Stormy Clouds, Deep Water: Time to Find Kindred Spirits

Once upon a time, my child gazed happily into my eyes, and we sat hour after hour, breastfeeding contently. Giftedness was the furthest thing from my mind. All I saw was a baby, full of joy, uniqueness, and growth. I fretted about sniffles and rash bumps, not about schools and teachers.

My child’s toddler years, spent happily at the Ohio University Child Development Center under the care of experts, went swimmingly well. My child was free to choose activities, ask for stories, and select playmates. Kindergarten under the guidance of an expert teacher was a breeze. The teacher excellently cared for the needs of each student. Lessons weren’t obviously lessons; what was obvious was the teacher’s love for her students. That’s what really matters to children: above all, they want to be loved.
Stormy Clouds, Deep Water

Stormy Clouds and Deep Water

In first grade my child’s tiny life changed from sunshine and smiles to stormy clouds and deep water. The school’s curriculum, when viewed next to my child’s accomplishments to date, looked remarkably like a recipe for distress. Imagine already knowing how to read, and being forced to spend a whole year pretending to learn how to read.

Do we expect adults to spend year after year of their lives pretending to learn? Of course not! Do we expect adults to bury their real thoughts and needs in order to conform to what a school district prescribes are the needs of every other adult born within the same twelve-month period? Of course not!

By October, my child’s life looked bleak. Stomach aches and refusals to go to school started happening. Other parents couldn’t understand why my child couldn’t just sit respectfully and wait for their children to catch up. In apparent efforts to drag me and my child back to a level playing field, some parents and some teachers spouted now-disproven yuck about multiple intelligences, a mere theory now disproven by cognitive neuroscientists, but still taught in some teacher education colleges and conferences.

Time to Find Kindred Spirits

When you see your child suffering at school, and when you feel others trying to drag you back to their ideas of level playing fields, it’s time to find kindred spirits on Home Planet—an affectionate term for all the places we parents of gifted children feel safe to speak honestly about our children, their needs, and their challenges. It’s time to learn all you can from the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page place for newcomers, from the Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted resource library, from various Facebook Groups, and from real people, too. It’s time to drink from the grail of giftedness.

When you drink from the grail of giftedness, you’ll find compassion, understanding, and downright love among other parents facing similar journeys through today’s educational systems. If you become active as a leader in the gifted community, you’ll see parents cry at presentations, have epiphanies about their own childhoods, and relax when they realize they’re not alone. You’ll find Home Planet; you’ll find your tribe among a mix of people from various religions, races, ethnicities, political persuasions, and sexual orientations. A broad swath of humanity, all with children too different from the norm to fit well into today’s education system. Parents driven by love, who believe that their children’s love and happiness are more important than their children’s seat time in school.

You’ll also learn that giftedness isn’t only about education. Giftedness is about whole lives that are different from the norm, including brains that are different from the norm, and experiences and reactions that are different from the norm. In response to what you’ll learn, you’ll probably change your parenting to the point where your parenting, too, will be different from the norm.

Your Hesitation

You might hesitate to join us. You might think: Do I really want to enter the world of giftedness, with its perceived tints of inequity and inequality? Do I really want to become an advocate for gifted children, and thus risk the ire of 95% of the other parents in my children’s schools?

Years or decades later, in retrospect, you might ask yourself: Did I really want to explain until I’m blue in the face that gifted education is not elitism, but rather about meeting the unique needs of individual children, needs which include not just academic needs, but also social and emotional needs? Did I really want to spend thousands of dollars on dues, conference registrations, and books over the course of several decades?

Moon MistI admit that I would have preferred a life without accusations of inequality, without risks of ire from 95% of the other parents, without advocating until I’m blue in the face, and without added expenses. Wouldn’t you?

The Good News

The good news is that my children are grown and happy. More good news is that along the gifted path, I’ve met hundreds of kindred spirits, many of whom have become good friends. We still travel long distances to see each other, and to marvel that somehow we managed to raise our unique children to the point where many of them, oblivious to our sometimes Herculean efforts along the way, see no reason for our interest in giftedness…

…until they themselves have children facing school. Then they call us for advice, and we help them navigate through stormy clouds and deep water to find their own kindred spirits.


Acknowledgements and Credits

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page August 2015 Blog Hop on “Gifted 101.” I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

The “my child” in the article is an amalgamation of all my children. I didn’t want to pick on any one of them in particular.

The photographs are my own, taken in 2015 in Athens County, Ohio and in Polk County, Wisconsin.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the titles, blog names, and links of other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_gifted_101.htm

Gifted 101 Graphic

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16 Comments on “Stormy Clouds, Deep Water: Time to Find Kindred Spirits”

  1. “When you drink from the grail of giftedness, you’ll find compassion, understanding, and downright love among other parents facing similar journeys through today’s educational systems. If you become active as a leader in the gifted community, you’ll see parents cry at presentations, have epiphanies about their own childhoods, and relax when they realize they’re not alone.” <–And that is the one thing that saved me and subsequently saved my family. Thank you for so eloquently putting into words the common plot of so many gifted families' stories! Beautiful, beautiful post, Wenda!

  2. What a great reminder that when we find our tribe, it should be uplifting – not a competition.

    • Wenda Sheard says:

      Alessa, I had heard that there are some corners of Home Planet where parents are competitive, but luckily I haven’t run into that problem in any of the gifted communities I’ve entered. The thought of talking about competition never crossed my mind as I was writing the post. Thanks for your comment…food for thought.

  3. What a great post, and a reminder that our children benefit from our efforts. We don’t choose to be advocates – but we often have no choice if we want to help our children get through a school system that does not understand them. And along the way, we find other advocates who also know what we experience. Thanks.

  4. Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies says:

    LOVE every bit of this, Wenda, from the grail of giftedness to the coming out happy on the other end. Our kindergarten year sounded like your first grade experience. So glad we opted out and met kindred spirits. Thanks for this!

  5. staciehastings@yahoo.com says:

    I am struggling with my gifted 11 year son son and school choices, he is presently in a gifted class at a local public school. He is not being challenged, he is often bored and complains about not learning anything in his classes. When your studying particle physics at home and forced to endure a “regular science class” how can he possibly be engaged? Any suggestions would be wonderful! Thanks

    • Wenda Sheard says:

      I have a firehose of suggestions, far more than I can type on a beautiful Saturday morning when nature is calling me outside. For starters, please visit Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, and perhaps type your question on the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page facebook group….the folks who frequent that page are quite kind and good about giving specific suggestions. I wish you and your son the best.

      You’ve got me thinking—perhaps I should come out of retirement (more than I already have!) and do gifted advocacy again, accompanying parents to meetings with teachers and school administrators. That’s an art—learning exactly what each teacher or administrator knows and feels, and gently filling in the gaps and massaging their decisions towards a place where they will love the child and meet the child’s unique needs within the limits of the school district’s budget.

      • staciehastings@yahoo.com says:

        Thank you for the information, We live in Louisiana and the resources for gifted students in lack luster at best!

      • Ana says:

        When you are ready to come back to gifted advocacy we are more than ready and needful of your talents. 🙂

  6. poprice says:

    Great post, Wenda. A couple of years ago I made the decision to reorient my discussions about giftedness to a private FB salon full of gifted/2e and gifted/2e friendly people. We’re up to just over 200 members now, and the experience has changed my life. Truly. And the phrase I use to describe them? “Kindred spirits.” Great minds, right?

  7. Anna Caveney says:

    Wenda, this reminds me how soothing I find it that we plan to home school our now 2.4yr old daughter. People ask we why, and I try to find a short polite way to say “because we can, while we work to make school a healthy place for our eventual great grandchildren”. Ryan and I had such a dreadful time in our schooling, I don’t want my little girl to ever feel that trapped and unwelcome. I also want her to learn all the wonderful things you learn when you have to work hard. I miss visiting Home Planet, that is one of the few downsides to living in Yorkshire England.

  8. Paula Prober says:

    You always have posts that are sensitively written, Wenda. And, I have to say, I look forward to seeing your photos!

  9. Ann Grahl says:

    This is a fabulous post, Wenda. And it serves as a beautiful reminder that, though we and our children may have some difficult experiences when it comes to educational options, finding our tribe enhances our journey and brings much needed meaning to our lives.

  10. Reblogged this on Never Less Than Everything and commented:
    Thoughts on giftedness worth sharing.
    Please comment on original, comments are disabled here. Thanks!

  11. IEAgifted says:

    Thank you, Wenda, for reminding us all of how important we are to each other! If you are the parent of a gifted child, you are not in this alone. Strength and support can be found in the gifted community.

  12. This was beautiful to read, Wenda, and brought back memories our own stormy clouds. Thank you for sharing.


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