Enrichment Programs for Gifted Kids in the early 1970’s

In my very first post here, I talked about how it felt to be labeled “gifted” as a child. I felt vindication when my second grade teacher called my mom and asked her if I wanted to be a part of the “Enrichment Program” (also called Mentally Gifted Minors -MGM). Once a week, we would leave our classroom about an hour before school was out. We learned some Spanish, learned about Mexico, did some cooking, and a variety of art projects. We did special activities having to do with what we were learning.

In later grades, we got to go on field trips –just us, the kids from the gifted programs. I remember one year, taking a long bus ride to Edwards Air Force Base to see the Space Shuttle Enterprise. 

The activities also changed a bit as we got older. We learned a lot about mythology. I think it helped me to appreciate many of the books and films with mythological themes, on a deeper level.

In my last year of elementary school, the facilitator for our gifted program, started going around and met with us at our schools, rather than have us take busses to one location. This was possible due to budget cuts, thanks to California Prop. 13, but also, many of us complained that we didn’t like missing so much of our regular school day, only to have to make up what we missed. We’d have to do our homework for our regular classes, plus, we often had homework from our gifted program. I don’t care how smart or gifted a person is, one thing seems to be universal: Nobody likes homework!

By junior high, the gifted program was relegated to an elective that you could take. I didn’t take it. I heard they played educational games and Dungeons as Dragons for most of the class period.

In high school, we could take “advanced” classes, though they weren’t the same as the AP classes that my oldest daughter took when she was in High school 2005 – 2009.

Were any of you in gifted programs while in school? What were your experiences?


Middle School Heartbreak Over Grades

The honor roll assembly was last week, and as has been the case every year since kindergarten, my daughter was on it. Every year, she was on the Gold Honor Roll for making straight “A’s.” Her last award for fifth grade, she was one of a few recipients for the Platinum Honor Roll. That’s if you make the Gold Honor Roll for the whole year.

This is her first year in middle school and this time, she received, the Silver Honor Roll. That’s what you get for making all A’s and one B. Most kids would be thrilled. Not our daughter. At first, we thought she was taking it quite well. We told her that making the honor roll at all was something to be proud of and not everyone makes the Silver Honor Roll. We used the gift certificate to Applebees that came with all the Silver Honor Roll awards (a gift certificate to Islands was what the Gold award winners received, and our daughter’s favorite.) Everything seemed fine. I was getting a little worried, because I was having a hard time coming up with a second post related to the topic for the month that hadn’t already been covered by my fellow bloggers, and was dangerously close to having to think about doing actual research.

Yesterday, she decided to go online and look up her grades. I guess seeing it in writing, seeing where she was getting lower points made it hit home and she burst into tears of frustration. “You know,” I tried to remind her, “Silver honor roll is a good thing!” “Not for me, it isn’t!” she said. Secretly, I was relieved. At least she wasn’t going to give up. We looked over her assignments and it appeared that for the most part, she had gotten some lower test scores, and a couple of homework assignments had been scored lower. She claimed to not understand why.

I suggested that maybe if she took a break from doing homework in front of the TV, for a change, her grades might go up again, and that maybe if she spent more time studying instead of playing Minecraft most of the night, she might be able to bump those B’s back up to A’s.  Even harder sobbing ensued, accusations about my lack of ability to understand were tossed around. Declarations of her inability to do homework unless the TV is on because it drowns out other distractions such as “creepy noises” were made. I persisted in my endeavors, suggesting she do her homework in my room next to me on my bed while I just read quietly. That all but proved my insanity as she exclaimed, “I can’t do my homework in here!” Apparently, this was such an obvious fact, no explanation was required as to why she couldn’t do her homework in my room. We basically left things like that for the time being. She was not in a condition to be open to suggestions that might involve making any changes. We’ll try later this weekend. It’ll help that we have two extra days.

The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants

“He has no heart.” “She’s all heart.” “My heart just isn’t in this.” But the heart is a muscle that pumps our blood and oxygen through our bodies. That is all. When we make statements like the ones above, we are really talking about brain function.  Somewhere along the line,  probably long before humans knew about how the brain functioned, we began attributing emotions to the heart, even describing it as our seat of motivation. I guess the “gifted” side of me (pedantic?) is needing to clarify that when I am talking about a person’s heart in this post, I am speaking metaphorically. For some reason, I feel the need to point out that everything, is in fact, run by the brain.

Every time I look at the blank screen on my computer, a screen that is asking me to fill it with words, and words are not immediately forthcoming, my first thought is generally something like, how my heart must not be in this anymore. I just don’t know what to write. If I’m given something to write about, at first I’m fine. “Oh sure! I can write about this! Easy peasy!” Then the blank screen is before me and I have to check Facebook, then look at a movie trailer, then read an article about a different upcoming movie, then I notice that my body hair is thicker on one side of my body than the other,  and I must research this immediately or I won’t be able to concentrate on what I am supposed to be writing. This leads me to reading articles and looking up images of a variety of hairstyles with funny names. Now an hour has elapsed and I haven’t written a word. So I begin to wonder, is my heart really in this? And then, my BRAIN shoots back with, “Yes! You’re just being lazy! Stop it!”

smaller clipart heart 4Suddenly, my medulla oblongata sends a swift kick to jumpstart my heart and away I go! I am feeling motivated!

I am realizing a reason I am having a hard time with this topic is because, like many adults, I have learned to keep my heart protected. From the viewpoint of someone who grew up with the “gifted” label I felt the need to build walls around my heart. Much was expected of me from others. I also expected a lot from myself. When I lived up to those expectations, everything was great, of course. When I didn’t, no one was more disappointed than me. The tests said I could have done great things with my life. While I am content with my life as it is, I still haven’t fulfilled any of the dreams I had when I was younger. I was going to be an actor. An award winning actor. Or at least, be able to earn a comfortable living as an actor. You know, not necessarily hounded by paparazzi, but every once in a while, someone would come up to me and say, “Hey, aren’t you that woman who played that other woman’s friend in that show?” When I became pregnant with my twins, I pretty much gave up on that idea. You have to already be a successful actor to get away with having twins and still continue acting. Come to think of it, my twins are all grown up now. I still have an 11-year old at home, but I’m not a single parent anymore like I was for the first five years of my twins’ lives. Maybe I’ll see how much acting classes cost in my area. See what happens when my heart kicks in?

I wanted to be a writer –well, I am writing right now, aren’t I? I thought I’d start with magazine articles (this was way before blogs), then short stories, then finally, become a novelist. This one, I haven’t given up on quite yet. I need to find a way to discipline my highly distractable brain and keep myself focused.  Focused on writing. And fragmented sentences. I just need to keep writing. Except for right now because I am finished writing this post.

You will eventually be able to read more of my writing at: http://manicmeanderings.blogspot.com/ I haven’t updated since a couple of weeks before NaNoWriMo. I plan to update….soon.

How Do I Pick a Theme?

Earlier this month, Christine talked about the usefulness of picking a theme for the year. Later, Jen touched on the subject in her recent post. This sounds like a good and worthy thing to accomplish. I think it would help me with setting goals, and staying on track with what I want to accomplish. What I am having trouble with is getting my synaptically overloaded brain to stop and pick ONE thing. Or even just two. Earlier this month, I mentioned two goals I am hoping to work on for the year. I am continuing to work on those things, though progress in some areas is slower than in others. 

I am playing with the ideas of scaling back, trimming down, focus (How? In the middle of typing this, I had they urge to look up croque madame recipes. I followed that urge. I’m back now…but for how long?). Where was I? Oh yes, trimming down. I think I have too many interests. I would like to turn at least one of them, even two, into something where I could actually earn some money doing something I enjoy. I enjoy writing –though preferably fiction writing or essays. Then I ask myself, how much do I enjoy writing if I can’t even manage to get my post for this blog in on time? (It was due Friday morning). I’ve been knitting and crocheting a lot. Making a lot of gifts for friends, but not doing so well in the “stockpiling and inventory for an Etsy account” area. And then, somewhere in the middle of my knitting and crocheting, I miss my writing. I am having ideas, but no, I can’t put down what I’m working on, especially if there is a deadline –like wanting to finish a baby afghan before the baby is born. I start to get obsessed with one project or another, needing to keep working on it. Just one more row. Just one more pattern repeat. The same thing happens when I’m writing, except I tend to be much less cordial to anyone who dares enter the room where I am working. This may be a reason I’ve been sticking more with the needle arts than the “Word Crafting” lately: I enjoy getting along with my family. And with that, I think I have come up with my theme for the year: “Stress-reduction.”

Clean and Lean for 2013

I know better than to set a New Year’s Resolution. Why set myself up for failure? Instead, I like to set small goals. Ultimately, they lead to a larger goal. For example: I need to lose about 75 pounds to get from “obese” to “healthy weight.” That would be the high end of healthy weight for me but…baby steps… So, instead of setting the goal, “Lose 75 pounds,” or even lose any amount of weight, it’s, “Don’t eat take-out more than once a week,” and “walk at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week.”

Another area I’m working on is my terrible organization habits. Until earlier today, I could not close my nightstand drawer. It was becoming an extension of the top surface. Not only that, but I can see the top of my nightstand. I can see the floor on my side of the bed. I still have some more books, magazines and knitting and crochet projects to organize, but it’s getting there!

What happened to my writing? That has really been put on the back burner for a while. I am finding that I am doing more with my knitting and crocheting these days.  We’ll see how things go in the next few weeks.

Tryin’ to Get That Feelin’ Again

Yes, I went there. I used a Barry Manilow song title for this blog post. Due to recent events in the news, which I think most of us are aware, I am having a difficult time finding a way to write about “Joy” again this month. (Notice that I’m posting this much later in the day than normal.) It’s possible I’m also having trouble because the rebel in me balks at being given a topic to write about. On the other hand, the competitor in me enjoys the challenge of a topic.

Let’s see… I get joy from writing. I also get joy from knitting, crocheting, drawing, reading, watching a good movie, spending time with my family. I’ve noticed lately, that I’m getting more enjoyment (does that count as “joy?”  It has “joy” in it…) from knitting and crocheting than from writing or even reading. Normally, it goes in cycles, but this year, my interest has leaned more toward my knitting and crochet projects.

My 22-year-old daughter is visiting from Portland, OR (we’re in Southern California) until the 30th, so of course I’m very happy about that! It’s okay that she’s been spending much of her time visiting her friends, because she is still nearby. She is spending time with her little sister and her twin brother. She is doing a project making a dream catcher art piece and  incorporating the seven chakras.  She also keeps a journal in which she writes, draws and paints with watercolors. I look at her with all this art and creativity in her life and I think, “Yes. This.”

My creative daughter, Amanda. One of the joys in my life.

Joyful Music

Last night, my husband and I took our 11-year-old daughter, Ceana to listen to the local high school jazz concert band. Ceana plays clarinet in her middle school cadet band, and any student from her band that went to the performance last night will get extra credit for band class. Also, they got in free if they wore their band T-shirt. It was also the premiere performance of the middle school’s new jazz band. The concert was fantastic! I didn’t have a kid in the show, so I can say that with complete objectivity. During the show, we found out that the teacher who comes in to teach the middle school jazz band –and she and the students come in an hour before school starts because this is not a class, it’s all voluntary–is a local elementary school teacher who is donating her time for this. I was also impressed that these 7th and 8th grade kids come to school extra early just to play jazz.

In a time when I continue to hear about schools losing their arts and music programs, I am thrilled that we have a fantastic music program in our district that begins in 5th grade. I learned that the high school has five full concert bands in addition to the marching band. During the last performance by the Jazz I Band, my daughter made an audio recording. I placed a portion of it on YouTube if you are interested in listening to a clip. There is an explanation with the clip as to why I also have a slide show with strange photos playing with music.

Ceana enjoyed the jazz bands. We let her sit with her friends a row behind us, and I noticed she was face front and listening while some of her friends were talking (you may be able to hear them on the recording). Currently, she isn’t sure if she wants to try out for jazz band because it would mean playing a different instrument. While she wouldn’t have to give up her clarinet, traditionally, they are not a part of jazz bands. I guess we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it, meanwhile, we can enjoy the beautiful music she makes with her clarinet.