Gifted Children: Academic and Career Planning Beyond K-12
How can I possibly think this far into the future? I’m only homeschooling for a year…
Definitely not maybe, okay, yeah….during the middle school years.
But high school? No wa……okay, maybe.
My child is 11 but I’m already preparing for his college or if he so chooses, his work-life-career time. How?
Well, I have my old teacher bank of educational jargon stored up, I know how to read standards, work with them, around them and through them too. What’s left?
Sure, we’ll find some lab classes, maybe some drop in classes, online coursework, and possibly some early entrance to college coursework. But don’t forget about the real, important work that gets started long before you need to start counting hours and arranging a portfolio.
Yes, I hear you. My kid, like every other person will figure those out along the way.
Think about it for a moment.
How many kids never do?
So, if it’s worth some considering, take a look at what I’ve assembled here for career advice even if your child hasn’t even started middle school.
Let me toss you a Rubik’s Cube to measure your persistence.
Persistence is a huge life skill that gifted children (and many adults) need to use to be successful in life. While in school, many gifted children learn how to “play the game” and can get by exerting a minimal effort. As work increases in complexity, many children struggle to persist or focus on goals and stay committed when times get tough.
The child who rehearses his musical instrument without being prompted is showing persistence. The child who is badgered to do so, is not.
The child who asks for more practice problems to increase his own proficiency is showing persistence. The child who completes half and hides his work away does not.
Gifted kids are tricky.
“While understanding how difficult it is for them to feel stupid and inferior, we must help them build the coping skills to take risks, to fall down and get back up, and to keep coming back for more. As we all know, it is not the smartest who are most successful in our world, it is those who persevere, adapt, problem solve, and don’t give up. Successful people understand what they are good at, what they aren’t, and how to solve problems as they arise—in short, they show resilience. While many gifted kids pose challenges in parenting and teaching, we must continue to try to help them grow—and not give up either.” – Dan Peters
Giving your child opportunities to succeed, opportunities to fail, support to plan, and the support to help them focus on goals both short and long term will, in time, teach your child one of the greatest life lessons.
Let me toss you a Rubik’s Cube to measure your flexibility with problem solving skills too.
Flexibility in problem solving is a huge life skill that gifted children (and many adults) need to use to be successful in life. Children need to use, or at least attempt to solve problems in a variety of ways using a variety of perspectives. Often, children will tackle a problem from one perspective, go it alone, not thoroughly analyze, or forget about out-of-the-box solutions. All are worthy of consideration, yet children need practice to maintain the flexible thinking that comes in so handy when solving problems. Not all problems are solved using a screwdriver.
The child who accepts advice from someone is showing flexible problem solving abilities. The child who always tackles a problem using only his own perspective is not.
The child who attempts to follow a wacky idea when used to following directions is solving flexibly. The child who declares that there’s “only one way” is not.
Gifted kids are tricky.
” When kids engage in flexible thinking, they are better able to cope with change and new information, both within the classroom and out in the world. Kids with weak flexible thinking skills (kids who are more rigid in their thinking) struggle to take on new tasks and have difficulty solving problems..” –By Katie Hurley, LCSW
Helping to step out of our comfort zone and into the world of possibilities encourages children to open their minds and understand different perspectives. Flexible problem solving offers a multitude of new possibilities when applied to the context of work-life in the future.
Let’s see if you can share that Rubik’s Cube with me to measure Social-Emotional Skills.
How can you possibly address social skills of gifted homeschoolers? Do they actually see other children? Sure, some attend co-ops or part day schooling, some have outside activities in the area of dance or art or sports, and yet others will only get a chance to use their social skills in the real world. Whichever way you look at it, preparing for the real world is what you do while you’re already in the real world. You can’t really avoid the social-emotional side of life, but you can improve your reception.
The child who understands that others have needs is practicing social skills. The child who doesn’t consider the needs of others, is not.
The child who is able to praise another child who is successful has well developed social skills. The child who reverts to jealousy and competition may not.
Gifted kids are tricky.
“When high ability individuals’ social and emotional needs are not addressed, they may experience negative outcomes including one or more of the following:
Underachievement: performance that is not consistent with one’s ability. Interventions will vary, depending on the root of the underachievement.
Development of a “false self:” hiding abilities, adopting a false persona that is more consistent with the values and interests of peers than one’s true values and interests.
Depression/Suicide: Failure to accept oneself, to fit in with peers, and to form a cohesive identity in addition to a heightened sensitivity to global problems may lead to depression among those with high ability.” –Indiana Department of Education from Guiding Students with High Abilities: Social and Emotional Considerations
Gifted children are especially at risk for social-emotional struggles due to their different way of thought and perception. Giving our children a foundation and a way to address social-emotional challenges will provide our children with ways to cope in the future in their lives and in their work.
Preparing for college and work-life isn’t solely about focusing on the academics. Though our children excel with less effort in proportion to the national average in academics, our children may need more support with other challenges in order to be successful. Concepts like persistence, flexible problem solving, and social-emotional understanding are all worthy of our time and attention. We need to continue to support the development of our children to be their best selves. No one in life has it easy. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Don’t let life skills be the forgotten course.