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Wondering if your kiddo is gifted or twice-exceptional? Or, maybe you know your child is gifted/2e, but aren’t exactly sure where their specific gifts fall. Colleen Kessler breaks down three main “types” of giftedness, their traits, challenges, and strategies for parenting and homeschooling those kiddos successfully. She includes discussions about academically gifted, cognitively gifted, and creatively gifted children.
Automated Transcript (spelling and grammar errors are guaranteed!)
Yvette Hampton: Hey everyone, this is Yvette Hampton. Welcome to the homegrown generation family expo. This is one of our bonus sessions, which of course, you know, because you’re watching it as a bonus session. We were with Coleen Kessler. She is a sweet friend of mine. She is the founder of raising lifelong learners, which is an incredible ministry that she has to homeschool families, specifically who have children who are gifted or twice exceptional. So we’re going to talk about that. Um, this session is called the many faces of giftedness and I love that title. Uh, we got to meet Coleen a few years ago filming for Schoolhouse Rocked. She is one of our cast members in the movie. And, um, and I think Coleen, I think you’re the only one who actually had us in tears through that first year. You had my husband in tears through that first year of filming and it was just amazing.
Yvette Hampton: Uh, just because your, your message is so powerful and so important to homeschool families. And as you and I were talking before we started recording this, God has made each one of our children in a very special way and he’s created them on purpose and for a purpose. And some of them he has created with a, with some very distinct personality traits and characteristics. And some of those things are that many people have children who are very gifted and some have children who are twice exceptional. I know. No, you’re going to kind of explain those, those two things. And we’ve, we’ve actually spoken with parents before who have said, why can’t homeschool my child because they’re smarter than me. Basically they’re, they’re so gifted and I don’t know what to do with them. And they feel like they’re doing their children a disservice by not having them in a traditional classroom. And so I’m excited for you to bring your message today to our audience and just bring some encouragement with, with this amazing group of kids. So very quickly before we get rolling with that, tell us a little bit about you and your family.
Colleen Kessler: Okay, well thank you first for having me here. I’m super excited to be here. Um, you and Garrett are two of my favorite people and I just absolutely love everything that you are doing. So it is a privilege to be here to support your ministry and everything that you’re doing. So thank you. Um, okay, so I’m calling Kessler. I am a gifted specialist and educational consultant and I’m a speaker. I’m the founder of raising lifelong learners and raising poppies, which is a raising lifelong learners is a site in a podcast. Um, so you’ll find articles over on the site and you’ll find links to podcast episodes. And then raising puppies is a Facebook group that is an international support group for parents of differently wired kiddos. And through those two kind of entities, um, I’ve been privileged enough to be able to speak, um, on the topic of giftedness and twice exceptionalities and all the different things that go along with it.
Colleen Kessler: Um, actually internationally this year, I’m headed to Saskatchewan next week. Um, so I’m all over the place and just trying to get out there and encourage as many people who feel alone as possible because, um, when you have a kid who is not typical, um, you often feel like you’re doing something wrong. So it brings me joy to be able to tell parents that your kid has perfectly imperfect the way that they are and you’re the perfect parent for them. So that’s kind of mean a nutshell. I do have a master’s degree in gifted education. Um, I came into a homeschooling slightly kicking and screaming truth be told, um, because my master’s degree is in gifted education, which means my bachelor’s degree is in education and I taught for almost two decades and decade and a half, um, in the regular school system. And I was a good teacher.
Colleen Kessler: I loved my students. I loved what I did. I loved being able to, you know, take them from these budding learners to, um, create these like voracious readers and writers and, um, and I taught gifted kids in the regular classroom and I felt that I was doing so much good for them in that setup. Um, we had a couple of different challenges, um, pregnancy wise, which made me kind of strike one of those promises that you make to yourself and God, if I can just have, you know, more children, I’m going to try to stay home with them. And, um, I actually left teaching originally to, I’m not homeschool, uh, to write full time and um, help parents of differently wired kiddos, um, just through writing books and um, resources and then, um, fell in love with just being with my kids. And, um, so we, we ended up having four children, um, and never planned to homeschool.
Colleen Kessler: I planned to write in the margins while they were at school and then get them off the bus with treats and, you know, be an advocate for them and all of that. But, um, our oldest who is now 17, um, started showing, well, he, he was different from the beginning, um, just because he was kind of always more, um, more interested, more curious, more awake, more, um, loud and intense and, um, so he wasn’t fitting in the normal box of education. And, uh, in a true case of like the shoemaker’s kids kind of going shoeless, I missed his intelligence in there and just kind of chalked up all of the behaviors and tried to fix his behaviors when we started looking at the right things, um, through therapy and some other really great professionals who helped, you know, clear the blinders. You never see your own kid as clearly as you can see other kids, especially when you’re a professional in that field.
Colleen Kessler: Um, we discovered that he is profoundly gifted. He has anxiety, he has some sensory challenges. Um, he looks like he has ADHD, um, but he really just has a mind that never, ever, ever stops. And so it’s always excitable. And so we ended up kind of with no other option at the time pulling him out. Um, in February of his first grade year. And we’ve homeschooled everybody ever since. So he is 17 now. Um, so we’ve been homeschooling for 10 years. Wow. Yeah, he’s in high school now. Um, and we have also a 12 year old who is just amazing. She is a musical theater, just brilliant performer and a gorgeous writer and just empathetic person. Um, beautiful, beautiful person. Um, and then I have a 10 year old daughter who struggles with anxiety, sensory processing disorder and a couple other challenges, but is the type of person who would just give you the shirt off her back.
Colleen Kessler: She would be there. Um, she cries with you, she feels your emotions, um, empathetic to the point of almost detriment to her own feelings. Um, and then I have a seven year old kind of wild card. Uh, he is bringing up the rear. He was a little bit of a surprise and a gift and brings us lots of laughter, lots of adventures and lots of challenges. He’s following in his big brother’s intellectual footsteps. Um, meaning he is brighter than we know how to handle sometimes. And so he’s already run circles around us before we figure out what actually just happened. And then we have to go backtrack to figure out where we should start the discipline and the accolades they’re warranted. So we’re homeschooling for, um, from 17 down to seven. And it is an adventure. It is an adventure. We’ve met your oldest and um, and he is, he is truly an amazing child.
Colleen Kessler: Um, it’s been really fun getting to know him and, um, and he and Garrett have a special connection with one another, which is really fun. So let’s, uh, let’s go down the road of giftedness. Can you talk to us about kind of define giftedness and, and what that encompasses? Yeah, yeah. So giftedness when we’re talking about it, like from a clinical standpoint, so let’s just be clinical for a minute. We’re talking about, um, two standard deviations above average on an IQ test. So if we’re looking at a bell curve, bell curves are there for a reason. Statistically, people fall within kind of average. And then there’s outliers in any kind of statistical thing you do. Um, and so right in the middle, like where that bell curve goes, I’m going to draw in the air right in the middle is average. Like average intellect. The vast majority of all human beings fall in the middle of that bell curve.
Colleen Kessler: Totally normal. Two standard deviations below that average is where we get into like some severe learning disabilities. [inaudible] excuse me, I forgot to mention, I’m recovering from the flu. So you guys get the benefit of like not having to breathe with me in the same hair, but I might have a little bit of a cough here. So two standard deviations below that average like tick on the bell curve. We’ve got kids with developmental and mental and intellectual delays or disabilities, learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities. And so that’s kind of where we start our like special ed umbrella. And then on the other side of the bell curve, two standard deviations above. So exactly as far away from average, we have the cutoff kind of for gifted intellectually. Um, so we have, uh, kids who process things more quickly, understand things at a higher level, um, grasp concepts with one or two repetitions.
Colleen Kessler: Max sometimes don’t even need the repetition. Um, so cognitively and intellectually gifted kids, um, they understand things just more quickly. Um, but more in general. Um, so actually, wait, let me backtrack for a second. So when I, when I’ve used that bell curve, um, description I like to say, and I, I know I said this in the film, but that description like that, that discrepancy between average intellect is exactly the same as the people, like in school systems that we’re putting the money behind to help bring up. They’re just as different as our gifted kids are just as different, um, as the kids on the other side of the bell curve. But because they’re on the other side, they don’t get the services. Um, because people think that, you know, the myth is that they’ll just be fine. Um, but their brains are just as differently wired.
Colleen Kessler: So like when we start looking at kids who are gifted, we are looking at some of those same effects. So those same like, I’m sorry, I’m struggling to find my words here. We’re, we’re trying, we’re looking at the, the kids who have kind of the same struggles as the kids who are struggling with learning how to um, understand something that their teacher has said or their parent has said. Um, where you have kids who struggle and um, in special needs areas with anxiety and low self esteem and things like that. Gifted kids are struggling in the same way. So we, that’s where we start to see some of the twice exceptionalities. We get kids who are gifted, who get things pretty quickly but understand also at a higher level that they’re not thinking the same as the neighbor down the street and start to think there’s something wrong with them because they feel different.
Colleen Kessler: They understand that not everybody is getting that or they’re trying to play a game and explain these complex rules that they’ve up. And people are like, guys want to go play it the regular way. And so they’re getting discouraged or they’re struggling to connect with friends. And so we start to see more and more difficulties with communicating. And understanding one another and getting along and making sense of the world. The biggest piece of the definition of giftedness though, if we’re talking about definitions that is often I think the most overlooked, is that gifted kids are asynchronous. They develop at a varying rate across the board. So socially, emotionally, intellectually fine motor, gross motor wise, they’re, they’re asynchronous across the board. So while they’re intellect, maybe they’re hyperfocused on math as a little kid and they’re doing like problems in sidewalk chalk on the driveway. Um, they’re hyper focused on that.
Colleen Kessler: But while they can talk to you at a high level about the math problems they’re doing and they sound like a little professor, they’re throwing Malta on the playground or pushing their two year old brother down the stairs because they don’t have the impulse control that matches up with what their intellect is showing that they should have. Or they’re hyper focused on math and they could care less about reading. And then they don’t read until 11 and you’re thinking something’s wrong with you or your teaching when in reality they’ve just put all their intellectual focus on one area. And the other one will catch up when it, when their time starts to even out or when they start to shift their interests. Or you have to kind of approach your education in a different way to accommodate those hyper interests while boosting up the things with which they’re struggling.
Yvette Hampton: Yeah. Does that make sense? It does make sense. Yes. And it’s so interesting to think through that. And I think I mentioned earlier that you, you brought tears to Garret’s eyes when you were, um, interviewing for school house rock. And the reason is, is he’s, he is incredibly gifted. He’s very, very smart and, and you’ve seen so many of these things. It just kind of opened his eyes and brought to light like so much of his childhood and the struggles that he had in school. You know, cause he, he didn’t struggle because he didn’t understand things. He struggled because he was like, is that all you got? I’m bored now. Can we go? And, um, and, and I mean, that’s such a beautiful benefit of homeschooling is that we have the opportunity to really cater our child’s education to them and their abilities. And their strengths. Um, talk really quickly about what, what is smart versus gifted? Cause a lot of kids are really smart, but not every smart kid is gifted. Yeah. And actually, um, I’m so sorry. It’s okay. We can’t, we can’t breathe in your dreams. So this is real life. Coleen. I’m out of practice talking cause I’ve
Colleen Kessler: been like sick for five days. It’s okay. Okay. So smart versus gifted. So this is, this is the thing that comes up all the time, right? You get, I even have a post on my site about if you’re so smart, why can’t you, you know, or if he’s so smart, why can’t he? Um, and I think that’s the lead of the, the title of the poster wood or whatever. But we have this idea that gifted means smart and it does, it does, it means more than meaning smart. It kind of means the capacity for smart, but not necessarily the smart that you’ve determined that your kiddos should have. And, um, gosh, if we were to reframe it, it almost be like smart in, they know what they want and you just need to get out of their way and put the right kinds of things in front of them.
Colleen Kessler: But our society is still kind of used that I’m a smart, super smart kid is a gifted kid. Um, and there is truth to that except that, um, are, so let me see how to, how to rephrase this. Um, gifted kids, especially as they get like more and more into that high and profoundly gifted ranges. So we talked about that bell curve. We’ve got the two standard deviations above average, which is where the cutoff for intellectually gifted kids starts. Um, but there’s a whole spectrum beyond that, right? You don’t just get to that one point and like, okay, now you’re gifted you, you’re done. Um, everybody’s brain is different. And I often say, if you’ve met one gifted kid, you’ve met one gifted kid because they’re almost more discrete, discrepant from one another as they are from the general population because, um, they all their brains with that asynchrony kind of fixing on different things.
Colleen Kessler: And so as they get further out too, they hyper focus on like one thing or their intellect hones in on one thing, but they’re further and further and further away from that average. So they’re ha they start to have more and more and more difficulty kind of interrelating with the general population, which is why shows like the big bang theory or things like that are so fun to watch because it’s like delightfully awkward if anybody has ever seen that show. Sheldon is the main character and he is like profoundly beyond gifted, like genius. And he’s really quirky, really different. Really the things that he says are like, ah, okay, Hey, I’m literal in some ways. Um, esoteric and other ways, philosophical and other ways and then just downright weird and other ways. And so the more you get, the more you get away from average, the more you get some of those, like the processing the world in a different way.
Colleen Kessler: And so gifted kids process the world differently. Yes, they can learn quickly, but they might not a high average or like just at the cutoff or just before the cutoff or just after the cutoff. Um, that kind of range right around a high IQ but not quite a gifted IQ. Those are kids who are super duper smart. Those were the kids who I want to be my doctor and my lawyer and you know, my advocate because those are the people who can process great deals of information, remember it and apply it. They are learning at a very rapid rate. They don’t need a whole bunch of, um, practices and um, like, uh, repetitions. They don’t need a lot of repetitions to learn something. They’re just going to internalize it and be able to use it, right? So they’re going to be looking for answers. They are going to be researching problems.
Colleen Kessler: They’re going to be, um, solving things. They’re going to be doing all of the things that we typically associate with like a school setting or a curriculum or a college program, whereas a gifted, a cognitively gifted, especially a highly gifted or a profoundly gifted or an exceptionally gifted. As we’re getting further and further away, those are the people who are going to be like, well, why is that the right answer? What if I did this instead of this? What if we looked at this problem from this perspective? Those are the people who are going to question the status quo and come up with a brand new way of doing something that might be worse than the way it was done before, but it might be better than it was before. Those are the people who are going to innovate. They’re going to be creating businesses from places that didn’t ever have that business before.
Colleen Kessler: They’re going to be the ones who are questioning, why do we always treat the flu with chicken soup and you know, fever reducers? Why don’t we get out in the snow and get fresh air and kill the germs. Like they’re going to be looking at things from different perspectives and offering us new takes. They’re also going to be the people who are often ostracized for those very different viewpoints. And whereas a high achiever or a super smart person is going to know how to navigate societal norms and present for grants and awards and, um, you know, when your case in court, because they’ll work from precedences and you know, so the, the smart kids are the ones that get it quickly and in and internalize it and the gifted kids are the ones that question it and push boundaries further and further and further showing also why it’s such a challenge to parent and homeschool and teach these kids in any way, shape or form.
Colleen Kessler: Yes. Yeah. Can you give us some, just from a practical standpoint, um, and I know you’ve talked a lot about this already, but, but just kind of a list of like what to look for in a gifted child. What are some of their character traits and, um, things to look Rinko okay. Yeah. Maybe they really are gifted. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s hard because there’s that whole piece of if you’ve met one, you’ve met one, right? But, um, by and large, gifted kids, especially like if we’re talking young, um, a lot of people tend to want to know like, when they’re young, what can I look for in my kid? Is this, is this a normal two year old behavior or is this a five year old behavior or whatever. Um, kids who are gifted, um, academically or cognitively that, okay. So there’s a couple of different, like I need to just break down a little bit.
Colleen Kessler: There’s a couple of different types of giftedness. Really if we’re looking at overall, um, if we’re, if we’re looking at that whole many faces of giftedness piece, right? There are people who are cognitively gifted, um, and cognitive giftedness is that overall cognition. So cognition is just the way we think. Metacognition is thinking about your own thinking and, um, being cognitive is understanding what’s going on. So that cognition piece is you’re thinking. So it’s the way you approach the world and your thought processes. Um, academically gifted is really like type of giftedness that we stereotypically think of when we think of gifted kids because that’s where we can see it at play more often because most kids go to some form of learning, some form of schooling or whatever. And that’s where we see it. And then creatively gifted are those who they’re actually a little harder to pin down.
Colleen Kessler: They’re a little harder from a clinical standpoint. If, you know, when I was in a gifted specialist in the school’s harder to diagnose, not diagnose cause it’s not really a diagnosis but it’s an identification, they’re harder to get that identification on. In fact, I’m a quick digression. I remember one of the smartest kids that I have ever worked with and my entire career of doing this and um, this was, and this is like including, um, working with my own kids, working with people who homeschool their kids and then working with people in the classroom. She was this little Sprite in second grade, um, who took a leave of absence from our school to be on Broadway and Chitty Chitty bang bang, um, while keeping up with her academics and doing all sorts of other amazing things. Um, she was brilliant. She was probably the smartest kid that I had ever, ever worked with.
Colleen Kessler: She could not take a test to save her life because she couldn’t look at a problem and see it as a black and white question and give a black and white answer. There were too many grays involved in it. But what if I did this? This answer could be this. And so I could never get her to be identified on the state mandated assessments. And more than anything I, so I worked with second and third graders and so one of my goals was the kids that I knew in my gut were gifted, that they left me by the end of third grade with the state mandated identification so that their future was kind of helped, you know, covered as best that we could, um, under the parameters that we had, which is a whole nother story. But, um, I could not get her to test.
Colleen Kessler: So we had to, there’s a like, uh, there was at the time a loophole. It’s not even really a loophole, but an alternative way of assessing kids. Um, that includes vast quantities of anecdotal records and portfolio assessments and alternative types of educational samples. And I spent all of her second grade and all of her third grade pulling together this stuff to show, yes, she has a high IQ that just can’t be measured and she needs the identification to protect her going forward. Um, but some of those kids that think so differently and show their gifts and abilities in different ways are able to be assessed in a, in a really truly straightforward way. Um, which is why actually I, my site, you’re not going to find anything that says yes, you have to identify your kid in order to call them gifted. I don’t believe that in any way, shape or form, which is why we have lots of different ways.
Colleen Kessler: You can look at, um, checklist to see if your kids really are gifted or you think that they are. And if you think they are, parents are pretty good assessors of their own kids, I sure. So let’s just call them gifted. So academic kids, they can um, they can memorize large quantities of information very, very rapidly. There are those kinds of spouting, um, encyclopedias that the jeopardy contestants totally, and they take great pleasure in knowing so much more than you will ever know about any little thing. Um, my husband has joked since we were dating that he is a font of useless knowledge, which just cracks me up because he kind of is, he’s got all sorts of just random facts rolling around his brain. He was really good at, you know, trivia nights when we were dating. Um, and I’m not, I don’t, I don’t think that way.
Colleen Kessler: I think bigger picture and, and he’s very much fact after fact, after fact after fact. Um, they have an advanced comprehension. They understand things really quickly. These are the kids that you’re reading chapter books two aloud, super early on because they’re able to process the information and they love keeping the story going and linking, you know, from day to day to day. Um, and they can talk back to you about what they’re hearing even before they can actually read. Though a lot of them, um, are early readers and um, so they could acquire their reading skills early in rapidly. Um, whatever area of focus these academic kids find they are focused on and they’re very, very successful in their area. Um, Trevor, uh, my oldest, um, was really, really in love with math when he was young. And in fact, we thought he would go into some kind of engineering thing.
Colleen Kessler: He’s kind of turned into a different, um, a different path, which is more him than anything else. But, um, when he was little, like he would go through, when we first pulled him out, he was going through a couple curriculums a year in math because he just wanted to keep going. And um, and then it slowed down that asynchrony, you know, people always ask, does it, does it level out sometimes. Um, if a new interest takes over and sometimes it doesn’t. I know of kids who are 11 and doing college level math Matics because that’s never going to stop for them. That’s their love language. And it did stop for us, but he gained the majority of his high school curriculum skills before he ever approached middle school. Um, so whatever their academic areas, they just keep going and then whatever they’re interested in these academically gifted kids, they will hyper-focus.
Colleen Kessler: So, um, they will, if it’s Lego’s, if it’s math, if it’s reading, if it’s writing, if it’s dinosaurs, whatever they’re gonna approach it with this persiveration this focus that can’t be blocked. So you might see like a flighty kid if you’re trying to get them into a different subject that’s not as interesting to them. But if you’re getting them into whatever it is, or if you’re filtering your other subject areas around what they’re interested in, then you’ve got a bought in kid and they won’t stop until they have all the answers and they’ve figured it all out. Um, so you’ve got that enthusiastic like hyper-focus with academic kid.
Yvette Hampton: Let me ask really quickly, how do you filter those other subjects around them? And maybe you’re going to get to this, but I know that that would be a question that many would ask is what, how, how do you get them to, to enjoy as much as possible these other subjects that they’re not completely wired to enjoy?
Colleen Kessler: Um, okay, so that’s a two part question. Okay. I don’t think it’s our job to ever get our kids to enjoy every aspect of homeschooling. Cause the truth is I don’t enjoy every part of my life. I hate cleaning toilets and scrubbing tile. And in fact, my house currently shows it. My floors are vacuumed, the house looks beautiful when you walk in. My bathrooms are gross. I hate it. I put it off as long as possible and oftentimes I hire it out. So it’s not our job to have our kids enjoy everything. It is our job to expose our kids to everything. And we can do that in a couple of different ways. So it depends too on how much your kid digs their heels in with stuff they don’t like. I am not a huge follower of one particular curriculum. In our homeschool, we’re very loose.
Colleen Kessler: We’re very eclectic. Sometimes we border on unschooly, sometimes we’re a little bit more rigid. Um, I do have a couple of like non-negotiables that I choose and we go from there. Um, but by and large, I try to give my kids as much autonomy in their learning as possible, meaning, um, that I give them a chance to be active participants and active consultants in their own learning. So I try as much as it possible to focus everything that we can on whatever things they’re interested in or whatever modalities they learn best using. So for example, Trevor’s not a writer, I’m going to use him. I use him a lot just because he’s kind of grown. I, he’s gone through a lot of the different phases and I’m still working through some of them with the other kids. Um, so I’ve got a vast store of that.
Colleen Kessler: Plus I don’t share anything that my kids haven’t given me permission to share and he’s given me permission to share this because we’ve shared it a lot. So, um, so for example, for him, he’s Natty writer. He does not enjoy it. He’s getting better this year actually because he’s launched a business and he’s realized that he needs to be professional in his emails, in his correspondence. And he’s also realized how important and effective communication is as he’s worked with a couple of clients who have been not necessarily really quick, um, with like acceptances or payments or the terms weren’t ironed out as well as they should’ve been in the first place. Like how many revisions you get on a film or an edit and things like that. So he’s learning how you need to effectively communicate. And so he’s taking a couple like online, not really classes but tutorials on how to communicate better.
Colleen Kessler: So, but writing’s never been one of his things. Reading has never been one of his things. He consumes via video, audio and um, and then hands on just getting in and getting dirty and doing things. Um, and by dirty, I mean that metaphorically cause he’s got an outside kid unfortunately. Um, so I’m talking about getting dirty with like Photoshop or no, which is kind of funny because you have a whole book about outdoors. I know the irony is not lost on him. Um, so he, um, so he like for gosh, a few years actually for history, for example, let’s just pull one subject. Um, he needed to learn, he needed an overview of world and American history just to be effective as a communicator and a critical thinker and things like that. So he, there was a textbook that we were using and I wasn’t married to the textbook.
Colleen Kessler: In fact, I thought there were some gaps in the textbook that we had and they needed to be filled in because I thought it was very, very, very one sided. And some of those gaps I thought really helped you become a critical thinker about these periods in history. And I think that it’s very important to view both of those sides so you can make formulated opinions, um, throughout your, through your own like worldview. Um, but it was a good solid start. So for Monday and Tuesday he would read a chapter or a unit, whatever, however it was broken down. I think it was a whole chapter we would do. And um, so he would read that over the course of the two days. And then Thursday and Friday, Wednesday and Thursday he would watch videos that I had queued, um, through a couple of streaming services, Amazon prime, um, curiosity stream.
Colleen Kessler: And then, um, some YouTube videos and things like that. And he would watch the ones that I queued for him that kind of show the balance, filled in the gaps or showed an alternative side. And then we would have coffee on Friday mornings and we would talk about it. There was no paper pencil, there was no tracking, there were no diorama’s or program, you know, projects or presentations. He learned more about history in that year than he would have otherwise. And he remembers it and he can apply it. And when he hears something on the news, he’s comparing it to what he’s read about, you know, the mistakes that were potentially redoing. So he’s, he’s become a very good critical thinker because I found a different way to help him understand history and not do the busy work, that formal curriculum what had done. So that’s one example of it.
Colleen Kessler: Just being creative, knowing your kid. Um, I think that most important thing any parent can do with any kind of differently wired kid is become a student of them. Spend time. I mean, take notes. I don’t have it up here, but I had these little notebooks. So you got, okay, I’ve got so many papers on my desk. You know, you’ve got these notebooks that look like this, you know, um, I have one for each of my kids that is like this teeny tiny, um, it’s a little bit smaller than this little notebook here. Um, that I just keep notes about my kids and it, um, it sounds kind of creepy maybe, but it’s not, it’s like I’m writing down, I’m writing down things that I noticed that they’re interested in just periodically. It’s anecdotal. It’s not every day. It’s not ever going to get it.
Colleen Kessler: It’s like when I have an extra moment, I pulled them out and I’m writing things maybe that they were really watching on a show or books that they were pulling out voluntarily or different things so that I can keep an eye on what they’re interested in. And also so that in our conversation I can tell them things that they’re doing great. That I noticed because I don’t think we compliment. I don’t think we can ever compliment our kids enough, but it’s a way to really tangibly remind me that my kids are doing great things even when I’m not actively teaching them or tried to get them to do those great things. Um, so if you’re watching your kids a lot, um, you can start pulling those things in, in that way. Does that make sense? [inaudible] totally, yes. That makes total sense. So you were, you were talking about the different aspects of giftedness and you were talking about academically, cognitively and creatively.
Colleen Kessler: Talk about cognitively a little bit, or do you have more on academically? No, no, no. The academic academics pretty, it’s pretty much straight forward. It is. And it just, with any kind of gifted kid, any kind of differently wired kid, you know, actually real quick, let’s digress for a second cause I don’t think we officially talked about what a twice exceptional kid is. Okay, sure. Let’s try that. Yeah. And we’ll come right back to cognitively gifted. So twice exceptional kid with any kind of, um, gifted or twice exceptional kid. The key really is that they require a different approach. Um, then typical parenting books say to parenting and teaching. So we need to be filtering all of our parenting and all of our teachings through this lens of who they are and how they’re wired. So we talked about what a gifted kid is. Uh, uh, twice exceptional kid is a gifted kid who has another diagnosed condition, condition, issue, challenge, whatever.
Colleen Kessler: So this is, this is a kiddo who is gifted and also has some kind of neurological identification, um, meaning like, um, a mental health issue, anxiety, sensory processing disorder, oppositional defiance, um, a spectrum disorder, um, or challenge like autism. Um, any kind of neurological, um, mental, uh, challenge would classify them as as a twice exceptional kid. Also, they could have an intellectual challenge. They could have a learning disability. And I think this is one of the biggest myths in giftedness that there is, that if someone’s dyslexic, they can’t be gifted and really remember, they’re just as differently wired from average. So why wouldn’t they be able to be differently wired on both sides? Right? The brain can process things in different ways and every single gifted kid is just as different from each other as they are from the norm. So we’re going to have all the same challenges and that side as we do the other.
Colleen Kessler: And so giftedness is on both sides of the spectrum of the bell curve, just like learning disabilities are. So an intellectual disability like, um, dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, which kind of borders, neurological and intellectual. So we’ve got these different challenges. And then it can also include anybody who has some kind of, um, sub kind of, uh, um, physical challenge too. So, uh, one of the gifted kids that I worked with in the past. Um, he had cerebral palsy and had difficulty talking and you know, he couldn’t move and he was super, super smart and creative and we had so many fun times together in the classroom. Um, I had one student who was absolutely brilliant and he was a paraplegic and he wrote with a pencil in his mouth and just had found so many amazing ways to overcome these physical challenges and show his, his intellectual gifts.
Colleen Kessler: So a twice exceptional kid is somebody who is gifted and also has a physical cognitive, um, intellectual, academic or neurological disability as well. Okay. Okay. So, um, with that said, those kids need a different approach to learning. Like we just talked about finding an interest in moving with it. A cognitive kid. So a kid who is identified cognitively, this is really straight IQ based. So if you’re going to get a cognitive, so you’re not going to go into like a neurologist’s office and they’re going to test your gifted kid and tell you, okay, your kid is academically gifted and your kid is cognitively gifted. And yours is creatively gifted. These are just kind of like subsets within to help us understand the way that our kids think. So a cognitively gifted kid is less about like a specific knowledge base like an academic kid is.
Colleen Kessler: So you would say, you know, your math genius is academically gifted in math, whereas your, um, you know, you’re critical thinker and creative thinker, um, and intellectually quick kid is cognitive gift, cognitively gifted, overall gifted. So it’s less about specific now knowledge basis and more about the neurology behind who they are. Um, the, they problem solve quicker. They understand, um, they understand things at a higher level. They’re the kids who lose sleep at night because they understand Wars happen and they understand that we live in a volatile society that could go to war at any time, but they’re still kids. And the asynchrony kicks in and tells them that if war happened, then it could happen tonight and my house could get bombed and not understand the difference in time and the circumstances that go up to you worrying about air raids. Right. Um, and so these are the ones who, uh, they pay attention.
Colleen Kessler: They have, um, they can do multiple things at a time. They’re the ones who are reading like six books at a time and totally can keep all the stories straight. Um, they, uh, they don’t, um, they’re, they’re hard, harder to kind of quantify and bring down into just one thing. In fact, there’s like this huge list of different things that kids could be, you know, they’re cognitively gifted. If they’re understanding things at a quick pace, they need few repetitions. They can talk to you at an intellectual level that seems like you’re talking to a little adult. They, um, they’re just overall exceptionally intelligent and you know, within a minute of talking to them. Um, Trevor is like that. And I know that you guys experienced that the first time that you had a conversation with him because you guys took him away from me while I was speaking and, um, came back like, wow, that was an interesting memorization.
Colleen Kessler: Um, and he’s always been like that. His preschool teacher described him as an extreme thinker. He just doesn’t stop processing things. In fact, one time when he was about three, he was lamenting that he couldn’t sleep again. And he said his brain is like one of those windup toys and the key got lost. So it’s now on a continuous loop and he wants the key so he can unwind his brain. And that’s what a cognitive thinker is. It’s just always, always going. And there’s so many things processing another person, um, gifted kid, teen I think described it as having so many windows open on your computer and not knowing which one to go to at a time, but not being able to close any of them because each one is equally important. So these are the kids who are often misdiagnosed as ADHD because they’re just going from thing to thing to thing to thing to thing, when in reality they really are thinking about and processing all of those things and things and things at the same time. So does that make sense? That does keep asking if that makes sense. It totally makes sense.
Colleen Kessler: Yeah. So there’s, um, yeah, so the cognitively gifted kid, they’re hard to identify. And this is one of the things that I was saying about that creatively gifted one too. She was also cognitively gifted. Um, I have an example that I use often about a test question. Um, a cognitive, uh, an academically gifted kid. Well, you know, answer questions because they know that that’s kind of what they’re supposed to do. I’m a smart kid like we talked about before, we’ll answer the questions. A cognitively gifted kid is not really capable of asking questions at face value. So if you’re asking them, you know, what does a scientist to do is one of the examples that I often give. Um, they can’t, you know, most of us would say, well, scientists research is things they form hypotheses. They experiment. Um, they solve problems, they cure cancer, they do all these different things and you could give a couple of different answers and a cognitively gifted kid will not be able to just give you an answer like that.
Colleen Kessler: A cognitively gifted kid is going to be like, I don’t have enough information to answer that. What kind of scientist? How old, how far into their research are they? Are they currently a PhD student? Because they technically be a scientist because they’d have their master’s degree, but they’d be working on their thesis so they’d be working under somebody else. And so is it somebody who’s in the field or somebody who’s a lab scientist? Is it a doctor? Because they’re scientists too, and they would see all the nuances and just break down. They know what a scientist is, they know the material backward, forward inside out, but they’d still fail the test. Right, because the Katy answer that simple question. Yeah. Yeah. So interesting. Okay. We have a few minutes. I’ve talked. Let’s talk about creative like gifted. Okay. Okay. Creative. And then we’re going to tie it all together and we’re going to talk about how, how to, how to deal with these kids.
Colleen Kessler: Oh yeah. Just love them creatively. Gifted kids are like kind of the biggest puzzle because they don’t fit into any box. Um, I mean, no gifted kid really fits into a box, but like a creatively gifted kid is doing something different to the box to make it less boxy or whatever. Um, they think very, very independently. They are off in their own world. They’re creating their own worlds. Um, we joke often about my 10 year old Logan. She is amazing and most often gets talked about because of her anxiety and her, her sensory processing challenges because that’s what she tells me that I can talk with people about this because she’s passionate about helping other people. She’s extremely empathetic and, um, but she’s so creative too. And her creativity can often be detrimental to her, um, because she gets lost in her own world. And we’ve joked for years that, you know, she has her own her own place where she exists and, um, we’re not really a part of it.
Colleen Kessler: Sometimes for the longest time she has had Logan land and it’s got its own language and characters and people and um, it’s beautiful and brilliant. And, um, it, uh, I hear, uh, I’m sorry I heard a kid creeping, but they heard me still talking cause they wouldn’t get there. Um, and it is weird to people who don’t get creatively gifted kids, right? Because they seem like they’re off. These are the kids who have imaginary friends and who are looking at you like, I don’t see a problem with that. If you just did this, this, this and this, you’d be just fine. Um, we often think of creatively gifted kids is just like amazing artists or singers or composers, but they’re, they’re problem solvers. They’re people who see the world differently. Um, they, they do tell stories. And this is where I think Logan is going with all her Logan land and everything else she has.
Colleen Kessler: She’s a beautiful storyteller. Um, her disabilities get in the way of actually writing those stories down, but they’re there and they’re beautiful and there’s a difference between writing and handwriting. And so she’s a writer. Um, they have innovative solutions to problems, things that we would have never thought about. Again, these are not the people I want at my bedside performing a surgery. But they are the people I want out in the field trying to find a cure for whatever it is I have because they’re going to approach it from a perspective that nobody’s approached it before. And that’s how solutions get found. Um, so they’re not the practical ones. You want to do the work of applying the solutions they found, but you want to hear about the solutions that they’re finding. They are the improvisational and that’s great in the theater arts and in conversation with people and networking and business and problem solving and finding new solutions and writing stories.
Colleen Kessler: Um, they also kind of enjoy their quirks and being different. They have no problem with you not getting them. They’re the ones who are going to be like, okay, that’s fine. I am who I am. They are also on a more somber note, the ones who are a little bit more at risk for depression, for suicide, um, for um, like self harm and eating disorders and things like that because they are misunderstood. They aren’t like everybody else. So they’re the ones that more than any of our kids need us to really see. And hear them and help them find their gifts and their abilities within their understanding and their intellect. Um, so back to some of those test questions, um, this, this type of kid is going to be like, um, well, you know, yeah, ABC and D are pretty okay, but have you thought about this like E cause I think this could be a better solution and they’re going to write their own answer in and fail every single test that they ever get access to because they’re not just doing it the way that it’s there on paper and that people expect them to be doing it.
Colleen Kessler: Um, yeah. So when I, when I do this talk live, I have a video clip, um, from dr who, which, you know, doesn’t always seem like it fits, you know, a Christian homeschool conference where I’m doing most of these talks at. Um, but it’s this poignant scene from, um, if anybody out there as a doctor who fan go look it up on the internet because it’s really kind of the best, um, encapsulation of a creatively gifted person. And what happens with a creatively person if we don’t recognize them from early on. Um, there’s an episode where a doctor who goes and helps me, Vincent van Gogh, um, do solve a problem. I don’t know, something invaded his area and he has to fix the problem or whatever. But there’s this poignant scene at the end of the episode where, um, the doctor and his companion bring, um, van Gogh back to present time to see, um, a gallery exhibit and as a work.
Colleen Kessler: And if you know the history of van Gogh, he died thinking he was a failure. He died thinking he was a horrible artist and nobody wanted his work. And he’s regarded as one of the most brilliant artists of all time and is in fact, one of my favorite artists and my favorite time periods. I love to go, um, in this scene, they bring him back and he doesn’t, they don’t tell him what he’s going to see. They bring him to, um, the curator of the exhibit who is a Vango expert and ask him to tell this stranger what he thought of van Gogh and his work. And you can see that that juxtaposition of someone being surrounded by their life’s work and having never heard that there was value in it. And most of our most highly creative gifted people die without knowing the contribution they made to society.
Colleen Kessler: And it just, in a really heartbreaking way, shows the devastation that that can create on a life and the meaning behind just telling someone how amazing their thoughts are. And so I highly recommend if you think you have a creatively gifted kid looking that up because it’s a really, it’ll make you cry. I don’t ever have a dry eye in the house, but there’s a purpose for that. If you have a creatively gifted kid, there is no kid that is more important to show that you get an appreciate their giftedness than the creatively gifted one. Yes. Well, and maybe you can give us the link to that and we can put that in the notes for this session. That would be great. So really quickly, we’ve got about five minutes left. Let’s talk about the needs of gifted kids. How do we meet those needs?
Colleen Kessler: Oh, that’s a whole nother talk. Um, yeah. Can we get a whole five minutes calling? We can go on about this topic forever. Clearly I’m passionate about this topic and there’s plenty, plenty of reading and all the different aspects of it on my site and I’m listening on the podcast. But in a nutshell, um, I would say the most important thing you need to remember with all of this, and I think this kind of message is what got Garrett through the screen. Um, there’s, there’s no mistake, right? There’s no, you haven’t done anything wrong. These kids are who they are for a reason and we spend so much time as a society pathologizing are kids. Um, that I think the first best thing you can do is let go of the idea that there’s something wrong with the wiring of your kid. Your kid is wired how they’re wired for a reason, whether they are special needs gifted, both, they’re wired as they are because God doesn’t make mistakes and we need everyone of these types of people in our world to make it the best it can be.
Colleen Kessler: And so if we stop looking at it as something to fix and solve, then we start looking at it as something to embrace. We’re already ahead of the game. And the second thing is there is no more perfect parent than you for your gifted kid. Okay? That’s another area that God doesn’t make mistakes. He gave you the kid he gave you because you’re the only parent who compare it, that kid in the way that that can have needs. And so you’re, you’ve already won. You’ve already won this game that we’re playing in homeschooling because you’ve pulled your kid, you’ve seen that they need you, and you just need to trust that. So first trust that God doesn’t make mistakes. Trust yourself to be all that you need to be for your kiddo. And then also show yourself grace when it becomes too much. These kids are intense and they are a challenge and sometimes you need to leave them at home and go out with a friend and to pour back into yourself.
Colleen Kessler: Because when we’re the only person who understands the quirks of our kid, we’re our kids person. Like they pour everything onto an, into us and that can be exhausting. And so you need to give yourself the grace to step away from time to time and not feel like that’s a failure either. Um, if you don’t have a spouse who can give you time in the evening, every once in awhile, find a friend you can take turns with, um, or you know, put a movie on for your child and go sit in your room, lock the door, read a book to have some chocolate. Just give yourself whatever you need in order to like step back and be Frank with your kids about it too. Um, these kids understand things at a high level and there are times I tell my kids, I can’t be touched.
Colleen Kessler: I can’t be talked to you. What you need to break and I’m going to go to my room for a while and it’s okay. It’s okay. They can live without you for an hour. Um, but from a practical standpoint, you want to be a student of your kid. You want to know who they are, you want to know what their interests are. You want to see if there are ways that you can incorporate their interests into whatever it is that you’re doing with them, because that will get number one more buy in. Number two, more interest. It’ll be more fun for all of you and then you don’t have to be tied to any one curriculum or way of doing things. Let go of the idea that everybody has to progress literally linear linearly. I can never say that I am a professional who can not say that word.
Colleen Kessler: They’re not going to progress in a linear fashion all of the time and it’s okay. It is okay to have a kid who is at the eighth grade level in one subject and the third grade level in another. But being age-wise at a fifth grade level, it is absolutely okay to have kids all over the place academically because that’s the beauty of homeschooling. You can always bring up the other stuff by knowing what they’re interested in and what they’ve love, you can use that so that the areas of weakness can be brought up in a more interesting and enjoyable way. Um, that’s a whole topic and you can always reach out to me. There’s a contact form on my site that has a voicemail widget. You can send me a voicemail and you can send me an email through a box on that. Um, on that page too.
Colleen Kessler: Um, I don’t answer everything personally, but I do answer everything. Meaning that if I, I have sometimes reach back out because it’s a quick question to answer and sometimes I take your recording and I’ll answer it in an, um, in a Facebook live or in a podcast episode. Um, so everything will get answered. Um, and it’s the best, like in whatever format is the best way for your question. Um, but you’re not alone. You have to remember that too. There are other parents who have differently wired kids just because we’re at one end of the bell curve. It feels like we’re alone. You know, when you’re only about five to 7% of the entire world population a feels isolated, but 77%, even 10%, if we’re talking about high achievers, um, that’s a lot of people. That’s tens and hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are going through exactly the same thing that you’re going through. And so there are networks of people that can help you be supported and know that you’re not alone.
Yvette Hampton: Yeah, I love that. Tell really quickly where people can find you, cause I know you’re kind of all over the place. I know you mentioned your Facebook pages, but specifically what’s your website address? You’ve got a podcast, where can people find out more about your ministry?
Colleen Kessler: So everything is under RaisingLifelongLearners.com and we’re in the process actually of redesigning it. So it’s easier to find everything. But right now everything’s there. The podcast link is there though. You can find it in any of the apps that you listen to podcasts. You can just search raising lifelong learners and it’ll come up. Everything’s under the same name, the Facebook, everything else. Um, and all my social media is on the site. So I’d love for you to follow and reach out because that’s what I’m here for.
Yvette Hampton: Yup. And you were so encouraging. My favorite thing about your, uh, homeschool convention booths is that you open it up and you’ve got a bowl of chocolate and you just invite parents in and just say, come sit down with me and let’s talk. And so I know you’re very, very open to wanting it. It’s the desire of your heart to just come alongside parents and be able to encourage them with their own individual needs. So I love that about you, Coleen. You are such a blessing and I am so glad that you got to join us, the homegrown generation family expo. Thank you for your time today. We will. Um, can I put a link to your slideshow? Do you have a slideshow that we can link to? So I don’t B should ask you about that before asking you. Yeah, that’s okay. I don’t have the link to the slides.
Yvette Hampton: Um, the actual talk that is based on this, that includes like the video and the slides and then a couple of handouts. Yup. Is available for sale on my site. Oh great. Okay. It’s not that expensive. It’s like $7. Oh, great. Okay. Perfect. That way. But that’s the reason that we don’t have a link to. Okay. And is it, is it called the mini, the mini faces of giftedness? Is that what people would look for on that one? Because it’s an older version of it. It’s this little, all the same content with updated PDs. I think it’s called the different faces of giftedness. Okay. Okay. We’ll try to, well, you know what, you can send me a link to it. We’ll put that in the notes for people to find it. Um, and so, and I want to say BA, I can talk, I want to thank our premier sponsors, um, for this event who are, Abeka, CTCMath and teaching textbooks. Our gold sponsor is IEW and our silver sponsors are, they called me blessed BJU Press, The Lifeschooling Conference and the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. So we are so grateful for all of our sponsors who have made it possible to put on this event. And, uh, we appreciate you guys joining us today. Thank you, Coleen. We appreciate you and your ministry and hope you guys have a good rest of your day. Thank you. Bye bye. Yeah.
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