Gifted Education and ‘Woo’

text: Gifted Education and 'woo' , yellowreadis.blogspot.com.au Picture: stethoscope and medical forms

In the last few weeks there have been ‘shocking’ headline articles [1] in my state of Victoria about a gifted education provider used by at least 30 schools. The ‘shock’ is due to the founder’s unusual non-mainstream, non-scientific (and pretty out-there) ideas which were taught without either their parents or the school’s knowledge. There were a lot of very upset people – both in the medical establishment, in the schools and in the general public – pulling their hair and wailing about standards, speculating about the ‘reasons’ [2] and generally lamenting about ‘woo’ being taught without reflecting on how this incident revealed and illustrated some of the deeper issues that currently plague gifted education in most Victorian schools [3].

Sadly, that this happened isn’t really a surprise. It was almost inevitable. Because, when it comes to gifted education, almost all schools already deal in woo.
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Is My Gifted Child Autistic?

Staring Child
 
I’ve done lots of reading, I’ve looked at the standard definitions, I listened to the niggles and ‘problems’ that different people  – my GP, a friend, my child’s teacher etc. have mentioned. I know my child’s quirky . . . But, is my gifted child autistic?
It’s a question almost every parent of gifted kids I have ever talked to has brought up at one time or another (particularly the parents of highly to profoundly gifted children). And though it seems there should be an easy answer to this question – a quick test, a definitive way of putting a yes or no to this question, the answer is actually much, much more complicated.
Having travelled down this rabbit-hole for a long while now, I’d like take you on a trip into the world of giftedness and autism.

Unschooling Ain’t The Boogie Man

Every now and then, usually when news is a little slow, prominent papers like to do little fluff pieces on the edges of the educational world. One week might be about lambasting ‘pushy parents,’ another week an angry remonstrance on the horrors of alternative education. Personally, I find it deeply amusing that, depending on the flavour of the month, our little family can be both academically pushing and overly restrictive tiger-parents, and laissez-faire, academically neglectful parents at the same time.

In July, it was Mamamia’s turn to have-a-go at the punch-the-alternative-education bandwagon.

The topic this time around? Unschooling.

So what is unschooling? And why does it raise so many hackles?
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Gifted . . .You Know What That Means, Right?

Every now and again, more often than I am comfortable with, various memes pop up in my news feed. They’re usually positive, with a cute picture – a happy child, a beautiful baby, a rainbow over a lovely green field. Rinse and repeat.

And you know what? I love the pictures. They’re cute, they make me go ‘awww’. But it’s not the picture that’s the problem. It’s the words.
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Darn Those Mythological Gifted Kids Who Are a Construct of Our Social Norms


There is a wonderful, probably reasonably obscure book by Rafael Sabatini called “Bellarion the Fortunate” where the intellectually gifted Bellarion is sent out into the world by his abbot because his reading and reason have lead him to believe – with the certainty of an intellectual who has read all the literature and thought hard about it in his convent – that evil and sin are a construct and do not exist.

But to all the weapons of his saintly rhetoric Bellarion continued to oppose the impenetrable shield of that syllogism of his which the abbot knew at heart to be fallacious, yet whose fallacy he laboured in vain to expose. ” [1]

The book is not a treatise on the reality of good or evil, but an adventure book which ends with a very worldly Bellarion who is very much more aware of his fellow humans after leaving his ivory tower of thought.

But I am not writing today to talk about Bellarion and the nature of his discussions on good and evil. I am instead going to write about the work, so far, of Dr Clementine Beauvais, and her blog entries on ‘The Giftedness Project’ [2].

Much like Bellarion’s abbot, I do not expect to be able to make much of an impression on Dr Beauvais as she has her armour of academic credentials, and the raft of knowledge collected from many thousands of academics discussing ideas among themselves with little reference to the outside world, and that armour is very strong. She has also made clear that she is not interested in the reality of giftedness, which she believes to be largely a construct of society.

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The Everyone is Gifted POS, again.

I’m going to start this post with a link. It’s to the Authentic History Centre in the US on common excuses for stereotypes. In this case, specifically linked to racism. Go have a look at the images. In many ways, they say it better than I can, but I’m going to try anyway, again.

Many of you have read Momastery’s post about ‘Every Child is Gifted’. Many of you argued with her, reasoned with her on her forum, on the gifted help-groups where she came to ask questions. Many of you read her apology (which did not appear on her website, only her facebook page*). I, along with a lot of other people, thought that was the end of it. But no. Her ‘positive’ image is out in force again, and a lot of people don’t understand why it is so offensive.

So I want you to go and have a look at those historical images. You know, many of them were purported to be ‘positive’ depictions too, at the time.

And so, the stereotypes of gifted get trotted out yet again. Sure, she changed one word in her article – but the blurb and title around the reprinting in the Christian Science Monitor shows exactly how skin deep that change is.

You can go read the article if you like, here’s the link. Maybe you’ll get a warm glow – a positive story!

Then come back here and let’s deconstruct the narrative.
Continue reading “The Everyone is Gifted POS, again.”

Homeschooling My Gifted Kid, Part 3: The Twice Exceptional Wrinkle

In this third part on our convoluted journey to homeschooling, I’d like to talk about what twice exceptional means – and a bit about what it feels like to parent such kids!

This is not meant to be a definitive guide for people trying to discover more about twice exceptional kids. This is just our personal journey, and a few of the curious signposts along the way.


What is Twice Exceptional?

Twice exceptional refers to kids who are gifted and disabled. It can be a physical disability, but more commonly refers to an ‘invisible’ disability, e.g. autism spectrum disorder (ASD), aspergersdyslexiadysgraphia, dyscalulia, dyspraxia, SPD, ADHD, bipolar disorder and many many others. In many ways, it’s like they’re going out to bat and can only score 0’s or 6’s. There’s no nice, safe middle ground. It’s a wild ride honey.

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Homeschooling My Gifted Kid, Part 2: What the Bleep is PG!?

In this second part on our convoluted journey to homeschooling, I’d like to talk about the crazy slippery slope of figuring out what ‘gifted’ and ‘PG’ actually mean.

This is not meant to be a definitive guide for people trying to discover more about gifted kids, or IQ. This is just our personal journey, and a few of the curious signposts along the way.

What is high IQ?

This is actually pretty tricky to define. Is it ability? Talent? Potential? How do you define it? What does it mean? Is there more than one type of intelligence? Western society has been tying its metaphorical knickers about this for over a hundred years, and there’s still no end in sight.
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Homeschooling My Gifted Kid Part 1: How Learning Happens

The path we have taken to get to homeschool the way we do has been rather convoluted. It is a path that has had some peculiar turns, as I have discovered more about the nature of the way children learn, and the differences between how most children learn and the way my two bundles of joy learn.
I thought I might, in the next few posts, take everyone on a journey to a few of the sign-posts along the way that have led us to our own personal homeschool experience.
This is not intended to be a guide for anyone interested in homeschooling. There are many upon many resources for that. This is just a personal journey. Continue reading “Homeschooling My Gifted Kid Part 1: How Learning Happens”