We have collected some resources that might be helpful to families and educators during these challenging times. First, though, we want to offer some unsolicited advice. Be gentle with yourself. If that online assignment or other school-related task is just too much for you and your child to deal with right now, let it go. Today, you might simply need to prioritize simpler things, such as making sure your child gets some fresh air or plays a game with you. One of our neighbors told us that her goal for today is to teach her 11-year-old to clean up the kitchen after dinner. In these uncertain times, it can be helpful for adults and children alike to focus on small, immediate, achievable goals.
If you find you are looking for resources that might benefit your children or students in your class, however, we have found a few. We thank the educators on the Belin-Blank Center’s Educators listserv for calling some of these resources to our attention and we are grateful that some of these simply showed up in our inbox.
Our thanks to Wendy Behrens for sending this information to us. Wendy is the Gifted and Talented Education Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education
Throughout the world, people are experiencing anxiety about the Covid-19 outbreak. Children are not immune to worry and many young students are concerned about missing school and friends and confused by changing schedules and responsibilities. Older students may also be concerned about testing, college applications, completion of courses, credits, missing final school events and more.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) reminds us that during these uncertain times, children look to adults for guidance on how to react. As our anxiety rises, so does the anxiety of our children. NASP recommends, “Parents reassure children that health and school officials are working hard to ensure that people throughout the country stay healthy. However, children also need factual, age appropriate information about the potential seriousness of disease risk and concrete instruction about how to avoid infections and spread of disease. Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety.”
Resources for Consideration
Cultivating Calm Amidst a Storm. Blog from Nicole A. Tetreault, Ph.D., on how to calm our mind, body, and nervous system in the presence of a global health crisis. (March 18, 2020)
Helping Your Child Manage Stress Through Mindfulness by Michele Kane, Ed.D. Parenting for High Potential, Dec 2017. This article, written directly to teens and tweens, helps gifted adolescents understand mindfulness and the formal/informal pathways to mindfulness. Includes apps, books, and online resources for kids.
Management of Anxiety Begins at Homeby Sal Mendaglio, Ph.D., Parenting for High Potential, Summer 2016. General article that focuses on the sources of anxiety in gifted children and what parents can do to help reduce anxiety at home.
Suddenly, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are navigating new territory–teaching their children at home while also trying to work from home and maintain some semblance of normal family life. Here are a few resources that might be helpful to your and your gifted child during this time.
The National Association for Gifted Children has published a list of resources tailored to gifted students and their families. We picked out a few to highlight:
Distance Learning Resources from the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian provides access to millions of digital resources from across the Smithsonian’s museums, research centers, libraries, archives, and more. See especially the sections on Resources for Caregivers and Resources for Tweens and Teens. Also note that there are scheduled live chats with experts.
The list of Amazing Educational Resources is, well, amazing! It provides a list of education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings and is updated often.
Leave Your Sleep for Education. Free online curriculum platform that offers literature, theater, music and dance, art, history, and science applications using poetry and music to engage students. This is an excellent resource for April’s National Poetry Month. Recommended by our friends at the Gifted Support Center in San Mateo, CA.
Sage Publishing is providing free access to Coronavirus research. These might be especially appropriate for high school students as well as some middle schoolers.
The National Association of School Psychologists provides a list of health crisis resources for various audiences (including parents) who are now navigating the COVID-19 virus.
Finally, Lisa Van Gemert (some of you know her as the Gifted Guru) is in the midst of a truly amazing experience as the country’s English teacher. We will simply end this little article with her words: “When faced with difficult times, focusing on what we can give, rather than worrying about what might be taken away, is food for the soul. You’ve got something worth sharing. Share it.”
Thanks to Gerald Aungst, Curiosity Engineer (@GeraldAungst, www.geraldaungst.com) for writing this guest post.
Parents have many questions while raising a gifted child. Some seek advice about perfectionism.
Many sources, including some psychologists and the National Association for Gifted Children, refer to two types of perfectionism: “healthy” and “unhealthy.” The healthy type, sometimes called adaptive perfectionism, describes people who consistently pursue excellence and persist in reaching those goals. Greenspon (2000) argues, though, that this isn’t actually perfectionism because those people aren’t seeking perfection. Instead, their behavior may be better described as perseverance, high achievement, and having high standards.
Although it is often listed as a common characteristic of giftedness, research has failed to find a link; in general, perfectionism is as likely to appear in both gifted and non-gifted populations (Pyryt, 2004). It is still worth understanding perfectionism and asking how to support and help gifted children who are perfectionists.
Characteristics of perfectionism
Though perfectionism can manifest differently in different children, there are a few common characteristics:
Perceived conditional acceptance
Perfectionists believe their worth as a person hinges on their ability to perform perfectly. They cannot see their own worth and accept themselves only if they are perfect. This leads to a dichotomy: the child and their work is either perfect, or it is worthless.
Perfectionists can feel intimidated by the need to complete the task perfectly, so they delay or avoid it.
No satisfaction from achievement
Since perfection is not actually achievable, perfectionists gain no satisfaction from real achievements. It doesn’t matter how well they perform or what they accomplish; the child believes their work is never good enough.
Transforming desires (wants) into demands (musts)
When perfectionists want to do something well, they interpret that as a requirement to perform perfectly. This can lead to a compulsive drive to succeed. Perfectionists may also feel guilty if they are not constantly working. There is no downtime.
Research suggests several things that can help. Perfectionism is not a disease or disorder. It is a mindset and belief system. Changing this mindset takes time and persistence. Steady, consistent, patient guidance from parents and others over the long term is the most effective course.
Don’t tell them how to be
“Telling a perfectionist not to be so hard on him- or herself may make logical sense; what he or she is likely to hear, however, is the criticism that he or she has not been a good enough perfectionist” (Greenspon, 2000, p. 206). Remember that they already believe their worth in your eyes is tied to their perfection, so directly telling them what to do or not do will be perceived through that filter.
Recognize that perfectionism isn’t a positive trait
Perfectionism doesn’t necessarily result in high performance. Perfectionism can impede productivity through procrastination and learned helplessness (Ullrich, 2013).
To turn around a perfectionist child’s self-perception requires the adults around that child to build an affirming environment:
Point out your own imperfections and failures, modeling how to persist and feel valued even when you do not succeed.
Emphasize effort and process, not end results.
Give affection, support, and encouragement liberally regardless of whether goals are met; withholding these can promote perfectionism.
Help children set realistic expectations
Perfectionists have unrealistic expectations for themselves. They set goals beyond their capabilities.
Avoid setting high standards that are non-negotiable. Show children how expectations can change when circumstances change.
Know when good enough is good enough. Teach children how to recognize that it is time to be done and move on.
Teach children to allocate their time based on the importance of an assignment; perfectionists will spend large amounts of time on a low-value or small task just to keep fine tuning it.
Change the goal. Instead of an end-product, focus on improvement and enjoyment.
Study lives of successful people
Though successful people may seem to be models of perfection, help children to learn that most successful people have flaws and failures in their lives.
Perfectionism is a challenge, but with perseverance and support from adults, a perfectionist child can learn to see their inherent worth and that they do not need to be perfect to make a valuable and meaningful contribution to their world.
Greenspon, T. S. (2000). “Healthy perfectionism” is an oxymoron! Reflections on the psychology of perfectionism and the sociology of science. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 11(4), p. 197-208.
The fall semester has flown by, and it’s almost 2020! Happy holidays and we hope you are looking forward to exciting opportunities in the new year. Goethe has a quote that seems so appropriate for a new year: Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Wishing is not enough; we must do.
Over the short winter break (December 30 – January 17, 2020), educators and/or parents can take advantage of one of our most useful classes entitled Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA)!
As the title suggests, this is your opportunity to read that book you’ve heard about (or at least several chapters of that book, since a one-semester-hour class requires only about 150 – 175 pages of readings). NAGC has awarded three 2019 book awards:
Scholar Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools (Prufrock Academic Press) by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Rena F. Subotnik, and Frank C. Worrell
Practitioner A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning (Free Spirit Publishing) by Dina Brulles and Karen L. Brown
Parent/Caregiver Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World (Workman Publishing) by Deborah Reber
If you attended a state conference or the national convention, you might have heard about other materials that would help you better advocate for or meet the needs of your own advanced learner(s).
You can also read research-based articles for this credit; we give you the tips you need to find your own journal articles (and while you are enrolled for credit, you have full access to all the online materials in the University of Iowa libraries!). We can also help you find the most useful materials on a topic of importance to you (e.g., how to support twice-exceptional learners, or what articles would be most helpful to you for that upcoming professional development session you’re providing at your school later in January).
To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.
All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement. All will help you better understand important issues in the field. Billy Wilder, journalist, screenwriter, and filmmaker, is given credit for saying, “Hindsight is always 20 : 20.” Let’s plan ahead for 2020, identifying and implementing best practices for gifted children.
A parent recently told us about her child’s teacher, who confidently stated, “Well, you know the research tells us that it’s a really bad idea for kids to start kindergarten early.” Another parent said that the climate at his children’s school is unsupportive of acceleration. When approached about the possibility of subject acceleration or grade acceleration, the principal simply said, “Kids who accelerate don’t fit in.”
Those of us who have read (and done some of) the research want to jump into those conversations with both feet, summarize 70 years of research, and demand accelerative opportunities for the children. This isn’t necessarily the best approach. Being an advocate for our children might mean introducing information slowly or finding ways to inform educators other than forcefully giving them a list of the “Top Ten Reasons My Child Should be Allowed to Accelerate.”
One important thing to mention up front is that, in general,
educators simply are uninformed about acceleration. Believe it or not, even in
graduate programs in gifted education, students don’t necessarily learn about the
research and tools for acceleration, let alone how to practice acceleration in
schools. Regular education teachers and administrators spend very little time
in their undergraduate courses learning about gifted students, and even less
time studying acceleration. All of this means that you, the parent, might be
better informed than the educator sitting in front of you. It also means that
the educator sitting in front of you might, with every good intention, believe that
certain myths about acceleration are true.
Get ready. You might have to learn the information on your own, and you might be the one teaching your teachers and administrators about acceleration. Fear not! There are lots of tools to help you with this:
Learn the facts. Research tells us that acceleration is often the most appropriate avenue for helping academically talented students find a match between their abilities and the curriculum available at their school. The Belin-Blank Center’s Acceleration Institute gathers the important research and information about acceleration in one place. Research articles, practical advice, video stories – it’s all there. Other great places to find information include the Hoagies Gifted website and the Davidson Institute website.
Share what you have learned. Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered and Volume 1 of A Nation Deceived are both very approachable resources that a busy administrator or teacher can read quickly. You can download both of those documents for free from the websites linked above. If you want even more information about the research, read Volume 2 of A Nation Empowered.
Be reassured that there are objective tools that can help us know when it is appropriate to accelerate a student. You don’t have to make the decision about a grade skip or subject acceleration based on a “gut feeling.” The Iowa Acceleration Scale was designed to help families and educators work together to gather information, discuss important factors, and make an informed decision about a grade skip. Above-level testing is the essential tool for making decisions about subject acceleration.
Advocacy might also mean helping to write policy for your school or district. First, a caution: Policy work takes a long time. If you are trying to solve a problem for your child, focus on your child and the issues that are pertinent to your child. Don’t try to solve everything for everyone. Leave the policy for another day. However, if you are in a position to help make things better for future students, this might be the time to have those policy discussions. The Belin-Blank Center and the National Association for Gifted Children produced a helpful document last year on Developing Academic Acceleration Policies. This should help you get started on writing defensible policies for acceleration.
OK. It may seem like a lot but have courage. You have the tools, you have the information, and you can be an effective advocate for your child’s acceleration. Go for it!
Parents and educators are often looking for useful resources in gifted education. We would like to highlight a few. The Davidson Institute’s guidebooks for parents and educators on advocacy, early entrance to college, homeschooling, mentorships, and twice exceptional students can be downloaded for free:
The Belin-Blank Center offers extensive information on academic acceleration in several publications.
A Nation Empowered: An update to the watershed report on acceleration, A Nation Deceived, the 2015 report provides the latest research on acceleration. A Nation Empowered: Volume 1 is written in an accessible format for parents, educators, policymakers, and the general public. A Nation Empowered: Volume 2 provides the research and an in-depth look at topics specific to acceleration, including grade-skipping, early entrance to college, twice exceptional students, and longitudinal research.
A Nation Deceived, Volume 1: Published in 2004, this volume includes an overview of the issues surrounding acceleration for gifted students. The discussion of the myths is still relevant today.
Two resources on twice-exceptional students are also provided by the Belin-Blank Center:
The Hoagies Gifted website provides a somewhat overwhelming list of books in gifted education. We encourage you to visit the page again and again. Hint: start with the books that have a star next to them. Some of those are classics.
My son just finished second grade. I think he needs to skip a grade and start fourth grade in the fall. We are looking for help in requesting a whole grade skip. I have learned that acceleration is not mandated in my state. How should we start? Is there a formal way of putting in my application?
The Belin-Blank Center doesn’t provide a formal application
for acceleration that will work in every state, but we can give you some
direction to get you started.
Gather some information about acceleration, so you have an understanding of the research and how acceleration can be used with gifted students. Over the last 70 years, an impressive body of research has been built up that demonstrates that acceleration is an effective tool for challenging gifted students. An excellent place to start learning about that is A Nation Empowered. Volume 1 includes an overview of acceleration and is suitable for sharing with busy administrators and others who might be looking for a summary on acceleration. Volume 2 includes the research behind this option. This research demonstrates that acceleration helps gifted students to maximize their academic potential; it also shows that acceleration does not cause a negative impact on social/emotional development.
Keep the lines of communication open. Meet with your child’s teacher, gifted coordinator, and/or principal. Learn about the options in your school. Share with them your concerns about ensuring your child is challenged in school. Understand that these professionals might not have been exposed to much information about acceleration in their training, so some of the information you have discovered might be new to them.
Go through the decision-making process. If a student is a candidate for a whole-grade skip, we advocate using the Iowa Acceleration Scale. This tool was developed specifically to address this question and helps families and educators to work together to consider aspects of development that are important in a decision about grade skipping. These include the student’s ability, aptitude, and achievement, as well as developmental factors, physical and social development, and support from the school and family.
Alternatively, or perhaps in addition to a conversation about a whole grade skip, you might think about subject acceleration. Moving ahead in one or more subjects might be the best alternative for a student who isn’t ready for a whole grade skip or has already skipped a grade, but needs additional challenge in a particular subject. An important tool for this discussion is above-level testing.
No discussion of acceleration is complete without considering social development—this is typically the first concern people mention when we start discussing any type of acceleration, especially grade-skipping. Research shows that carefully selected students who accelerate do just fine socially. There might be a short adjustment period for the student, but the students typically adjust just as well socially or somewhat better socially than their chronologically older grade-mates. These students fit in just fine.
After collecting the appropriate data and participating in thorough discussions with educators and administrators, you should come to a consensus about what is the best decision for your child. Whatever the decision is now, remember that you might need to revisit it again in the future. A student who skips a grade now might need additional acceleration at some later point, or a student who isn’t accelerated now might need acceleration in the future. Also, remember that acceleration doesn’t solve all issues around challenging talented students. Your child might still benefit from academic summer programs, additional enrichment in school, concurrent enrollment, individually-paced instruction in a strength area, etc. The goal is to challenge the student systematically throughout the school years.
Assouline, S. G., Colangelo, N., VanTassel-Baska, J., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2015). A nation empowered: Evidence trumps the excuses holding back America’s brightest students. Iowa City, IA: Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. www.nationempowered.org
Assouline, S. G., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2011). Developing Math Talent (2nd ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.