There are so many pieces to the puzzle of parenting gifted children, that it's frequently hard to know where to start. How do you balance all of a gifted child's often-divergent needs? In our case, trying to balance the high need for intellectual stimulation, with the strong reluctance to perform due to performance anxiety, with intense emotionality - and you get a pair of parents that feel like they are balancing a tightrope while being chased by a tiger.
We are at a crossroads, it seems. The kidlet is starting high school - a bit early, but he's clearly ready to move ahead. But I'm not sure he's going to learn much that is new. I believe it will, once again, be another disappointment in a long line of intellectual disappointments. The good news is, because we are homeschooling we can take it at a pace that at least will feel like we are going somewhere. The bad news is - he's ready for that level of information, but can he produce work that is commensurate with that which is expected of a high school student? This is our tightrope - do we hold him back intellectually so that he can produce the proper amount of work so that he can take a test that will open doors to college? Or do we allow him to enjoy the learning he is doing, take it where it will and not worry if he cannot write a 5-page paper adequately?
Dr. James Webb, founder of SENG, spoke a keynote address during Saturday's lunch at the SENG Conference in Seattle over the weekend. The title of the address was, "Preparing Gifted Children Children for College... or Preparing Them for Life?" The point of his address was that not everyone has to go through the accepted route to success - college. There are plenty of examples of highly successful people who didn't finish college (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Steve Jobs being some of the examples given), and some who never started. Now, I'm not going to say that my little engineer doesn't need to go to college in order to be successful in his chosen career, but Dr. Webb's words did underscore the thing I keep considering for my own kidlet - is all of this going to make him have a happy life? Or is there another way to go about this that will help him achieve his goals and bring him joy? Sure, there are things the kidlet definitely needs to add to his repertoire of abilities before he can take the next step toward his dreams (prose being one of them). But I'm not sure it has to look the way most people of our generation assume it will.
And that is the balance we parents are constantly trying to keep. I cannot hold back his intellect and creativity to wait for the rest of him to catch up. And I don't ever want to send the message that he cannot begin to make a change in the world until he has jumped through certain hoops (I feel fairly confident he will get that message enough "out there").
So we walk our tightrope - at a sprint at times, and sometimes just hanging on for dear life. And that tiger? He's doing the same thing.