Friday, April 24, 2015

Depth - the Gifted Child's Number One Passion

"Help your child find their passion!" We all tend to hear these words in one way or another. I remember being able to rattle off the areas of passion for my three gifted children. However, I noticed something. As they got older (and by older I am talking the 5 - 7 age range), their passions seemed to be changing. They would pick something up for three months, then seem to just toss it to the side. However, about a year later they would come back to that discarded topic and start right back where they left off.
At first I got frustrated, but then I realized something. They stuck with a topic until they reached a point where learning more would take skills beyond what they had at that moment. Maybe they would need mathematical concepts they had not yet mastered, maybe they would need a level of abstract reasoning abilities beyond their current level of maturity. Whatever it was, they seemed to know when they hit their limit of what they could understand. What was interesting - if they couldn't learn more, if they couldn't learn deeper - they would rather walk away until they could. Surface level knowledge and understanding just wasn't enough for them.
This is one thing that seems to really set apart gifted children, especially highly to profoundly gifted children. It isn't so much having a passion, it is the way they go about pursuing their passion. The absolute drive to see as deeply inside an object, an area of study, even an idea - is unrelenting.
As our homeschooling journey continues, I am seeing our homeschool diverge even from those we had been traveling with for a while. Other homeschoolers seemed to be able to move swiftly from one topic to another. It might be hydraulics one week and dissections the next. People would look at us and say, "Your kid is still working on solar ovens? We did a solar oven three years ago!"
This expression of surprise was the key to my understanding just how the differences of gifted children manifest in those middle years. It wasn't enough for my eldest to build a solar oven. He had to study it, to see how he could get it to work more efficiently. He had to work with designs and invent new components that he hadn't seen tried before. It was never enough to simply "do" and move on. He couldn't move on until he understood as much as he could; and yes, three years later he is still working on solar ovens. He is also still working on geography, still working on studies of weasels, still working on learning about the environment. My daughter is still working on astronomy. People seemed a bit surprised - "Didn't she do a report on the eight planets when she was five years old, including telling us why Pluto got demoted? Isn't she done?" No, she isn't. At seven years old she understands there are years and years of things left for her to learn. And yes, she is still studying animals and nature. Her twin brother is still, two years later, reading the same book on "building" - he truly wants to understand what it is going to take to be an inventor, a builder, a creator.
I can't name just one passion they have, but I can articulate their number one passion - depth. To other people it looks like my children have simple jumped into a few small puddles - they don't understand that while the surface area of those puddles are small, those puddles are miles deep. My kids can't be finished with a topic by simply completing a project or report - they can't leave until there is nothing more that can be known with their capacity to understand in that moment.
I get we might be left behind while other people move from one project to the next. That is okay - I am focusing on letting my kids pursue their passion.

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