Guest Author - Lorel Shea
Gifted children may at times find it difficult to connect with other children. Gifted kids who attend traditional schools without any gifted program are particularly likely to feel alienated. There may be little for them to discuss with kids who are just starting to learn what they mastered years earlier. Bonding with more average age-mates may relate to a common interest in Pokemon, dance, or soccer. These relationships can be very positive, and they should be encouraged. Nevertheless, a gifted child may still yearn for a soul mate who gets their pi jokes, enjoys the same sort of books, and can contribute meaningful thoughts to a discussion on Pluto's demotion.
One way to assist a gifted kid to find “true peers” or friends closer in intellectual ability is to form an interest based club. This club may be advertised and promoted through a school, library, or homeschool group. Interest based clubs should cater to your child's passions, but keep in mind that some subjects will attract a more intellectual crowd, while others will be of more general appeal. A chess club, math club, or stamp collecting society will probably attract at least a few other children who are academically advanced. Other topics may garner a more mixed ability group.
My family has, at different times, successfully organized an American Girls history club, a water study science group, and a knowledge bowl trivia club. Each was designed to last for a finite number of months, and therefore the planning and implementation didn't become too much of a chore. These groups have varied in size, but all were small enough (under 12 kids) to feel comfortable for everyone involved.
Our American Girls Club began primarily as a literature study, but my co-leader and I soon realized that the girls were crazy for the period arts and crafts. We responded by making our literature discussion a small part of each meeting, with more time devoted to creative endeavors. We included a field trip to a Native American museum in honor of “Kaya”, and a “Samantha” era tea party at a historic Victorian home. The girls enjoyed themselves tremendously, and lasting friendships were forged.
The water study group originated as part of the “Bucket Buddies” program available online. The kids were so excited about it that we went beyond the original scope of the program, and studied microscopic life as well as the larger specimens visible to the naked eye. A local private school was kind enough to invite us in to use their laboratory, so we had no expenses other than the cost of a few petri dishes, dishpans, magnifying glasses, and a field guide.
We entered the trivia contest with a team of very smart kids, but only one was actually old enough to be in the grade five division that we entered. Our kids ranged in age from six years on up to ten, with an average of about eight years old. The kids performed admirably, with a total score over the average for a grade six team, and they had a lot of fun working together.
Ask your child what sort of club he envisions. It might be the start of something very special!