Friday, September 30, 2011

Connecting, Collaborating, Empowering Your Gifted Child

I have written about social media on several occasions – okay, on many occasions – well, maybe it’s a borderline obsession – but honestly, it’s just that important. Once your child connects and collaborates, they will be empowered to make a difference in the world. As a parent, it should be the newest tool in your toolbox.
What is at issue is teaching your child how to use social media to its fullest potential for their benefit and the benefit of others. Most gifted kids do not need to be instructed on how to use social media to connect with friends. It’s that ‘full potential’ aspect that is critical and too often missing.

Guy Kawasaki in his book, Enchantment, takes you on a journey to “learn how to change the hearts, minds, and actions of people” by building long-term relationships with other people in order to realize your passions and dreams. He discusses “push technology” - how to use e-mail, Twitter, and PowerPoint to spread your message to those you want to influence and “pull technology” - how to use blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn to bring people to you. This is a skill that once mastered by gifted children will benefit them their entire lives.

While other kids are updating their status on Facebook about where the next party is, your child can be connecting with kids all around the globe concerning issues about which they are passionate. Perhaps they will participate in a Socratic seminar at a virtual conference two continents away with people from 30 other countries on solving the Earth’s need for clean water. It is a learning experience as well as a potential opportunity to cultivate leadership skills. By gaining new knowledge, they can be empowered to take the next step to connect with mentors and world class educators to find a solution and implement it.

Social media is a spawning ground for collaboration. In his post, “Social Media Can Change The World Through Common Ground”, author JR Johnson illustrates the benefits that come when our children reach out to those with whom they share common passions; they develop a mutual understanding of each other. In turn, positive change can happen through friendships forged in this manner; it changes the way in which they look at people different from themselves.

Building an effective Personal Learning Network (PLN) is often the first step in developing quality relationships. Andrew Marcinek in “Help Students Use Social Media to Empower, Not just Connect” , reminds educators of the need to “promote critical thinking, questioning, and constrictive criticism.” He goes on to emphasize the need for students to become active members of PLNs by posting and sharing. In this way, they move “beyond simple connections that they get, and really empower their voices, abilities, and talents.” Ultimately, the PLN becomes a support group where they feel free to share new ideas.

There are many opportunities available for kids to connect. Here are some links to get you started:

Connecting online is important in the lives of gifted children. It is a global resource for kids to build friendships with their intellectual peers. The potential of social media to empower them is priceless. The key will be parents who mentor their children in building these relationships.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making the Choice

Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child by Corin Barsily Goodwin and Mika Gustavson is a part of the Perspectives in Gifted Homeschooling Series from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. It is an easy read, it is inexpensive, and you can buy it here. The end.

Now, that was easy! Of course, that’s not ‘the end’, but this book is so good … you shouldn’t need any more persuading than that to read it. I read blog posts, articles online and books about gifted education everyday. This is one of those books that really stands out as a must read for parents of gifted children.

If you are a homeschooling parent or considering homeschooling – this book is for you. If you have a twice-exceptional child that struggles in a public school – this book is for you. If you are the parent of a profoundly gifted child who is not being challenged in their current educational placement – this book is for you. If you are the parent of a gifted child who has grown weary of fighting the system year after year – this book is for you. Have I left anyone out?

Ah … but you are not considering homeschooling. Guess what? You still need this book. It is one of the best books I’ve read that truly explains the nature of twice-exceptional kids from the perspective of a parent who has walked down this path. It also summarizes the many aspects of ‘giftedness’ in a simple to understand language.

Not convinced yet? From the introduction …  “Change is scary. We know that. Sticking with something that is not working is scary, too – in the long run – even if it seems easier now. It is our belief that, as parents, the final responsibility for raising and educating our children rests with us. If a situation is not working, it is up to us to recognize that there is a problem and proactively address it.”

My point is that Making the Choice delivers sound advice on parenting that we all can benefit from by making it a part of our personal libraries. Even though the book is intended to help those contemplating homeschooling, it also does an excellent job of walking parents through the steps of what to do before making a final decision. The authors explain such things as accommodations, modifications, and IEPs .

Another section of the book that I found especially compelling was the discussion of red flags and warning signs that may occur when your child is in an educational environment that simply is not working for them. Some are obvious and others not so much. They also explain the consequences of ignoring these signs.

Making the choice to buy and read this book should be one of the easiest decisions you make as the parent of a gifted child. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Grow a Generation – An Interview with Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh

Recently, I had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh about her new company, Grow a Generation. The following is my interview with her.

GPS: Ellen, what was your inspiration for starting Grow a Generation?

Dr. Cavanaugh: My inspiration for Grow a Generation ( stems from three sources: 1) thirty years of experience that shouts children and teens (except for the rare exceptions) only thrive with involved parents, 2) parents are getting a bad rap which makes it harder for them to get involved, and 3) parents need support navigating the massive changes that are happening in culture, education and career preparation.

GPS: What does your company offer to parents?

Dr. Cavanaugh: Grow a Generation gives tools to parents to help their kids develop 21st century skills. We offer a free weekly newsletter, skill workbooks and project workbooks that are geared for you to help your child develop the 21st century skills of innovation, critical thinking, collaboration, emotional intelligence, resilience, leadership, and vision. We also offer an opportunity for a spring Voluntour, where families travel to the Dominican Republic. We stay at a resort and have 3 days of gorgeous beaches and incredible food, and 3 days of volunteering and immersion into the lives of those building a path out of poverty through education, green engineering, and innovation. Teens and adults leave the experience inspired and motivated to bring what they learned back to their own communities. Finally, I am available to speak (in person or through Skype) to parent, grandparent, and family groups to inspire and give you tools to help the young people in your lives develop the skills they need in the 21st century.

GPS: I know there is a book to be published soon in conjunction with the launch of your company. Can you tell us about it?

Dr. Cavanaugh: The book, Grow a Generation: Parenting in the 21st Century, focuses on the seven skills needed for our children to thrive in the after-Google world of global markets and shifting sands of change. Each chapter is filled with background on why the skills are needed and lots of practical ideas on how to help your children and teens develop them. It is currently scheduled for a February 2012 release date.

GPS: Who would you consider as your main audience for Grow a Generation?

Dr. Cavanaugh: The main audience is parents and grandparents seeking to provide phenomenal experiences of growth and development for the young people in their lives.

GPS: Dr. Cavanaugh, could you share with my readers your background as a parent as well as your professional and educational background?

Dr. Cavanaugh: My background is as diverse as many professional women today who have spent their lives dividing their time between parenting, school, and work. I have two kids, my daughter 24 and graduated with her Masters in Psychology. She works with adults who suffer from trauma and mental illness. My son is 13 and mathematically gifted, thriving in a cyber school environment. My background includes mathematics and education, having taught in a technical school, 25 years of professional youth ministry, publishing, and teaching in area universities. My doctorate is in systematic theology, examining systems of thought as they evolved in history. My passion is working with youth and young adults, examining how character and integrity are formed during these crucial years, and having a blast working beside them as a FIRST robotics coach.

GPS: In closing, could you give some advice to parents of gifted children?

Dr. Cavanuagh: The best advice, hmmm… of course, subscribe to the Grow a Generation newsletter and buy the book! Something you can do today is to keep the lines of communication open, ask the favorite young people in your life meaningful questions and listen authentically to their replies. Something to build for the future is a 20% project. Google, among other companies, has what is called 20% time. Time in the employee’s life is set aside to work on a project of their choice, something they believe will benefit the company, the world, and contribute to the mission of Google. What is the 20% project your child wants to build? Is their time in their lives to work on it? Are you modeling for them innovation, critical thinking, collaboration, emotional intelligence, resilience, leadership and vision with your own 20% project?

GPS: Ellen, thanks for chatting with me today. I wish you much success in your new endeavor!

Dr. Cavanaugh: Thanks Lisa for taking the time to listen and share with all your readers. And thank you for all you are doing to empower the gifted students of today build a world overflowing with beauty, truth, belonging, integrity, justice, empowerment and hope.

GPS: Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh can be reached at:

Grow a Generation: Cultivating Skills for the 21st Century
200 Hoenig Road
Sewickley PA 15143

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Self-paced Acceleration

Clearly, changes are needed in how we educate our children. Those who are identified as high-ability learners or gifted or profoundly gifted or ‘whatever’ other appellation appeals to your sense of political correctness … must be included within the framework of today’s education reform.

Is it time to re-invent the wheel? I don’t think so. I think it’s time to take a trip down memory lane myself. Back to the days of the one-room school house romanticized in American folklore as a simpler time when the lone ‘teacher on the prairie’ was tasked to educate children as a group composed of many different ages.

Today, the schoolhouse may have changed, but teaching children according to their ability rather than by chronological age is an idea whose time is re-emerging as a real viable option. It’s not as radical as it may seem on face and it is gaining support in education circles. Nascent steps in this direction are already being taken with the introduction of dual-enrollment of high school students in college classes, early graduation paired with early entrance to universities, and even the elimination of grade levels in several school districts; most notably a pilot program in the Kansas City (MO) school district at the elementary level.

So what does this mean for parents of gifted children? I recently read the new book from Corin Barsily Goodwin and Mika Gustavson, Making the Choice: When Typical School doesn’t fit your Atypical Child. Although it is a part of the Perspectives in Gifted Homeschooling Series, I highly recommend it for all parents, not just homeschoolers. It is especially informative concerning 2E kids and provides a wealth of information on many educational options.

What piqued my interest in this book was why so many parents are seeking alternatives and why homeschooling is so appealing for gifted children. Ding … ding … ding! Could it be that these children progress at their own pace? Could it be that these parents were never given this option in their traditional school districts? Could it be that these students have a track-record of success? A word of caution … I am not referring to homeschoolers who make this choice based on religious reasons. I’m talking about gifted children who are languishing in classrooms that require them to ‘stay with the program’ … ‘think inside the box’ … ‘be quiet in the hall’ … and never ever challenge the all important status quo.

About now, many of you are probably thinking … this is a nice topic for a blog … but totally unrealistic. Not so fast! Is this just the pipe dream of an eccentric blogger? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Consider this – schools are strapped for money. These days nothing is off the table when it comes to slashing education budgets. Pay to play and pay to expect anything beyond the basic curriculum is the mantra of many taxpayers.

But what if we move academically gifted students through the school system at an accelerated rate? Students no longer become bored who are able to self-pace through the curriculum, teachers are free to devote more time to students who need more attention, and school districts save money by getting these students through in a shorter amount of time.

Yes, I know … the devil is in the details. It takes time to make radical changes and the powers that be do not like to be challenged. The crux of the matter is this. Parents must be willing to advocate for change that may never be implemented in time for their own children. They must begin to advocate at the very first signs that their child’s needs are not being met by the system. Is this too much to ask? Think ~ grandchildren if you need inspiration. Or perhaps you’ll be fortunate enough to partner with parents who have already started the ball rolling. Whatever it takes … do it now!

It’s a lot to think about, but thinking is a good thing. I do it often and take great pleasure in the results. It’s especially rewarding to think with others … crowd-sourcing a solution to a problem. I look forward to your comments.