Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

05.31

An Interview with Author Lisa Rivero about Gifted Teens

I’m always inspired and delighted to have a Guest Expert on #gtchat. Author Lisa Rivero was no exception! She fielded questions about gifted teens this past April 29th so smoothly; it was almost as if she had been masterfully handling Twitter inquiries for years! The transcript from her #gtchat session can be found here.

For those who may not know Lisa, she has written two books published by Great Potential Press, including A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Teens: Living with Intense and Creative Adolescents and The Smart Teens’ Guide to Living with Intensity: How to Get More Out of Learning and Life. She also currently writes an insightful blog worth checking out, entitled, Everyday Intensity: Creative Living in the 21st Century.

I recently invited Lisa to share her thoughts on writing these two books, which will undoubtedly benefit families, educators, and those who want to understand more about gifted, talented, and creative teens in today’s world.

1.  What inspired you to write two books geared at gifted teens and their parents?

The idea was a few years in the making. At first, I planned to write about homeschooling gifted learners during the high school years. Our family had just seen our son through high school (after he homeschooled for ten years), and I wanted to share some of the insights I’ve gained from seeing how learning happens apart from classrooms and AP classes and grades. However, I soon realized both that what I wanted to say didn’t apply only to homeschoolers and that what I was interested in writing had more to do with parenting than with education alone.

Another way that the project evolved is that the book for teens was originally going to be a 30-page companion workbook to accompany the book for parents, but I started writing the workbook first, and it took on a life of its own. I’m very grateful for the flexibility and support of Jim Webb and Janet Gore at Great Potential Press as they patiently waited to see how the books developed.

2. What do you hope gifted teens will take away from reading The Smart Teens’ Guide to Living with Intensity: How to Get More Out of Life and Learning?

The one takeaway I hope all the readers have is this: You have more control over your education, your cognitive growth, and your emotional life than you think you do.

A big problem that I see right now with high school students—especially gifted high school students who are on an educational fast track—is that they are over managed and over scheduled. They are kept so busy building the perfect college application portfolio that they forget what it’s like to revel in their curiosity, complexity, creativity, and drive. There is very little time for personal reflection or space to make valuable mistakes.

3. What do you hope parents will learn from reading A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Teens: Living with Intense and Creative Adolescents?

You can give yourself permission to allow your gifted teens to follow their own path. Some intense learners are high achievers who thrive on a full academic schedule and setting very high goals for their formal education. Many, many others, however, are crushed by the very same schedule, and do better with less pressure, less structure, a slower pace, and the extra time to bloom later rather than earlier. Knowing your own child is the key, as well as being able to resist the pressure from well-meaning friends and family.

4. What are the most common challenges parents and teens face during these years?

Peer pressure (for both teens and parents) is huge, as I mentioned before, especially for parents, because we tend not to think about that as much. So often we know in our gut what our teen needs, but then we hear a friend talk about her adolescent’s accomplishments or plans or test scores, and suddenly we started second guessing ourselves and putting undue pressure on our own child. Often this happens so subtly that we don’t even realize where the pressure is coming from.

A couple of other challenges for families with gifted teens are the positive disintegration that can occur in this period and asynchronous development. Kazimierz Dabrowski wrote in Positive Disintegration that puberty is one of the times when “we observe the strongest developmental progress, the most intense individual experience, and the greatest transformation of psychic structure,” and that nervousness and excitability are traits that go along with this potential for growth (Little Brown & Co., 1964, p. 102). Positive disintegration is a process of falling apart so as to come back together at a higher level of growth. The falling apart aspect, however, is difficult for both teens and their parents (who may be going through their own positive disintegration at the same time).

The asynchronous (out of sync) development in gifted teens can take parents by surprise, especially if they’ve been told that the gifted differences “even out” after grade school. The asynchrony doesn’t disappear, especially for teens who may be ready for college-level learning before they’ve got their driver’s license or even, in some cases, before they’ve gone through puberty.

5. How can parents discern the differences between typical teen behavior and those resulting from intensities associated with gifted behaviors?

Speaking from my own experience, it helped to think back to our son’s early childhood and to recognize that many of the intense behaviors that come with adolescence weren’t new. Some parents with less intense learners might talk about how their teens suddenly become moody or unpredictable or hyper-emotional. These traits are nothing new for parents of gifted children! They might take different forms or expressions, but the intensity that drives behavior and emotion has been there all along.

6. How has your own experience influenced your insights and advice?

Certainly I draw on my experience as a parent, but I also have learned much from the families of gifted teens I’ve come to know and from the students I teach in my college classrooms, many of whom are filled with intensities and drive.

I also have been influenced by my own life in the sense that I definitely think of my education and work as “in progress.” I switched majors part-way through college, struggled with finding my “life’s work,” and now have a career that is a patchwork quilt (or a crazy quilt!) of several interrelated passions and interests. Although I didn’t always realize it, I didn’t need to have my life and myself figured out by the time I was 18, which makes it easier for me to give teens, even very highly gifted teens, the freedom to be late-bloomers, if that’s where their life takes them.

At the same time, I’m married to a specialist rather than a generalist, someone who has been focused intently on one career and passion for over thirty years, so I also know that some gifted teens will be on that path, and we needn’t pressure them to be more well-rounded or to hide their obvious drive just to make others more comfortable.

7. Would these books be suitable for educators as well?

I’m an educator, too, so I definitely wrote the books from the perspective of both a parent and a teacher. I would hope that middle school and high school educators could gain some insight into the inner lives of the gifted teens in their classrooms.

8. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Just a huge thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts! I found the experience of raising and continuing to get to know a gifted child—now a teen and soon to be a 20 year old—as one of great joy, regardless of (and sometimes because of) the challenges. The resulting relationship can be rich and more rewarding than one can imagine. I am a better person for having been a parent.

As I ready to launch the Ingeniosus Authors Program, I want to thank Lisa Rivero and Christine Fonseca for being so supportive. I look forward to bringing you more #gtchat Guest Experts in the months ahead!

04.11

Freaky Slam Poetry, Zombie Attack, Philosophy, Music Recording Studio and More…

Severn Young and Erick Quintanilla, both 13 years old, have attended the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) at the University of Northern Colorado for the past two years. Both currently go to the same school in Colorado and have become close friends. I recently had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with them to dialogue about their experiences at camp. Hearing two seventh grade boys talk about how life-changing SEP has been made me recognize how critical camps like this are. The right environment and support for both the cognitive and social-emotional needs of our gifted, talented and creative students can, in fact, alter the trajectory of lives.

Here’s a compilation of my favorite comments from Severn and Erick:

What makes SEP powerful are the surroundings, the interesting classes and the teachers! In my Zombies Attack class, we got to use our imagination and explore what it might truly be like to face an apocalypse. The teachers are all different from one another, but that’s what makes it so interesting. Unlike school, there are no bullies at SEP. Every one treats you like you want to be treated. My favorite class was a philosophy class and a Freaky Poetry Slam class. Everyone at SEP is so understanding. They’re in the same shoes as you. I learned that when I put my mind to something, I can achieve it. My favorite class was a Musical Recording Studio. I felt so welcomed. It really surprised me how nice everyone was. I expected them to be like other kids at school, but that wasn’t the case. These kids understand. SEP makes you want to go out and change the world and make it a better place. I learned that if you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, nothing can get in your way!

When I asked them what advice they might offer to a new camper and/or someone who might be considering the Summer Enrichment Program, they offered this:

If you’re considering it, but aren’t sure, follow your instincts. You’ll realize later that coming to SEP was a great decision! You’ll change the way you look at things; you’ll change for the better. Parents should know that it’s really safe. We’re always supervised. And if someone’s shy, they shouldn’t worry about making friends. Everyone here is accepting.

Finally, when I asked these two to give me three adjectives or descriptors that best depicted SEP, Severn responded, “Astonishing, great and fun.” Erick said, “Fun, exciting, better than anyone can expect.” Severn added, “I would recommend it because it’s the most amazing experience I’ve had as a kid; I couldn’t be ‘me’ without it.” How’s that for life changing?

Lastly, here’s a glimpse – a montage actually – of some of the courses offered at SEP. To learn even more about the Summer Enrichment Program at UNC, click here.

04.11

“Thank You for the Refuge” – Reflections from a 33-year-old who Stumbled upon a Treasure

Dear Dr. Betts,

In my always well intentioned but invariably ill fated attempts at a New Year’s resolution, I tackled one if the boxes of Stuff that had followed me from house to house for the last 15-plus years. Packed away amongst the Stuff, I found my plaque commemorating 5 years of participation in the Summer Enrichment Program at the University of Northern Colorado. It occurred to me that most of us go through life doing whatever it is that we do hoping but never knowing that whatever it is that we do makes some sort of difference.

I am sending this e-mail because I feel you ought to know: what you do and what you created did, in fact, make a difference to me.

I suspect that my experience is not dramatically different from most other gifted children, but the fact that feelings of isolation are common among gifted children doesn’t seem to lessen the isolation. We are large collections of islands who manage to perceive the fact that we are islands and not the fact that there are many of us. SEP gave me what I didn’t find again until adulthood: a peer group and a sense of normalcy.

I’m now 33 years old, happily pursuing my passions and clearly seeing the other islands I first glimpsed at SEP. Thank you for the refuge. Thank you for my sanity. Thank you for showing me the light at the end of the tunnel. My plaque is once again safely tucked away amidst the Stuff, safe from the Anti-Clutter Campaign of 2011. I sincerely hope that SEP is still around for me to share with my own child and that she will find it as meaningful as I did.

Sincerely,

Carrie Henriksen Kelly

To learn more about how kids find refuge at the Summer Enrichment Program at the University of Northern Colorado, click here.