A gifted individual is a quick and clever thinker, who is able to deal with complex matters. Autonomous, curious and passionate. A sensitive and emotionally rich person, living intensely. He or she enjoys being creative. -definition of giftedness written by the Netherlands Study on Giftedness in Adults

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Vigorous Mind

 A mind too vigorous and active, serves only to consume the body to which it is joined. ”
— Oliver Goldsmith

I don't know that there has ever been a quote that better encapsulates my child than this one by Oliver Goldsmith. It so well describes the mind-body connection to activity (Dabrowski's intellectual and psycho-motor over-excitabilities). 

We discovered throughout the kidlet's school years how desperately this child needs to learn. When he was getting ready for kindergarten, I kept telling him how fun it is to learn, and how school is a great place to learn all sorts of things. His face would light up and he would ask all sorts of questions about school with such enthusiasm and excitement that I was thrilled that he seemed to already love school as much as I always did.

The first day of kindergarten was amazing - we waited anxiously for the kindergarten bus to come pick him up in front of our house. We took pictures, and video, and we told stories about school. He wore a red-and-black striped shirt with a huge nametag pinned to it, and his new backpack that was almost larger than he was. 
The kidlet getting off the bus on the first day of kindergarten.
We loved his kindergarten teacher - she was so sweet and excited to meet her new students! He adored Mrs. Cooney, and she enjoyed him a lot. But it didn't take very long before he started balking at doing "pointless" coloring pages, and spent most of his time wandering around the classroom looking at what the other students were working on. I spent two days each week in the classroom, helping other children learn to recognize letters, read, or do simple counting (which the kidlet had already surpassed as he was already doing simple algebra and reading C.S. Lewis', The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe at home). Within about a month, I noticed that his enthusiasm had waned. 

Mrs. Cooney welcoming her students on their first day of kindergarten.
I won't belabor the rest of the story. He got into the gifted program in our district (which accelerated students one year ahead) and proceeded to get more and more disenfranchised from school. He had yet to learn anything at school by 2nd grade, despite his ability and willingess to make creative adjustments to assignments that brought a little more interest to them. I could see it in his eyes by the end of 2nd grade - his dream that school was a place where he could learn all day every day, had been smashed to bits. We switched to a private school that was set up to teach students at their own pace with one-on-one appointments with teachers. Sadly, although he did learn a few things, instead of being set free to learn, the environment only succeeded in heightening the frustration and anger he felt. One of the teachers even said to me that she didn't want to "frustrate" him, so she didn't teach him any math over the three years she taught him (her words: "he knows all of his 6th,7th, and 8th grade math, but none of his 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade math!" Note: she was his math teacher for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades). 

The lack of learning - first in public and then in private - succeeded in exacerbating the asynchronous gap between his intellectual ability and his emotional and social ability. The frustration of not learning was expressed through movement and aggression. His body was being consumed by a mind that was too vigorous for his environment. When we visited a college course, the body stilled as the mind spun into action. 

People say to me fairly regularly that they think they can "fix" him with some stern teaching. It makes me grin and wish I could let them try (without damaging my child). The thing is - now that we are homeschooling and he is learning at his own pace, with all subjects being appropriate for his ability - not one of those people would recognize him if they sat in my kitchen during a school day. None of his former teachers would recognize him. None of the people who have made comments about his behavior, or have tried to convince me of whatever pet diagnosis they decide fits him... none of them would recognize him when he is transfixed in the world of science, engineering, or even (finally) math. 

 A mind too vigorous and active, serves only to consume the body to which it is joined. ”
— Oliver Goldsmith

Keep the mind engaged, and the body will follow.

1 comment:

  1. TY Mona. You said it, all in a few words ... I am tired of the experimental teaching offered to my kid. Why? Because I see he is hating learning more and more and more ... actually the worst of it all is meetings where they tell the opposite of what they practise. I will write about it when there is time and back it up with IRL notes. Scary, but most of sad - since our children did did ask to be børn Gifted, they just have it in them.