Category Archives: Stories of Gifted

The Best Hideout in the World

By Zadra Rose Ibañez

girl-reading-library

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

Summer, Tuesday afternoon, 3pm. You find me sitting at a beautiful wooden table with the sunlight streaming in through the window panes, perfectly spotlighting my notebook and pen. I write until the sun climbs off the table and only fluorescent light illuminates my writing.

I am at the library, and I am happy. Comfortable, calm, at peace. I feel powerful: full of potential and opportunity.

When I was little, my mother would take me to the library each week to get my fill of reading materials. The children’s section was to the left of the entrance and the grown-up section was to the right. My mom allowed me to go off to the kids’ books on my own – giving me autonomy in a safe space. I remember reading Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock to my mom at bedtime, a chapter a night.

Read more of Zadra’s reflections on the library!

Fathering a Gifted Child

By Jennifer de la Haye

“Dad, I love you, but I’m sick of all your dumb ideas today.”

Meet Soren, my four-year-old nephew whose favorite philosopher is Alvin Plantinga, who concocts impromptu flash fiction, who composes songs to sing to his baby brother, who creates elaborate yet surprisingly practical Lego inventions, and whose father has carefully engaged him since he was old enough to poop.

Fathers-day-gifted

When my brother, Louis, learned of his wife’s pregnancy, he immediately gasped, “But I haven’t solved the problem of education in America yet!” Like most parents who feel unready, unprepared, and unequipped to introduce a tiny new human into our intricate, flawed world, he dove right in: he reads to Soren about theology, he reads countless children’s stories, he reads the Bible, he reads Plato, he talks to him about ideas, and most importantly, he engages with Soren’s thoughts and questions, no matter how exhausted or busy or emotionally drained he feels.

Read more about Louis and Soren!

Disrespectful or Misunderstood? Gifted Students in the Classroom

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Gifted Students in the ClassroomI can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a parent say, “My child is gifted but he’s not one of those disrespectful know-it-all kids.” These parents are referring to the gifted gold standard: a child who knows the answers but politely participates in all of the class discussions with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm. Everyone wants this poster child, but they are hard to find, mostly because the traits that make them gifted also make it difficult for them to behave like model students. Parents might try to mold their gifted kids into this ideal, but it comes at a cost.

I learned the price of my son’s struggle to become a model student during our recent college road trip. We were sitting in a lecture hall filled with eager parents and high school students waiting to hear the admissions officer’s pearls of wisdom. Around 2:15, she started to talk. Around 2:25, I realized she hadn’t said anything. I had listened intently for 10 minutes and, as far as I could tell, she only made one point. Her speech was peppered with “…to put it another way” and “I don’t mean to repeat myself but…” I started to get annoyed. I was stuck in a room with 100 other awestruck parents and teenagers waiting for some information on the school’s culture, classes or admissions policies. Instead, I got a lot of words. So, I did what any mature 51 year old woman would do: I passed a note to my son. 10,000 words and still she hasn’t said anything, I wrote on a small notepad. My son’s eyes widened, he took the pen and wrote, I’m chewing gum to stay awake.

The information session went on for an hour and fifteen minutes. She made 3 points. By the time we left the school, I was mad.

Read the rest of Lisa’s story!

A Supportive Mother for a Gifted Kid

By Jennifer Kennedy

Before joining IEA, Jennifer was a kid who understood little of her own giftedness. Now she works as IEA’s Marketing & Communications Coordinator to help other highly able kids and their families understand what it means to be gifted while providing the information they need to find the programs and people to support them.

Image from kidsedustuff.blogspot.com

Image from kidsedustuff.blogspot.com

My mom has been there for me from the moment I came into this world, and I have always appreciated everything she has done for me. Lately, though, I’ve begun to see how different my life might have been had my upbringing lacked certain values my mom implemented – things that made her a good mother to a gifted child.

My mom nurtured my gifts and my passions. She knew I was smart, so she challenged me intellectually. She knew I was driven, so she supported me without heaping more pressure on top of the pressure I placed on myself. Before either of us had encountered the term “whole child,” my mom encouraged me to grow in all aspects of self.

She challenged me intellectually. Knowing I loved reading and was a strong reader, she encouraged me to read above-grade-level books. When I was learning about something in school, she would take me to museums to see the subject first-hand, demonstrating that there is knowledge to be gained beyond the textbook. When it came time to choose my own classes in school, she encouraged me to take the advanced classes, and she accepted my less-than-perfect grades when I challenged myself and faced the demands of a difficult course. She taught me that, no matter how smart I was or how well I did in school, there was always so much more to learn.

She challenged me physically, encouraging me to try a variety of sports and physical activities outside of school until I found my niche. And, when I found what I really liked—dance—she encouraged me to work hard and challenge myself, both physically and creatively.

She supported me socially and emotionally, as well. I always knew I was different, and although I participated in a GATE pull-out program once a week, no one in my life understood that the intrinsic intelligence of a gifted child is usually coupled with other characteristics such as overexcitabilities. It took a lot of patience, understanding, love, and acceptance to deal with my emotional outbursts over ostensibly benign incidents. It also took an insightful mother to realize that dance had become vital to my social life as it allowed me to build relationships with older kids who understood me intellectually and younger kids whom I could take under my wing.

After years of guidance, when the time came for me to lead, my mother followed. She embraced my decision to dance—despite not liking dance herself—even when it meant giving up other things she thought were important. She let me lead my college search, which took me much farther from home than she would have liked. She watched me trek through Europe for a semester without her. She supported my decision to choose a more creative field—communications—over a more practical one (both my parents are accountants).

Without all of this support from my mother, I don’t know what would have happened. Every day, I hear stories of gifted kids who fall through the cracks because they are bored, unchallenged, and misunderstood, and it breaks my heart. If my mother hadn’t instinctually understood that my “whole self” needed support, I might have become one of those unfortunate children.

Thank you to all of the moms who do everything they can to support their gifted children while protecting them from slipping through the cracks. You make a huge difference in your child’s life each and every day. Happy Mother’s Day.

Teacher Appreciation

An Academy teacher helps learning come to life through an experiment

An Academy teacher helps learning come to life through an experiment

Here’s to the teachers who encourage their students to think outside the box. To the teachers who make learning fun. To the teachers who care about more than a test score. To the teachers who apply classroom concepts to the outside world. To the teachers who allow students to pursue their passions, even if they lie outside the curriculum. To the teachers who challenge every student in their class every day. To the teachers who engage. To the teachers who see beyond the disruption to root out the true cause. To the teachers who recognize a student’s gifts. To the teachers who recognize that giving a student more work is not the solution. To the teachers who understand that there are some students who just learn differently. To the teachers who recognize that there is more to the gifted student than intellect. To the teachers who inspire.


Many different voices have contributed to this blog over the last two years. And, in looking back on what has been written, it is evident that teachers play an enormous role in the life of a gifted child. This Teacher Appreciation Day, we encourage you to look at these past posts by several different writers that talk about teaching gifted youth and about the difference that teachers can make in a gifted child’s life.

“Motivating without Grades” by Lisa Hartwig
Lisa’s son went from a daydreaming fifth grader to the top of his high school class, and the more she explored the cause, the more she realized it had to do with his educational environment and the teachers who created it.

“Keeping Young” by Jim Delisle
Dr. Delisle has been teaching and working with gifted kids for 36 years. Learn why he keeps coming back for more.

“Chapter 1: The One Thing Needful – What Is It?” by Louise Hindle
Louise Hindle has more than 20 years of experience in education and now serves as IEA’s Academy Program Coordinator, shaping the supplemental educational experiences IEA provides gifted Kindergarten-8th graders. Here she reflects on what our gifted children need academically.

“My Passion for Learning” by Min-Ling Li
IEA Program Coordinator Min-Ling Li was so greatly influenced by teachers who encouraged her love for learning that she became a teacher herself to encourage and spark the same love for learning in others.

Thank you to all of the teachers who make a difference each and every day.

Has a teacher made a difference in your child’s life? Please share in the comment section below!

A 16 Year Old’s Guide to Colleges

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Be sure to check out the first part of Lisa’s college road trip journey!

ElonWe were 5 minutes into the student-led tour and I knew the school wasn’t the right place for my son. Our guide led us down the hallway of a beautiful colonial building. The walls were lined with cork board and sheets of brightly colored paper framing announcements and pictures of professors and administrators. “No, no, no,” I thought. “He’s going to hate this.”

I was trying to think like a 16 year old boy, or at least, my 16 year old boy. I had promised myself that I would allow him to set his own criteria when evaluating colleges. I admired how he navigated class selection, extracurricular activities and the work/life balance in his high school. I would not substitute my values for his now that he was looking for a college. So I tried to see the college through my son’s eyes.

It turns out that I was right—he hated the school. While the environment looked warm and nurturing to me, he felt smothered by the level of support suggested by the cheerfully decorated hallway and confirmed by our tour guide. We made a hasty exit at the tour’s end, skipping the information session and catching an earlier train to New York City. On the way out, my son said that he was really glad we made the trip. “I didn’t know if I would recognize a bad fit if I saw one. Now I know. I can trust my instincts.”

Thus began my son’s search for a methodology to assess the colleges we were visiting. What follows are his indicators of college excellence:

1. Personal Freedom

My son is on a quest for autonomy. He wants support at college to be available and encouraged, but not conspicuous. He disapproves of schools with multiple student committees tasked to help freshmen with everything from writing to public speaking skills. If he wants help, he will ask his professor. Jesuit priests in your dorm? Minus 5 points. A campus policy that encourages students to ask professors to lunch and gives them the funds to do it? Plus 10 points.
See what other factors were important to Lisa’s son!

The College Road Trip

By Lisa Hartwig

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

ElonIt’s the only fun part of the college application process: the college trip. It’s the chance for your child to dream before the harsh realities of test scores, class rank and GPAs hit. Best of all, parents are active participants. We get to be accomplices to the dream worlds our children are imagining.

Three years ago, I eagerly anticipated bonding with my oldest son on our whirlwind tour of 6 colleges in the east and one in the Midwest. I memorialized the trip with pictures of him scraping the snow off the windshield of our rented car, waking up with bed head and sampling cannoli in Boston. He was not amused. The defining moment of our trip happened during dinner midway into the week.

“I haven’t seen anyone in so long,” he said.

I not only wasn’t bonding with him, I wasn’t even someone.

Read more of Lisa’s story!

My Passion for Learning

By Min-Ling Li, IEA Program Coordinator

Growing up alongside my older sister and younger brother, I knew I was different from other kids. They played and studied with a little bit of a carefree nature, whereas I was almost always overly inquisitive, constantly asking “why?” and “how?” When I started elementary school in America as an English language learner, it was difficult for me to communicate this same curiosity. I asked the same questions, and teachers would often speak to me slower, ask me to re-read or, if available, send me to a volunteer translator with no content knowledge to find the answer. Finally, in the third grade, I was tested in the Los Angeles public school system and identified as gifted. I remember going to school on a Saturday morning and meeting a nice lady who insisted I be “natural.” I vividly remember the pattern on the circular carpet I walked around and around as she asked me questions in Cantonese and English.

Read more of Min-Ling’s story!

Doing Homework the Wrong Way

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Student writingThere is a right way to approach your school work and a wrong way. The right way is to plan ahead, break the project down into manageable pieces, allow enough time to proofread and edit your work and make sure the final work product looks good. The wrong way is to wait to begin until the night before the project is due, handwrite it (neatly at first, and nearly illegibly by the end) on the pages of a notebook and stay up all night completing it. My middle son took the second approach. But this isn’t a story about getting my son to do his homework the right way. This is about learning to accept his way.

To properly tell the story of my son’s “wrong way” project, I have to go back to the spring, when I attended the Bradley Seminar with my son. All of the attendees completed a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and learned about their personality types and their underlying characteristics. The facilitator asked the parents and students to line up on various sides of the conference room to join others with the same “type”. For the most part, my son and I were on the opposite sides of the room (no surprise). Most of our differences I understood, except one: how we deal with the outside world. I am a “judging” type. He is a “perceiving” type. This difference turns out to be a big one for us. Judging types like to plan and prefer an orderly life. Perceiving types are flexible and open to new experiences. Perceivers are enervated by deadlines. They take in information until the last minute and then complete their work in a burst of energy. Once I realized that my son was not going to share my love of lists and schedules, I stopped monitoring his work habits. I gave up on encouraging him to complete his school work in the right way.

The way my son completed his final project for his English class embodied his perceiving nature. The prompt for the project was “What is your American Voice?” My son decided to write his memoir. It would be in the form of a diary, written in a journal. He chose to write it in a red leather journal he purchased on a family vacation in France. He began the project the evening before it was due. He completed the 86 page memoir during his study hall, an hour before his English class.

My son was anxious about revealing so much of himself in a school project, so he sent his teacher an email expressing his concern. After reading my son’s work, the teacher emailed him back, and this is what he said:

It’s lovely, really…Your book is remarkably well-written for someone who just sat down and started writing. I guess writing isn’t ALWAYS rewriting. You have a natural gift for storytelling.

In this instance his natural work style worked for him. This is often the case. His rapid intellectual processing, long attention span and excellent memory allow him to produce quality work in a condensed period of time. There are instances, however, when his last minute burst of energy and inspiration isn’t enough. Last week he started running with the cross country team after not running all summer. On the third day, he injured his knee. His body was telling him what his English teacher did not: some tasks require the slow and steady approach.

My husband talked with my son and tried to make the connection between his preferred way of doing things and the possible consequences of his work style. His English project worked out because he is a good writer and he spent weeks crafting the story in his head. He likes to immerse himself in a burst of creative concentration. He also knew the teacher well. His knee reminded him that he cannot always be successful doing what is most natural for him. Running, like other skills (for example, music and foreign languages), require steady and persistent effort.

Last spring at the CDB Seminar I learned that there was a whole group of people who share what I initially thought was the wrong way of doing things. And it works for them, most of the time. Understanding this helped me let go of the need to organize, schedule and generally oversee my son’s life. It also helped my son identify his default work style. Over time, he will need to discover when his work style works for him and when it doesn’t so that he can be conscious about the need to modify it when circumstances require. I’m not really sure I can help him with this. As flexible as he thinks he is, he’s not really interested in trying things my way. In the meantime, I’m hoping that any further insights he may gain will not involve a visit to the emergency room.

That’s Just Not Fair

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Vintage Balance Scale“That’s not fair.” It’s my daughter’s motto. It is usually followed by a list of reasons why my request (to walk the dog or clean her room) is unfair and unreasonable. Her reasons are complicated, and I sometimes have difficulty understanding them. Her excellent memory allows her to reach back several weeks to describe previous events and conversations that provide evidence of the irrationality of my request. When she does this, I’m at a loss. I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast.

My daughter expects the world to operate in a way that is entirely fair and logical. She hates inconsistency. In her world, the rules are the same for everyone—children and adults alike. A rule and the intent behind the rule must match precisely. She demands precision from herself and those around her. The thought process she uses to support her positions is complex. I understand that there is a phrase to describe this behavior: “logical imperative.”

Read more about Lisa’s daughter and her strong logical imperative.