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On Fulfilling Potential

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When I was nine years old, we all took a national test at school. It was supposed to identify children who are falling behind, as well as children who were ahead of the curve. A few kids in my class, including myself, were identified as "gifted". That's how people called it back then. Theoretically, the government was offering enrichment programs for gifted kids. Practically, we lived in the middle of nowhere, and the closest enrichment program was in a city some 200 km away. It didn't happen. We had a couple of clubs, but not much.

I did my best to challenge myself. I read everything I could get my hands on. But I wasn't particularly driven, and my parents were not pushy. I remember the first time I was challenged intellectually in class. I was 18 and the army program I joined into contained 60 kids my age who were as weird as me, and quite a few were even weirder. I was not first in my class anymore. I was far from first in my class. It was odd. And invigorating. It was the best.

This year I've been thinking a lot about what I did with my potential. About the opportunities I had and didn't have, and whether and how I could have gotten better opportunities. Because this year it has become abundantly clear that the school my son attends doesn't challenge him in any academic avenue. He enjoys school tremendously, and we are happy with the school's approach in general. They do differentiation and give him challenging questions. But I looked at the maths challenge questions. They are working on addition and subtraction of 4-digit numbers. The challenge questions are stuff like, in how many different ways can you solve this problem, which is indeed a tough question for a kid working at the year-4 level. The other day I showed my son a normal "bell" curve (we were talking about giftedness), and it took him 10 minutes to say, "Mom, that's like the growth charts we have that show which percentile we're on." Yes. Yes, it is.

We are trying several things now. One is a maths club on Saturdays. We figured that it would be both a challenge (it is) and a chance to meet kids who enjoy maths as much as he does. We'll see how it goes. I'm also looking into all sorts of enrichment programs and groups for parents of children with "high learning potential", which is what they call gifted kids now. And, of course, I started reading books about it. I read Parenting Gifted Children 101, which seemed like a good place to start. It's a good book but mostly relevant to the US and the educational system there. Other than that, it told me that gifted children need to be challenged (yeah) and that, as a parent, I should advocate my child and pay attention to all of their needs. Which mostly got me thinking that all kids need to be challenged and all parents should pay attention to all of their kids' needs. That's the goal, at least. So, not really helpful.

I'm on the lookout for more books, although I decided that perfectionism and being terrified of making mistakes is the most urgent issue for us. It is apparently common in gifted children. That is why I'm now reading The Gifts of Imperfection, and I have a list of books to read about how to teach ourselves and our children to let go of perfectionism. Because I know from experience it's hard to do something you think you're not very good at. But if you only do stuff you know you're good at then you don't change, and you don't learn, and you don't grow. Now I just need to find a way to show it to him.


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