The Activity Gap and Gifted Students

A recent article in The Atlantic, The Activity Gap, struck a nerve with me and got me thinking. The article is about how kids living in poverty are at a disadvantage from not being able to access the enrichment opportunities. I believe and agree with this.

What the article doesn’t mention but what I also believe, is that gifted children living in poverty are doubly disadvantaged and this is also an issue for consideration. Activity gap and gifted children

One of the only ways to break the cycle of poverty is through education. When you’re poor a good education is a tough thing to come by let alone the enrichment programs that give you a competitive advantage. I’m sure there are lots of studies to document this but I’m not referencing them. I know this is true because I’ve seen it first hand as a volunteer in the elementary school on the ‘wrong’ side of town.

Nope, it wasn’t helping gifted students. It was helping 1st graders learn to read. Most, not all, of our gifted kids are reading chapter books by the time they get to 1st grade. The kids I was working with were struggling with sight words.

If you want to see what poverty-stricken students go through, spend some time helping teachers in an inner city school. I promise you they’ll welcome any help you can offer. I promise you an experience you won’t forget.

When schools struggle to provide just the basics tools of instruction, like current textbooks – don’t even think about tablets and laptops, the idea of after-school enrichment programs is nothing but a fairy tale. Yes, maybe they offer some sports but probably no much else for those students not athletically inclined.

Forget about it if you’re looking for chess club or a debate team.

Giftedness does not, contrary to the belief of some, occur only in affluent families.

So what happens to the gifted children in these schools? Where they don’t have access to an academic environment that meets their intellectual needs nor do they have potentially life-changing enrichment opportunities?

Their lives don’t get changed.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to change the trajectory of a life. It could be a teacher who actually sees a student, a class that sparks the imagination and ignites a passion, or maybe it’s a field trip to Harvard.

The recent story of Mont Hall Bridges Academy (grab the tissues) is an example of an educator fighting to give her students life-changing experiences.

I don’t know how many gifted students attend the school but I’m willing to bet they’re there. Probably not identified and probably feeling a little hopeless.

Imagine you’re 12 years old, you know you’re ‘smart’ but you don’t feel like you fit at school. Then you get to visit Harvard and all of a sudden you realize there’s a path – your future isn’t fixed. There are possibilities. It gives me chills thinking about it.

We’ve recently moved to a rural county and the enrichment programs that we’ve come to rely on to supplement school (because my daughter needs *more*) are nowhere to be found.

I take that back, they are to be found about an hour away. That might as well mean the moon on some days.

Thankfully, we have options. No field trip to Harvard but we’ve got options.

One of the reasons we have options is because we have high-speed internet and computers at home. Sounds like a small thing to many of us but I’m realizing in some communities that’s still a luxury. Because of this we can take advantage of things like Khan Academy. Heck, even being able to Google anything and everything whenever we want.

We have flexible schedules so we can spend hours in the car driving o weekend math classes, academic competitions, and museums.

We can take advantage of free or low-cost programs like the talent searches and Davidson Young Scholars because we know about them.

We’re still benefitting from our previous school district that was gifted friendly. We’re finding our tribe online.

We feel lucky. We are lucky.

But the gifted students who aren’t able to avail themselves of the opportunities that are out there are already behind. They simply don’t know the possibilities and sadly those responsible for their care and education probably don’t either.

I feel for all children living in poverty but the gifted kids in that situation – I feel just a teeny bit more for them.


17 Wishes for Making Parenting Gifted Children Easier

I was Facebook chatting with a friend who’s just starting out on her journey of parenting a gifted kindergartener and we were talking about what would make our lives easier as we guide these unique little people. These are the items I came up with in no particular order.

gifted children, parenting

Parenting Gifted Children Made Easier

Yep, I get it. Wishing for things to be easy as we raise gifted children is a total first-world problem. My kid has a full belly and goes to bed feeling safe. I’m more than thankful for this.

Nope, not all of these are very realistic. I know that. Some are tongue-in-cheek. Maybe a few of these things are already happening in some magical places but I’m pretty confident that they’re not the standard.

But some of these wishes sure seem like they could should be the norm.

Parenting a gifted child would be easier if…

  • Neighborhood libraries were open 24-7 and the next book in whatever series they’re reading was always available.


  • School districts provided professional development for ALL teachers on the identification of gifted students.


  • All the enrichment programs were high-quality, reasonable priced, within a 20-minute drive of home, and the schedules never conflicted with any other activities. And all those enrichment locations should be next to a coffee shop with comfy chairs and strong Wi-Fi (I’m writing this at a coffee shop 60 minutes away from home while my daughter is at math class. There are no comfy chairs.)


  • We could figure out how to download those *&{@! Minecraft mods without infecting our computers with some horrific virus. (I’ve had zero personal success with this.)


  • Differentiation in the classroom happened and it actually worked. (Remember, these are wishes – anything can happen!)


  • Every teacher, principal, and superintendent would be educated on what gifted students need in the classroom and then they’d provide it.


  • Elementary classes would be on a block schedule to allow say, a 1st grader to go to 4th grade math and 3rd grade reading without ripping a hole in the space-time continuum.


  • Schools would celebrate academic achievement the same way they celebrate athletic achievement (No, I’m not suggesting getting rid of traditional athletics!)


  • And for those middle school students that need to go to the high school for classes, please provide transportation. Thank you.


  • Gifted students would be grouped in a class so they would have true peers they could interact with. Maybe chat about things like a comparative analysis of Matt Smith vs. David Tennant vs. the new old Doctor (Whovians will understand).


  • Scratch that – gifted students would have their own school. No more pull-out enrichment programs that while we are so thankful for are simply not enough to sustain these kids.


  • There would be one universally acknowledged definition of what it means to be gifted and one universally accepted assessment to determine if in fact one meets that definition.


  • Chess club would count as a sport.


  • Computer programming would be taught as early as elementary school.


  • Teachers would communicate via email rather than the archaic ‘backpack’ system. (Ok, not really a gifted thing but I hate digging through a backpack for the latest classroom news. I’m sure most schools already do this and I’m just in a black hole of poor communication).


  • Librarians would limit the weight of the books a child checks out each week to prevent future chiropractic bills.


  • The term “smarty-pants” would be banned. Please.


I reserve the right to add to this list as the whims hit me.

What say you – what’s on your wish list?


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.