The Path to Achievement

We realized pretty early that our daughter wasn’t going to be on the usual path to achievement.

Typical comments from around age five gave us our first clues:

“Mom, I think I should stay inside from recess and learn about geography.”

“Mom, I don’t have time to make new friends. I’m learning about calculus.”The path to achievement for gifted students

“Mom, what font is on that poster?” (asked in the middle of a kindergarten basketball game)

And when I saw how ballet classes went at age three I knew the visions of dance recitals, gymnastic meets, and all things athletic were never going to be reality.

We had her tested and when we got the results of the IQ tests, whoa. This kid has potential.

Potential is one heavy word. Potential means possibilities. Big possibilities. Maybe game changer possibilities. It’s like finding out your pee-wee football player has the same potential as Peyton Manning.  She is capable of so much and as a parent it’s my job to help her get there. No pressure.

How do you change all that raw potential into achievement? (By the way, this is not a rhetorical question. I’d appreciate hearing how other parents are addressing this issue.)

That’s the bugaboo. Having potential doesn’t count for much in the real world. There aren’t any jobs that ask for your IQ. There’s not an IQ box on a patent application. That IQ alone won’t get you into a college.

You need to demonstrate what you can do. What you have achieved. The IQ is the talk. The achievement is the walk. You have to walk the walk.

Lots of gifted kids, and not gifted kids, are passionate about a particular topic. Maybe it’s dinosaurs, space, weather patterns, or robotics.

But my kid is content to sit back and watch Gravity Falls or read Calvin & Hobbes. Recently it’s been watching M.A.S.H. reruns. She claims she’s learning about the Korean War. She also believes Frank Burns was under-appreciated. Obviously she still has much to learn about the Korean conflict and worthy sitcom characters.

She gets straight A’s and can rock a standardized test like nobody’s business. But she hasn’t found her “thing” yet.  She hasn’t found her passion which would, I believe, lead her to achievement on a new level for her.

She likes robotics and has taken several classes but when she had the opportunity for her own Mindstorms kit, she turned it down.

She’s a mathy girl, but getting her to the local math circle is sometimes more than I can deal with it.

At her first MathCounts competition she failed to finish all the questions, and she wasn’t concerned. Even with leaving problems unanswered she did well for her age and that’s good enough for her.

Just imagine what she could’ve achieved had she finished. Imagine what she could’ve achieved had she studied.

What Will Achievement Look Like?

When I have the achievement conversation with her school, they look incredulous. They think I’m a wee bit crazy. By their standards, she is a high achiever. But I know better. She’s phoning it in.

My current plan is twofold: continue to present opportunities that challenge her and to let go of my own ideas of what her achievement should look like. That’s a tough one but it’s getting easier to let go as she matures and finds her own voice. I have faith in the person she’s becoming.

She’s a cheetah but she’s not at full speed yet. She’ll get there.

No, I don’t know yet what achievement will look like for her – but I can’t wait to find out.


Visit Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop for more takes on achievement.

Hoagies Gifted

The Quiz Bowl Incident

My daughter joined the district quiz bowl team this spring. She loves it.

No, I mean she LOVES it.

Fist pumps and happy dances after a correct answer loves it.Quiz Bowl Incident

Her teammates are her peeps. Most of them are boys and in the gifted program. They don’t know she’s about two years younger than all of them and I don’t think they’d care. Because she’s good. Not the best at the literature categories but a whiz at science and math. And all Sherlock Holmes related questions.

Practice is the highlight of her week.

And then this happened.

I was just getting ready to pick her up a few weeks ago when the coach called and he had that tone of voice that makes your heart sink.

“There’s been an incident.”

What?? What could happen at quiz bowl practice??

I’m picturing her trying to balance a chair on two legs and she whacked her head. Or tripped on the stairs and face planted. I just got into the car and started driving as the coach laid it out for me.

One of the boys disagreed with her on an answer, grabbed both her arms and pinned them behind her back and pulled up on them until she cried.

The team was split into two and her group was left in the charge of a high-school freshman who didn’t know how to handle the situation. Quick thinking teammates ran to the coach who got things under control.

I’m hearing this as I’m pulling into the school parking lot and I’m trying to figure out how to react. Because I still can’t get my mind around that this happened at quiz bowl practice. You know, where a bunch of nerdy kids see how quickly they can answer questions. I don’t expect it to be physical.

Walking up I see the boy standing outside the classroom. He’s big. Big like maybe a future linebacker big. His mom, I assumed it was his mom, was standing in front of him with a look that said nothing good was in his immediate future.

My daughter was okay, the tears had already dried. By her own admission she was more scared than hurt.

There were apologies from the boy to my daughter (before I got there) and profuse apologies from the coach.

I left saying that I needed to process what had happened because I didn’t want to speak out of anger or until I’d had a full debrief from my daughter. But no matter what the story was it was NOT okay for him to put his hands on her. Period.

The story goes that there was some disagreement about a question and the situation got out of hand. The boy lost his temper and grabbed her. She was scared and he didn’t stop until the coach came in. The boy apologized and she believed it to be sincere.

I don’t know this boy but I’ve seen him at practices and tournaments. He’s like a big puppy that doesn’t know his own strength and gets excited and can’t control himself. But he’s not a puppy; he’s a boy soon to be a young man.

He’s a boy who’s awkward and doesn’t fit in. He’s a boy who loves quiz bowl as much my daughter does.

He’s a boy my daughter had considered a friend. And still does.

The coach emailed me that afternoon with more apologies and advising that the boy would be suspended and would miss at least two tournaments. There are only four tournaments this season.

My husband and I talked about it and we thought the punishment sounded excessive given that we didn’t believe the incident was malicious. We said that we were not advocating for such a severe punishment but that we left the decision to him.

We talked with our daughter to see how she felt about him being suspended. She didn’t like it and thought the team needed him.

We had a looooonnnnggg talk about how it is NEVER okay for someone to put their hands on her like that. LIKE NEVER OKAY.  And if it happens again she has our permission to use some of those martial arts kicks that she practices on her dad.

BUT – I do know I don’t want to be the parent that prevents a gifted kid from the one activity that keeps him (or her) sane. I do want to be able to distinguish between when a kid makes a mistake and when a kid is a malicious bully. I do know I want to demonstrate for my daughter what forgiveness looks like.

BUT – I also want her to know that real friends may disagree with each other and they may argue but they NEVER physically hurt one another.

Was I wrong to let this boy off the hook? I don’t know.

Sometimes it feels like I’m making this parenting thing up as I go. I guess we all are.

I now sit in the back of the quiz bowl practice room mostly because I feel better about doing something. I try not to shout out answers on the occasion I happen to know one. So, I’m pretty quiet.

Have you had a situation like this happen where you weren’t sure what to do? How did you handle it?

Book Review: Educating Your Gifted Child

I never thought I’d consider homeschooling until I began to experience firsthand the inadequacies of schools in dealing with gifted children. The past year the thought that homeschooling may be a viable option has been looming ever larger in my mind.

Reading Celi Trépanier’s new book, Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling, was almost enough to convince me to give it a go. Almost. Perhaps I should say – not yet – because I can see a possible future for my child that may include homeschooling.

Educating Your Gifted Child

Educating Your Gifted Child by Celi Trépanier

Celi’s book is refreshing but not in the traditional way of learning about something brand new, but in the way that you’ve finally found someone who so thoroughly ‘gets’ what you’ve been going through. Someone who’s been there, done that. Because she has. She has felt my pain and probably yours.

Too often when parents talk about their gifted children they get labeled as ‘that parent’ who thinks they know better than all the professional educators. And if ‘that parent’ chooses to homeschool because the traditional schools can’t challenge their kids – let the eye-rolling begin.

That label certainly doesn’t apply to Celi as her background IS education. She has a B.S. from Loyola University and a M.Ed. from the University of Louisiana. She has taught in Louisiana, Ontario, and Alabama, in public schools, private schools, and homeschool co-ops.

She’s not just some mom who thought she could do better than traditional schools. She had an insider’s perspective and was a believer in the system and eventually came to realize the system was failing her child.

In her book, Celi details her journey from trusting the traditional school setting, to advocating (unsuccessfully) for appropriate accommodations, to finally taking personal control over her child’s education on a fundamental level.

Don’t worry, she makes clear that having an educational background is NOT a pre-requisite for homeschooling.

This isn’t a how-to-homeschool book. This is a why-you-should-consider-homeschool book.

Celi reminds us that we must question, that we have a right and an obligation to question, if our children are being permitted and encouraged to learn every school day. She reminds us that it’s okay to seek and create the learning environment that is best for our own child.

No single school can meet the educational needs of every gifted child within it’s walls, so choosing the best school for your child is a personal undertaking, as the one-size-fits-all approach does not work for gifted students. ~ Celi Trépanier

Raising a gifted child is a lonely road. Family and friends don’t understand the challenges you face and the pressure you feel. So you look to the educators and trust that they understand but too often they simply don’t.

I’d venture to say that most parents of gifted children have had fantasies of liberating their child from the drudgery of the traditional classroom. I know I’ve had them. Celi lets us know that those daydreams can become a reality and the reality of homeschooling sounds pretty darn good.

You can learn more about Celi and her advocacy for gifted education by reading her book, which I highly recommend, and on her fabulous blog Crushing Tall Poppies. She’s also on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I know she’d like to here from you.

Are you a homeschooler? How did you come to the decision that it was right for your family?