I blog a lot about something many people have very negative feelings about, or at least a great deal of ambivalence. Giftedness.
Sometimes I think I should back away from this topic. It does turn people off, and it typically gives people the wrong idea. But then, stubborn me, those turn out to be the reasons I persist. Silence is not always golden. Our unplanned foray into the world of extreme precocity has been a big deal, and finding an online community has been a big help.
(I guess I need to point this out: the fact that it is a big deal, and the fact that it is a major focus of our blog, does not mean that it is the major focus of my life or our family life, much of which stays offline.) (And then again, the fact that talking about my daughter or our homeschooling seems to require so many disclaimers and parenthetical explanations may be an illustration of why we’ve decided to reach out to like-minded folks online.)
Violet is doing so much better at home, thank you very much, but as parents we still deal with a lot of questions and concerns that are very nicely addressed in literature–and especially parent blogs and forums–about gifted children. These are not questions about schooling — Violet and I figure most of that out on our own — but about intensity of reaction, difficulty “fitting in” with other kids (homeschoolers still have to face that question if they want to make friends and participate in groups), trouble “turning down” our level of engagement with every great idea or sensation that we encounter, getting out in front of a brain that seems to run loose like a wild horse. It also helps me think through questions about the difference between encouraging her to do her best and pushing her to acheive! acheive! acheive!, or between allowing her to pursue her interests and running her ragged.
That’s what “giftedness” has meant to us, not reading at a particular grade level or doing a certain kind of math. Those are just bonuses that — on a good day — make my homeschooling job a little easier. (Another parenthetical disclaimer — I am aware that not every behavioral or emotional quirk my child exhibits is a direct result of her “giftedness.”)
I suppose by blogging about giftedness so much I may give the impression that I’m one of those parents who is so delighted to share with the world the Extra Super Special Genius that I made, but I’m hoping anyone who has passed by the site has given me the benefit of the doubt. In real life I am the parent with eyes glued to her knitting, mouth clenched shut every time a conversation about school begins. I’m not just Not Going There.
Online, however, I was so lucky to meet up almost immediately with a few moms who knew exactly what I was talking about. If anything I was intimidated by how brilliant their own girls were! So online is where I let it out. Moms are proud of their kids when they learn something new, and I can be too — online. Moms love to tell funny stories about unexpected things their kids say or do, and online, I can get away with it too. Paradoxically, blogging online about gifted issues is where I (often) get to feel normal, part of the playground chatter. Mostly when people disagree, they are polite, or they ignore you completely, so you never know. (Well, you know, but it’s not in your face.)
I think some confusion comes from defining giftedness — another post for another day. (Really, I’ll try.) Of course it means a lot of those things that people love but also love to hate: unusual achievements, incredible creativity, adult-like thinking (but only in select areas!) in a child’s brain and body. But what we’ve learned is that what we’re referring to as “giftedness” is not simply an IQ score or early achievement of particular milestones. It’s how a person’s brain, senses, and emotions engage with her environment, even when she’d like to turn it off.
It amuses me — and I hope that doesn’t sound too condescending — that people sometimes imagine that someone clings to a “gifted” label to make him/herself feel special. I suppose that happens sometimes. It is more often the case, in my experience, that trying to understand “giftedness” is a way out of the sense of isolation and weirdness that highly gifted kids feel as early as their preschool years.
I could go on and on. (Wait, didn’t I just go on and on?) Looking back on my assorted thoughts they seem more negative than positive: “Woe is me, my child has been diagnosed as . . . Gifted!” [dunh duhn Dunh!] That’s just because I’m trying to highlight what isn’t readily obvious.
Both of our children – -one profoundly gifted, one profoundly sweet and stubborn — are wonderful little girls who play Ello and Harry Potter legos together, swing on the swingset together, fight like rabid dogs together. They love music and ice skating and running through sprinklers. Victoria just started the ballet class she has been begging for all summer long, and Violet is, as I type, at her first fencing lesson. (“Swords?!?!?!!!”) I guess that seems like the obvious side of parenting and homeschooling — though goodness, how blessed we must be if we can take those things for granted at times.
[ETA: Aw, phooey. Reviewing this post again, I see that I am trying to change people’s minds, and that is always such a losing battle. You can think I’m totally full of it, partially full of it, or just a little full of it, and that’s all good. I gave up on self-improvment years ago; now I just have to lighten up on the self-justification. But I’m still leaving the post!]