Skip to main content

Prodigies



A lot of people when confronted with the word "gifted" often think of amazingly talented, early developers - Mozart, Euler, Picasso, Tiger Woods and even Michael Jackson.

A prodigy (or possibly more correctly, child prodigy) is "someone who, at an early age, masters one or more skills far beyond their level of maturity". The media loves them - they are a curiosity and they especially love the stories of those who soar high in childhood, only to "level out" or dramatically "drop out" in adolescence or adulthood.


“The skill of being a child prodigy is the skill of mastering something already invented,” she says. “The skill of being a major creative adult requires innovation, rebelliousness, dissatisfaction with the status quo.”
No matter the field, the leap from child prodigy to adult genius is rare. While prodigies often become experts, they often fall short of developing into major innovators, explains Ellen Winner, professor of psychology at Boston College and author of Gifted Children: Myths and Realities.

I think that quote raises the issue of whether "creativity" is an essential part of being gifted or is a requirement for talent development, which is probably another post in itself.


The media is also fascinated by the "nature" or "nuture" question - how much is innate genius and how much is the pushy parent? 


As a parent of an two exceptionally gifted children, I often feel sandwiched between the literature suggesting that I need to allow my children to explore their areas of interest at their own level (no matter how advanced that is) and those well-meaning parents and teachers who suggest I let my children "be children" - and that by giving them challenging work in some way I am robbing them of their "childhood". 


What if work that challenges them at age 10 is work usually undertaken by 16 year olds (or older?). How far could we go, right now? Could they handle college/university level work? And should we even be finding out?


I came across a couple of interesting things this week, which challenged my thinking (always a good thing!).  The first is a documentary "Beautiful Young Minds".  This documentary shows exceptionally gifted mathematics students competing in the Mathematics Olympiad, but also deals with their struggles to be accepted as "normal" and not bullied for their talents.






I felt that overwhelmingly, the kids enjoyed this opportunity not only to stretch their mental muscles but also to be with people who shared their interest in mathematics at a high level (which, let's face it, is not going to be that many kids their age!). Where they felt like outsiders at school, they felt "normal" at the mathematics camp. 


It was also interesting that they were refreshingly upfront about the high proportion of mathematicians at that level who were on  the autism spectrum. 


The second was an article about a boy who started full-time university studies at 13, who has found appropriate challenge and acceptance at College level.


The simple fact of the matter is that if you are functioning at a really high cognitive level, you might be on the high end of the normal curve, but you are not "average". The number of true peers you have is by necessity going to be really small. 


I guess that's why people stress about pulling my kids out of school to homeschool them. They are worried that they will become even less "normal" and eventually not be able to interact with "normal" people. That I will be creating "intellectual monsters". 


I guess I would argue that I am able to provide a meaningful curriculum, and provide them with a range of peers, from range of backgrounds and gently and sensitively guide them in their social interactions, which I couldn't do if they were at school. Schools are not designed to cope with the exceptionally gifted - academically or socially. Instead of feeling "weird" all the time - they can feel "normal", and I think that has to be a good thing.


Comments

  1. Fantastic thought-provoking post, thanks! I can relate to your comment ~ let my children "be children" - and that by giving them challenging work in some way I am robbing them of their "childhood". I've heard that a few times recently :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you April :-) I'm glad it provided food for thought! I'm not suggesting my kids are prodigies, but they are able to to work in maths and science quite a few years ahead of 'age' level. I don't think I'm scarring them for life!

    ReplyDelete
  3. The "herd" mentality of school is more likely to scar exceptional children than giving them freedom to advance at their own pace. You are doing good work.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Bloggers LOVE comments! We are pretty needy that way, so go on, leave some love :-)

Popular posts from this blog

I see...

We've had a couple of interesting weeks here. Video Boy has inherited his mother's shocking vision - he has myopia (commonly known as short-sightedness or near-sightedness). It occurs when the eyes focus light in front of the retina, leading to unfocussed vision.


Close up is usually OK, but distance vision is pretty fuzzy:


For me, even the couple would have been blurry! I was "medically blind" which meant I got my optometrist fees covered by Medicare (yay!).

So, Video Boy has had glasses for a couple of years now - he has broken one pair and then lost the replacement pair (grrr) and so for a couple of months, his world has looked like the picture on the right...and he was squinting to watch TV, read signs, pretty much all the time.
So, we went off to the optometrist last week to get us some new glasses!
The optometrist is up on all the latest research - with Wombat Girl, we bought a software program with special "lenses" and she had to do a practice session…

Creating order from chaos...

We have been diving headlong into an amazing rabbit trail of maths, and science and art and if I don't share with you some of these thoughts and experiences and links they will be lost forever like much of the mists swirling through my brain!


And there is SOOO much good stuff whirring through my brain that I don't know where to logically start and how to group it all so it might make some sense, so instead, I think I will just let you follow our story - our rabbit trail that led to so much good stuff...and maybe, you will like some of it too!

After viewing Vi Hart's diatribe on parabolas, the kids were keen to actually graph some parabolas. But before we actually got to that, Hubby wanted see the video, so we watched it again, and that led us to reviewing the ones on spirals and fibonacci:



As we were watching, Video Boy grabbed the graph paper (because you always have spare graph paper lying around, don't you?) and started experimenting with the fibonacci spirals shown…

52 Ancestors - So Far Away

This week's #52ancestorsin52weeks is Father's Day - but of course, it's not Father's Day in Australia, so I'm going to do the theme we had a couple of weeks ago when I was away - So Far Away.

When you first start doing your family tree, it's exciting to see how "far back" you can go with your branches. Until last weekend, the furthest back on my direct line was Benjamin Broome, my 9th great-grandfather born in 1646 in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, England (grandfather of John Broom in my carpet story), which I thought was a long way back!

Last weekend, I was searching back to see if I could see a link between the Freemans on my Dad's side and the Freemans on my Mum's side (spoiler alert - not yet). Anyway, I was having a search on Joseph Freeman (my 5th great-grandfather born in Gloucestershire, England in 1765) and his wife - Sarah Arkell (my 5th great-grandmother also from Gloucestershire, England, born in 1767). Well, I had her father John…