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Monday, December 28, 2015

Gifted

When I was in first grade I vividly remember being pulled from my class to take the gifted test. It was the day my dad was coming to read to my class and I was SUPER upset about having to leave because I was scared he'd come while I was gone. I remember crying a lot and not finishing the test so that I could go back to my classroom. I have no idea if I eventually finished the test or not, but I do know that I tested into gifted in that grade. Our elementary school called it Focus and I was in it all through elementary (random fact but my Focus teacher actually died my 5th grade year from brain cancer and my mom ended up being the permanent substitute for my Focus class the rest of that year). I continued in the gifted program throughout middle school. I remember having a big disliking of my 6th grade gifted teacher and wanting to drop out because of it (I can still remember the way she put on her lipstick? Random but that drove me nuts ha!). I remember my mom meeting with her and with me and I guess I stuck it out because I liked my 7th and 8th grade gifted experience much more. While there wasn't a specific "gifted class" in high school I did stick with the AP/Honors track (and graduated with honors) and also was admitted into the Honors program during my freshman year at FSU. I continued with it when I transferred to VSU and graduated from college with Honors distinction.

All that being said, I've always hoped my kids wouldn't be "gifted." I'm not any type of expert in giftedness or anything, I just know about my own personal experience with being "gifted." I didn't know until recently that you can be gifted in different ways but the way my giftedness works is in the way I think and how I analyze (over analyze) things. I'm a deep thinker and am always thinking. I felt a lot of times that it was difficult for me to relate to others and I struggled to find fellow "over analyzers" who see the world from my similar perspective and who I felt  I could have those "intellectual intercourse" type conversations with (if you didn't catch that..."Intellectual intercourse" is from an Alanis Morissette song ;)) Really and truly in my life thus far my Dad and one random kid I was friends with at FSU are the only two people I've met thatI could relate to in the way I think. Not saying that in some braggy way, actually I'm complaining about it. I'd rather not have the deeper thought aspects of myself as I think it causes me to take things too personally and take painful situations too deeply. I over think and over analyze and just wish I could shut off my brain! When you ask someone what they are thinking and they say "nothing" I want to be able to say that b/c I'm not only thinking about something all the time, but usually 3-5 things at once haha! I know there are advantages of the way I think and Casey has been HUGE in helping me find the positive elements of it and owning my giftedness more over the years (she took some gifted certification courses so she has taught me a lot about it!).

Zach also tested gifted as a kid. I'm not sure about his whole gifted story but I know he quit the gifted program pretty early on as he realized he could be in the normal classes and make good grades easier than if he took the honors/ap stuff ;) Zach's giftedness is in his problem solving and creativity. Zach was always an awesome test taker (so annoying that he'd barely have to study and make almost as good as grades as I did from my hardcore studying!). He's not the deeper thinking type person but he just has a STRONG "common sense" about him. The downside of that is he tends to expect everyone to have that same common sense and it can sometimes come across like he is a "know it all" ;) But he's extremely good at seeing solutions to problems: be it tests, or the best route to take when driving, or creating an awesome playroom for our kids. I basically envy his type of giftedness b/c it has so many advantages in daily life!

Zach embraces the giftedness aspects of himself but didn't enjoy the gifted program through school. I am the opposite...I resist the gifted aspects of myself and did (overall) enjoy the school aspect of it.

When I came to having kids I never ever have been the type of mom who has hoped they are gifted. Maybe it's because I'm gifted so I didn't have that pressure for my kids to be? So often parents want their kids to be something that they themselves weren't? (Kinda like I think the reason Zach doesn't pressure Kye with sports is b/c Zach was successful with sports so he doesn't have to have his child fulfill his personal dream, ya know?). I think I know the struggles I've had with elements of my giftedness and didn't want my kids to have those same struggles.


At the start of the school year this year Kye was MEGA ahead of the game. Last year he was one of only 5 kids in his kindergarten class and I didn't think he excelled above his peers in anyway really? I've never thought he was overly smart or a genius or something like that. I know when he was little Lorelai (Robyn's daughter) was always WAY more advanced than he was with her vocabulary and such! It was the same way in his kindergarten class. A couple of the girls were reading chapter books and Kye was still barely reading at all. But something clicked and he just really took off towards the end of the school year.

When he started 1st grade I wasn't surprised that he was ahead of the game. He came from a private kindergarten with a small class size. Shouldn't he be ahead of the kids who were in public school with 28 kids in their class? I really didn't think anything of it at all and when they sent home the letter requesting for him to be tested for gifted I said sure but assumed he wouldn't test in. I figured his teacher just recommended him because of how ahead he was compared to his peers.

During the time period of his testing I did come to change my mind about my feelings on it. At first I really didn't want him to test in, again those concerns about him struggling like I did. But then talking to friends I realized there are a good bit of advantages to it. Especially the way school is now and how so much focus is on testing and such. In the classroom the focus tends to be more on the kids who are struggling than those that are succeeding and it will be easy for children who are more ahead of the game to get board and fall behind because they aren't be given enough to challenge them. I especially liked the idea of him being pulled from his regular class and having the smaller class size. And if he was to test in, I'd want him to get that stimulation that he needs on whatever level of giftedness he may have. I've never thought of giftedness as meaning you are "smarter" but rather that the brain of gifted individuals just works in a different way. I always annoy Casey by saying giftedness is really just a learning disability ;)

I got the letter from the school that he did test in and I honestly have NO CLUE what all the scores and such mean. I did later find out that his creativity (which hadn't yet come back at the time of the paperwork being sent home) was "off the charts" and was beyond some of the 5th graders who tested in. I guess creativity is probably his area then? Again, I have no idea what any of this means. I think they should have some sort of conference with parents whose kids test in so they can explain this all to us, right?!?!


As soon as the results were sent home Kye began getting pulled from his regular class for an hour each day to attend Discovery (what they call the gifted program at his school). It was a MUCH bigger adjustment than I had anticipated. 

Only Kye and one other boy in his class tested in so it was hard for Kye to leave his classroom each day. He didn't like feeling like he was missing out on regular classroom stuff. He also went from being a strong leader in his class and being one of the students who excelled in all their daily activities to being pulled out and taken to a class with lots of kids who are older than him (the Discovery class has 12 kids and they are a mix of both 1st and 2nd graders) and doing much more challenging activities. 

Kye complained daily about Discovery. He didn't like leaving his classroom. He didn't like going to Discovery each day. There were tears on a pretty regular basis. 

A big part of me felt guilt over it. Poor kid had just gotten adjusted to his new school and then he had to change things up again! But I never questioned pulling him out. Everything won't always come easily to Kye. I know right now in his classroom setting everything has been smooth sailing for him. While that is awesome, it's also not reality. Life will get harder and he will face challenges and I don't want him to think it should all be easy all the time. He is a natural perfectionist and I am as well. I used to tend to give up if I couldn't do something perfectly and I don't want that path for him. I want him to be able to push through when things are hard and to learn and grow from those challenges. 

I believe he can benefit a lot from the Discovery program. Not just in the long run, but even this year. I think it's great that he's with some older children who can be a leader to him and that he's being pushed out of that comfort zone of always being the leader (1st born kid = bossy right? ha!). 

His regular classroom teacher has been an AMAZING support system for me. We've talked multiple times about Discovery and she agrees that he really needs to be in there as she simply can't challenge him the ways he needs to be challenged in the classroom. We both agreed that it takes some of the pressure off of us to know he's getting those needs met in his Discovery class ;) We did decide to have him only go Mon-Thur. Fridays are a fun day in the regular classroom and that was the day he would get most upset about having to go to Discovery. I felt like it was a good compromise to ease him into the program and we are going to reevaluate it after Christmas break. 

Once we made the change to Kye going just 4 days a week it REALLY helped. I talked to him a lot about why it's important for him to go to Discovery and how God gave him his brain and the way his brain works it needs that Discovery time. He got into a good groove with it and they started doing more "fun stuff" and he is liking it MUCH better now! It's neat too b/c his Discovery teacher was actually Zach's and Casey's teacher when they were kids! 

I hesitated in writing this post as I never want to come across like I'm bragging about my kid and I know that giftedness is one of those touchy subjects where it can easily come across as bragging. Kye testing in hasn't changed the way we view him or treat him at all. I don't think it makes him smarter than anyone else or anything like that. He's still just Kye to me. I was proud of him before and I'm just as proud of him now :) 

However, Zach and I are super interested to figure out whose giftedness he's more like. Since he was little we've always thought he was more like me in his deeper thinking on things but with that creativity score we're wondering if he's more like Zach after all. Maybe he will luck out and get the best aspects of both ;) Most importantly to us is that he uses whatever talents he's been given to glorify the Lord and my prayer is that as his parents we can help guide him on that path. 

As you can tell, I know VERY little about giftedness. I'd LOVE to learn more so I can best parent Kye for his specific needs. I also think it'd help me understand my own thought processes more to do some studying on the subject. Does anyone recommend any good books to help me learn about all of this?

I read this article recently and really found it to be true. It's very interesting the likeliness of some (or even all) of our other children also being gifted and I really want to learn as much as I can on the topic before that time comes. It's a tricky topic to talk to others about and I'm hoping that by blogging about it I can get connected with other parents who may be experiencing similar things and we can help each other navigate the gifted waters! 

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