A few people have asked if I thought Aristotle was gifted (yes I’ve changed their names and these are the new names they will be addressed as from now on). In all honesty, I have never considered it. I think he’s a bright child, but I’ve never thought of him as gifted and I’ll tell you why in a moment.
Recently Circle of Moms sent out a newsletter with an article titled “20 Signs Your Child May be Gifted” (although no one child displays all 20 signs – it is usually a combination of some of the signs). For a more detailed list, you should check out Austega. Anyway, here are the 20 signs from Circle of Moms:
- Has early interest in words and reading
- Has exceptionally large vocabulary for their age
- Learns rapidly, easily and efficiently
- Is curious about objects or situations, asks provocative questions; enjoys exploratory activities
- Has an unusually strong memory, but is bored with memorization and recitation
- Is flexible in thinking patterns; makes unusual associations between remote ideas
- Is independent
- Has a wide range of interests
- Demonstrates unusual reasoning power
- Likes structure, order and consistency
- Show unusual degrees of originality, concentration and persistent hard work on projects that capture their interest and imagination
- Is perceptually open to his or her environment
- Has an advanced sense of humor
- Is sensitive to the feelings of others
- Shows more interest in creative effort and new activities than in routine and repetitive tasks
- Shows an intense interest and aptitude in an artistic activity, such as drawing, singing, dancing, writing, or playing a musical instrument
- Is intellectually playful, interested in fantasy, imagination
- Acts as a leader among children of their own age
- Tries to excel in almost everything she does
- Senses when problems exist; always trying to adapt or improve things
If I rate Aristotle based on this list, then yes, it would appear that he is gifted. However, as I was explaining to my aunt today when she marvelled over Aristotle’s intellectual capabilities, while he may appear extraordinary to her, in the arena of homeschooled children, he is the norm. In other words, I believe that an overwhelming majority of homeschooled children and children who have received early childhood education at home before starting school fall into the same boat – following the criteria on this list, I’m sure you would be hard-pressed to find a child who isn’t considered gifted unless that child had some sort of learning disability.
It’s exactly what Doman, Shichida, HEGL, and Right Brain Kids have been saying all along – all children are potential geniuses in their own right. All they need is the right environment to help them draw it out.
Did Aristotle have the right environment? I believe so. I didn’t force him to learn how to read, but I did encourage him and I did provide him the opportunities to learn how to read. I didn’t force him to learn about dinosaurs, but when I saw his interest in them, I did my best to give him the opportunities to learn about them. At one point, he was going through entire folders of his Logico Piccolo series in one sitting, now he’s bored of it. At another point, he was mad about Fun Thinkers, now he won’t touch it. When Aristotle gets interested in something, he goes after it with a single-minded focus that I applaud and encourage because I know he’s having fun learning and it will only be a matter of time before he’s on to something else.
To me, this is student-driven learning that is passion-based. It is exactly what learning for a child should be about. If you seize the moment and make the most of it, learning for your child is not only easy and fun, but your child will learn more than you could ever hope to teach him if you were to try to engage him at a time when he isn’t interested. This is exactly the same argument that has been put forward for teaching very young children to read – they are eager to learn, it is easy for them to learn, and it’s fun for them. Why would you wait until they’re older, less interested, and find it more difficult to learn? Similarly, why would you wait until your child is no longer interested in the subject before you insist that he has to learn about it?
As a parent, it is both exciting and fulfilling for me to watch my child thirst for knowledge and be eager to learn. Admittedly, I wasn’t always so relaxed. I used to worry that he would develop unevenly if I didn’t press him to learn the subjects he wasn’t interested in, and yes, I tried some forcing. I discovered fairly quickly that it made learning utterly miserable for both of us and it made me questioned how much of it he was retaining anyway. Now I hope I haven’t killed those subjects for him forever.
Even though I have observed his passion for specific subjects, I still make it a point to offer him new things to try. Sometimes it requires a little more encouragement to get him to try them, but my requirement has always been – “Just try it. If you don’t like it, I won’t bug you about it any more.” The only times that I ever insist that he do something is when he asks me to buy something that interests him in the shop and then decide he doesn’t want it anymore when we get home. For instance, if he insists I buy a book for him because he promises me he will read it, I will insist that he read it whether or not he feels he wants to. For such cases, I feel it is important to make him accountable for his decisions so that he doesn’t make them so lightly in future.
Aristotle has never been the sort of child you can easily force into doing something anyway. Besides, why use force when I can have him willing to learn on his own accord without having to cajole, nag, or scold him about it?