A good friend of mine works for an energy company. He is in maintenance at a hydroelectric facility in our area. While many people were filling their vehicles with toilet paper and foodstuffs, I texted him, “I just wanted to thank you for the continuous electricity you help provide. I use it every day and appreciate it very much!”
He replied: “I’d like to report that water continues to flow downhill, we are generating at a furious pace. Take care. Greetings to the whole family.”
You might have guessed that the WATG Government Action Committee visit to Washington DC to advocate for gifted education funding (specifically the Javits grants) did not happen this year. So instead of an update on a trip that didn’t happen, I’d like to look at things that we can focus on with those closest to us in the midst of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Like most of you, I’m finding my calendar suddenly very empty. Committee meetings, projects, errands, practices, after school activities and appointments that were once vital for myself or the kids have either vanished or evolved into a video chat. It’s an odd feeling of being connected, yet disconnected at the same time. Our piano lessons can now be given through Zoom. A therapy session can come via Facetime. WebX seems to work for those meetings that still need to occur…
For many of us this will be remembered as a stressful time. But is that true for kids? Does it need to be stressful for them? For those of you active in social media, you’re probably seeing a lot of friends doing crafts: sewing, art, woodworking, and painting are just a few of the interests that seem to have appeared from some previously concealed box that was tucked away in a closet. People are engaging with their kids. In 20 years we might look back at today and recall uncertainty, gloom. But children might remember family dinners, boiling maple sap into syrup, repairing a bicycle, or learning to sew an article of clothing. They might recall going online to find recipes, science projects, or learning about how wind direction influences the weather. Never before in history have we had a larger library available in most of our homes.
Additionally, we’ve been given the gift of time with our kids to find and complete satisfying projects. GT kids are bright. We know they can finish and submit their regular days’ schoolwork through an online classroom in a very short amount of time. This opens a great part of the day for other activities. How about assigning a pizza project? What’s the chemistry behind yeast? Some dough rises and others stay flat. Yeast isn’t just for bread, you know. Have you ever made root beer at home? A regular two liter bottle with a threaded cap works well, and it’s very easy to know the carbonation is building by squeezing the sides.
Water continues to flow downhill and our online world is still open to us. With so many good ways to engage our kids (or students) that can include their whole family, this can be a time of tremendous growth and positive memories.
Hillarie Roth, President-Elect (with input from her husband, Dean Roth)
1. Pick a household item and invent at least 10 new uses for it.
2. Listen to a foreign radio station while cooking a recipe from that country.
3. Have an “opera hour” during which people can only sing their conversations.
4. Invite a family or neighborhood elder to discuss “olden times.” Compare and contrast with life today.
5. Plan a bedroom safari using stuffed animals, tour guides, etc.
6. Listen to different types of music and make up dances.
7. Fingerpaint with pudding and eat the leftovers.
8. Discuss TV shows and plan new plots and sub-plots for characters. Relate TV to real life experiences in your child’s life.
9. Plan a real or fictitious trip – have your child research stopping points and decide
whether or not to stop there.
10. Dance to various types of music – salsa, tango, waltz, disco, etc.
11. Star gaze and investigate “star stories” from various viewpoints.
12. Invent a new sport and play it.
13. Create an original cartoon strip.
14. Keep a family diary and visit it often over time.
15. Listen to the news and identify local problems that kids could solve. Make a plan and try to solve one.
16. Plant a garden with things that you can eat. Plan meals around your produce.
17. Check out a book on experiments from the library. Have a science night.
18. Have family members dress up as different characters. Write a play using only these characters.
19. Have your child help with a home repair project.
20. Practice random acts of kindness to teach your child the joy of doing for others.
21. Make snow monsters and spray with colored water.
22. Make a snow slide in your backyard.
23. Design ramps and balls, design experiments with them and practice the scientific method – problem, hypothesis, investigation/experiment, observation and conclusion.
24. Create your own math symbols and design problems with them.
25. Make up a new language and keep expanding it.
26. Invent something using only things from your toy box.
27. Tell ghost stories in a round-robin fashion, stopping and starting with a new narrator every minute or so…
28. Graph the weather.
29. Go on a “wonder walk…” pause often to ask wondering questions.
30. Camp out on the living room floor – spread blankets over chairs, etc.
31. Play twenty questions.
Mollie Grinnell, Parent and WATG Board
Why does a bright child, who from the age of two years old could not wait to go to school, drop out by the time she is seven years old? At the time, she verbalized the situation by saying, “I feel like a fourth grader stuck in a second grader’s body.” As she tells the story now, three years later at ten years old, her teachers assumed she did not know anything, gave her repetitive work, and covered the material with painfully little depth and at an agonizingly slow pace. When she asked for more challenging work, she was told to complete what she was given. She spent her days creating elaborate stories, waiting for recess and the end of the school day. After years of feeling this way, she finally had enough and refused to go to school. She was seven years old.
As parents, how could we argue? The struggle to get her to go to school was harder every year, every day. The work she was being given was years behind her ability, and being in school and not learning was destroying her love of learning and eroding her self- esteem. Our attempts to work with the classroom teachers, principal (who was also the GT Coordinator), and school psychologist failed to improve the situation. One morning, as our daughter lay in bed sobbing and refusing to go to school (again), we asked ourselves why we should force her to do so.
She was joyful when we told her we were going to homeschool. Today she will tell you that homeschooling allows her to work at her own pace and she doesn’t have the drudgery of repetitive (and often meaningless) work. She enjoys demonstrating when she has mastered a subject and is ready to move on. Homeschooling and participating in organizations for gifted youth has restored her self-esteem and her love of learning. Homeschooling is far from a perfect situation, but she no longer feels “like there is something wrong with me because school didn’t work,” and she knows that “schools just don’t know how to teach children like me.”
Being in a school setting where she is challenged with like-minded peers would be far better for our daughter (and us); however, given our current educational system, she—unlike most children—does not have that opportunity. Why? Because too many in our educational system take the position that gifted children will do okay on their own. Because of my daughter’s foray in school, I now understand how damaging doing nothing for our brightest students can be—it can extinguish the desire to learn, and result in a bright seven-year-old feeling that there is something wrong with her and giving up on school.