Once upon a time, there was a little boy growing up in a little town. He had a mom, a dad, and three sisters. This little boy loved to learn new things. By two, he had an unlimited vocabulary and always shocked passersby when they would say hello because he would engage them in conversation. The boy had a regular family and lived a regular life.
Sometimes, on the weekend, the Mom would pack up her children in the car and drive to Nana’s house. The Dad would have to work long hours and everyone loved going to Nana’s. It was a time the Boy loved too; you see, his sisters would fall asleep in the car and he had a couple of hours where he could talk alone with his Mom. It was a special time. On one of these trips, the Boy and the Mom were riding in the car, as they had done many times before, when the Boy began to read the road signs and billboards to which the Mom asked “How long have you been able to read?” The Boy replied “I don’t know.” He was around 3 or 4 years old. After that, the Mom had the Boy read many books. She was amazed and she told herself, everything would be ok.
As time passed, the Boy developed areas of great passion and interest. The Mom was able to remember his age by the topics he explored; at two it was trains, at three it was dinosaurs, at four it was horses, at five it was space and at this same time, he wrote his first paper. Using his Nana’s old word processor, he wrote about the solar system--five was shaping up to be a big year. This was also the year the Boy began kindergarten. The Mom remembers his first day well… he was the oldest of her four children and the first to go to school. As she dropped him off, he began to run after her and she began to cry. The Mom told herself everything would be ok.
As the school year progressed, the Mom had the opportunity to be a substitute teacher in the Boy’s classroom. This is when she first realized her son was very different. As the children in the Boy’s class were learning letter recognition and sounds, the Mom knew she had a paper written by the Boy at home, on the kitchen table. The Mom told herself everything would be ok.
Later that fall, the Boy, the Mom and his sisters were going to a fair in the town next door. He always enjoyed the time spent there. The Mom would take him to look at the animals from 4H and he always knew more about those animals than the owners themselves. The Boy was into science. On one of these trips the Mom was talking (to herself mostly) about a recipe she needed to make---it was going to be a double batch. As she was talking, the Boy began to calculate the amounts she would need. The Mom turned to her son and asked “You can do math? How long have you been able to do that?” to which her son replied “I don’t know.” Again, the Mom thought, everything will be ok.
The next day, the Mom needed to run to the store and she left the children at home with the Dad. Before she left, the Mom mentioned to the Dad that she thought the Boy could do math. When she returned, the Boy’s dad showed the Mom all of the math problems the Boy could do. In amazement, she asked the Dad “Did he do these by himself?” to which the Dad replied, “I had to show him how to do one of them but the rest he figured out on his own. “ They were amazed and told themselves everything would be ok.
As the first quarter of Kindergarten ended, the Mom was very excited to attend her first parent teacher conference. She loved to hear about the Boy and wondered what the teacher would say. The Dad stayed home with the Boy and his sisters. The teacher was telling the Mom regular Kindergarten things like-- the Boy knew his numbers to 100 and could recognize letters and sounds. At this time, the Mom asked the teacher if she was aware that the Boy could read and could do math as well. The Mom mentioned that the Boy seemed to know unlimited place value and could do multi-digit multiplication and division, to which the teacher replied that the Boy, was doing just fine and was not a behavior problem in school. The Mom began to wonder “Will everything be ok?”
By 2nd grade, the Boy’s teacher still said he was doing just fine and was not a behavior problem. However, the Boy was beginning to have some trouble. He pleaded to not go to school, he just wanted to stay home. He would often say “I don’t know why I go to school. I already know everything.” Sometimes the teacher would send home a note saying the Boy had alphabetized all of the books in the classroom because he was tired of trying to find the ones he liked.
The Mom was active in the school as a volunteer and one day, as she was helping in the Boy’s classroom, she walked over to his journal center. As the Mom looked through his writing, she noticed he had written the word but many, many times. As a matter of fact, the Boy knew exactly how many times--- 325! You see, to the teacher, he looked busy and occupied, but to the Boy, he was playing a game. This was the start of the unravelling the misconception that advanced kids are fine on their own. The Boy continued playing with his learning. When he was asked to perform a task or an assignment he would do the work, however, it was sub-par. Because he was recognized as being so “smart”, his work was not really evaluated. He always received a Well done! or Good job! when it wasn’t. He was testing the teacher to see just what he could get away with, and he was learning to underachieve. By then, the Mom was doing some reading of her own because she had a strong feeling everything was not going to be ok.
One snowy day, the Boy was at school and the class was preparing to go outside for recess. The Boy always had a good sense of humor and thought that it would be funny if he put his coat and his boots on backwards. The teacher did not think it was funny and forced the Boy to stand against the wall. The Boy did not understand why he was in trouble. When he walked through the door of his house that day, he began to cry. The Mom tried very hard to console the Boy. That night, after the Boy had cried for many hours, the Mom began to cry too. She knew things were not going to be ok. You see, the Boy had told the Mom, “Don’t you get it? Don’t you get it? If I did not know this is wrong, how would I know if anything else I do will be wrong?” The Boy did not understand the gray area of life and he decided from that day on that he would not answer a question with a definite answer. The Mom would ask the boy, “Did you have a good day at school?” to which the Boy replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no, ask me again another time.” The Mom understood. The Boy did not want to get into trouble so he answered in a way that would provide no wrong answers. As time went on, the Boy continued to skirt answers to questions. Again, the Mom was concerned things were not going to be ok.
The Mom decided that she needed to know more about the Boy. This was the first time that she had heard the word “gifted”. She asked the teacher about it, she asked the principal about it, but no one knew anything about being gifted. The Mom and the Dad continued to worry about the Boy so they visited a counselor and were surprised to learn that the counselor did not know anything about gifted children either! The Mom decided, if no one would help the Boy, she would.
The Mom spent many hours reading and researching gifted children. She contacted the State Board of Education, she reached out to major universities such as the University of Connecticut’s National Research Center for Gifted Education and the College of William and Mary’s Center for Gifted Education. She reached out to Frances Karnes to learn about educational law. At first, she moved the Boy to a private school and that did not work. She then decided to try to homeschool. That sort of worked. One day, the Mom talked with the superintendent of the local public school and she told him that no one could educate her Boy to which the superintendent said “That is silly. Certainly we can do something.” And he made a call.
That year, the Mom collaborated with the school district, the school psychologist, a couple of principals and teachers. The Mom worked very hard to create the first acceleration program for the Boy’s school district. The Mom was not scared and neither was the Boy. The Mom had told the Boy that she did not know what the future would bring, but if he was willing to walk this journey with her, she would do the best she could. The Boy agreed, and the Mom began to think maybe things will be ok.
The Mom continued to homeschool the Boy. He worked his way through many subjects while the Mom figured out a plan. When the Boy was 9 years old, he started school both in 7th & 8th grades. The Boy and the Mom were very excited. The Boy still loved to learn and they hoped this would be the start of everything being ok.
The Boy continued on to high school and graduated at 15. The Boy graduated from college by 19. The Mom and the Boy had learned many things along the way. One of the greatests lessons the Mom had learned was to have teacher buy in. If the teacher was not a part of the plan for instruction and did not have an understanding of a gifted child, the year would be a struggle. Too often, there were misconceptions about perfection. If the Boy was so smart, then he should always receive an A on his work, when really, less than perfect should be a celebration--- an opportunity to learn. After all, the Mom learned the teacher determined the weather in the classroom. Upon the Boy’s high school graduation, the principal asked the Boy “What could we have done better?” to which the Boy replied, “I could have used a peer-- student who would check in with me during my time here.” By suggesting a change, the Boy was making sure future students would be ok.
The journey for the Boy and the Mom continues. The Boy has now become a Man. He has learned who he is, and he is strong because he is fearless. He is captain of his own ship and thoughtfully navigates the river of life and everything with the Man is ok. The Mom continues to create programs for gifted children. She knew without her help, these children would never be ok.
Tracey Hosey, A.K.A the Mom, has been a strong advocate for gifted children, their families and schools for 22 years. She is on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Association for Gifted Children and is the Director of Gifted in the Yorkville School District. You can follow her on Facebook and can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam Hosey, A.K.A., the Boy, has moved out west to pursue his passion for outdoor adventure and found a business career along the way!