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?



Going Back to School is Scary

Two months ago I went back to college nearly 20 years after I graduated college the first time. The why I went back to school isn’t all that interesting or important except to say that I finally realized that there really is no time like right now to get on with life’s to do list.  Here’s the list that helped me decide on this path.

I’ve learned a lot in the past two months: where the good parking places are, that a too heavy backpack can do considerable damage to a middle-aged spine, and that the most effective studying happens at the library away from the washing machine.

But one of the most surprising revelations is how scary it is to walk into a classroom where you don’t know anyone, don’t know anything about the subject matter and are unsure of your own capabilities.

Courageous Kids

Our kids do this on a regular basis and frankly, I think we forget that it takes a lot of courage to walk into a classroom for the first time. I know I was grateful for my underarm protection my first day.

I think of the kids of our military families who relocate so often and the skills they must develop to feel comfortable starting over again in new schools. Not easy.

I think of my own daughter who skipped first grade and left all her friends behind to accelerate to second grade. There were some rough patches but she thrived and it was the best decision we’ve made yet regarding her education. Remember that if you’re considering a grade skip for your gifted child.

So when I feel like I don’t belong in a college classroom at my age I think of my girl who boldly marched into second grade at age six like she owned it. Reason number 32 why she’s my hero.


2012 Goes Out With A Bang

The past month has kicked my butt.

I quit my job and decided to go back to school and that means we’ll be a single income family and I’ll technically be a stay-at-home mom.

Scared out of my freaking mind

If that weren’t enough, the tragedy in Newtown damn near broke me. Still unable to talk about that without crying and there are certainly many others who’ve honored the victims and families much more eloquently than I’m able to so I’m keeping quiet. For now.

When I found out that my job was most likely going to be eliminated sometime in the next several months I did what I imagine most middle-age women would do – I cried.

Not because I’ve got a dream job, I mean the job itself is OK but I love the organization. I work (for 11 more days) at a community college. I love being able to see students changing their lives and their families lives through education.

Anyway, times are tough all over and I don’t like to waste time feeling sorry for myself so I made a list of my options. Because that’s the other thing middle-age women do – make lists. Mine looked something like this:

  • Keep my job until it’s actually eliminated and then look for a job
  • Quit now and look for a job
  • Quit now and get a master’s degree
  • Quit now, go back to school and start a career in a new field

All were scary options. But the scariest and most exciting was the last one. And because I’m married to an amazing man, he agreed and supports my decision to get crazy brave (for me anyway) and go for it.

Going back to school

Courtesy of FrameAngel at

Obviously, (I hope it’s obvious!) education is important to me and so I’m putting my money, time, and energy where my mouth is and heading back to school in January for 15 hours of online classes in the healthcare field. Yikes!

There is a bright side

Since all the classes are online I’ll be able to pick my daughter up from school and spend at least an additional three hours a day with her. That scares me, too. But I’m looking forward to finally being able to really focus on all the enrichment activities that we’ve wished we could do but logistically just couldn’t make happen.

And, I hope to set an example for my daughter. I truly believe that learning is a lifetime endeavor and while I thoroughly enjoyed getting my Sociology degree some 20 years ago and still believe in the inherent value of a liberal arts education, sometimes it’s just not enough. You’ve got to keep up with the times.

Working at a college means I knew I needed to upgrade my skills in order to keep myself employable so I’m not too surprised to find myself in this situation – I’m in pretty good company with millions of other folks in similar situation across the globe.

Quite frankly, this is still a big-old first world problem. I have the luxury of not working while going to school; I have a roof over my head and food on the table. Most importantly, I have a husband and daughter to support me.

So, I may be scared out of my freaking mind but my heart overflows with gratitude and I count my blessings every day.