Saturday, August 1, 2015

Learning About Giftedness

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I wish I had started blogging long ago, keeping better track of the things I thought were odd. I wish I'd kept tabs on that moment I had the OMG, GIFTED epiphany. It seemed at the time like something I'd remember forever, but now we're three years down the road, and it's all so blurry looking back.

Slogging through everything I'd ever written anywhere, I finally figured it out. I had realized that Mad Natter was on track to complete the entirety of our local Mooselandia standards for exiting SK (JK being kindy for 4yo, SK being kindy for 5yo) by the time he was four – at the latest. He would have finished their whole kindy curriculum by his fourth birthday, if not sooner. I was confused, and unsure what that said about me, about Mad Natter, about anything. If that meant anything, or if it was supposed to mean anything. A month later, I was in the bookstore picking up a set of BOB Books, trying to keep Mad Natter's interest, hoping and praying that the next set would be a little more fun than Pat sat on the mat. Pat and cat sat on the mat. Cat sat on Pat. Mad Natter was rapidly losing interest in BOB books, finding them boring. So, I was hoping to find something, anything, to help keep his interest while he was still sounding out CVC words. This didn't strike me as odd, even though at the time, Mad Natter was a whopping three years old. Here's what I said at the time:

I went to browse the parenting books, as I'm wont to do. I came across one of those "for dummies" knock-offs, "The Everything Parent's Guide to Raising a Gifted Child." I looked at it. I shrugged. I walked away. I went back. I looked at the back of the book. The first bullet point was "How to determine if your child is gifted." I blinked. We haven't had [Mad Natter] tested, and likely won't. Not because I don't want to know, but because we haven't got the money, and I'm not putting him into school just to test him. So, in this book, I'm about 15 pages in, and it gives me the search terms I needed - "gifted indicator checklist." So, I'm off. I pull up three different checklists, including one from a gifted education center. [Mad Natter] meets a *ridiculous* number of the qualifiers that would point to additional testing. Like, of a list of 25 items, he meets 20 of them, and three of the five he doesn't, I can't make an accurate guess on because I don't have exposure to a ton of other children his age. I think I'm going to ask his teachers to check off a list - see if they see the same things in him that I do. At this point, it appears he may be twice-exceptional - potentially both gifted and sensory-seeking.

That was my first step on the journey. From there, I found Twitter's #gtchat, and I hesitantly joined in. A couple weeks later, I had my heroes in the world, and I was trawling blogs looking for anything that might look like Mad Natter.  I bought all the books. I am not kidding. There are zero books even peripherally about giftedness on our local bookstore shelves that I don't own. I own some that aren't on those shelves. I bought a book for Hammie and Buppa. We stumbled into the Ruf Educational Assessment, and I plunked down our money to run that, too. Three years old, three years before the test/assessment is supposed to be valid, he scored as a “level 3” gifted child. This equates, roughly, to being “extremely gifted” and there being only one or two children like him in any given grade level. Given our socioeconomic conditions, it is very likely he would be the only one (so say-eth the reports, anyhow). I was floored. What do I do with this? How do I manage with this? What does it mean – for Mad Natter, for Skeeve, for me?

It is now three and a half years later. I've got a nearly-seven year old doing fifth grade work with relative ease. Every few months I have an internal meltdown over what we're doing, what we're not doing, all that stuff. But, I have found resources.

First, I found Mrs Warde over at Sceleratus Classical Academy. She walked me through one of my first meltdowns, and we've been thick as thieves ever since. When you find a friend in this community, you stick with them. They're incredibly valuable – not just because it's someone to ping things off of, but you will never find someone who understands better than another parent of a gifted child.
Second, I found blogs. Namely, Laughing at ChaosMy Little Poppies, and Crushing Tall PoppiesI'm including #gtchat here as well - believe me, the chats, even when not inherently relevant to your immediate situation, are incredibly helpful. Plus, you get to network some more and find more people who are living the same life, and may have advice.

Third, I found books.  Oh, books, my beloved means of engaging with new information... I wish I had more shelves. The best to date, in my experience, have been “The Everything Parent's Guide to Raising Gifted Child” which started me on my way, “If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back,” which helped me to not feel so alone, and “Giftedness 101,” which explains many of the acronyms, options, and idiosyncrasies of this whole life, and “A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children,” which is a friendly and gentle introduction to what raising these kids may have in store for us – and how to cope with that.

Communities. Oh, where would I be without communities?  Hoagies' Gifted is a big one – I prefer the website to the Facebook page (this is largely due to Facebook algorithms, and not a reflection on the content!), but Hoagies has a lot of very user friendly, easy to digest information. GHF is my other mainstay. I'd be lost without GHF, honestly. The community there – both on the website and on the Facebook page – has a close-knit feel that is very, very strange for a group reaching several hundred thousand people. These sites are free to use, both the Facebook and the websites, and both offer a huge amount of information and resources. These are my go-to communities, the place where it doesn't matter whether you're gifted poor or not – you're not excluded just because you can't cough up hundreds of dollars to join.

SENG – SENG... I'm lukewarm on SENG. Not because I don't like their definitions, their information, or anything else. I do. But, they're Pay to Play, and I'm poor. Leaves us out most of the time.

ABC Ontario – ABC is our local gifted resource site. They are not, technically, for gifted children. It is the Association of Bright Children of Ontario, which means high achievers on upward. They have some good groundwork in place, and I can see a glimmer of what will be a fantastic community one day, so I mostly mention them in case you're somewhat local to me and this may help you connect with others locally.

All in all, this is a journey with no particular end. There are huge amounts to learn, both about your child... and about yourself. The thing to remember, though, is that you are not alone – and if you really feel a connection to anyone in the communities above, reach out. We're a really welcoming group, I promise. We all band together, we all help each other. We're all in this together, even when we're all at different places in our journeys.

This post has been a part of the Hoagies' Gifted Education blog hop; Gifted 101. Click on through to see more posts on the subject!