Category Archives: Stories of Gifted

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.

Thoughts on Gifted Children from an IEA Intern

By Matt Myers

Matt is a summer intern at IEA. He had the privilege of meeting some of the Summer Academy students and taking them to the park for lunch each day. This is his reflection on his time with these kids.

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Matt with the Academy lunch crew. They like to keep the mood light.

I had never met a gifted child before interning at IEA this summer.  My job would be to help around the office and take the Academy kids to lunch.   What is a gifted child, though?  What do they look like?  I somehow had an image of miniature college professors in khakis, casual sweaters, and dirty new balance running shoes (this is what most of my professors at The Johns Hopkins University wear).  Perhaps one or two of them would even have a stylish goatee that they would twirl in their finger as they discussed the motive hunting surrounding the motiveless malignity of Iago from William Shakespeare’s Othello.  “Indeed the play suggests some over-determined motivations from Iago—a lover jealous of Othello’s involvement with Desdemona, an ambitious military officer, or perhaps a subtly racist Venetian?”

I would nod my head,  making a mental note to read up that night on my Othello notes from last semester.

See what Matt learned about gifted children here!

IEA Summer Spotlight 2013

115 students, parents and supporters of gifted education gathered at USC on July 9 for IEA’s Summer Spotlight 2013, an event designed to showcase gifted students and the programs we offer to meet their needs. The evening was a huge success, and we wanted to share some of the highlights with those of you who were not able to attend.

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See some of the evening’s highlights.

The Revolution Won’t Start Here…And That’s Okay

By Lisa Hartwig

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

  • checklistDeliver a full cup of tea in a wagon that rolls smoothly on four wheels of four different shapes.
  • Design and craft a musical instrument that is played only by altering its temperature.
  • Freeze and pop an airborne bubble.

These are three of the 318 items on this year’s University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt List. Scav, as it’s called, is a school-wide game in which students get points for completing listed tasks. All of this occurs over four days, ending Mother’s Day. Participants are expected to attend class and complete all of their required assignments during Scav. The winning team gets nothing more than bragging rights.

My son’s participation in Scav got me thinking about all of the things my children have done just for fun. None of these activities will be on their resumes or college applications, and no money changed hands. They may have looked like a waste of time (I may have even said so myself), but they reflect the curiosity and creative thinking that characterize so many gifted children. So, in honor of Scav, I am creating a scavenger hunt of my own composed entirely of some of my children’s more unusual activities. I am doing this with the hopes that there might be other parents out there whose children are more interested in having silly fun than in changing the world. If your daughter constructed a science lab in her room to develop a new form of algae biofuel or wrote an algorithm to predict epileptic seizures, please stop reading. You will only make me feel bad. If you wonder if your child’s creative abilities are being put to their best use, read on…

Read more here!

The Perfect Test

By Lisa Hartwig

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

At my son’s kindergarten parent/teacher conference, his teacher played a game with my husband and me. She put 3 marbles on the table and asked us to close our eyes. When we opened them, we saw 2 marbles. She asked us how many she was holding in her hand. When we told her “one”, she repeated the game with 4 marbles.

Our son’s teacher told us she played this game with each student until the child no longer gave the correct answer. All the children in her class stopped at 10 marbles, except my son. She played with him until she had 20 marbles on the table. Then she stopped. She told us that he was clearly very good at math.
I left the meeting feeling proud of my son’s talent and satisfied with the teacher’s assessment. My husband wasn’t.

“Why didn’t she keep going until he gave the wrong answer?”

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