May 14 2014


The Three R’s and Code.Org: Helping Our Students – and Ourselves – Keep Pace with the World

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We can all identify with the toddler or kindergartner who is bored quickly with mundane and age-appropriate toys. So it is good to know if our almost 3 year old granddaughter starts to become bored with her toys, she may be sending signals that she is ready to learn the hottest new skill in the world of education – coding. With the advent of smartphones and introduction of new apps seemingly 24/7, coding instruction in our schools is now growing at an incredible rate.

But you say, coding instruction for toddlers and elementary students?

Yes, that’s right. Many companies within the whole tech industry, including Bill Gates and Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, have contributed $10 million for Code.org. According to Matt Richtel’s article, “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Lately Coding,” which appeared recently in the New York Times, this organization is involved in “high school teacher training and implementing a coding curriculum that merges basic instruction with video games involving Angry Birds and hungry zombies.”

Inspired by the 2007 release of Scratch, a visual programming language developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab , Code.org is focused on spreading the word about coding to schools and policymakers. To the founder of Code.org, Hadi Partovi, learning coding is an essential skill and up there with “learning about gravity or molecules, electricity or photosynthesis.”

So if you are like the many other parents who do not want their child to miss out on future opportunities, now is the time to take a look at Code.org and see if learning to code is right for your child.

And who knows, if you find yourself stuck in your current job and a little bit bored with your routine, then take the advice of the today’s toddlers and elementary students who are seeking new challenges in learning. Learn to code and experience an opportunity to take your career and life in a new direction.

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Nov 13 2013


Resiliency: Stephanie Tolan’s Answer for Us All When We Can’t Change the World

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Just what do you do when faced with difficult times? Do you focus on the problem at hand, try your best to solve it and move forward or do you, like so many of us, spend a lot of time thinking and feeling badly about the situation or the outcome and getting stuck in the moment?

If you don’t readily jump into the problem solving mode, then it might be time to explore the power of resiliency – a key trait we all need to survive and thrive in this world. And it is especially a trait we all need to model and teach to our gifted children, according to author and speaker, Stephanie Tolan, who spoke at the National Association for Gifted Children’s 60th Convention which was held last week in Indianapolis, Indiana.

According to Tolan, as parents we spend a lot of energy “trying to make the roads (of life) ready for our children and not our children ready for the roads.” This tends to be a self-defeating exercise since so much in life is beyond our control. And it is where the importance of resiliency, “the ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever,” according to Psychology Today, factors into every parent toolbox as a key strategy for us to model and for our children to learn.

Tolan commented that, in general, “we have been trying to change the world without changing ourselves” and suggested that we literally “change our stories and change our lives” and “stop calling a story” that is filled with victimhood and negative expectation into our lives. This same idea can be taught to our gifted children who, Tolan stated, “need to know their story matters and not to become the victim of their story.”

If her premise is as thought-provoking to you as it is to me and if you want to learn more about changing your story and your child’s story, then be sure to visit storyhealer.com to find out what you can do when you can’t change the world.

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Aug 01 2013


A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children: A Must-Read for Parents of Gifted

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Have you ever picked up a book that you wished you had read a long time ago – maybe at a time when you could have truly helped your own children by utilizing the information in the book? Well, that is exactly how I felt about the book, A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children by James T. Webb, Janet T. Gore, Edward Amend and Arlene DeVries.
Filled with wisdom, insights and practical tools, A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, offers parents a deep understanding of the complexities of every gifted child and underscores the importance of parents in the life of a gifted child. The topics covered in the book include the following:

1. Definition of Giftedness
2. Characteristics of Gifted Children
3. Communication: The Key to Relationships
4. Motivation, Enthusiasm and Underachievement
5. Establishing Discipline and Teaching Self-Management
6. Intensity, Perfectionism and Stress
7. Idealism, Unhappiness and Depression
8. Acquaintances, Friends and Peers
9. Family Relationships: Siblings and Only Children
10. Values, Traditions and Uniqueness
11. Complexities of Successful Parenting
12. Children Who Are Twice-Exceptional
13. How Schools Identify Gifted Children
14. Finding a Good Educational Fit
15. Finding Professional Help

With an abundance of resources, suggested readings and a complete list of references, this book is a must-read for everyone interested in helping all gifted children soar to their true potential.

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Jun 23 2013


“Girl Rising” …..The Importance of Strengthening Girls to Strengthen the World

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Yesterday, June 22nd, marked the international debut of “Girl Rising,” a remarkable film that was first shown in North America on June 16th and sponsored by 10 x 10, a global campaign highlighting the importance of educating and empowering girls. Research has demonstrated that the education of girls has the power to transform and change communities. It is positive change that lasts for generations.

“Girl Rising” features nine stories of nine amazing girls in nine developing countries. By telling their stories, these nine girls have given a voice to the countless stories of teenage girls around the world. Like teenagers everywhere, teens in developing countries have similar hopes and dreams and also face challenges that most of us struggle to understand.

So if you weren’t able to watch “Girl Rising” on June 16th or June 22nd, then be sure to think about learning more and getting involved in this most worthy campaign. Your individual interest and effort to contribute to the future of girls in developing nations around the world can make a huge difference. Check out today how you can get involved: http://girlrising.com/

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Apr 20 2013


High-Tech Robots Create Emotional Safety in the Classroom for Students with Autism

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There isn’t one of us, as parents, teachers or a member of a family, who can’t relate to a difficult moment in trying to communicate with someone else.

Imagine, though, you are a student living with autism and typically have a communication challenges most of us do not experience. And then the NAO robots arrive.

Researchers have been discovering that classroom robots lead to a “30% increase in the number of social interactions as well as better verbal communication in some children with autism” according to Heather Fairchild, author of the CareerNetwork article, “NAO Robots Reach and Teach Autistic Children,” http://www.beyond.com/articles/nao-robots-reach-and-teach-autistic-children-11957-article.html.

Fairchild wrote that one mother described her child’s reactions as “exuberant” when the child interacted with the robot. In addition, according to the Alderaran website, http://www.aldebaran-robotics.com/en/

“NAO can make the lives of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) better by helping them achieve more autonomy.”

For students with autism and other learning differences, this sense of autonomy is huge and so is the fact that the robots show no emotion. Consequently, “…autistic children find them less threatening than their teachers and easier to engage with,“ according to teacher, Ian Lowe. Lowe teaches at Topcliffe Primary in Castle Vale, England which is one of 20 different institutions around the world to have robots in use.

The NAO robots’ lack of emotion creates a safe learning environment for students with autism, according to Dr. Karen Guldberg of the University Of Birmingham School Of Education’s Autism Centre for Education and Research. And, as she notes, “When people feel safe and are motivated, they learn much better.”

The learning possibilities these NAO robots bring to the classroom are truly exciting. It makes you wonder what else these robots might do. Perhaps parents might benefit from these high tech teachers to coach them with some of the more difficult parenting moments and help us create emotional safety in our homes just as the NAO robots are doing in the classrooms for students with autism.

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Apr 05 2013


Parenting the Gifted Child with Humor and a Playful Perspective

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Ever have one of those parenting moments when you are faced with a choice of either laughing on the inside while you calmly set boundaries with a child or teen or explode with what seems at the moment justified anger at some obvious undesirable behavior?

I can remember one sunny spring day when I had one of those moments as my toddler quickly turned from happily working in her coloring book to coloring on the wall. For me, it was the first time one of my 3 children had ever colored on the walls. And instead of stirring up anger and angst in me, it struck me as rather cute and endearing – for a brief moment.

But it was just enough time, putting my initial parental response on hold and finding my own playful child inside, that allowed me to see the world from her toddler perspective. Paper and coloring books offer a limited coloring canvas and a wall – an unlimited surface for a toddler’s creative expression.

Finding your own inner child in difficult moments isn’t always as easy or as spontaneous for us in all situations. Yet for our gifted children, with their own keen sense of humor and abundance of intensities, having a parent or teacher who can develop a playful perspective can be an encouraging and supportive feeling. Much of what we take seriously as adults can be re-framed and responded to differently – in a more relaxed and less reactive manner.

So where can you find this much needed laughter? A great place to start would be with the resources you can find at the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor website: http://www.aath.org/ . From its annual conference, which began yesterday, April 4th in San Diego and finishes up on April 7th, to a multitude of events and publications, this organization has the tools to bring a smile to your face.

Another great source of humor-related opportunities and materials is The Humor Project: http://www.humorproject.com/. Their next conference is May 2-4, 2014, in Saratoga Springs, New York. It’s one that you won’t want to miss.

And if you need immediate help in locating your “funny bone,” consider putting together a Humor Aid box filled with humor-related items such as a joke book, a Smiley face stress balls, bubbles, clapping hands and clown noses. Then the next time you feel your internal temperature rise, take a minute to read some jokes to yourself while you put on your clown nose and squeeze a stress ball.:)

You can start bringing more humor to your parenting style at any time. But since April is National Humor Month, this would be a great time to getting started. All you have to do is begin smiling more at the events of your life, and you’ll begin to see the humor in some of the more frustrating times you face.

If you’re open to doing this, you’ll find that you can, indeed, activate your sense of humor and bring a calm and more playful perspective to the situation at hand. Your inner child will be released and your real-life gifted child will be surprised and most likely more open to listening and cooperating. Try it soon and let me know how it turns out!:)

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Mar 19 2013


Celebrate Spring: Planting Seeds of Creativity, Courage and Caring

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There is nothing more satisfying than having a long stretch of time to be in the presence of an almost 2 year old granddaughter, the eleventh of our twelve grandchildren. The time we spent together today, starting with the first big smile she gave us as we gently lifted her out of her car seat this morning and ending with the final wave goodbye as she returned home, gave us a chance to tap into our inner child. It also gave us the opportunity to plant and nurture seeds of creativity, courage and caring in our granddaughter, too, as she watched us demonstrate these traits with her.

These three traits are the 3 C’s that I learned about when I went to the SENG website and read Lori-Comallie-Caplan’s article, “Ten SENG Articles to Help You Become a Courageous Parent.” According to Caplan, Courageous Parenting author, Lisa Rivero, says that creativity, courage and caring makes all the difficult decisions that all parents, of infants through adult children, have to make so much easier. Just knowing when creativity is needed, having the courage to say no and the freedom to tell her how much we love her, are all probably what made our day with our granddaughter such an absolute delight.

No doubt we expressed our creativity when we danced and danced – and danced – repeatedly in circles till we all were dizzy. And as we marched through the kitchen and dining room and living room and hall – all in a circle of course – and sang a nonsense song loud enough to hear our voices echo – we knew that our creative play moments were building lasting memories of smiles and laughter.
Yet we exercised courage in those inevitable moments of the day when the laughter of our 2 year old granddaughter swiftly turned to tears as she realized that Oma and Opa had boundaries for her behavior – boundaries to keep her safe and to respect the furniture and keep it safe, too.

And so we had to accept her tears and wails of frustration when we stopped her from jumping and standing on the couch or holding a pencil in the car as she prepared to go home. Nevertheless, we were confident that besides establishing boundaries, we also communicated a deep sense of caring that gives her the confidence to be with us without fussing when her parents leave.

And, just like her mom was at this age, our granddaughter is filled with her own sense of precocious creativity as she carefully selects a colorful rainbow assortment of crayons to work on her free form drawings. We already see a high degree of courage and persistence as she repeatedly tries to put her wooden train tracks together until she gets one piece to snap into the other. Finally, it goes without saying that her spontaneous kisses and hugs tell us she loves us and cares for us in ways that just melt our hearts.

It would be easy to think our granddaughter’s affection simply flows our way just because we are “Opa and Oma.” But deep down, we know it is the overall intentionality of what we do to bring creativity, courage and caring into our time together with her, every time we get together, that makes her feel safe, secure and surrounded by our love.

So this week, as you welcome Spring into your lives, think about how you can plant some of these 3 C’s in your own family and then watch your family and your relationships blossom and bloom.

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Dec 31 2012


New Year’s Resolution: Feed Your Child’s Brain for Optimal Brain Power

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Looking for a 2013 New Year’s Resolution that would be easy to keep each day? Then you might be interested in this resolution idea from a gifted parent group in Minnesota.

In 2003, the Prairie Eden Chapter of the Minnesota Gifted and Talented Council decided to serve their 3rd graders a healthy snack on testing days. The decision to do this was based on their desire to overcome the problem that can arise when children come to school with empty stomachs or sugar filled breakfasts.

Both situations, according to the Eden Prairie website, http://epcgt.org/home/fyb/, “take a toll on the brain’s thinking power.” While helping kids concentrate on test days is the main goal of their “Feed the Brain” program, they also have a secondary goal to “educate children about the importance of eating a nutritious breakfast every morning.”

So for your 2013 New Year’s Resolutions, do yourself and your children a favor. Start your own “Feed the Brain” program at school or even see if you can implement a program similar in your child’s school.

Do some research on Web MD for the foods that promote a healthy brain and start your kids off – and yourself – with a balanced breakfast every morning. By making it a goal to serve and eat a healthy breakfast every morning, you will be setting a New Year’s Resolution that can make a real difference in the brain power of every member of your family.

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Dec 22 2012


Arming Parents, Educators and Students with the Truth and Not Fear: How Empathy, Assertiveness and Self-Control Can Help to Reduce Violence in our Schools

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If we all were to be truthful about the matter, we might agree that it is hard to face the truth about ourselves and our actions. It just might be part of human nature’s defense mechanism for us to first blame someone else and instill fear and not even attribute any bit of involvement on our part or even on a host of contributing factors that come together to impact a complex situation.

And so one week after the terrible tragedy in Connecticut, many people are now looking for answers. To the NRA the answer is simple – use fear and tell Americans just need to demand armed guards in our schools to protect our children from the hordes of “monsters and predators” roaming the American countryside.

But to the parents in the Sandy Hook School community in Newtown, Connecticut, who experienced an unthinkable tragedy last week, and to most parents in general, the real answer to gun violence in our schools is not more guns or the creation of armed camps. It is facing the truth of what really works. While placing armed guards in our schools is an expensive endeavor, estimated at over 50 billion dollars for armed protection, a more effective and emotionally safe approach can be implemented by our willingness to look at the truth about each of ourselves, our children, our schools and our society.

First, as parents and educators, we must look at the truth at how we view ourselves and whether or not we have an attitude of empathy and understanding of ourselves and others. To do this we ask ourselves a few questions:

1. Are we accepting of our strengths and our growth areas, those of our own children and the ones we teach and do we model this acceptance and understanding of every uniquely designed person?
2. Do we believe that we all can grow and change through experience, practice and education?
3. Are we willing to work hard to develop our strengths and address our growth areas and model and teach that to our children?

If our answers are “no” to any of these questions, it is possible that without a sense of empathy, we will have a harder time moving through life. Even more significantly, we will approach our children and our students in a manner that will put obstacles in their quest to reach their own true potential and create an environment that will promote bullying in our homes and schools and create a lack of emotional safety.

Second, as parents and educators, we must learn to stand up and speak up with respect and clarity and become assertive. That’s what is happening all across America as parents begin to band together to “Demand a Plan,” http://www.demandaplan.org/, to address gun violence in our schools. We can also ask ourselves some questions:

1. Do we listen first without judgment and then speak respectfully to ourselves, especially when mistakes are made, and do the same to our children and follow-up by problem solving and seeking solutions and not simply by labeling and blaming?
2. Are we willing to be persistent and seek help for ourselves or our children when we realize a developmental, emotional or learning challenge is limiting our own or our child’s success?
3. Are we able to set reasonable and appropriate boundaries on our own or our child’s behavior to ensure emotional and physical safety for everyone?

Again, if our answers are “no” to any of these questions, we risk the possibility of being passive in situations that call us to stand up and speak up on behalf of ourselves or our children or aggressive in the face of frustration or disappointment.

Third, as parents and teachers, we need to monitor our own sense of self-control and that of our children. We can choose what we think and how we act in almost every situation without blaming anyone. To monitor our behavior, we need to ask these questions:

1. Do we model self-control over the major areas of our lives in terms of how we manage our emotions – especially anger – our time, our physical health and our finances?
2. Do we make sure that no matter what, especially if divorce is a factor, that we are actively and consistently present in our children’s lives and that they know, by both what we say and what we do, that we are there for them, that we love them and that we believe in them?
3. Do we actively teach and re-enforce in our children – at home and at school – strategies to maintain a sense of self-control?

Any question where the answer is “no” deserves to be followed up with assertiveness on our part. We need to stand up and speak up because so much is at stake.

None of us will deny that facing the truth about ourselves or the violence in our schools is an easy process. But if each of us is willing to do what we can in each of our homes and our schools to model and teach empathy, assertiveness and self-control – along with uniting with other parents and educators who are seeking commonsense gun-control – then we will realize that we can all make a difference in reducing gun violence in America.

And we will come to know that the “monsters” out there revolve around the fear that is being spread to protect the interests of a powerful lobby, the NRA. Once we acknowledge this truth, we will have “disarmed” the NRA for good.

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Dec 15 2012


Are You Ready to Start? What Every Parent and Educator Can Do to Stem the Violence in America

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Yesterday’s tragedy in Connecticut has me wanting to take some positive action to help protect my grandchildren at their different schools and to take steps to help protect all children. So, just as I always do in situations that seem overwhelming, I begin to do some research for answers to gain both knowledge and a feeling that I do have some power within me to make a difference.

In looking for some answers today, I happened to read a thought-provoking article by Tracey Cross that appeared in the Spring 2001 issue of Gifted Child Today and re-printed online by the Davidson Institute 11 years ago. Her article fueled a sense of hope and action within me that might be a help to you.

Cross writes that the way the media handled the events surrounding Columbine in 1999, by portraying “the events hourly for weeks after the event,” created a sense of lack of safety in our schools and also implied that it was our gifted students were an additional threat. So she talked with dozens of gifted adolescents following the Columbine massacre in 1999.

Her research should be a wake-up call to all of us living and working with gifted children. It indicated that, while the students interviewed expressed horror at the outcome of Columbine, they wholly identified with the sense of rage inside the killers. This sense of rage stems from a variety of factors, and included how gifted students are often treated at school on a day to day basis. It is, according to Cross, the “taunting, bullying and generalized threatening behavior in ways different from the past” that are key components to the development of the rage many of our gifted students feel.

Yet Cross does offer some commonsense steps all parents and educators can all take to help stem the violence in America:

“Therefore, families and teachers will need to try to bring about change locally. Because the greatest influence will likely come from the individual and microsystem, beginning there makes the most sense. Disallowing negative remarks, anti-intellectual behavior, and encouraging respect for individuals of all ability levels and interests can be done and almost certainly will improve the conditions of all students in school.”

When you think about it, Cross is right. There are steps we all can take to protect all children. It first starts with each of us and how we view ourselves. We must change and figure out how to accept who we are and how we can improve and grow before we can be truly accepting of our children for who they are.

Then we must change again and all learn effective ways to communicate with empathy, self- control and assertiveness, model and teach these skills to our children.

Finally, we must change our schools and make sure that polices to teach these skills are in place in our schools to reduce all forms of bullying, verbal, physical, relational and cyber-bullying.

Once we realize that change starts with each of us, we won’t feel so powerless anymore and we will have taken the most important step to stem violence in America. I am ready to start. Are you?

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