WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2015 — The wonder of being an exceptional child is that you stand out from others, whether you want to or not. You may look different or process your thoughts differently, or you may possess skills others do not have.
Acceptance is important to all children.
If you are both academically gifted and exceptional, life is even more of a challenge. People are continuously curious about you or in awe of you. That makes it difficult for you to fit in with your peers.
How do you raise a gifted child to be both successful and and happy? Following are stories of some gifted siblings and the environment that helped them become responsible and successful adults.
The oldest, half-brother to the other three, was 11 years older than the second child and was just as bright and intelligent as his younger siblings, but was raised in his formative years by his mother. His biological father played no role in his education and virtually no role in his upbringing.
The focus is on the three who have the same in-home parents and went through a slightly different regimen. There were no educational computer games when the oldest child was a toddler.
The three were raised in a home environment that challenged them intellectually and fed their emotional needs while allowing them to excel academically, develop professionally and remain well-grounded emotionally and socially.
All three began their formal education with the same kindergarten teacher at jacksonville Heights Elementary School. That teacher, Mrs. Craig, was great with children and both parents held her in high esteem. She challenged her pupils and was firm, but was never overbearing or rigid.
The siblings were raised in a two-parent home environment with a married mother and father who played prominent roles in their lives.
The daughter had a mother figure to learn about womanhood from and a father to learn about those things pertinent to men. The boys had a father to learn about manhood from and a mother to learn about those things pertinent to women.
This understanding of the sexes was crucial and relevant when the children began to develop relationships with the opposite sex. This foundation aided each child in his or her perception and expectation of others.
The three were encouraged to begin learning at an early age. They were also provided an environment conducive to learning. The moment they expressed a real interest in the world around them, they were taught. Their parents were involved in the learning process from the onset.
Learning was made fun for these children. They were read stories the moment they could grasp the concept of sitting still. Technology was ever present in their lives. They were provided educational computer games to further stimulate their interest in the world they found themselves in These games centered on math, spelling and history.
From the moment they entered first grade, they were each evaluated and enrolled in the school’s gifted program at the insistence of the parents.
When paperwork seemed to drag on for months with the youngest boy, his father paid a visit to the school to express more than concern. Before the end of the day his son was given an evaluation and was enrolled.
The three children were praised for their achievements but it was never overdone. Their parents thought it was important that their children remained emotionally grounded and not be full of themselves.
In addition to learning how to read and write and do math, they were taught to be moral and ethical in their conduct. They were taught to be just and kind. And they were encouraged to use their extraordinary talents for the benefit of mankind.
Above all, they were groomed to be leaders. All three were guided along the path until they could handle it themselves. Setting goals and having aspirations were encouraged.
All three children were given a strong moral and spiritual foundation for which to fall back on in the event the world around them collapsed. On problem solving, they were all encouraged to think outside of the box — in effect, to become critical thinkers. They all flourished.
As for accomplishments, the daughter, while in public school, was the county’s spelling-bee champion. The youngest boy was the “math bee” champion at his elementary school. The second oldest dropped out of college for a couple of years but after a talk with his parents, he returned to school for his final year and graduated.
The two brothers did their undergraduate work at the University of Florida. Their sister did her undergraduate work at Temple University in Philadelphia. She earned her master’s degree at the University of Washington in Seattle. The youngest boy earned his master’s degree in business at Florida Atlantic University.
Of the four siblings, the oldest boy earned a master’s degree in business and is retired from the Air Force. The second oldest has a bachelor’s degree and works for Apple Computers in Silicon Valley. Their sister works in the business field in Chicago. The youngest boy is an engineer who designs highways.
These four minority children never let their race, or anyone else’s race, keep them from excelling. Their paths, not their careers, were set in stone at an early age. It was a path designed to take them to a destination called success. Their careers were always theirs to choose freely.
Many gifted children in society have fallen through the cracks because they are not raised in a rich and vibrant learning environment, are not challenged and are not loved and supported the way they need to be.
In schools using the unpopular Common Core program, children are being taught to learn a process, not be free and creative. Children arriving at an answer but cannot show that they used the established process to get the answer are marked incorrect, even though they have the correct answer. What is that all about?
Gifted children have ways of arriving at an answer that is usually faster and far more efficient than the process they are being forced to operate within. Savants are a good example of this. They are mentally and emotionally challenged but have a propensity to do marvelous things. Some can do incredible computations without being able to explain how they did it.
If we are going to benefit from what our best and brightest have to offer, we must release them from the shackles of a bureaucracy that is holding them back. We must if this country is going to survive as a superpower and innovator of tomorrow’s technological wonders.
Our children are our replacements. Let us give them the best opportunity to grow and prosper and thrive. Would you have wanted anything less from your parents?
The children described in this article are Darryl Sample, LeQuan Bennett, TaLena Bennett, and MarQuellus Bennett (pronounced Mark- Kel- Lus).
Coming next: the problem with teenagers growing up in the foster care system.