This essay was brought about because I met a child of three who had a number of the skills of a five-year-old. It turned out that the child’s grandmother had also been gifted, and early in her school career had found herself in classes two years above her age. This process through giving her serious problems as a child, prompted her to give her views. In the main she discovered that the teaching staff ignored her elevation, and merely reported on her ability related to the rest of the class, with the result that her reports often had ‘could do better’ as a comment, which had the effect of making her feel that she should have done better, when in fact her efforts had been marvellous She also found that because she was ahead of herself, prior to the elevation, she was bored because she had already learned the work that was in the schedule ahead and what was being taught.
To quote her, I think it’s okay to dabble in a school subjects, like reading, maths etc, but through play, not in a formal setting. To me, socialisation and confidence building are the most valuable things a parent can give a child, whether the child is a genius or a dummy, and often the gifted child misses out on the fun things, in my case it was art, as it was deemed much more inferior to Latin. I wasn’t confident enough to argue than 10 years old. Gifted children will thrive on the healthy balanced home environment regardless of whether they are bored in school or not, as they will find ways of amusing themselves either at home or at school. School is a very different place now from when I was there. They play down the competition elements andthere are a lot more social skills taught.’
Today there is an acknowledgement by the government that schools should have at least one teacher competent to guide the gifted children through the learning process. I’m not aware whether this has been implemented across the board, but I suspect it hasn’t.
>Frrom my observation of the boy I felt that he had the facility even at three, of lateral thinking, which enabled him to ask himself questions and find answers, and so progress. The temptation by a parent to teach the child to read, count and possibly use the computer, would be almost irresistible, and it would take a very strong mind to offer the child alternative skills, such as jigsaw puzzles, construction toys of the simplest kind, or just reading books to him or her about aspects of life which are only touched on in the school curriculum, but are written in an interesting manner for children.
Youngsters, excellent at sports, who from an early age are sponsored by their parents, financially and by devoting hours to taking them to and from training, are an extended case, making the gifted child follow in the parents preordained path to success. In the case of sport, there is that mantra, ‘there is no glory in coming second’, and the hardship, the effort, and the loss of a normal life by the child, through a parent’s decision early in life, might indeed be a disaster. The ego of the parents has to be suppressed for the sake of the child.
In my case, and I am not suggesting that I was in any way gifted, the loss of two years education from I was six, by living in Africa, as I have said repeatedly, set me back factually and psychologically, and I did not become aware of my capabilities until I was in my late 20s. This is the converse to the above, and I suspect a condition among a high proportion of school leavers as a result of sociological problems.