What is it like to raise an extremely gifted or brilliant child?

I’m talking about elite intelligence here. When did you first know they were gifted? What did you do to feed their curiosity and intelligence?

Written Sep 6, 2016

When did we first know?

Officially, we first knew when our daughter brought home a letter from the school on the last day of 3rd grade, informing us that she had passed the initial screening for the gifted program.

Since then, she has had two intelligence tests administered, which confirmed the initial findings. We also had her participate in ACT Explore testing – an above grade-level test which provides a measure of actual grade level performance.

Prior indications:

  • Many friends and acquaintances commented on her being a “model” child (quiet, well-behaved, etc.)
  • Very aware of her environment – she watches before doing. For example, she watched her friends riding bikes, then essentially just got on and started riding. Same thing with roller-blading.
  • Asking very interesting questions. When she was 6, we were passing a lake – “How do boats float? At age 8, she asked her teacher how you split an atom.

Feeding intelligence and curiosity

We throw mud on the wall and see what sticks!

  • We have a room filled with stuff – microscope; Littlebits; Snap circuits; Arduino; telescope, Lego Mindstorm, etc. Most of it is currently unused. She tends to get interested in something, and then drops it after a while.
  • She has access to the internet, and is constantly exploring – Brainpop; vSauce; Youtube, Skype, etc.
  • We routinely go to the library, and she can download books from our library. She probably reads 1–2 books per week.
  • At age 9, she got interested in Physics and Astronomy. She monitored a Newtonian Physics course on Coursera (got about halfway through before she lost interest), and completed a Coursera course on Astronomy (including quizzes and essays).
  • We recently watched a BBC series on Youtube about ancient Rome, and have been following up with discussions about Mary Beard’s book “SPQR”.
  • She takes lessons in piano, violin, art, Mandarin, and badminton. She is bilingual in Mandarin (her mother is Chinese), so is learning how to also read and write.
  • We have been reviewing “Models for Writers”, to encourage ideas for writing.

Self Motivation

This topic is very interesting, and may provide some insight into her personality (and possibly that of other gifted kids).

She is NOT self-motivated for externally provided tasks. When I ask her to complete an assignment, I always have to give her a deadline, and she always waits until the last possible second to complete the assignment. I believe she sees this as a kind of game/challenge.

On the other hand, when she is internally motivated, she can easily jump down the rabbit hole. She became immersed in Minecraft for about 3 months. After she mastered it (to the point of teaching tricks to other, older kids), she lost interest. She subsequently became interested in digital graphics and animation. She self-taught, primarily using Youtube videos from other artists. She now has a Youtube channel with several dozen subscribers, and will routinely be online with several other artists collaborating on projects.

I suggested she write something about a topic that interested her. She started writing chapters of a book that she has been posting online.

Parent’s Perspective

Frustration. If she doesn’t want to do something, she uses passive aggression. She is extremely manipulative, and is so effective that you are hardly aware that she is doing it.

Joy. Certainly, she is very capable, and can perform effectively whenever she chooses.

Challenge. Both ways. She challenges our patience, but we have to challenge her intellectually.

Knowledge. Lots of available information out there from others who have experienced raising a gifted child. That helps.