Saturday, June 15, 2013

Near and Dear

This week's evening #gtchat was on a topic near and dear to my heart: Manifestations of Giftedness in Young Children.  You see, I have a huge problem. Left to my own devices, I arrive at the conclusion that Monkey - in fact, our whole family - is perfectly normal. Nothing unusual about any of us. The fact of the matter is that we are not normal. Not in any way, actually, but the point still remains. We all read before kindergarten, we all were adept with letters and numbers, we all learned to do things faster than our peers. But, without chats like last night's, I still default to thinking there is something "wrong" with Monkey, and not simply something unusual. 

You see, Monkey has had all the classic hallmarks of a gifted child, even from within hours of his birth. Hammie (his grandmother) commented that she was worried something was wrong - when she first held him, he looked right at her, as if he were taking her measure. I didn't know this wasn't something hours old infants usually do. He also said his first three words at 9mo, and then didn't speak again until he came out with full and complex sentences at about 14 months.  I thought the large delay meant troubles, not that he was parsing grammar.  He, at four, often tells people and things about how disappointed he is, or how excited, or how terrific something is, or wonderful, and even uses "I think you may be mistaken" on occasion. He loved letters from the moment we exposed him to them, and he learned his letter names before he was two, and their sounds only shortly thereafter. I'd loosely begun teaching him to read, but he didn't care. Just after his third birthday, he asked me to teach him to read. I think that was October of 11. He was reading CVC words by November, and was able to sound them out himself, and move on to much more complicated words by the time he was 3.5. Now, he's reading at an approximately 6yo level, and I still wonder if maybe I'm mistaken, and he's not really gifted, but that I've just given him too much credit all around. 

I'm not entirely sure what to do with myself. I know that a child working near-universally on a first grade+ level should be 6 and not 4. I know that a child working at a middle of 1st grade level should be nearing seven, and not five. But then I wonder if maybe I'm guessing wrong. I know where he is, and I know what he's doing, isn't that enough? But then the rest of the thoughts come crashing in. Of course it's not enough. It's a wonderful start, but these are things I need to know in order to make the best educational decisions for him. Then we factor in that Mooselandia schools are generally assessed to be more lazziez-faire in the early primary grades than American schools, and it occurs to me that he may be farther ahead of his peers than I thought. Which is, in and of itself, a useless thing to know. But knowing it in the context of knowing that our local school district "doesn't believe in" acceleration makes a huge difference. I can't put him into the regular public school. He is already functioning as if he were a second grader there. Worse, the district doesn't assess for giftedness until grade 4. So Monkey would go into senior kindergarten (K5) this fall... and know the entirety of the curricula planned for K-2. By the time he got to grade 2, he would likely already know the things planned for 3-5, and when they assessed him in grade 4, he would be operating at a grade seven-ish level... if I didn't lose him long before then due to sheer boredom. 

Looking to see if you have a gifted child isn't hard. It's not even hard to say "yep, my kid is gifted" (as long as your audience is receptive, which is a whole other ball of wax). What's hard is what that means. The implications of that realization. The impostor syndrome that inevitably pokes in to second guess everything. How you relate to family, friends, strangers - and how they suddenly think everything is bragging, whether you're simply proud of your child, or making a factual statement.  The signs are there, from as early as the day of birth. They aren't hard to see. It's accepting them, and what they mean, that is the challenge.

Do you think you may have a young gifted child on your hands? Here are some resources to take a look at and check it out:

http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10162.aspx
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/child-genius/articles/what-makes-such-an-exceptional-child
http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Testing/
http://www.talentigniter.com/ruf-estimates
http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/young_children.htm