Monday, April 20, 2015

Ages and Stages of Being Gifted

We see so much about giftedness through our own lenses. But for this hop, I wanted to branch out a little, and get some perspective from other people - even those who don't necessarily feel connected or part of the Gifted Community. Since there are so many different ages and stages this could cover, I wanted to hit on as many as possible. As such, I took to interviewing, and today I get to share my results with you.

Now, for starters, this is an extremely limited sample size, as there's only so much work one mama can do from her second home in Statsia, where I've been sitting and composing the bulk of this post in ten-minute intervals. But these are all people related to me, either by blood or by law, and as such, limits my sample size even further, though my family is hardly a "small" sample, comparatively.

I have asked everyone the same questions, and am giving you their responses below, complete with the age or stage in question. I have hope that the differing perspectives and frameworks will help us all gain a better understanding of how people of varying ages perceive giftedness, and how it affects (or doesn't) their daily lives.

We'll start with my own. As it's easier for me to drop my own thoughts in here than grab those of others, I figure to start in my little family and work outward.

Care: I'm a 3*cough-cough* year old mother of one. I have a bachelor's degree in elementary education, K-9, and am homeschooling my only child - a decision I made well before I had him. I was never formally identified as gifted as a child, and am the eldest of three siblings.

What does being gifted mean to you in the context of your life - as a mother, in your career, etc.?
To me, being gifted doesn't mean a whole lot. Not because it isn't, but because I never realized that it was something "other." I knew there was something different about me from people around me, but I didn't realize until quite recently what that something was. Looking back on it, I'm seeing a lot of things that are quite easily understood through the lens of giftedness that were previously inexplicable. Things that make no sense to others are clear as day to me, and things that others brush off as being business as usual stick with me. Even years later I can remember things that didn't go well for me, and often find myself trying to think up ways to handle things that went awry decades ago. I find that Mad Natter and I are very similar, and that in teaching him how to manage sensory issues and attention issues (as well as intensity ones), I'm having to address how I learned to cope with these challenges in the first place. As a mother, and a homeschool teacher, this leaves me both better and less well prepared to manage daily life - it's significantly better because I understand where Mad Natter is coming from, but when overexcitabilities collide? It's never good for anyone.

Tell me about Mad Natter! How old is he, what are his interests, favorite books, subjects, toys, games - as well as about him!
Mad Natter is, in many ways, me all over again. He's headstrong, confident, completely sure that his way is the right way in all things. He's bright and capable, he's sunny and happy, he's completely driven to do things the way he thinks they should be, or need to be done. He's a sweetheart, and (like his father) is also really rather easygoing. Change isn't particularly difficult for him, and he is extremely sociable. He's coming up on seven, so he's a bit over six and a half now, and he loves all things science. He also loves computer games, video games, and anything with a plot. It's amazing to watch him figure out logic puzzles - his intuition is spectacular. His favorite books at the moment are his Minecraft Manuals, though he seems to be starting to pick up Origami Yoda, leaving me to hope that he's finally grokking the concept of reading for fun rather than strictly for information. Again, he loves science, but he also loves spelling - and if you let him do the work his own way, he also loves math! He's all about all things Legend of Zelda, all things Terraria, and all things Minecraft - and is enjoying the blazes out of the Potterverse as well!

Mad Natter: Six and a half year old rising third grader, only child, super gamer.

What does being gifted mean to you? Mad Natter answered this question with "What, being smart?" and a shrug, followed by an interpretive dance. I'm not entirely certain precisely what I'm supposed to take from that, other than perhaps the notion that gifted is just something that is, and this question - to him - is akin to asking him "what does being a boy mean to you" or "why is green your favorite color?" I'm actually pretty okay with that.

Skeeve: Gamer, father, aspiring thinker.

What does being gifted mean to you in the context of your life - as a father, in your career, etc.?
It's difficult for me to narrow down what being gifted means to me because it's such an intrinsic part of who I am. Growing up, I often felt isolated, like I was the smartest guy in the room (however justified that belief might have been), and that's rarely a good place to be; it means you're not learning anything new. Being gifted seems to have manifested itself as a desire for knowledge; I want to know things, doesn't matter what about. When it comes to processes I already understand, I want to find ways to do them easier, quicker, simpler.

Hammie: Wife, mother, grandmother.

What does being gifted mean to you in the context of your life - as a mother, in your career, etc.? I don't understand gifted as you do - I believe everyone is gifted in their own way. I would like to think I'm gifted in how I treat others - I don't think about me, I think about everyone else, and that is my gift.

(author's note: Hammie does grok the difference between having gifts and giftedness, but doesn't inherently split the meaning of the word into its two component parts. She was never identified as gifted, and is uncertain as to whether or not gifted identification was even really a "thing" when she was in school)

Buppa: "You put whatever you want in that space, do I really have to do that part?"

What does being gifted mean to you in the context of your life - as a father, in your career, etc.? Pain in the ass. I was in honors in high school, it took me three years to get out. The classes were all graded on a curve, that was the big thing then, and I was much more interested in baseball than grades. I could have done the work if I'd cared, but I didn't want to compete with the eggheads over something like grades. Much rather hit, throw, catch a ball. My main interest has been statistics. It's analysis paralysis. I'm very statistical, I study numbers and outcomes. For example, video poker. There are 700,000 possible combinations, and there's a correct way to play each hand. Some people play for fun. I study and play the angle of the math - odds, statistics. It's an obsessive interest, and the money is just keeping score. This carries over into most areas of interest - planning trips, baseball, work, etc. Tear the game apart, see what makes it tick. "There is discretion in every obsession."

(author's note: Buppa and I have never had a truly long conversation before. This includes a drive from Chicagoland to Minneapolis. He sat and talked with me for well over half an hour about statistics and numbers. He is also unsure as to the "status" of gifted identification when he was in elementary school.)

Becky:Tell me about yourself - what does being gifted mean to you in the context of your life - as a mother, in your career, etc.?I don't think I was ever formally identified, nor do I know that I am... I tested into our local magnet high school and was placed there, but chose to attend a women's parochial college-prep high school instead. To me, being gifted is completely what you make of it. Being gifted of course puts you at a great advantage over others, but without hard work and determination, that gift is useless. I was able to test into the law schools that I wanted b/c of my mind, but only able to finish school and obtain my career goal b/c of hard work. As a mother, I think I am the classic "helicopter mother" and am always paranoid of things that could go wrong (be that my own mind, or my career, not sure the reason).

Tell me about your Stylish Son! How old is he, what are his interests, favorite books, subjects, toys, games - as well as about him!My favorite question :) He turned 19 months on 3/19! He is the light of my world. His favorite thing to do is have books read to him, anything, even newspapers haha! His favorite books are Goodnight Moon, My Mom Loves Me, and Duck goes Potty. He also loves stacking things then knocking them down, balls, and opening and closing things (mainly cabinets and the latches board YOU suggested! Thank you!) He is basically always happy (unless he misses nap time(s)). He is laid back about going places, but also, like me, very stubborn! When he is using the iPad LOOK OUT, he wont give it back, even if he is getting frustrated with it, b/c he wants to figure it out. I love his combo happy/determined personality. I genuinely feel that this is not just a phase, and accurately reflects his personality.

(author's note: Becky is the youngest of our moms here, a lawyer, and the lovely blogger behind the fantastic My Stylish Son - seriously, if you're looking for fashion for boys, particularly around those times when there are oodles of cute things out for girls and one suit in three different colors for boys, go check her out! She and her Stylish Son are part of a family that trends strongly to giftedness, even if Ms Becky doesn't realize it!)

HR: Tell me about yourself - what does being gifted mean to you in the context of your life - as a mother, in your career, etc.? In my life, being gifted means that I am my own worst critic. I am very hard on myself and have high expectations of myself both personally and professionally. As a gifted mom of a gifted child though, I think it gives me a perspective on my daughter and helps me to understand her learning needs.

Tell me about your gorgeous kids! How old are they, what are their interests, favorite books, subjects, toys, games - as well as about them! Miss M is 9. She is identified gifted. She is fun and funny. She loves the arts, (singing, drama, drawing). She is a strong reader who prefers non-fiction science to novels, although she will read a novel if she finds one she likes. We are trying to find a preferred genre of fiction, and so far her tastes run the gamut from historical fiction to classic lit, to fantasy. Her faves include Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Little Women and Harry Potter. She has a strong sense of fairness and justice and everything is black and white. She is not afraid to challenge authority to defend her beliefs. Miss M has wanted to be a veterinarian since she could talk. She loves animals and has a pragmatic approach to their health. She loves science and has asked to attend IMSA for high school.
Mr A is almost 5. He is a self-starter. Even as a little guy he was great at keeping himself occupied. He loves 'things that work' (motorized trains, video games, clocks). Mr A is methodical and likes routine. He is emotionally sensitive and likes to be reassured. Praise is a strong motivator. He gets angry quickly but is just as quick to apologize and want to cuddle. Mr A loves outer space. He shies away from answering questions about what he wants to be when he grows up, but has said that he would love to be an astronaut if I come too.
Miss N is 2.5. She is much older than her years. She walked and talked earlier than either of her siblings did and has zero fear. She is physically very small for her age, but she wants to do every activity at the park. She loves to make people laugh. She loves the sound of her name, and her favorite songs are the ones I have inserted her name into. She has a stubborn streak that borders on defiance and she really likes to test the waters. She is very loving and is especially close to Daddy.

Miss M feels that being gifted means that she gets to do different work and more fun projects at school! Giftedness really is just a part of our lives. We don't make a big deal about it, but use it to talk about the responsibility that everyone has to use their unique talents to the best of their ability. For Miss M, that means trying hard on homework and schoolwork, even if it is easy, and helping others.

(author's note: HR is the middle-mom! She is chronologically between Becky and myself, and we all share a common set of grandparents. She is a working mother of three who was officially identified as gifted in 6th grade. Miss M was identified as gifted going into kindergarten. She is a 3rd grader now. Mr A and Miss N have not yet been tested. Miss M is the primary child responsible for my even considering giftedness as a "thing" for Mad Natter - in their very young years, Mad Natter was extremely like Miss M!)

Omero: Tell me about yourself!  I'm a 33 year old male, currently working in a telephone survey company. I work only for fun, so most of who I am isn't wrapped up in those things but more in what I do for said fun. I'm an avid tabletop roleplayer, so I play a lot of games like Dungeons and Dragons. I enjoy D&D from the perspective of both a player and as a dungeon master, although I prefer the player experience. As a dungeon master, I get to create entire worlds, cultures, challenges, and people. I get to see how my players react, judge, and influence these things. However, as a player, I get to take on concepts that either interest me or challenge me. I also get a lot more involved with those concepts. Characters I play as the dungeon master are people I only get to examine for maybe an hour at a time, whenever the players decide to talk to them. As the player, I'm in touch with that character all the time, and get to explore their reactions to even those smaller every day situations. I read a lot, always enjoying the different perspectives I get from those viewpoints. It's why I try to make a point of reading from almost any genre I can get my hands on. Historical, true crime, murder mystery, action thriller, romance, fantasy, science fiction, self help, or pure comedy. I've read at least 10 books from each of those categories, and found it worth every page. I play an awful lot of computer games, and I've been a dedicated League of Legends player for more than two years now. I play Minecraft, but somehow never manage to get around to doing any of the 'end game' tasks, instead always getting caught up in building projects and the like. I love talking to people, but I'm picky over which people are my actual friends. However, when someone is my friend, I'm willing to do an awful lot for that person.

What does being gifted mean to you in the context of your life? I was identified as gifted when I was in grade 6 and my public school gave me some standardized tests. I did well enough that I was given some further tests and those tests showed me to be gifted. Being gifted doesn't mean anything to me. I don't take any personal value from it. I don't feel like I'm smarter than anyone else. So, when I get told by people that I'm smart, and that does happen a lot, I just kinda feel weird. It feels like anyone who thinks that I'm some kind of brain genius could get to the same place I'm at if they just kinda mentally stepped through the process of thinking about their problem/issue/question. More or less, the only way that my being gifted comes into play is when I expect people to work on my level and they just don't. It sounds pretentious, but it's not. I don't think I'm special or smarter. So when someone else isn't as smart as I am, I'm surprised, every single last time.

(author's note: Omero has the distinction of being the only person in this list not somehow related to me. However, since he lives in the same house, we count him as family anyway.)

While this is by no means an exhaustive exploration of the notion of giftedness across a timeline, I found it to be an interesting peek into where various gifted people are in their lives, how their wiring has, or has not, impacted them, and how they view the topic. I strongly suspect to, over time, gather significantly more responses from people, and eventually report back on them. I can think of a few people off the top I'd like to ask, but didn't want to hit with a timeline once the idea occurred to me... Maybe a follow-up sometime.  And maybe, checking in with the kids and their parents over time to see what does or doesn't turn up along the way.  What do you all think? What would your responses be?

This post has been part of the Gifted Ages & Stages blog hop from Gifted Homeschoolers' Forum. Keep on hopping to see what others have to say!

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