Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Many Faces of Gifted: Matthew

Interview by Carole Rosner

Every gifted person has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts depicting the many faces of gifted by highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs. IEA’s pioneering Yunasa summer camp – mentioned in this story – unites highly able children and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children and provides an opportunity for campers to explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social and physical aspects of their lives.

Matthew

Matthew
Yunasa Camper

Matthew lives on the island of Java in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. He is 13 years old, is home schooled and has traveled to Camp Copneconic in Fenton, Michigan, for the last two summers to attend Yunasa.

How did Matthew hear about Yunasa?
Matthew first learned about Yunasa through his mentor. “Mark Lediard has been my mentor for three years now, beginning from the age where I was withdrawn from formal schooling. He and I now meet regularly to discuss opportunities for my enrichment and intellectual expansion, including out-of-country learning and meetings with learned professionals. It was through Mark’s collaboration with a homeschooling curriculum adviser named Kathi Kearney that I learned of Yunasa, and I was quick to jump at the prospect.”

But why Yunasa?
“Indonesia, despite being diverse both culturally and biologically, does not have the inherent essence that Yunasa offers. Although the country does have camps, most are relatively generic when compared to Yunasa; mostly they fall within the categories of academic, ecological, or religious. It can be said that the reason for my participation was to experience these new spiritual aspects that no other camp could seem to offer.”

What has he gained from attending Yunasa?
“Words alone cannot describe the effects Yunasa have had on me; intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually. I have met people with radically varying perspectives, others with opinions very akin to my own, and those still who have enhanced me and the way I see myself by their personalities and experiences. Here, I found an arena to discuss and debate the theories I hold so dear, and to marvel at the ambitions of others who were driven by that same desire to cultivate humanity.”

What does Matthew like about Yunasa?
“The experience of Yunasa was terrifically structured, and my greatest thanks go to the IEA staff for organizing and providing such a seamless daily schedule. The topics and contributions of the Senior Fellows were invaluable in expanding my intellectual and emotional repertoire and are inspiring to reflect on, especially when considering their many possibilities.”

What part of Yunasa has had the greatest effect on Matthew?
“Although I meditate in my daily life, the concept of psychosynthesis itself intrigued me, and I quickly found out why. In the process, I experienced undoubtedly profound visions of the unified continuum of time; often, I would leave the session pondering my beliefs and what it meant to be there. Frankly, I cannot wait to experience pychosynthesis again next year and see what I may experience.”

What similarities does he find between himself and the other campers?
“I find that in a myriad of ways, we share similar perspectives, interests, and ways of comprehending reality. I can say that I have never felt more assimilated into a community than Yunasa’s gestalt, especially when considering I have lived in a foreign society for all my life. In this way, Yunasa is a sanctuary, a home for me. Even before I arrived, I had an innate knowing of the events to come, as it is an undeniable fact that Yunasa has that powerful quality of making one feel completely and utterly at ease with his surroundings, his peers, and most importantly, his inner beliefs.”

Does Matthew keep in touch with other campers throughout the year?
“As a matter of fact, I regularly keep in touch with my closer friends via email and online sources. They inform me on a constant basis about their current activities and circumstances, and it has happened more than once that we have asked each other for aid on issues that cannot be resolved by only a single perspective. It is an honor to know and communicate with these individuals, and I consider them to be important in my development.”

What does he do in his free time, and where does he see himself in the future?
“Being in the cultural fusion that is Indonesia, I am exposed to a wide variety of people, perspectives, and religions on a daily basis, even within my own household. The most enjoyable pastime is observing how all of these fundamentally different groups cooperate and interact in a common environment, even though many share dividing opinions and views.”

He also enjoys reading and writing, “mainly due to the unbounded creativity that they grant me in shaping myself as an individual. I greatly appreciate the intellectual diversity I gain from books and that I can create with writing. I believe that the greatest gift that is bestowed upon the world is the written word, and the knowledge that stems thereof.”

Like many gifted children, Matthew draws connections between different intellectual and spiritual subjects to make more sense of the world and wants to contribute positively to the world around him. “From a young age, I have expressed an intuitive knowing in the existence of an unseen organizational structure above the chaos of reality, and with it, a pressing need to aid humanity in grasping the concept of realms far beyond their understanding. Over time, this ambition progressed to an interest in the fields of theoretical physics and the philosophy of consciousness, namely Ontology. For as long as this aspiration has stood, I have dedicated my life to the unification of science and spirituality, the empirical and abstract. My purpose, I believe, is to aid humankind in reading what Einstein once termed as ‘The Mind of God.’”

Do you or your children want to share your experiences of being gifted? Please leave us a comment below or email us at IEAgifted@educationaladvancement.org!

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Preparing For an Independent School Interview

By Bonnie Raskin

Bonnie is the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Program Coordinator at IEA and has extensive experience working with gifted middle school students to find the high school that best fits their individual intellectual and personal needs.

When applying to competitive, selective independent schools, many things count, including grades, test scores, extracurricular activities and the interview. Here is a basic list that will help students and parents get through this important part of the admissions process and allow the applicant to show yourself as the accomplished, unique person you are:

Student Applicants

Don’t panic! If it’s difficult or impossible for you to relax, think of the interview as a friendly get-to-know-you conversation and an opportunity for you to learn more about a prospective school as well as the interviewer to learn about you off paper as a multi-dimensional person.

If possible, try to secure an interview in the morning, when both you and your interviewer will be fresh. You want to look and be awake and attentive. Get plenty of sleep the night before and eat a nutritious breakfast.

Dress according to, but slightly nicer than, the school’s dress code. No jeans. Girls, if you tend to play with your hair when you’re nervous, tie it up and secure bangs out of your face. Guys, brush your hair.

Don’t slouch. Always sit with your legs together.

When you meet the interviewer, give a firm handshake, smile, look him or her in the eye and clearly enunciate your first and last name.

Two important elements to bring to a school interview are honesty and curiosity. If a tour of the school precedes or follows the interview, listen attentively and ask questions. It will make you appear more interested in the school and gives you a chance to listen instead of talking. If you’re someone who, when nervous, can’t always think on the spot, make a list of questions ahead of time after you’ve researched the school on its website.

Be original in your answers and be yourself! Honesty, remember? Never try to present yourself as someone you think the interviewer “wants” to see.

Do not mention repeatedly that this school is your number-one-top-choice unless it absolutely is. Even then, don’t go overboard, as it may appear ingenuous to the interviewer.

Always remember to appear cheerful. Don’t mumble or look bored. Keep eye contact.

If your parents are part of the interview, look at them when they talk and don’t look annoyed or embarrassed by their remarks. It makes a very bad impression if you don’t seem to get along with your parents.

When the interview is over, shake the interviewer’s hand and say, “Thank you for your time.” If offered the interviewer’s card, accept it graciously. Say goodbye and thank you to the receptionist if he or she is on your way out.

Write a nice thank you note. It should be brief but express an aspect of the interview that was personal to you. In other words, not a generic thank you. For example, if the interviewer addressed your love of art, mention that in your note. If you liked a particular building’s architecture, note that.

Do not, under any circumstances: slouch, wave to people you know who might pass by, stare off into space, interrupt or talk about any other school.

Parents

In preparing your son or daughter for a school interview, it is a good idea to explicitly discuss what the expectations are with them. This conversation should include the etiquette of an interview such as greeting, leave-taking with thanks, shaking hands and appropriate dress, which will depend on the school’s style.

If it’s likely that your child will be asked questions directly, you may wish to practice, but not to the extent that your child’s responses come off as rehearsed or canned. This is about making your child feel comfortable and prepared—not robotic.

Do not over-emphasize the importance of the interview so that your nerves become transmitted to your child.

Commonly Asked Interview Questions

  • Describe yourself or Tell me about yourself. This is a great way to segue into your interests, which should be an area you are comfortable talking about.
  • What appeals to you about this school? Why do you want to enroll here?
  • What extracurricular activities are you interested in?
  • Why should we select you?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • How will you benefit from attending this school?
  • Describe your family.
  • Do you have any questions about this school?

Above all, everyone involved in the interview process should remember to be relaxed, genuine, and honest. This is one aspect of a multi-tiered application process to help determine if the applicant and the school are the right fit for each other, not the be all and end all towards the holy grail of school admission.

Have you or your kids participated in independent school interviews? What tips do you have for other applicants and parents preparing for them? Please share in the comment section below.

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Strange Coincidences and Sending My Son Off to College

By Abby Margolis Newman

This post originally appeared on September 4, 2012, on ModernMom. It has been republished here with the permission of the author, who is a writer and mother of three. This post is about her gifted oldest son leaving home for college. While it is not an experience limited to parents of gifted children, it is an experience many of you will have. It may come when you send your child to a boarding school because it is what will best fit his or her individual needs, or it might be when your child heads off to college, or it might be after college, when your child decides to move out. After years of advocating for them in school and supporting their unique needs, your gifted children will leave home and must learn how to support these needs on their own. And no matter how much you help prepare them for that, it is still difficult to watch them set out on their own.

On the day my eldest son left for college, my youngest son got his first zit. This had to be some kind of sign, I thought. Time marches on or some such thing.

Maybe this was God’s little joke aimed at a mom whose “baby” is no longer a baby and whose first child was flying the coop. If so: not funny.

So many words have been spilled on this very subject – the first kid leaving for college – that it feels unoriginal to be thinking about it, let alone writing about it. And yet it pierces uniquely.

In the months leading up to Jonah’s departure, I’d find myself crying at unpredictable moments. I’d wander past his closed door, hear the sounds of his guitar playing on the other side, and think: Starting in September that room will be empty and silent. Cue the tears.

As Jonah and I made our cross-country sojourn from the San Francisco Bay area to Brown University in Providence, leaving his two younger brothers (17 and 13) at home with my husband, strange coincidences ensued.

Jonah has always had out-of-the-mainstream interests. Two examples: he became borderline-obsessed with Napoleon Bonaparte in middle school and is endlessly fascinated by 19th-century French history; and his favorite musician is Mark Knopfler, known mostly by people my age as the lead-man and guitarist of the 80’s band, Dire Straits.

A couple of nights before we left home, Jonah played his guitar at an open-mic night at a music club in our hometown of Mill Valley. The song he played was Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” – a fairly obscure choice for non-Knopflerphiles.

A few days later, our rental car stuffed to the brim with Target purchases, we stopped for lunch on our way to Providence. The restaurant was playing music, 60’s Motown-type stuff. Then out of nowhere, we heard the sound of Mark Knopfler’s voice: it was “Romeo and Juliet.” I burst into tears, sending our alarmed waiter scurrying away.

When we got to the Brown campus on Friday, the very first kid we met was a history-obsessed young man from North Carolina with a special passion for Napoleon who, out of a class of 1500 freshmen, also happens to be in Jonah’s history seminar of 20 kids.

On Sunday I attended a parent seminar entitled “Saying Goodbye, Letting Go, and Learning to Live with a Brown Student.” Much of the discussion centered on being supportive without being intrusive. The faculty members and upperclassmen running the seminar did a few skits, re-enacting phone calls that typically occur between parents and children during the first few weeks of freshman year.

As one faculty member, playing “Mom,” phoned her “son” with a variation on the “you don’t call, you don’t write” complaint, parents in the audience laughed nervously. You mean they really won’t call? We were encouraged to give our kids some space; we were reassured that they’d get in touch eventually; we were instructed to let them try to solve roommate issues on their own.

As I sat in the crowded auditorium, I felt slightly better. I realized that while this experience was specific and personal, it was also universal. And it’s exactly what is supposed to happen. We raise our kids from babies to toddlers to children to adolescents to young adults, and then they leave us to begin their own lives. It’s only logical: if they never develop the skills to live independently, we haven’t done our job. Who wants to suck at being a parent?

And yet.

I didn’t feel ready for Jonah to go. I don’t feel like I had enough of his company during those short 18 years. I wish I had more time to see him interact with his brothers at the dinner table; to observe his thought process as he works through a research paper or a discussion about politics; to listen to him play guitar along with Mark Knopfler. I simply loved having him around, and the loss feels huge.

So as I watched him walk back toward his dorm before I left, his roommate’s arm slung around Jonah’s shoulder in a protective and brotherly way, of course I cried. But eventually, I had to drive away and to fly back home.

After all, I need to help Aaron with his college applications. And maybe we’ll see if we can do something about Henry’s zit, like introduce him to face soap. Life goes on. As for Jonah, he can’t get rid of me that easily: I just figured out how to use Skype.

If you liked this article, please thank Abby by commenting on the original post.

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Why Radiating Possibility is a Powerful Message for Gifted Youth

By Jen Mounday

Photo from Knowledge@Wharton http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2537Radiating Possibility is an inspirational video highlighting the insight of Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. In partnership with his wife, Rosamund Zander – an executive coach and family systems therapist – he created five key steps to radiating possibility. The short film gives viewers the opportunity to witness Ben in action as he conducts his orchestra and individually tutor musicians in a very unique way. He draws his students out of the competitive mindset of performance and, instead, pushes them to experience life in their talent and a real connection to their skill. His dynamic instruction, combined with Roz’s therapeutic intuition, opens up a vibrant world of possibility that lies beyond fears, habits and assumptions. Viewers discover that every human being brought into the world of radiating possibility will be encouraged to keep their song going.

For the gifted child, Radiating Possibilty is the perfect conduit for self-discovery in a world often times wrought with competition and pressure. At Yunasa, we presented Radiating Possibility on the first night of camp and used it as a touchstone each day for accelerating the pace of interaction among peers. The goal was to give campers the courage to open their hearts and enter the dance, to drop the assumption that people aren’t interested in what they have to say.

The Zanders offer the following five steps to radiating possibility, each of which can be applied to help gifted children embrace themselves and their potential:

  1. Sit in the front row of your life. Participate!
    After a rousing clip of Ben conducting his orchestra with so much gusto that the musicians around him grin from ear to ear, he exclaims, “Throw yourself into life like a pebble in a pond and notice the ripples!” Gifted children may feel pressure from themselves or their peers to minimize their focus in a particular field because it is “too much” or “too intense.” They often receive verbal and nonverbal cues from the community around them suggesting they hold back or “rein in” their passion, enthusiasm or contributions in order to fit in with the group. But when gifted students are inspired to participate, with whatever skill sets they bring to the table, they are given an outlet and a means of giving back to their community, their peers and their families.
  2. When you make a mistake, say: “How fascinating!”
    Many gifted children struggle with perfectionism. Gifted children are well above average in certain areas, but they are still bound to make mistakes as part of being human. When gifted children practice looking in the face of failure; raising their hands, their voices and their eyebrows and shout, “How fascinating!”, they learn not to waste time dwelling on mistakes and to use mistakes as learning opportunities.
  3. Quiet the “voice in your head.”
    When Ben is instructing a student, he says he is “dealing with the student and the person standing next to the student” who whispers statements of doubt and fear in the student’s ear. We can’t necessarily get rid of the voice in the head, but we can choose how we respond to it. Ben suggests we say, “Thank you for sharing, but I’m busy,” to that negative voice. When gifted children focus themselves on being a contribution, they are able to achieve great things. Giving credit to the voice in the head only conceals their special talents. The gifted community can benefit greatly from self-talk as a means to overcoming these negative voices so they are free to perform, showcase and contribute in a way that holds nothing back!
  4. Live in radiating possibility. Become part of the song!
    The realm of possibility is all about dreams. In the dream world there are no barriers. The gifted mind is naturally full of possibilities and creative dreams. Allowing oneself to radiate in those possibilities takes practice. Practice begins with acting as if no barriers exist.
  5. Invent a new game: “I am a contribution.”
    Ask yourself, “How will I contribute today?” In the classroom, in group settings, in peer relationships, gifted children should see what they have to offer as a contribution, not just evidence of individual talent. Whether it’s playing an instrument, competing for a title or even earning grades, each act of will viewed as a contribution builds on the feeling of being fully alive. When gifted children think of themselves as contributing to something bigger than them, rather than measured as an individual success or failure, they strengthen their emotional and social muscles and discover a renewed sense of energy.

Gifted people radiating possibility become powerful forces in our society for good. Let us be the parents, teachers, family and organizations that help silence the voice in the head and become part of the song!

Have you or your kids tried any of these steps? How did they work out? Please share with us in the comment section below!

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