Advice to Gifted Children from a College Dropout

Some of the best advice I’ve received about raising a gifted child – and like you, I’ve gotten advice from just about everybody – was from a college Advice to Gifted Childrendropout.

He wasn’t your typical dropout. He was (is) gifted. He graduated at the top of his class and had an impressive high school academic career filled with science and math competitions. He was well read and an accomplished public speaker for someone his age. He’d even been accepted to an Ivy League school – one I’d be thrilled to have my daughter attend.

But he didn’t go to the Ivy League school. Instead, he chose the honors college at a large state university. It wasn’t one of those ivy covered colleges but still a very good school. I’ll probably be okay should my daughter choose to go there.

He didn’t make it through his sophomore year. There were probably several reasons about what why that is but here’s what he told me. This is what he wanted me to know about being a gifted child.

Learn how to study – college is too late

He never bothered to learn how to study because everything had come so easy to him in school. He didn’t have to work hard for his good grades and so when he got to college he didn’t have the tools to manage his time or school work. I’ve since learned this isn’t an uncommon situation for many college freshmen but it can be particularly devastating for those who’ve basically gotten through high school on autopilot.

Do things that are hard

Not stretching as a student can have serious consequences in life, not just in college. There is no challenge and therefore no real success in always taking the easy road. Sometimes the easy road of a gifted student includes AP classes or maybe advanced calculus (that was a breeze for this dropout) so it’s easy to believe that they’re being tested academically. Find a way to keep challenged. The payoff is that when difficulties present themselves – and they will – the skills needed to be successful are already honed.

Fail now; recover now

Failing out of college can be a devastating blow and recovery can seem almost impossible for even those of the strongest will. It’s much easier to recover from failing 3rd grade science. Let your gifted student – ANY student – experience failure while they’re young. The lesson of learning how to recover from a failure is invaluable.

Of course it’s simple to read these words and it’s another thing to put into to practice. How often as parents of gifted children do we simply assume that since they’re in the honors classes, have the high test scores, or have grade accelerated that they’re being appropriately challenged? It’s easy to fall into complacency. With potentially risky outcomes.

Don’t worry about this college dropout. He found his way back to college and will soon graduate with a degree in chemical engineering and a wisdom beyond his years. He’s going to be just fine.

How do you make sure to keep your kids challenged academically?



12 Angry Men and 1 Girl

Friday night times means leftovers and family movie night at our house. With a couple loads of laundry thrown in. Tonight was no different, it’s been a long first week back at school and work – we were ready for some quality vegging out.

Animated princesses and SpongeBob usually feature prominently in the movie night lineup. My sweet gifted girl who wanted a poster of the periodic table for Christmas, could sit and zone out for hours to the adventures of Tinkerbell. Of course, that’s prime time for my budding Pinterest addiction.

We’ve been saving Soul Surfer on the DVR but somehow my husband and I got talking about the movie 12 Angry Men. We exchanged one of those “what do you think” looks over the leftover beef stew and both shrugged our shoulders. So, 12 Angry Men was the feature. I’m not talking the 1997 version with Tony Danza, but the original black and white starring Henry Fonda. With a 7-year old girl.

12 Angry Men

I admit I did a quick check on Common Sense Media to make sure I hadn’t forgotten some gruesome details. By the way, if you haven’t used this site before – check it out. I don’t always agree with their recommendations but it’s a handy tool.

Honestly, I thought she’d be bored since it’s lacking the action of a classic SpongeBob episode and when she ran out of the room I figured she’d had enough of our classic movie night. But then she came running back in with her calculator to try and figure out how many train cars could’ve passed by the window. You’ll have to watch the movie to get that reference. Personally, I just trusted that Henry Fonda would work it all out and convince all those grumpy guys, including Ed Begley Jr.’s dad. Obviously, she was hooked.

She made it all the way through, much to our surprise. Have to admit I loved seeing her captivated by a movie more than 50 years old.

Watching it with her generated conversation about keeping your mind open and not following the crowd – there are few topics more important to address with your kids. Not to mention an easy civics lesson. Yep, I’m feeling like I accomplished a lot of quality parenting tonight thanks to old-school Hollywood. Don’t judge.

Gary the Snail

I have a feeling tomorrow morning she’s going to be back to SpongeBob. And I’m ok with that because I’m a big Gary fan.