Monday, January 26, 2015

Is My Preschooler Gifted?

My oldest son is gifted. My youngest is smart. Over the last twelve years, I've taught many preschoolers, with about 1/3 each average, smart and gifted. 

The parents ask me why I think their child might be gifted. There are some good lists out there, but I want to give my own perspective from my personal observations.  

Gifted children are different. They feel more intensely, they think differently. Their abilities arise from a brain that is wired in a much more complex, inter-connected manner. 

It starts early and doesn't let up. My gifted students have all had heads shaking from the time they were early toddlers. 

Gifted is not necessarily a blessing. They feel more intensely, they get analysis paralysis, they can be obsessive, their brains never stop and often their mouths as well, and they can easily be overwhelmed and overwhelming. Their view of our very gray world can be sharply black and white, and reality can be difficult for them to handle. 

Here's just a little of my perception of the differences. 

This is very simplistic and generalized and does not discuss varying abilities within children, outside forces that impact performance, gifted issues, etc. 


Even with infants, I can tell a marked difference in their future abilities by their focus and tracking as early as a few months old; along with how they look for reinforcement and information from an adult. It can be a little uncanny to see intelligence shine from someone so young.

  • The average child pays the minimal attention and must be engaged through movement and fun.
  • The smart child will pay attention in order to "get" it, then be ready to move on.
  • The gifted child will pay close attention, ask questions, mull it over and ask questions throughout the day, and bring it back up for a week, or month, in different contexts until they feel comfortable that they completely UNDERSTAND the concept and all its applications. [One of the reasons I leave new material out and available for at least a week.]

Caught Miss H contemplating the whiteboard rather than playing during free time. Just turned 5.

  • The average child says, "OK," and accepts information as given.
  • The smart child will ask simple questions for clarification purposes or about a specific topic. Once answered to their liking, they move on to the next topic.
  • The gifted child asks big questions about a specific topic. A LOT of them. They will not let it go until they feel thoroughly informed.  "Ok, but what if...", "I know [concept] when [this] happens, but what about when..." "How about...?" 


  • The average child needs a lot of repetition and different contexts to understand and retain information.
  • The smart child needs just a few lessons.
  • The gifted child often only needs a 1-2 sentence INTRODUCTION of a concept to grasp the material, retain it, apply it and extrapolate it. 
Group ages 3,3,4 & 5 working on big numbers.

  • The average child has to work to mentally retrieve relevant data and skills when set to a task.
  • The smart child easily assimilates into tasks that they have encountered before, or can apply known skills towards.
  • The gifted child can not only pull from experience, but can also extrapolate their own and observed experience to new situations to easily perform new tasks and skills and create new understanding.


  • The average child pulls pockets of relevant memory to perform the task at hand.
  • The smart child pulls linear, linked strands of memory to perform the task at hand. Performs most tasks more quickly. They can extrapolate within a limited distance from the current learning.
  • The gifted child can pull un-linked pockets and strands of memory and knowledge and combine them into an entirely new, seamless, whole. Information retrieved can be as seemingly random as an overheard conversation when they were 2, combined with a tower they built when they were 3 that fell in just a certain way, along with a PBS show on physics that was playing in the next room one Friday night, and currently watching another child try to build a bridge. They can take these flashes of information from their memory and almost instantly have a solid insight or understanding of something new. 


  • The average child needs to manipulate the world to understand, as appropriate to their developmental level.
  • The smart child still needs kinetic processing, but is able to do much more mental processing.
  • The gifted child spends much of their time in mental processing: daydreaming, mentally running through scenarios, contemplating concepts, imagining, thinking of possibilities, mulling over societal issues, and playing with words and ideas. While initial instruction is still best accomplished through hands-on learning, gifted children easily move forward to worksheets and board work as the level of difficulty increases.

  • The average child is stimulated by new or interesting information and experiences, but can quickly be diverted in other directions.
  • The smart child pays attention long enough to get the gist of something.
  • The gifted child would rather learn and discuss than play. They seem to have an innate need to fill a seemingly bottomless knowledge pit within them. They simply blossom when learning something new or discussing ideas. They play with what they learn. If they learn about bridges, there will be bridges of all kinds all over the place. They naturally experiment and mentally record data for analysis and will want to talk at length and in-depth about their observations. It is not unusual for them to figure out the next level of instruction before it can be presented to them. They will also initiate learning objectives.


  • The average child is generally happy with the status quo. 
  • The smart child will manipulate to gain advantage.
  • The gifted child is emotionally hurt by injustice, perceived cruelty, unfairness, bad sportsmanship, and other societal issues. They have a tendency to worry about such issues and to try to bring peace and fairness about for all. They are more empathetic and willing to negotiate, and do not understand other children who do not have this same awareness.


  • The average child will move on if things don't go their way. They will find another toy or another playmate.
  • The smart child will try to manipulate things to their advantage or view point.
  • The gifted child wants things, "Just so." They have a firm belief in how things should be and when others don't go along with that vision, they can have trouble dealing with it. They can't be happy with the way things are if they are WRONG, and they can't manipulate others, because that just wouldn't be RIGHT, and why can't these other kids not just see how it should be and do what they should? Then the world is too loud, or their clothes are too itchy, or someone took their favorite doll, etc. It can be overwhelming for any child, but for gifted children, it can be exceptionally overwhelming when they know how the world should be and it doesn't conform to their expectations.


  • The average child will usually be able to find something to occupy their time, even if it is twirling a stray piece of string around their finger.
  • The smart child will get bored and complain about it, looking for direction.
  • Many gifted children need constant stimulation of higher level learning to fill that knowledge pit within them to be their happiest. Whether it's doing a new art project, listening to new music, learning a new word, a new science experiment, etc. They are constantly craving new knowledge and experiences and the ability to explore known ones at a new level. When forced to participate in activities lower than their abilities and knowledge, they can grow depressed and anxious. 
These are simply my observations.

I keep hearing lately the comment, 
"Not all gifted children read early, but all children who read early are gifted."
Miss A 4 and Miss H 5. Yes, they can read it all, even with my bad handwriting.

If this is true, then my current three preschoolers are definitely gifted. But then, I pretty much already knew that.
Tags: preschool, child, care, child care, daycare, kindergarten, gifted, preschooler, homeschooling, 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Case AGAINST Standardized Testing

If you follow me at all, then you know that I am a HUGE advocate for child-led learning, self-directed learning, integrated learning, collaborative get the idea. 

I haven't written about my massive beef with the Common Core Standards, or it's tag-along - standardized testing. But with new legislation potentially coming about regarding mandatory testing, and the article below about the need for testing, I'm raising my voice.

Whether you are in the public school system, homeschool, or private school, standardized testing issues effect your children. Many states require all students, including homeschooling students, to take standardized tests and there is a push in other states for this as well. Given that the standardized tests are being revised to be in-line with common core, along with the ACT and SAT, it puts students who have not been taught the common core way at a huge testing disadvantage. 

I do assessments with my students, but the reason I do them, is because of the need for my students to have them for THE SCHOOL SYSTEM. I am currently doing school applications for my pre-k's, and the schools they are applying to, or going to, want their assessments. Since they are all well above grade level, if I did not do assessments to prove their abilities, then they wouldn't receive the proper placements and support services they deserve.

Do I need them as their teacher? Absolutely not. 

However, the reason for these assessments is to show their new teacher their skill set, because otherwise she'd just have to take my word for it, the parent's word, or simply wait long enough to be able to make such a judgement on her own. Testing has its place, and this is one of them, to show relevant information to the child's benefit. Another is to prove mastery for more rapid advanced, especially for gifted and advanced students.  

To give you an idea of the RIGHT direction in education, here is the title of an article that I love, love, LOVE:

Why Are Finland's Schools Successful?
The country's achievements in education have other nations, especially the United States, doing their homework

And one of the best parts of the entire article reads: [emphasis by me]
There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, 
Is the U.S. learning from Finland? Evidently not based upon this new article.
 Paper | 

The Case for Annual Testing

Students are tested as frequently as twice per month and an average of once per month. Our analysis found that students take as many as 20 standardized assessments per year and an average of 10 tests in grades 3-8. The regularity with which testing occurs, especially in these grades, may be causing students, families, and educators to feel burdened by testing.  
  • Many countries only test their top students, or only report their top scores. The U.S. tests and reports all.
  • Many countries lack diversity in their populations, so they do not have the levels of language and cultural barriers to education that the U.S. possesses.
  • Many countries such as Finland, do not test annually, so only those that take the final test and graduate are compared to the U.S. not giving an accurate comparison over the schooling years.
  • Many countries do not include special needs students in testing. The U.S. does.
  • Testing in many countries is not the high-stress, one-size-fits-all testing like we do here. Children who are relaxed and simply asked to do their best, will always score higher.  
  • Many countries are smaller than most of our states. The diversity of our populations, incomes, and economical challenges are vast in comparison. A composite score does not reflect the high educational abilities of a majority of the states.
It's NOT apples-to-apples comparisons. 

There are reasons, very good ones, why we have so many students from other countries in our school systems and universities. There are very good reasons why so many foreign parents want to move here for their child's education. 

Lying Is Not Intentional Until Age 8

Lying occurs in children in every culture of the world. By age 4, 90% of children have the ability to lie.  

At their first tweaking of the truth, usually around the age of 4but as early as 2, we want to brand children as liars. Which is rather ironic, given the prevalence of lying in adults:

Most people lie in everyday conversation when they are trying to appear likable and competent.
The study found that 60 percent of people lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two to three lies.
"People tell a considerable number of lies in everyday conversation. It was a very surprising result. We didn't expect lying to be such a common part of daily life," Feldman said.
However, lying is not cognitively active until the age of 8! This is when a child has entered Piaget's Concrete Operational Stage of cognitive development and has developed inductive reasoning. 

Until the age of 7-8, lying is simply wishful thinking/story telling. The child does not have control over it. They do it because they truly want it to be the way they say, to keep out of trouble, or to make you or another adult happy. They will also alter their thought processes so that they ACTUALLY BELIEVE that is what happened. Once again, you can not punish a child for something they have no control over. 

Lying is NOT LYING until the brain goes through its massive maturation process around age 8. At that point children gain the abilities not only to distinguish between reality and make-believe, but also to control their responses through conscious choice.  

Lying is an important development milestone:
That’s because lying is an integral part of developing what psychologists call a “theory of mind.” Briefly, theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own.
At age 4-6 you can begin to start your child questioning their statements, such as "Is that real or make-believe?" "Is that what really happened, or what you WISH had happened?" 

However, there does need to be an appropriate response to inappropriate behavior. 

  • "There are crayon marks on the wall, so the crayons have to be in time-out for a week." (denied writing on wall) 
  • "Your friend is crying because you were not a nice friend, so you have to go into time-out." (denied pushing/hitting/taking toy, but you know it happened) 
  • Story telling, "I have a pet lion," should simply be encouraged. "Really, what color is he? Does he eat a lot of meat?" 
  • Imaginary friends, etc. should be thoughtfully encouraged as your child explores their emerging imagination and learns the intricacies of using it in all it's many facets 
Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson

Adults view lying in stark black and white; while until age 8, STORYTELLING is very vivid and colorful for your child, with little to no delineation between reality and make-believe. 

A child should not be punished for things they have little to no control over. Even if they KNOW they are telling a fib, they may not be capable of NOT doing so. 

I have observed, many times, adults yelling at a 4 -5 year old, or jerking them around saying, "Don't LIE to me!" when the child is too young to even have a grasp on the concept. 

This is also a common thread on child care provider discussion forums. Parents and caregivers who do not have a good background in child development, having unrealistic expectations of a child's ability and intent regarding lying.

Children are often driven to lie through confrontation. A calm discussion and more open-ended questions can produce better outcomes, along with praise for telling the truth and helping to determine their own discipline. Children are usually harsher on themselves. 

Adults also need to be very aware of the example they are setting for the child, and any tendency they may have to prompt their child to lie. "Don't tell mom that I let you eat that!" "Don't tell grandma that daddy isn't really sick." 

Example is the greatest educator.

This also means that we need to take what a child says with a good dose of skepticism. They can say things that are untrue, not realizing the consequences. For instance, getting a sibling or friend into trouble by placing blame elsewhere. Or, extrapolating something they heard on TV to a real-life situation that could not only cause confusion, but concern.

Does this mean we allow them to be little hellions and get away with it? Of course not. But while we are molding future adults, we can't forget the child that is before us. The CHILD needs gentle guidance and instruction onto the correct path, not forced entry onto the highway. 

This is an area that adults have a tendency to over react and immediately think the child is going to be a degenerate, lying, self-absorbed, manipulative, criminal, amoral adult because they told their first or fifth fib. 

In actuality, it just shows that the kid is smart enough to think up how to get or stay out of trouble, and get or do what they want. Smart and imaginative isn't bad.

Lying is complex and takes advantage of advanced skills

  • Cognitive advancement - to determine that a lie is called for and has a potential for gain of some kind 
  • Cost/benefit analysis - if I get caught; do I really need to do it
  • Inhibitory control - to be able to think up an effective lie on the spot
  • Creativity - to be able to determine if it is believable or appropriate to the situation
  • Working memory - to remember the details of the truth and lie when questioned
  • Social adroitness - understanding people, situations, and how they should or can respondknowledge of rules & consequences

In my previous post regarding assessments, I failed to mention that one of the first indicators to me of a child's level of intelligence, is how early they first lie.
The smarter they are, the earlier they lie. 
The smarter they are, the better they lie. 

It is our responsibility to teach them how to use those qualities for good rather than evil, without squelching that creative and independent spark. 
Tags: lying, lies, liar, preschool, child care, daycare, homeschool, homeschooling, ethics, morality, child development, business, kids, kid, make believe, 

Rotating Infant and Toddler Toy Bins

Since toys must be sanitized daily for children under 18 months in my state, and I often do not have time to do this in the evenings, I took a tip from my brother and incorporated the 5 bin system.

I have 5 STURDY laundry baskets, one for each day of the week. If I don't have time, then I can wait and sanitize all of the toys on the weekend or in one evening. 

Additionally, since this age group mostly wants to throw and dump, it keeps the quantity of items to a manageable level. By rotating daily, they have fresh items to explore on a daily basis, keeping the focus more on the cognitive exploration that can get lost with a non-dynamic environment at this age.

In each of these bins, I include at least one:
  • Baby doll
  • Ball
  • Bead chaser
  • Blanket
  • Blocks
  • Car
  • Container for fill/dump
  • Dress up items
  • Mirror
  • Movement toy
  • Musical instrument/rattle
  • Plastic animals
  • Play dishes/food
  • Play phone
  • Puzzle
  • Sensory item
  • Soft or board book
  • Stacker
  • Stuffed animal
The laundry basket is an additional gross motor play element, so I spent the extra money for heavier ones. They sit on and in it, climb on it, fill and dump, use it as a table, etc. 

Since my infants and young toddlers have their own large sanitized play area, having their own sanitized toys ensures that they are only sharing germs with one another and only on a daily basis.

While I'm not big on over sanitizing for children, it does become super important when the environment has been exposed to an illness through a sick child or parent, or if flu or another contagious illness is rampant in the community. Very young children can die from illnesses that cause older ones to only be sick for a short time. 

Plus, it is required by regulations, so I have to do it.

As they get older, I can manipulate items in the bins to incorporate skill sets. For instance, if we will be working on the color red, I can make certain that there are a number of red items included in the bin. If we will be working on the number 3, I can include 3 of several items. For the letter B, I can have items that represent that letter.

There is another reason besides laziness/time that I like to clean and sanitize a few day's or the week's worth of toys at once. When clean, I take the jumble of items and sort them into the baskets available according to the master list. This ensures that the items, while the same, are grouped into different combinations within the baskets each time. This allows for new explorations of materials with one another.

I do label the bins. I print out the days of the week and laminate them, punch holes, and use zip ties to attach, cutting the zip ties close to the closure with wire cutters. Do these labels stay on forever? Absolutely not! But getting them off is another motor and cognitive activity, and does take an extended period of time if they are laminated. The zip ties, however, will stay on, so they do not have the potential to become a choking hazard, as any other attempt at labeling would become. The holes can be additionally enforced with a second layer of lamination.
Tags: infant, toddler, homeschool, homeschooling, preschool, child care, daycare, child, care, business, organization, health, wellness, sickness, illness, skills, development, cognitive, motor, fine motor, gross motor, 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monday Journaling for Preschool

When talking about assessments, I mentioned that we do journaling every Monday. I start this as soon as they are old enough to hold and manipulate a crayon, without eating the majority of it.

We are now using this journaling page that I created, and have available FREE in my TPT store.
Preschool Journaling Page
As mentioned also in the writing post, I assess these using a couple of matrices that I keep handy.

This one from Heidi at Heidi's Songs...

And this Drawing Development in Children chart beautiful illustrated by Susan Donley.

To see how important it is to do this regularly, and the progression you can observe, here is the art work of Mr. G over the last 3 1/2 years.

 8/30/11 First Journal Page 16 months

3/19/12 First Journal Description - "It's a bicycle." 23 months

 9/4/12 Less scribbling and more intentional drawing. 
2 years 5 months

 3/18/13 Progression to Lines 3 years

 4/10/13 Progression to Intentional Circles 3 years

Note that progression from lines to circles for this child occurred within a few weeks. If we didn't journal every Monday, I would have missed that rapid leap.

 7/15/13 Adding Letters to Drawings 3 years 3 months

Notice that movement into letter formation happened within 3 months of intentional line and circle drawing. Drawing is a natural extension into writing.

12/2/13 Extensive journal entries begin at the same time as the first identifiable figure is drawn. 3 years 8 months.

"He went to his house and he was cold when he was walking. Then he arrived to his home. He was walking long ago."

1/13/14 Some times the simplest of drawings can have the most intense meanings. 3 years 9 months. 

"Me and Cora [his dog]. She is helping me with cleaning my room. She is licking me because she loves me."

 1/20/14 Progression of drawing from just figures to object representations. 3 years 9 months. 

"These are the stairs I am walking up. Mommy is gone. The dog is licking me on Christmas Eve. This is the stockings. Cora is kissing me with licking me and daddy let me carry her upstairs. I feel happy."

5/12/14 Adding in environmental components such as sky. 
4 years 1 month. 

"Me and Blake and one of our wheelbarrows and my daddy. I'm hugging daddy."

12/29/14 Combination of skills utilized for random drawing. Practicing. 4 years 8 months. The older they get, the more specific the detail and the more they add in life experiences their parents may wish would stay unrepresented.  

"Triangle, square, trapezoid and a BIG G. Two Ps and two Rs. A man with X shirts holding a beer cup with beer inside."


When I send the children off to kindergarten, I send their binders home. I love looking back over the years and remembering the excitement I experienced every time I noticed something new, moving, or amazing in their journaling. It's always a joy to hear their stories.
Tags: homeschooling, writing, fine motor, cognitive, development, developmentally appropriate, drawing, writing, journal, journaling, speech, language, literacy, reading, grammar, teaching, theme, unit, art, hand eye coordination, crossing the midline, kindergarten, prek, pre k, child care, daycare

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Activities and Crafts

Here are a few of the activities and crafts we did this Christmas season.


Using our bins from the block area, I made up the point value numbers, laminated them, and used packing tape to put them on the buckets. The first day worked counting by fives and multiples of fives for the bigs, and number recognition of 5 units for the littles. We changed it up on other days for 2's and 10's. 

Skills: Hand-eye coordination, taking turns, following directions, spatial awareness, number recognition, multiples, graphing, interpreting a graph, ordinal count


These are darling keepsakes. I used hotglue for the popsicle sticks. They chose their color and added the gems. I cut out their pictures and added them to a background of scrapbooking paper. The date is simply written on with a fine Sharpie. They used a brown marker to color in the popsicle piece for the truck if they wished.


More product than process, but it's really cute. Traced a handprint on folded brown construction paper and cut out. Bigs could do their own cutting. 

Cut two triangles from a sheet of brown construction paper by marking the long sides into thirds and using 2/3 of each side as the bottom of the reindeer. They folded over the top of the triangle, and added the eyes and nose. The bigs could have pom pom noses if they wanted. The big girls wanted to make Clarise, so of course that meant a BLACK nose and bow. The littles I let use the google eyes, but not the pom poms, simply because I know what works and doesn't with them. Pom poms would not work.

Big Miss H asked if she could make her reindeer into a mask. Huh. SURE! Miss A also thought that was a wonderful idea.


Yeah, it might be a stretch on the ornament piece, but they bought it. I just used a large heart cookie cutter to cut out the sandwiches for breakfast.


Thinned down frosting in squirt bottles, M&M's, sprinkles, and candies. Only the big kids got to do this. They had fun, but it was MESSSSSSYYYYYYY! Eating them was a whole 'nother problem. Most of it got thrown away. I do not recommend this activity for anything other than using them on a gingerbread house display.


One of those super simple, surprisingly amazing activities. The all LOVED this one. Just jingle bells in a container of water with a strong magnet wand to move them around. Note that the jingle bells were rusting pretty good after a few weeks in the water, but the use they got out of it was worth it.


Okay, so this was my first effort at pancake art, so give me a break. The kiddos loved them and thought I did a great job.

And of course, check out the posts on our Christmas Dramatic Play Area,

and our Christmas Sensory Bin from this year.

Tags: child care, daycare, kindergarten, preschool, pre-k, craft, activity, math, Christmas, holiday, season, theme, unit, homeschool, homeschooling, education