Bright vs. Gifted?

A search that led someone to this blog recently was “bright vs. gifted.” This made me curious — what’s the difference? We’re so sloppy with our terms — smart, bright, gifted (moderately, highly, exceptionally, profoundly, etc.), talented, high-performing, high-acheiving, high-potential . . . what a muddle. No wonder my state’s G/T organization has been having a length discussion on how to use terminology that will make it easier for school districts to implement better gifted programs. (Fie upon that, sez I! Clone a flying pig while you’re at it!)

I did find an interesting web page from TagFam with a discussion of that very distinction, however, and to many parents of gifted children it will make sense:

Comparison of Bright vs Gifted

Bright Child vs. Gifted Child

Knows the answers. vs. Asks the questions.

Interested. vs. Extremely curious.

Pays attention. vs. Gets involved physically
and mentally.

Works hard. vs. Plays around, still gets
good test scores.

Answers questions. vs. Questions the answers.

Enjoys same-age peers vs. Prefers adults or older

Good at memorization. vs. Good at guessing.

Learns easily. vs. Bored. Already knew the

Listens well. vs. Shows strong feelings
and opinions.

Self-satisfied. vs. Highly critical of self

On the one hand: yes, I understand these distictions, because I live them. On the other hand — why do we make them? There was a little voice in the back of my head asking whether this was a way of saying either “Yes, your child is smart, but mine is smarter,” or “Oh, my child is too smart to bother with co-operating and getting along.”

But then when I remembered how we ended up homeschooling (perhaps not why we keep homeschooling, but how we started) I thought, yes, if educators understood some of these distinctions between kids who appear to do well in traditional school and kids who are clearly more than capable of the work and yet struggle in school, maybe that would help. In any case, I think it can help parents of those gifted kids and in turn the kids themselves.

It’s not a contest — it’s not like my profoundly gifted kid gets the gold while Mr. moderately gifted gets a bronze and Miss diligent student gets honorary mention. Every day in this house we see that giftedness is global — it’s a very vague word for explaining how a person’s brain works whether that person is using her mind in intentional ways or not. It’s an intense way of being that — I know, get out the violins — can be as exhausting and trying as it is a “gift.”

And it helps to talk about it — at least among friends — because it just is different from the way the vast majority of people and institutions operate. Without acknowledging that difference, way too many gifted children and adults devise “coping” strategies like feeling alienated, superior, inferior, or all three at once. They don’t recognize that they’re kind of like elite athletes, who use their muscles more intensely than most must and so also rest them more intentionally than most — except that the intense engagement of the brain can feel almost involuntary. (I don’t know — do super-athletic types have an almost involuntary tendency toward constant physical motion? I’m not the one to ask. πŸ˜‰ )

I’ve probably said too much already. Anything in sympathy with giftedness seems guaranteed to offend someone, and it’s probably obvious that I’m thinking as much of my own experience as that of my daughter! I guess, like Violet, I find how the brain/mind works endlessly fascinating.



Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Why Homeschool?

7 responses to “Bright vs. Gifted?

  1. I’m not offended! πŸ™‚

    I think gifted kids just have a lot more going on inside than most people. They doesn’t make them a better person but it certainly can be an advantage even while bring some pain. I am sure you know what I mean.

    Some people have the idea that it is just being faster or academically smarters but there is a lot involved that touches the feelings and (for some with sensory issues) even the body.

  2. I wasn’t going to leave a comment just yet, I planned to reread your post first and then think about it, but it took so long to get through to your comments, lol – I will say something now. Simply that I like the way you pointed out how being gifted isn’t just about being smart, it is a whole unique way of being human. I also liked the way you mentioned how the need to use one’s mental muscles is involuntary but absolutely necessary for the gifted person.

  3. More than any other reason, more than the academic, why we withdrew our child from a school for HG children is that she is different. It still breaks my heart even I know she is doing some much better these past few weeks.

    She laughs easily, she laughs at things others might not think is funny. She hears beautiful words. She hears beautiful sounds that I don’t hear. She moves all the time, seems not to be paying attention, but takes it all in. She learns best about what she is intensely interested in. So, I agree with you, the essence of what makes gifted makes a person’s way of being different.

  4. I’m trying to catch up with your blog and wanted to make sure I read this post and commented. πŸ™‚ Would it be offensive to say that I’m almost happy to have a bright child? Bright sounds so much easier. Your insight about gifted being more than academic but a way of life is quite valuable.

    I am looking forward to reading more about Victoria because she and my dd are closer in age.

  5. Just found your blog, I was born & raised in MN but now live in CA. Interesting, the list of bright VS Gifted could also describe someone with Aspersers, except for one ( Listens well. vs. Shows strong feelings and opinions.)

  6. Ann

    Okay – I am struggleing with capable and quick vs. smart. My child is extreamly verbal and very interest how things work and why. His teacher is extreamly tough and rigid. Constantly unable to motivate him and now she’s passing out F’s like their candy. She holds no responsibility for this. However, he does work at home that I provide and I teach him concepts. He gets it…may take a little extra time however I use alot of hands on. His teacher is most rote instruction.

    Is my child considered bright or not…..My question is can a teacher make a bright child an average child? Help – Ann

  7. sarah

    Both my boys have been considered gifted, one is 12 and the other 8, my 12 year old is in top everything at school but never trys and never does homework unless made to. The younger boy, however was 2 years ahead at pre-school but having started school at 4 is just sitting on the expected average for his key stage yet throughout his time at school i have been told he is not reaching his full potential. i strongly beileve that school/teachers can make a difference in a childs intellect and academic ability. i am now debating on taking my youngest out of school and now strongly beileve that children in the uk start school far too early.

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