The word gifted has become so loaded. Does it mean "genius"? Does it mean "really bright" or "book smart"? Or is it an overused phrase that has no meaning at all? Isn't everyone's child a "gifted child" in some way or another?
There are different types of gifts, educators agree. Some have "schoolhouse giftedness" or "high achieving giftedness," measured by high scores on standard tests of intelligence or by their advanced knowledge and analytical skills. Others have "creative/productive giftedness" meaning they excel at the arts, in dance, in sport, or in music. In either case, your job as a parent is to help nurture those gifts both at school and at home.
What your school does to help gifted children (and how it determines which kids are eligible) will depend on where you live. Some districts have established gifted and talented programs, while others handle such children on a case-by-case basis.
If you or your child's teacher requests an evaluation of your child, the process may include intelligence tests, a review of your child's past work and standardized-test scores, and an evaluation of his social and emotional development. After you all have a better understanding of his needs, the school may offer options such as:
- Differentiated approaches to learning: Well-trained teachers will tailor lessons to kids based on their abilities, which in most classrooms will be varied.
- Pull-out programs: Children attend special classes for math or reading or some other specific skill.
- Push-in programs: A resource teacher comes to the classroom on a regular basis to provide enrichment in a particular subject area.
- Acceleration: If your gifted child is in 4th grade but capable of 9th grade math, the district may arrange for him to take math at the middle or high school.
- Curriculum compacting: Before beginning a new unit, a teacher offers a pre-test, allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject.
- Grade skipping: Though this practice has fallen out of favor, it is regaining momentum in some places. The trick is proper evaluation of a student to see that he is ready to move ahead both academically and socially.
Your school district may also have programs for children whose gifts are more artistic in nature. Look for clubs, after-school activities, and special classes that honor the talents of artistically gifted students.
Having a gifted child who loves to learn doesn't mean you need to be running a little schoolhouse at home; far from it. Help your child to soar by creating an environment that honors the gifts you know about — and tickles the ones that are just below the surface.
- Provide opportunities, resources, and encouragement: What interests your gifted child? Dinosaurs? Space? Art? Take him to museums, movies, plays, and other events that allow him to learn more about what he already loves.
- Share her gifts: Showcase your child's talents in front of "relevant audiences." Don't make Susie perform in front of the family if doing so embarrasses her. But find a class where performance is key.
- Allow for unscheduled time: It sounds silly, but giving your gifted child time to dream, reflect, sit alone, and ruminate is truly important if you want to inspire creativity.
- Learn from others: Connect with other parents whose kids are like yours — find them via the National Association for Gifted Children.