Monthly Archives: August 2012

Fostering Resilience in Gifted Children

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

“Raising Successful Children”—who could resist that title? I immediately began to asses my parenting skills after I saw Madeline Levine’s opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times. According to Dr. Levine, parents spend too much time focusing on academic success and not enough time fostering “authentic success.” Authentic success comes when parents hang back and allow their children to make mistakes so that they can develop the resilience they need to handle the difficulties of life.

As I considered Dr. Levine’s advice, I was struck by two thoughts. First, what do you do if your child is the one who is overly focused on academic success? And second, when is it okay to interfere in your child’s academic experience? My husband and I faced both of these questions last year. In answering these questions, we came to a powerful conclusion: helping your gifted child develop resilience is a nasty business.

Last September, our 13-year-old son left his 17-year-old brother, 10-year-old sister, and both parents to attend an elite boarding school on the east coast. The school had classes and resources that were unavailable locally. As a boarding student, he could devote all of his free time to his studies and extracurricular activities without worrying about family commitments. He even received a scholarship to pay for the tuition. He saw an educational nirvana. We saw the end of our parental influence.

So, Madeline Levine, is this where we are supposed to hang back? We did. We let him decide. He didn’t hesitate. We were devastated.

The following months were the most difficult of our lives. Our entire family mourned his absence, but that wasn’t what caused us the greatest pain. What kept us up at night was the emotional toll that my son’s decision took on him. He was extremely unhappy. He begged to come home. After every telephone conversation with my son, alarm bells went off in my head. Something was terribly wrong in New Hampshire.

By the time our son returned for the holidays, it was clear to us that we needed to bring him home, which we did. The emotional toll it took on him, however, was not yet done. Although he was happy to be home, he was disappointed with himself for not being able to make the boarding school experience work. He worried that his return home would affect his admission to college. He hated being the new kid again at school. His return home marked a new emotional low.

Were we wrong to let him make the initial decision to go? Should we have let him fully experience the consequences of his decision to leave home and left him in New Hampshire? Were we wrong to bring him home? According to Madeline Levine, our job “…is to know [our] child well enough to make a good call about whether he can manage a particular situation.” Our son was not able to manage the situation. We decided to say “enough” instead of making him stick with a decision that wasn’t working out as expected. While we wanted to teach him tenacity, we also felt that if we want him to take risks, we also need to help him admit when a choice was making him unhappy.

I imagine other parents of gifted children may have the same two questions for Dr. Levine. When we hang back and let our children make mistakes that result from their devotion to academic excellence, the price they pay is the anxiety that comes from failing to live up to their own impossible expectations. The intensities that characterize gifted children only increase the cost of these mistakes. Is this the price of resiliency for gifted children? When do we say “no” to our child’s quest for academic challenge?

Strange as it might sound, my husband and I don’t believe we made a mistake by letting our son go away to school. We certainly would have faced other problems if we had denied him such a wonderful opportunity. On the other hand, we don’t yet understand the full psychological costs of his decision to go. The only thing I know for sure is that I want to strangle anyone who uses the word “resiliency” casually. I have spent the last year struggling with this difficult concept. Madeline Levine says my struggles are worth it. I sure hope she is right.

Have you struggled with when to say “no” to your child’s quest for academic challenge? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.

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Why We Do What We Do: Portfolio-Based Applications

By Jessica Houben

IEA’s programs – Academy, Apprenticeship, the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, Yunasa, and Yunasa West – are geared toward gifted children ages 7-18, who think and learn differently from the norm. Every year we receive numerous applications for each program, and every applicant is truly amazing and unique. Identifying students who will most benefit from our programs and services is critical to our success. In order to do this, we need to find out who they are, what they know, and what interests them.

Because each gifted child has so many interests and dimensions, IEA feels that it is important to gather a variety of information to assist our selection committees in matching applicants with the most appropriate programs and services. These decisions are very difficult. We have to determine the students for whom the program will best fit their intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. Even when applicants are not chosen or placed, they are still some of the best! We have to look at all aspects of the applicant, as grades and test scores do not tell the whole story. This is why each application that comes to us is evaluated by several members of our staff, why we conduct interviews, and why we use a portfolio-based application.

Our portfolio-based applications are designed to provide each student with the opportunity to highlight their individual talents, skills, creativity, and problem solving abilities. These are not things we could determine from a test score alone.

As part of our applications, we ask for several things:

  • Application form (we need everyone’s general information)
  • Short-answer questions
  • Essay questions
  • Test scores
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Parent statements
  • Samples of student work

Short-answer questions show us what the students are passionate about, what their interests are, and what their daily life is like outside of all of the academics in which they are involved.

Essay questions highlight problem solving skills and help us to understand how students think about things, what their perspective is on the world, and how they see themselves as part of their families, communities, and society as a whole.

Test scores give us a measure of the students’ strengths, so that we can place them in a situation that is the best fit for their educational needs. We like to set our participants up for success!

Transcripts tell us the applicants’ academic stories, what their experiences have been, and what they are currently doing to meet their goals.

Letters of recommendation give us a sense of the applicants’ attitude, values, and unique characteristics that other aspects of the application are unable to provide. These letters are usually from people who have worked with the student and know them well.

Parent statements provide us with even more information about a student’s personal strengths and weaknesses, give insight into the applicant’s character, and highlight the reasons why he or she would be a good fit for our program. A parent’s voice is often an invaluable resource for assessing who an applicant is and what he or she has to offer.

Samples of student work demonstrate what the students have already told us through the other pieces of the application. For the Apprenticeship Program in particular, we use the work samples to gauge their past work experiences. For all programs, the work samples often bring an applicant’s passions to life.

We know that students are more than just a list of their academic accomplishments, that there is a person behind the application. This is why it is necessary to have several determining factors when making our decisions, so that we know as much about an individual as possible. We also do our best to create an application that is of interest to the applicant, providing an important opportunity for self-reflection, critical thinking, and discovery. Our hope is that the application and evaluation process helps us to have a positive impact on the lives our programs touch!

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Reflections on Design, Creativity, and the Value of Being an IEA Apprentice

By Natalie K.

Natalie, a 2012 IEA Industrial Design Apprentice at the Art Center College of Design, originally gave this speech at IEA’s 2012 Open House. IEA’s Apprenticeship Program – mentioned in this story – links gifted high school students from across the country with mentors who advance each participant’s skills through the application of knowledge and exposure to real world experiences.

Paola Antonelli,  a Senior Curator at the Museum of Modern Art and one of the most powerful people in the world of art, once said:

“People think that design is styling. Design is not style. It’s not about giving shape to the shell and not about [caring] about the guts. Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing.”

My name is Natalie, and I am an industrial designer. Through the Institute for Educational Advancement, I have finally become comfortable with giving myself that title and feel that I have learned valuable skills that set the foundation for that title. As industrial designers, we are compelled to design responsibly, provide the creative solutions necessary to respond to our society’s needs, and serve as artistic leaders that will push our community into the future. Design is not just about the beautiful sketches and the amazing renderings; it’s about the concept, the question, and our experiences. Everything we interact with, everything we use – from the chair you are sitting on, to the tables you are sitting at, to the utensils you have used – is created by industrial designers.

Our group here at IEA has the tools, skills, and dedication to truly make a difference, and in essence, isn’t that what design is all about? We have the power to respond and to change our world. We have the ability to design the next “coolest car” or “awesome cell phone,” but what is that worth? That is the question that this program has taught me to reevaluate; that as leaders, we can move so far beyond those limitations. We can give back to our community by thinking outside of the box and not just by being industrial designers, but gifted design revolutionaries.

Through my Apprenticeship, I have realized all these key concepts about design. But I am not just grateful for that. I’m also grateful for the personal life lessons it has taught me. Our leadership foundation activities have given me the courage to ask myself questions that I had previously stored away. I was given the tools to set my priorities straight and realize what I need to do in order to achieve my dreams, as well as the socials skills necessary to respect myself and the people around me.

From physics to astronomy to design, and everything in between, we have learned so much about our fellow peers, mentors, and caring staff – lessons that I am sure we will all carry into the next chapter of our journey. All in all, the IEA Apprenticeship at Art Center has been one of the greatest programs we have had the honor of attending.

What is the most valuable lesson your child learned this summer? Please share with us in the comment section below.

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Yunasa 2012!

By Jen Mounday

IEA’s pioneering Yunasa and Yunasa West summer camps unite highly able youngsters and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children. Campers explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of their lives.

Yunasa 2012 Campers

2012 saw another memorable year of Yunasa in Flint, Michigan. Campers arrived on Sunday, July 22, at Camp Copneconic with great anticipation for the week to come and left mid-morning on July 29 elated from a week of flourishing at camp. Yunasa is more than your average summer camp—it’s a week-long exploration of one’s intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical self. The week was a success on all levels, as campers took away valuable life lessons, deeper bonds with peers, and unforgettable memories.

A high ropes course, offered as one of the many camper options, tested campers’ physical and risk taking abilities.

A camper tests her limits on the high ropes course

A camper tests her balance on the high ropes course

Psychosynthesis sessions were led by our Fellows, experts in the growth and development of gifted youth, each morning. Campers practiced guided visualization and relaxation techniques. Many campers said that Psychosynthesis was their favorite part of the day.

Psychosynthesis

IEA Senior Fellow Patricia Gatto-Walden leads a small group of campers in a Psychosynthesis session

The Emerging Leaders (ELs) hosted a camp-wide talent show, including a comedy routine, musical performances, and a choreographed dance.

Talent Show

Campers perform at a talent show hosted by the ELs

One camp session was an ongoing Rube Goldberg project, where campers used various materials to construct a complex machine that, in the end, would perform a simple task. After much deliberation, campers opted to make a device that would put a hat on someone’s head.

Rube Goldberg machine

Campers work to construct a Rube Goldberg machine that will place a hat on someone’s head

The Counselors in Training (CITs) put on the annual Yunasa Olympics. Physically and mentally challenging, the events included in the Olympics vary from year to year. A game of Quidditch was the highlight this year!

Quidditch match

Campers play a game of Quidditch during the Yunasa Olympics

Bubble making stations were set up outside the conference center and available throughout the entire week. Campers enjoyed the option during down-time in the midst of an eventful camp schedule.

A camper makes bubbles in between camp sessions

A camper makes large bubbles in between camp sessions

During the week, campers become a part of the Yunasa family. Many campers describe Yunasa as a time of true friendship and togetherness.

Campers walk through Yunasa summer camp for the gifted

Campers walk from activity to activity arm in arm, showcasing the feeling of a Yunasa family

Throughout the week, campers were encouraged by staff and their peers. Many campers felt “at home” and inspired to be their authentic selves. There were multiple unique opportunities for personal growth. With physical activities such as horseback riding, water sports, zip lining, and ropes courses, campers were challenged to develop confidence in their athletic abilities. With the support of the Fellows and IEA staff, they also grew emotionally with one another and in self-awareness. Campers called on their spiritual abilities to connect with the world around them through activities such as Spirit Journey and Call in the Directions. Intellectually, campers enjoyed sharing with one another in an environment of acceptance and mutual understanding. Our hope is for these campers to return home with cherished Yunasa memories to share and hold onto until we meet again next year.

Campers hanging out

Thank you to Nicholas Farrell for taking these photos at camp!

For more photos from Yunasa, click on the button below. Also, be sure to check out the article about Yunasa in The Flint Journal!

What was your child’s favorite part of Yunasa this year? Please share with us in the comment section below.

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