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My Profoundly Gifted Boys - Bundles Of Contradiction
by Miriam de Vries
My 11-year-old boys (yes, twins, no, not identical, although you wouldn't know it to look at them!) are BOTH profoundly gifted, which at least gives them someone similar to fight errrrr play with.
At 2 they were doing jigsaw puzzles designed for 4 and 5 year olds. At 10 they play Articulate (a cross between Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary) with adults.
At 5 they couldn't read. By 9 they read like adults on the Neale Reading Analysis.
At 5, elections were fascinating. How did John Howard (and before that Paul Keating) come to be Prime Minister? The votes, the preferential system, and the fact that the winner had more of his "team" in parliament house after the election were all important. Oh yes, and in the Senate - why and how was the system different there? At 10, Gore and Bush are both obviously manipulating unclear laws to try to be President.
At 9 Alex wanted to know the detailed causes of the Vietnam War. At 10 Scott avidly watches the ABC news with me, keen to find out more- sometimes asking questions way beyond my knowledge.
At 6, Scott was cooking spaghetti sauce (from scratch) almost on his own.
At 6, Scott's class was told that "Scott's diorama doesn't count, as his Mum did it for him". When telling me about it, he said, "It's ok Mummy, you and I know better."
At 6, Scott developed a deep concern about unfairness and bullying in the playground. He thought it was the same as countries bullying each other in wars he heard about on the news.
At 6 they were letter perfect when tested on their spelling homework when it arrived home, yet they had to write it out 5 times just the same.
At 8 they were both diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. At 10 I wondered how much is ADD and how much of it is actually a reaction to boredom.
At 5 both boys were happy and curious about the world. Scott liked his best friend because "she knows all about frogs, mum!" At 10, during our trip to Europe they discovered history. Scott is now desperate for a history mentor to help him expand on this interest - if you know of anyone
At 6 when Scott's best friend left the school, he decided to do without, because there wasn't anyone else "interesting" enough. At 10 there were still few friends who share their interests, so they choose instead to copy the interests of others at school to "fit in".
At 8, we covered the maths curriculum for years 2-6 (because there were some gaps in their knowledge) and did chunks of years 7 and 8 (getting 95% and above) in a total of 18 hours during the summer holidays. At the beginning of the next year (5) their maths teacher refused to let them work on year 7 maths at their own pace in class because "they weren't getting good enough marks in class work so they need some revision". They have hated maths since.
At 7, when their teacher was told their IQs meant they were in the top 0.1% of the population her comment was "oh, but we have at least another 8 or 9 kids like that in this class". I worried what maths skills she might be capable of teaching them.
At 6, 7, 8 and 9 both boys were regularly totally distraught at the thought of daily having to go to an environment that seemed totally incapable of meeting their needs.
At 8 Scott had regular days off school to due to stress and depression. His teacher's concern was his handwriting, not the stories he was writing with it or the sums he was answering correctly. She thought he should be repeated. That year was a terrible lesson in survival. At 10 we avoided the same problem by traveling in Europe for 6 months and effectively homeschooling about something completely different.
At 8 the boys sat the test for OC (Opportunity Class) classes. Neither was offered a place despite the inclusion of IQ test results showing they were highly gifted. The NSW dept of education claims an OC class "provides intellectual stimulation and an educationally enriched environment for academically gifted and talented children" - yet children who clearly need this are not admitted if their marks aren't high enough.
At 9 and 10 both boys are the chief errand-runners for their teachers, regularly being given jobs to do, and often being sent to younger classes to help out for large chunks of the day.
At 10 we escaped to Europe and were absent for the Selective Schools test, so the committee was forced to consider their IQ results, and both boys gained places.
At 7 Scott wrote wonderful stories for his teacher. At 10 he rarely writes more than half a page at school, yet at home he can spend hours a day writing science fiction stories, sometimes many pages long.
At 9 they were offered extension work - extra homework assignments. They quickly learnt that being smart meant punishment in the form of extra homework. And even the one time that this proved to be an interesting piece of work, they were offered no extra credit for it - no marks, merit certificate or any other recognition of a job well done.
At 9, the school was incapable of comprehending that the needs of profoundly gifted kids are as different from those of highly gifted kids as the needs of highly gifted kids are from those of "average" kids. They weren't responding to what little had been done for them so far, so why should the school offer more? It couldn't possibly be that the school hadn't done enough in the first place to get them interested.
At 11 they've been told that their history assignments were of a high level year 10 (16-year-old) standard.
They have only ever gotten one credit between them on UNSW competitions. They have never topped the class in any subject, or even any individual piece of work.
The school sees boys who can be misbehaving or inattentive in turns, don't do their work, and get into trouble in the playground.
I see boys who have an insatiable appetite for knowledge, but can't express their frustration and anger with a system into which they don't fit and which cannot meet their needs.
Because they are so different from the rest of the world, they struggle to fit in.
Because the school has insisted on them "earning" the right to extra stimulation, rather than challenging them to stretch themselves, they see nothing interesting in school at all.
Because their desperate NEED for more brain food has never been properly met, they have suffered depression and their interest in learning has been almost extinguished.