Jul 26, 2008

nurturing our gifted children

I went to a seminar/workshop this afternoon hosted by the Otago Association for the Gifted and Talented, and by the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, titled Nurturing our Gifted Children.

Was most excellent. In addition to the keynote address by Dr Tracy Riley, there were a choice of 6 seminars, running in 3 time slots (so you could only choose 3), on various topics. I think the main benefits of attending were

1. Good information about how kids are identified as gifted and talented, and that chiefly in NZ that is through personal observation, rather than by 'a test'. Also that the research (which was actually cited and referred to, not just 'anonymous research has shown') shows that parents are more able than teachers to identify gifted and talented children, and that the 'oh, everyone thinks their child is gifted' is a myth. (but teachers with a good awareness of giftedness and how to identify it are great - just not every teacher knows what to look for or even what 'giftedness' is)

2. A sense of 'rightness' about having identified Miss4 as having exceptional abilities.

3. Membership of the Otago Association for Gifted and Talented, which holds bi-monthly meetings with guest speakers and workshops etc, and has a library, with a group subscription to Tall Poppies - the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children magazine.

4. A further sense of 'rightness' about deciding to home educate.
One of the speakers - Steve Cutler from the Marine Studies Centre - had just returned from a conference in Singapore on GT education, and was emphasising how important it was for these kids to be exposed to a variety of information in a variety of ways. Their brain function is physically different to 'average', with a greater connectivity between hemispheres, higher 'analogizing' abilities (make creative analogies, draw unusual conclusions), they are faster, and often more intuitive in their thinking than average etc etc. So to maximize their talents (and keep them interested) the educator needs to present 'inter and intra-curricular cross-overs', allow extended time on subjects so the students can explore in depth if they want to, allow the students to set their own problems and research their own ideas, provide access to 'experts' who can actually answer their questions (and also may share their enthusiasm), encourage 'out of the box' answers etc etc etc. All of which is actually easier to do in a home education environment.

One of the key things that parents are seeking for their kids is acknowledgement from the school of their child's unique abilities, and ideally, a personally tailored program to nurture those abilities while supporting the child as a whole person.

I think we can manage that :)

One area that I will need to stretch myself on is that 'access to experts' thing. Being an introvert has its pitfalls, and this is one of them! However, having identified it as a weakness, I can consciously address it. Whatever the kids show an interest in, I will try to ask myself if there's any sort of 'expert' that we can invite for dinner or go to see, or keep my eye out for extension programs the kids can trot along to if they would like to go.

In all, a thought-provoking and stimulating afternoon.

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