Carol Fertig holds an M.A. in
Educational Psychology/Gifted Education. She has been active in the
education community for 40 years and involved in gifted education for
the past 25 years. Currently, she is editor of Understanding Our Gifted;
author of Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog; and
author of Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook, which
won a 2009 Legacy Book® Award, for outstanding books published in the
U.S. with long-term potential for positively influencing the lives of
gifted children. Carol lives in Colorado and is the parent of two grown
1. Who exactly is a
The term “gifted” is very
controversial because there is no one definition for it. If you were to
talk to ten different experts in the field, there is a strong chance
that you would get ten different definitions of the term. The meaning
varies widely between states, school districts and even individual
schools. It has positive connotations for some and negative connotations
Rather than get hung up on
the label of gifted, I prefer to move beyond the definition and provide
practical ideas for teachers and parents of very bright kids. These
youngsters might be deemed smart, intelligent or brainy.
When people use the word
“gifted,” they often use it in a global sense, assuming the child is
good at everything. In reality, a student may be very capable in only
one academic area, or their expertise may be in a non-academic area such
as music, dance, art, people skills, or model building. We tend to only
value expertise in certain domains, but in reality, all are important.
Please do not confuse my
statements with the philosophy that “all children are gifted.” I do not
agree with that and I think that way of thinking is part of the “feel
good” movement that is now being debunked by research.
2. What sort of
information do you provide about gifted children on your blog?
On Prufrock’s Gifted Child
Information Blog, I alternate between basic theory, current
developments, and practical information for both parents and teachers. I
want those who live and work with highly able students to realize that
there are far more opportunities available than they may initially see.
This is especially true with the explosion of technology that we are
currently experiencing. I focus on what can be done to aid bright youngsters, rather than
spending a lot of time talking about obstacles one might encounter. I
provide very practical suggestions for working with kids who have
focused strengths and also encourage creativity and critical thinking
skills. So far, there are more than 550 entries on the blog, most of
which contain information that is current. There is a search function at
the web site, so if the reader has a particular topic of interest or
concern, she can search on key words to find relevant past blog entries.
3. Can you give some
advice to our mom readers on identifying gifted children?
If we cannot agree on the
definition of giftedness, we cannot possibly come up with a sure method
for identifying these students. There are, however, instruments that can
be used as pieces of the puzzle in understanding one’s child. We can
look at achievement tests, IQ tests and emotional/behavioral
assessments. Parents should also consider the child’s strong interests
Achievement tests are usually
administered in school in an attempt to evaluate what a child has
already learned. There are many different tests available and each one
assesses different skills. For instance, if a student is administered
two different math achievement tests, scores might be quite different,
depending on which specific skills were being evaluated. Perhaps one
test has an emphasis on computational skills and another is emphasizes
problem solving skills.
IQ tests are designed to
determine a child’s ability or potential. These assessments need to be
administered individually, usually by a psychologist. For a variety of
reasons, experts do not agree on which IQ test is the most accurate.
These tests often need to be given outside the school system as schools
do not have the money or personnel resources for administration.
Behavioral assessments are
administered by psychologists and may offer clues why a child is not
performing to his expected ability.
Before having your child
individually evaluated, ask yourself some questions. Will a certain
score on a test make different educational options available? Will it
cause you to look at your child differently? Will your expectations for
your child change? Would that change be beneficial or detrimental to the
4. What sort of activities
does your book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook
Much like my blog, the book
works to show the many paths that might be taken to educate one’s child.
Because parents should not to get hung up on thinking that there is
only one correct way, I offer an extensive menu of options from which to
choose. Parents might move a child to a different school, choose to
work with the current school (I give many suggestions of ways to do
this), or provide opportunities outside of school (including
homeschooling, mentorships, enrichment and distance learning). I discuss
which possible educational solutions would best fit different
situations, explaining the pros and cons of each one.
Since students often have
very specific areas of strengths/interests, I include resources in the
areas of language arts, math, science, social studies, foreign language,
fine arts, and technology. These ideas can also be used to expose
students to new areas. After all, how can one’s potential ever be
developed if one is never exposed to the subject?
5. Can you give some
parenting tips to parents of gifted children?
Be careful about the
expectations you hold for your child. Your son or daughter may have
entirely different interests than you do. While those interests may not
be the same as yours, they still may turn out to bring great happiness
as your child grows to adulthood. So, support those different interests,
trying to see the value that might be gained from them. Encourage basic
traits such as tenacity, people skills, critical thinking, coping with
difficult situations, hard work, and positive risk taking. Above all,
let your child know that she is loved and valued.
6. As a gifted education
teacher, how is your task different from other teachers?
The function of a gifted
education teacher varies greatly from place to place. I have assumed a
variety of roles over the years.
I taught in a magnet school
for the gifted. This was one of the most difficult jobs I ever had.
People often think that all very bright children all learn the same way
and just need to be with intellectual peers with an advanced curriculum
and a knowledgeable teacher. I found that there was more intellectual,
emotional, and learning style diversity in the gifted magnet class than
any other class I ever taught.
I spent a number of years as a
gifted pull-out teacher where I was responsible for working with
individuals or small groups of students in specific subjects. Sometimes
we worked on enrichment, covering many of the same topics that were
taught in the classroom, but with a different twist—usually involving
more creative and critical thinking skills. Sometimes the classes were
accelerated, teaching a subject a year or two in advance of grade level.
And sometimes I helped students do in-depth independent studies on
topics of special interest to them.
I have also assumed the role
of gifted education specialist, coaching teachers to differentiate the
learning in their classrooms (i.e., present material on a variety of
levels to meet the needs of kids with different abilities). In the role
of gifted education specialist, I also helped arrange mentorships for
students who had long-time special interests, and helped to coordinate
parent volunteers to work both in the classroom and in setting up
before- and after-school enrichment classes.
7. What sort of books would
you recommend to parents of gifted children?
There are many good books
available for parents of gifted children.
Of course, I would like to
recommend my book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook.
The book weaves together lots of practical information with real
stories of very bright children. It is written in an easy-to-read
Anything by James R. Delisle
is good. Jim has a way of taking complicated subjects and making them
easy and enjoyable to read. He is an excellent speaker and writer and
has written much on the social/emotional side of giftedness.
David Shenk just came out with a new book that is quite promising. The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told about Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong, brings together a lot of recent research about the development of the brain and presents it in a down-home way. Much of the research conducted over the past couple of decades counters traditional thought about intelligence and puts the onus on exposure and hard work rather than just genetics.