Leah, if nerds spend great deal of time on the computer then, yes, we're all bunch of nerds! But brilliant nerds! ;) lol.

Our Homeschool Fun said...

I agree with everything you said in this post Natalie. This was very well written.

And, kids teaming up, mentoring, helping others learn--another wonderful reason I loved Montessori!

Great post!

Joyful Learner said...

I found this, I thought I'd share since it's relevant to this topic.

http://themorechild.com/2010/07/05/too-early/

Mom and Kiddo said...

NYC tracks kids into the G&T program based on tests they take at the age of 4. 4! This is completely ridiculous. And there is basically no chance of getting into the program after that. (Things change at the middle school level, though). Proving this is a ridiculous policy is the fact that survey after survey shows that by the time the kids are in 5th grade the performance level of the non-G&T kids is the same at those who were in the G&T program. Besides which, even "gifted" kids have different skill levels in different areas. We can't all be equally brilliant in all subjects which is another reason why mixed level classrooms are beneficial.

Summer Skeeter said...

This is tough, because every child has gifts. My son was verbal very early (4.5 months), and he is very creative in his play. But he does not like to talk to strangers, preferring to observe for a few minutes first. An average-verbal child might appear brighter to a stranger for the first minutes at least, just because of learning style and personality differences. Same with reading. I've chosen to keep reading as a group experience, even though I'm sure my son could learn to read now if we tried. I know some children crave early reading skills, but my son prefers pretend play right now. I cultivate an attitude of dispassion when it comes to how other people label my child. It's only my responsibility as their parent and teacher to bring forth their gifts, whether other people see/value them or not. It can be challenging, though, to have a less bright older child praised for doing things my son did at 18 months, without sinking into comparisons when another parent is pressing for praise. I think that's the sort of social problem parents of bright kids face, the question of how to acknowledge the gifts all children bring to the table when our culture emphasizes competition rather than cooperation.

Debbie said...

After reading the reference from Joyful Learner, it reminded me of some friends of mine who homeschool. When they moved to a new area when the oldest was in first grade, they sent her to school thinking she could make new friends. They have never considered her gifted nor advanced until that year when the teacher couldn't even find enough busy work to keep her from getting bored sitting with nothing to do. They finally had to pull her out and resume homeschooling as she wasn't learning anything new. What did she get out of this experience? She might have gained one or two friends, but mostly tears and frustration.

Ticia said...

hmmmm...... interesting.

I personally loved the "preschoolers are full of themselves" sentence. best part of it all, made me laugh.

April said...

I never use the word "gifted" for my daughter, because that term to me implies a child prodigy like Mozart or someone like that (and she has yet to show me any signs of that). But I do know that she is very smart. Not because she knew letter names and sounds at 18 months because of course a kid who is taught the ABCs will know them better than one who is not, but that doesn't mean that either is smarter than the other. But she does grasps concepts easily. And she was always early on both motor and language skills. I can tell that Anna is very smart and I am sure that you had an idea of that at a young age.

I am wondering about how my daughter will do at school in a couple of years. I am not thinking of putting her in a "gifted" program but perhaps something like a Montessori or a multi-age group classroom. That way she can better work at her own pace (and they try to discourage competition). I know you said that almost all of the kinder kids already knew their ABC's. The school district that I live in is predominately Title 1 meaning that the majority of the students receive free or reduced school lunches and some form of government assistance such as food stamps. I can guarntee you that MOST (but not all) of the students do not come to school knowing their ABCs. I am a substitute teacher and I see some first graders struggling with CVC words. I am wondering how my daughter is going to deal in those classrooms. I was a "smart" (not gifted) kid. I was tested to be on a 12th grade reading level in 5th grade. Teachers often had me sit next to the lower students to help them out as well. I am guessing that is what they would do for her.

I wanted to add that I do think that labeling children is dangerous though. I know plenty of students who are placed the learning disabled class at the age of 4 and I think that is ridiculous! And I am not talking about those who were born brain deficiencies. So if I think that is crazy, I have to also agree that it is crazy to put a 4 year old in a gifted program.

April said...

I never use the word "gifted" for my daughter, because that term to me implies a child prodigy like Mozart or someone like that (and she has yet to show me any signs of that). But I do know that she is very smart. Not because she knew letter names and sounds at 18 months because of course a kid who is taught the ABCs will know them better than one who is not, but that doesn't mean that either is smarter than the other. But she does grasps concepts easily. And she was always early on both motor and language skills. I can tell that Anna is very smart and I am sure that you had an idea of that at a young age.

I am wondering about how my daughter will do at school in a couple of years. I am not thinking of putting her in a "gifted" program but perhaps something like a Montessori or a multi-age group classroom. That way she can better work at her own pace (and they try to discourage competition). I know you said that almost all of the kinder kids already knew their ABC's. The school district that I live in is predominately Title 1 meaning that the majority of the students receive free or reduced school lunches and some form of government assistance such as food stamps. I can guarntee you that MOST (but not all) of the students do not come to school knowing their ABCs. I am a substitute teacher and I see some first graders struggling with CVC words. I am wondering how my daughter is going to deal in those classrooms. I was a "smart" (not gifted) kid. I was tested to be on a 12th grade reading level in 5th grade. Teachers often had me sit next to the lower students to help them out as well. I am guessing that is what they would do for her.

I wanted to add that I do think that labeling children is dangerous though. I know plenty of students who are placed the learning disabled class at the age of 4 and I think that is ridiculous! And I am not talking about those who were born brain deficiencies. So if I think that is crazy, I have to also agree that it is crazy to put a 4 year old in a gifted program.

Vitore said...

I think we've discussed this topic in the past. I flunked out of 1st grade because it was profoundly boring. I am a March baby so I was also a little order than many. I was never taught math, but I'd look at the homework, know the answers, and not bother writing them.

Later in elementary school (and in a different country), I entered a TAG program. It was a blessing because the material was accelerated by 1-2 years but I was with peers my same age.

The problems for me came from the following:
1) Parents, teachers, and other adults praising and recognizing how "smart" I was. All my self esteem was wrapped up in this quality. Also, I never learned time management or study skills. When things got too easy, I procrastinated and did them last minute or in less time to make them more interesting. This turned into a disaster in college.

2) Accelerating academic material, even with same-age peers isn't necessarily nurturing to the gifted or academically advanced child. Gifted to me means "unbalanced" -- if you are miles ahead in one area, you are probably behind in another. Gifted kids often have sensitivities - sensory, emotional, psychological, behavioral - that need to be addressed. They need to be coaxed out of some shells and isolating behavior. Programs that teach you calculus at an early age DON'T GET IT. You don't need to do calculus at age 11. You DO need to learn how to relate to people, especially your peers if you are educated in public school.

As for the education of my own child, I am willing to give public school a chance. I am also learning everything I can about homeschooling. We belong to a mixed-aged coop now and love it. Several of the other 4- year olds are also at a similar level. But there is a span of abilities and the kids help each other out.

I've heard many mixed reviews of more academically advanced kids and how they fare in kindy. It depends on the curriculum (Montessori seems to do better) and also the teacher (how they can challenge and engage that child).

Given no other option, I would rather homeschool than have my child advance grades. I was bullied so viciously as a child, even in the TAG by TAG kids. Put a child who is youngest by 1, 2, or 3 years into the mix and you are making their psyche to the mercy of the older kids. Don't count on mercy of elementary school ages kids!!

Carmen said...

Just "stumbled" on to your blog, and I'm so glad I did. I retired last year after 31 years in public education. I agree with the comment of "not liking labels on children". One year, "before testing", I had a class with 24 third graders. Nine of them were truly gifted kids (only they did not "know" it), the rest were way behind. I had nothing in the middle. However, those nine, brought the class up with them by example. I had a student teacher that year and she and I still talk about all we were able to do with those children. By contrast, years later, I had a class of "gifted" children who were so caught up on the label, they did not perform according to their potential. The parents were worse about reminding me their children were gifted. The next year I asked to be given a different assignment. You see, I taught as if all my students were gifted. That is the only way I know how to teach. I believe children will respond if challenged. Teacher expectations do matter.