Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is Mine an Einstein?

I'm thrilled to share the great information we gather at FAMILY Magazine from our child and parenting experts.  Read on for an informative overview of how to identify a gifted child and how to best foster a student's talents.

Identifying the Gifted Child

By Susan Gold, MEd & Robert Gold, ESQ

We hear and read of gifted artists, gifted athletes, even gifted speakers without making too much of it. “Gifted” is part of the everyday vernacular.

Use of the word “gifted” to describe a child of high academic or intellectual ability, however, prompts visceral, heated reactions, charges of elitism and a number of stereotypes grounded more in myth than reality. Here is a glimpse at gifted education with an emphasis on the early childhood years.

Who Is a Gifted Learner?

To effectively identify young gifted learners, multiple criteria are used, including both subjective and objective measures. Such measures include achievement and ability testing, teacher observations and parent questionnaires.

An IQ score of 130 or higher—approximately the top 2 percent of test-takers on the WPPSI, WISC or other similar aptitude test—is a commonly used benchmark for entrance into gifted and talented programs. Current research indicates that IQ is malleable, particularly in young children, as their brains undergo rapid physiological development. A child generally cannot, however, obtain an IQ score of 140 just by having a “good day.”

Do too many “pushy” parents claim their children are gifted? Not necessarily. Parents are usually accurate in evaluating their child’s intellectual abilities. From time to time, parents underestimate their child’s giftedness, especially in the case of a first-born child. Oftentimes, it is only when the child enters preschool and quickly exhausts the available learning materials that a bell goes off.

Things to Watch For

In a typical classroom (with same-age peers of widely varying intellectual ability and academic readiness), young gifted students often downplay their talents to fit in. Therefore, gifted learners’ placement within an intellectual peer group is critical, not only for their intellectual growth, but for their emotional well-being. They prefer friends with similar mental age rather than chronological, seeking close, stable and trusting friendships over mere playmates early on.

Young gifted learners often exhibit perfectionist tendencies. Generations of well-intentioned teachers have unwittingly reinforced these tendencies by offering academically gifted children praise such as, “Wow, you got 100% and finished so quickly. Great job!” In the care of well-trained teachers who consistently praise effort, strategy and resilience, however, these children can view their perfectionism in a positive light, celebrating accomplishments with an understanding that “mistakes” are inevitable in the process of mastering new, appropriately challenging skills and material.

Myth vs. Reality

Proponents of mixed-ability classrooms argue that having one or two gifted students in a class elevates the entire class’ performance, as the gifted students serve as role models, provide challenge and help teach other students.

In reality, average or below-average students do not look to gifted students as role models; teachers do. Similarly, gifted students benefit from classroom interactions with peers at similar performance levels.

Dr. James Kulik of the University of Michigan found that highly talented students achieve more when taught in specialized, enriched classes—rather than regular, mixed-ability classes—gaining on average 1.4 to 1.5 years on a grade-equivalent scale in the same period during which control children of initially equivalent intelligence gain only one year. Kulik noted that teachers of enriched and accelerated classes often have special training for work with gifted and talented students.

One of the nation’s foremost experts on gifted education, Dr. Tracy Cross of The College of William and Mary, puts it this way: “Amazing things happen when you get a critical mass of intellectually gifted students together with a faculty who wants to work with them.”

Susan Gold, M.Ed., and Robert Gold, Esq., are director and executive director of Feynman School, a nonprofit, independent school for academically gifted children in Bethesda, Maryland.


National Association for Gifted Children, supporting the needs of high-potential learners

Virginia Association for the Gifted, supporting gifted education

An Analysis of the Research on Ability Grouping,” 1992, Dr. James A. Kulik, University of Michigan

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Business Break…The Economy Matters to All of Us!

As the Publisher of a Magazine that caters to DC parents for over 20 years, I've come to really appreciate how smart and informed our readers are. We in DC, more than other areas of the country, truly live and breathe what is going on with the Federal budget.  

I wanted to share what I consider great news for all of us - as a small business owner and a parent in the region, I know about being buffeted by the economy. I really believe that with this new two year budget in place, our readers should be encouraged.

Here's my take on the budget - I an certain our readers will: 
  • Feel a renewed sense of stability
  • Invest in their child's education
  • Invest in their child's enrichment
  • Have confidence in personal careers and income
Parents are going to want to invest in their children and will feel more confident to spend their income.

Here are some facts to back up my claims. The market in the Washington, DC area is poised for significant growth. Our readers and our advertisers will benefit from this. 2014 is going to be an exciting year for all of us.

Unemployment rates -
Washington region counties have declined up to 1.6% (national rate of decline is 0.6%)
19 out of 22 counties have a lower unemployment rate than 2 years ago.

Income in DC area - 
Income in our area increased 23.3% between 2000 and 2012. Nationally median household incomes dropped. The Washington, D.C. metro area — which includes the surrounding suburbs in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia — ranks highest in income among the U.S.’s 25 most populous metro areas.

This article from the Wall Street Journal details the income statistics in our area.

Housing prices on the rise in DC area -
Our home prices went up 4% in November alone. We are back to peak levels with competitive bidding taking place in many home purchases.

Inventory of houses -
The inventory of available houses (new listings) jumped 13% in our region this summer.  A greater inventory means more opportunity for sales and people are jumping back into the real estate market.

This article by Forbes details the movement in our housing industry.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Welcome to 2014 – for Better or Worse?

All told, 2013 has had its challenges. Professionally - I, along with most small business owners, have worked harder than ever to make up for the economic challenges we’re facing (overcoming!). Personally - my youngest is getting married next year, so my 2013 has seen a lot of check writing, compromising, and ultimately backseat taking (not my favorite position when my ever-so-helpful opinions are right there on the tip of my tongue).
So I’ll admit that as I wrap up 2013, I’m not waxing sentimental about saying goodbye to this year. Maybe I’m, ahem, old enough to be over the false hopes of new year = new start.

Come January first, I plan to show up for 2014 with the best intentions. I want to join the positive, enthusiastic crowd. The first of the year is an opportunity to renew our commitment to do better, to do more, to change. Making the decision to TRY is what starts us in a positive direction.

So I’m trying. The challenges of past years don’t vaporize as you ring in that New Year. While we’re drinking champagne and pretending we know the words to Auld Lang Syne, things look pretty rosy. The problem is we haven’t popped a cork yet, and I fear I am already in the trees of the forest of best intentions.

That’s not okay with me. Next year brings a big celebration for our family! Brittany’s wedding is the Hyde event of the decade, and we’re adding a great new son-in-law to the family. We have been planning for the go date of March 1 for over a year now. My first 2014 resolution has to be to make the final two-month wedding push a positive and enjoyable experience for my family – and me!

So, to make that happen, here is what I drafted for my original to-do list:

  • Not gripe when my loving husband puts his foot down and makes me stick to our budget. 
  • Not tell my daughter how her wedding should look, smell, be recorded, or be scheduled. 
  • Not complain when family members tell me they cannot make the big event. 
  • Not be hard on myself about those last five pounds before the final fitting for my dress. 
  • Not worry about every last detail – no matter how earth shattering (in my mind). 
I quickly noted the “nots”. I hadn’t created a to-do list. I had a not-to-do list. Having read somewhere that negative resolutions don’t work, I set about writing a second draft. My positive, enjoyable list needed to be more, well, positive and enjoyable.

Second shot:
  • Respect the money – and the man who shares my checkbook (and who may possibly have a healthier perspective on how much one should pay for fondant flowers). 
  • Realize that my full-grown daughter has been planning HER wedding for two decades. I can trust her to make the best decisions and keep myself in check for two short months. 
  • Send video snippets of the wedding to friends and family unable to make the trip. The wedding is not a “must be present to win” proposition. 
  • Five pounds? I’m a grandma. I need a lap upon which to plop the little ones. 
  • About those nagging details…in the history of weddings, has there ever been one without a hitch? Do what we can ahead of time, laugh off what shoulda/coulda been done after the fact. 
So that’s my first sixth of the year – the rest of the year, I resolve to really look beyond myself and my “stuff.” I am so lucky to have such a great family, such wonderful children and a truly fantastic husband. I work with great people who do wonderful work and pull together to create FAMILY Magazine.

So all to-do lists aside, my Resolution is to value my friends, co-workers and family and to show them how important they are to me. I will hug my children more often, kiss my grandkids ‘til they object and dance with my husband every chance he gives me.

Life is good, life is grand. It is going to be a positive, enjoyable year!

I wish you the same! Happy Parenting in 2014!