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Can a child be gifted/talented if they haven't "learned it all by themselves"?

(25 Posts)
BlueSprite Mon 23-Jun-14 11:58:26

I know there are children who learn things such as reading and have an innate concept of number without a person - or an app, or the TV - properly teaching them. I think it's fair to say such children are unusually gifted.

However, if a child learns such things much earlier than usual, but via something or somebody teaching them (note: they are not being 'pushed' in the sense that they are keen to learn, ask questions endlessly and retain the information they gather), does this class as gifted?

AMumInScotland Mon 23-Jun-14 12:04:53

Yes it can still be counted as gifted - if they didn't have some innate ability, they couldn't take it in at that kind of level even if someone did teach them.

BlueSprite Mon 23-Jun-14 14:40:08

Thank you very much - that's interesting.

JaneParker Mon 23-Jun-14 16:27:59

I don't like the terminology G&T as it is used for a fixed percentage in any school even if they aren't bright at all but everyone else is just particularly dull but leaving that side.... some children just clearly innately are brilliant rather than middle ranging but encouraged. Some are middle ranging but the child chooses to work very very hard on something and becomes outstanding. It is often a mixture of things.

JustRichmal Thu 26-Jun-14 08:49:53

It depends what is meant by learning something all by themselves. Often this means a parent or older sibling reading simple books with them, giving them computer programs designed to teach children to read or count, playing word or maths games or watching TV aimed at teaching phonics or maths. What one person would class as a child learning all by themselves, another would class as having quite a lot of input.

It is simply a matter of what degree of input a child has had, and without knowing exactly how a child has been raised, it is impossible to say. None of the children have got there by figuring out what it has taken civilisation thousands of years to work out in a few short years and entirely by themselves. Therefore if a child has been able to be taught to a level where they are in the top whatever per cent which is considered G&T, then they are G&T.

sanfairyanne Thu 26-Jun-14 09:03:14

talented sportsmen and women do a great deal of training with top sports specialists. without it, they would almost all not be top of their game.
but some countries also choose children with potential based on height, length of arms etc and then introduce the sport to them
gifted is similar imo: innate ability plus training
only genius level can get by with innate ability and self teaching imo. how amazing are they!!

claraschu Thu 26-Jun-14 09:10:13

Kids don't learn in a vacuum. They don't learn to read or do arithmetic without a lot of input from somewhere, though it doesn't have to be "teaching". People who say their kids learned to read by themselves are just doing extra bragging

tenderbuttons Thu 26-Jun-14 11:58:50

But the point still remains, that on 'x' amount of input before the age of 5 (being read to, etc) a few children will have learned to read, most won't. So it's not unreasonable to say that these children who do have an ability for it.

Best argument I ever heard was from a woman whose child entered Reception reading chapter books. People assumed she'd taught him, but as she said, if it was just down to the teaching, she'd become an educationalist, franchise her methods and become filthy rich and have whole classes of children reading at that level. It's just not possible though

sanfairyanne Thu 26-Jun-14 13:47:54

pretty much everyone can read though, is it linked to gifted? (dont know - anyone else know?)

BrieAndChilli Thu 26-Jun-14 14:12:02

Ds1 was reading at age level 14+ when he started in reception. We hadn't taught him, he just seemed to do it himself with the odd question of what something said. It's really hard to explain as yes of course we read books to him, helped him with phonic sounds etc EXACTLY as we have done with dd and now doing with ds2, both of whom are progressing as a normal child should be but ds1 just seemed to wake up one day aged 3 and was able to read.
I was adopted age 5, I had taught myself to read somehow but knowing the reasons I was adopted I somehow doubt my birth mother taught me, she had learning difficulties of some kind too so could barely read her self.

Nurture and parenting input does have great benefits with the development of a normal child in reading etc but I do think with a truly gifted (as opposed to a bit advanced child) child they need very little input in order to grasp stuff.

I learnt several musical instruments as a child. I was very good. Played concerts etc but I am not a gifted musician, I have no musical ear at all, am tone deaf and rubbish at singing. I just was able to learn music and play it, with all the necessary flourishes in order to sound good

Suppose I am trying to say a truly gifted child will be able to excel in an area and UNDERSTAND the concepts etc whereas some children are able to be "taught" but have no understanding of what they are learning/doing.

iseenodust Thu 26-Jun-14 14:46:47

A very good question. I would answer no.

So from our experience; DS started reception able to recognise his name but unable to read. In reception they told us they thought he was 'very bright but it may not last as he gets older' which I found odd as he seemed to spend most of that year outside playing with mud & sticks with the TA. I think they were wondering if we were tiger parents. At the start of yr3 we were told he is on the G&T list. One day the HT catches me and says 'he's bright' (her phrase) and I reply 'well graduate parents, only child etc' and she says 'no, I think he's very bright'. Yes he is top of the class but I feel that is down to capacity to understand information quickly and then retain it. He's no prodigy, doesn't play an instrument & would always choose football over a book.

My conclusion is that teachers however would answer yes but probably with a broad rather than narrow definition.

Beastofburden Thu 26-Jun-14 14:52:58

It's no good being clever if you have nothing to chew on. Perhaps at primary school a child can work out from first principles most of what is on offer. Lots of them more or less read spontaneously, for instance. But nobody gets the top first at Oxbridge without going to any lectures or tutorials. At some point, you need some content, some facts to think about. Teaching is a process of expert challenging of a mind so that it improves.

JaneParker Thu 26-Jun-14 15:10:27

I am sure some potential is wasted in some schools by not giving those very bright children something to chew on.

BlackeyedSusan Wed 02-Jul-14 01:00:34

I taught dd to read. she picked it up easily and was reading well by the time she was five. she has tested gifted. so no you don't need to be self taught to be gifted. I suppose it depends on where on the bell curve and how far into gifted the child lies, on individual personality and interests and strengths.

I did the same activities with ds.... shall we say that we did the pre-reading activities for a year longer than dd and there needed to bemuch more repetition.

BlueSprite Wed 02-Jul-14 22:59:57

Thank you all. Basically, a certain teacher at DC's pre-school has commented on the "work I do at home with DC", with the insinuation it's all well and good but "true intelligence" lies with creativity - DC apparently likes to be told at school how to do something (e.g draw something new) and is worried about not getting it right. DC is not a natural artist, and while does draw occasionally, tend to do the same things and only recently is branching out a little.

It seems the way DC's preschool test creativity is to a large extent via drawing and play-doh (although I guess they do lots of other stuff too?). DC is not into either of these things, and is far more likely to be found making complex Lego machines (one at home recently was built alone from scratch, and had spinning rotar blades and hinged Lego technic "paddles" for it to push through the water). The other day DC was trying to replicate a pulley system for easy lifting. These things come naturally, in the sense DC hasn't been sat down and taught these things.

What the teacher does see is that I've taught DC to read and write - DC is now starting to read chapter books and reads self to sleep at night. DC spoke early and uses quite sophisticated language. The other day was saying to me when composing a story with toys -"Mummy, what's the word beginning with 'd' that means 'go away'?. I suggested 'dismiss' but that wasn't the word DC wanted. I then said "depart?" and DC said "Ah! That's the word I wanted!" and then used the word to narrate a story with toys.

I have also taught some basic numerical concepts and DC has picked up number bonds to 20 (so could answer 20-7, for example) and can also add double figures (e.g 21+21). DC sometimes asks to do sums and seems to gain pleasure from completing them.

Basically, this teacher has made me feel uncertain as to what I'm doing here. My heart tells me to carry on as I am, as DC has a huge appetite for learning and genuinely delights in knowledge.

Sorry for the long post. DC is doing fine socially, btw, and is coming up to 4 and a half.

JustRichmal Thu 03-Jul-14 07:28:01

My advice would be to carry on with the teaching. I taught my child quite a bit at home and am glad I did. It has to be balanced with a fair amount of time doing other things, but if you have the time and ability to teach them, then why not? Giving a child a good education is surely to be commended.

Safeinourbubble Thu 03-Jul-14 07:48:10

Ahhhh, what you are doing sounds perfect. You accept your child as is and feed their interests and imagination. Ideal. Keep doing it.

Museums, beaches, art galleries, the cinema, life, libraries, clubs: you can nurture your child in so many ways that are positive.

Don't forget: you are the parent and by and large, parents know their child best.

BlackeyedSusan Fri 04-Jul-14 21:12:55

oh dear, his teacher is a plonker has limited knowledge of gifted children...


<sprays flame retardant foam around thread>

your child's skills sound implausible...

<passes flame proof knickers to op>

so I bet someone will be along soon to tell you to stop teaching him as he will be: bored at school/everyone will catch up anyway/you are depriving your child of a childhood*

<lugs fire extinguishers in>


sounds great.

*delete as appropriate

TheCunkOfPhilomena Thu 21-Aug-14 19:59:48

I second the PPs; carry on with what you're doing and ignore this teacher.
You can't make young children learn at anything other than their own pace (unless you hothouse I suppose but even then the DC would need to have a good memory), it sounds like your DC is asking for info and you are providing it which is what you're meant to do!

I have a similar DS in that he is definitely NOT interested in arty things and would rather read or play with lego or on the iPad than draw or paint.

RevealTheHiddenBeach Thu 21-Aug-14 20:16:00

Have you read bounce? It's all about talent vs practice, and one of the things it picks up on is how many "gifted" young people just practice a lot. Tiger woods and the Williams sisters parents all said "we want our children to be sports stars" and started their enthusiasm really young. They are still called "gifted"!

Sounds like the teacher is talking bollocks tbh. If your child is happy and is progressing, then that's a very good situation.

merlehaggard Wed 27-Aug-14 11:30:28

My 12 year old daughter is G&T in music and so was her elder sister. In music lessons she is streets ahead of the others in a bit above average comp. However, they both had music lessons since they were 6 so it is no surprise. She likes being good at something but knows that the terminology is ridiculous.

merlehaggard Wed 27-Aug-14 11:34:41

Having said that BlueSprite, it sounds like your child is very clever and it sounds like you're doing a great job. I would be doing exactly the same as you.

WaxyDaisy Wed 27-Aug-14 11:42:53

Suggest reading the book "Bounce" by Matthew Syed. Or others on similar topics. There is some research around 'talent' that tends to show environment and practice plus mindset is more important than anything genetic/innate. The focus is on sport/chess/music, but why wouldn't it apply to anything? V liberating to think that given ten years and/or thousands of hours of deliberate practice almost anything is possible.

In education, research shows parental attitude and expectation is v important. IMO private schools and tutors 'work' because of some of these conditions. Exposure to lots of things in the early years sets the scene for educational achievement as well, which is why many children are less 'school ready' than others. On the other end of the scale there is research that shows v early interventions are v effective at addressing disadvantage (not promoting 2 yr olds in school here!). Sadly the country spends less on this than higher education, which makes far less difference.

In Enlgand "G&T" is defined as the top percentage... How you get there is irrelevant.

However, I feel the labels "gifted" and "talented" are singularly unhelpful. Recognising effort is much more helpful than labelling ability, at all levels.

PiqueABoo Thu 28-Aug-14 21:30:18

"Suggest reading the book "Bounce" by Matthew Syed"
I suggest everyone skips that irksome bandwagon and reads "G is for Genes" instead.

JustRichmal Fri 29-Aug-14 08:05:59

I thought intelligence was 50/50; genes and environment, so you may as well give a child the best education possible as it could well make a difference.

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