Saturday, December 10, 2016

Gifted the Hard Way

A valid way to characterize gifted children is that they learn quickly and can work ahead of grade level by 1 to 2 years.  In a prior article, I suggested the three ways a child is going to get there, and in this article I'm going to suggest a fourth way called the Determined Parent.

When my child was in kindergarten, I decided that it would be a good idea for him to work ahead 2 years in math.  This is logically valid reasoning:  Other kids can do it, China does it, and I'm looking at 2nd grade math and it's easy.  I think there was a Kindergarten workbook around at the time in our house.  Here's a 2nd grade math workbook of 650 problems.  Do every problem.

That was a 7 month nightmare.  It took me a long time to refine my methodology so that it wasn't a nightmare.  Looking back, teaching a non-math kid 2nd grade math thoroughly, more thoroughly than 2nd graders learn it, before 1st grade, in 7 months, part time a few nights week says something.   This particular child is born to write, perhaps do stage comedy, and thinks math is as important as brushing your teeth.  He became the math guy.

With other one, the poster child of Test Prep, the reason I am a blog writer, we started at age 3 with figure matrices.   The only reason why it wasn't a nightmare was because I already went through this once and knew what to expect.   I wonder how many parents sit down with their children and determine in the first few minutes that their child is not only NOT gifted, but probably below average, and then press on anyway.   Actually, I don't wonder - I just go to the gifted program and count the desks.

I've repeated this exercise many times, always with my kids, and many times with other parent's children.  I'm not a test prep consultant.  When I'm helping another child, it's research.   The fact that the little guinea pig has Yoda as an academic coach is beside the point.   What's really annoying to me is that we go through the same exercise every time we do it and it's always the same, even if we already did it before repeatedly.  You'd think that you do this once and your child is permanently gifted, but with Gifted Children Type B and Type D, this is not the case.  They have to become gifted all over again.  (D is a new type, see this article.)

I think I'll start charging $100 for an hour session (15 minutes with the child, 15 minutes with parent and child, and 30 minutes with the parent) to evaluate the child and recommend test prep.   I'll hand the child a 10 question test and we'll spend the entire 15 minutes getting the first question wrong. Then I'll do the next question with the parent and child, another 15 minutes of wrong answer.  Finally, I'll spend 30 minutes convincing the parent that the child is in fact gifted and recommending a curriculum, which you can read for free in my permanent page from the list on the upper right.

In the next few articles in this series, I'm going to outline this process and explain why it has to be repeated ever few years.  There are actually 4 levels of giftedness, corresponding to what you do to get there:
  • If you do accelerated math at home three times - once each in K, 2-4 grade, and 5-7 grade - you can achieve Level 1 giftedness.   If there's a strong reading program (mandatory), it's good for A's and (which slowly wear off).  It's good for test scores on any type of test above 90%.   
  • If you alternate this math work with a year of test prep, probably because you have to, then you can get to level 2.  The skills are compatible and there's a synergy at work.   This will get you to Level 2, in the 95% range.
  • If you concentrate every year on vocabulary, phonics (for the younger kids), and reading (for the older kids in case you missed phonics), you'll get to Level 3.  Level 3 may or may not ever wear off.   
  • I'm sad to report that if you do this with gifted phonics in the vicinity of age 4, you'll get to Level 4 and Level 4 is most likely permanent.   Level 4 is is 99.9%.
My gifted phonics book is now on Amazon, but I don't think the peak inside is available yet.  If it was, you could read the 20 page introduction and find out why it's not a normal course, and why I put "The fast track to gifted and talented" on the cover.   Since most of us, at least with the first child, don't know to do this, I've spent most of my time writing a blog on how to get a Level 1 kid into the GAT program (totally doable) and actually survive (much harder in my district).  This is much more satisfying work and serves the common good.  To get a kid to Level 4 starting at age 3 is easy, and I've provided the formula.  To get a 5, 6, or 10 year old to Level 2 or 3 from scratch and stay there is a challenge worthy of years of research and 500 articles.

Nonetheless, a Level 4 kid is sitting next to me right now working on some new material and demonstrating that he doesn't have a single shred of giftedness anywhere in his brain.  The only difference is the material he's staring at.  The bafflement and mistakes are pretty much the same every time I do this, every kid, every level.  The outcome is going to be the same as well.  It always is.

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