Tuesday, September 30, 2014

GIFTED: What does this word really mean?

Is everyone GIFTED?
Are all children GIFTED?
I never gave this word much thought until I read this in a book when I was a first-time mom. It was a book that tells of a baby's milestones during his first year of life on top of what moms need to do during a baby's first year. I would review this book regularly to check if my son was hitting his milestones as predicted or expected. I would put check marks on the milestones that my son has achieved and sometimes, I would put the dates or my son's age when he achieved those milestones. This practice led me to keep on going back to a page in the book that listed the characteristics of gifted children.
I noticed that many of the characteristics of gifted children listed in that page were increasingly manifested in my baby as he grew older. Could it be that my child is GIFTED? I asked myself repeatedly as I reviewed his milestones and the characteristics listed on the page.
As I kept on doing this milestone review and documentation through this book, I became increasingly convinced that the probability that my son is GIFTED is high.

(You may read more about the characteristics of gifted kids or individuals here, here, here and here.)
Soon, my son's behaviors and actions moved me and my husband to consult a developmental pediatrician. We were advised by our son's pediatrician to do this after I reported to her my son's milestones over a period of time.
My son was a little over 2 years old then. We were able to secure an appointment with the developmental pediatrician months later. My son was around 2.5 years old when he was first assessed. The developmental pediatrician said that he's potentially-gifted. He said that's the term they use for very young children who show signs of giftedness.
Every year, around my eldest son's birthday, we would go back to this same developmental pediatrician and have my son assessed. Every year, he would tell us almost the same thing.
This year, we did something different since he's already over 5 years old. We brought him to a school that administers comprehensive testing on giftedness to kids as young as 5 years old. The results confirmed the previous assessments. Our firstborn is GIFTED.
The word GIFTED didn't mean much to me before. 

But when I learned about it's clinical definitions, my perspective and our family's life changed dramatically. You may read some of these definitions here, here and here.
Since I came to know more about the term GIFTED and GIFTEDNESS, I now feel uncomfortable whenever I hear or read "Everyone is GIFTED" or "All children are GIFTED."

If I did not encounter the clinical definitions of the word GIFTED, I would probably go on thinking that those statements are fine and acceptable. BUT I have discovered what the word GIFTED means; so, I feel compelled to share what I have learned so far.

I have learned that there are MANY definitions of GIFTED or GIFTEDNESS from various experts in the field. Although, there are many definitions for this word, I am still convinced now that saying "Everyone is GIFTED" or "All children are GIFTED" would not be right because that's not true.

Would you dare say that everyone is athletic? Or that all children are extroverts? Or that all children are autistic? Or that all children are dyslexic?

I don't think so.

Because that's not true.

Some of us were made differently, think differently, act differently, progress differently. Thus, we have different needs and preferences.

I do believe that each one of us has been bestowed with unique gifts, talents and abilities for a purpose. 

BUT we cannot apply the term GIFTED to everyone.

The word GIFTED was coined not to make one group of people (children included) superior over another group of people. The word was coined to describe a very small portion of the population that possesses  characteristics that are different from majority of the population.

What the word GIFTED means to me as a parent of a GIFTED child

I had mixed emotions when I first learned that my child is GIFTED.

At first, I was happy and proud that he has been achieving his milestones quite fast. Then, those feelings turned into fear because I didn't know how to handle his fast development. I also didn't understand what GIFTEDNESS really meant and how it would impact his life and our family life.

As my eldest child grew older, I became grateful that I discovered what the word GIFTED means.

The word GIFTED gave me a sense of relief somehow. It was a relief to me to know that the reason for my eldest son's behaviors was not because he's being disobedient or that I'm failing miserably as a parent. It was simply because he is GIFTED.

I have learned from the literature that I have read and from my own experiences with my son after reading A LOT of material on the subject that GIFTED kids behave differently from most children. That's because their brains were wired differently.

I have tried almost all the techniques that many parenting books shared on how to raise and handle kids but many of them leave me frustrated. My frustration was slowly diffused as I began to understand and accept that my eldest child is different from the kids described in those parenting books. That's why the techniques shared in most of them do not work with him.

As I read more on the subject and read more blogs by other parents of gifted kids, I have learned to SLOWLY adjust my parenting style. It's not easy. I still forget COUNTLESS times that my child is GIFTED! I still tend to go back to my old thinking and parenting style and sometimes I'm tempted to plaster this word GIFTED on the walls of our house just to remind me that my son is behaving the way he does because he is GIFTED. There was even a time when I wanted to put a sign on my eldest son's forehead that would read: "Mom, I'm GIFTED!" I need to remind myself that he's not the typical child.

I need to remind myself that he's not being disrespectful or disobedient or arrogant when he's intensely negotiating for something that he wants, when he's insisting to read one more book or play for 5 more minutes (which usually goes beyond that time), when he can't stop right away what he is doing or he can't follow my instructions or commands.

I need to remind myself to be extra patient with him when he's being hyperactive in situations where people are expected to be prim and proper and when he's being loud in places where people are expected to speak softly.

I need to be extra patient with him when he can't make his hands quiet and behaved even though he has been through occupational therapy for years and that 'quiet hands' has been part of the house rules ever since.

I need to be extra understanding with him when he is being overly eager and impulsive and not asking permission to do things that adults should be doing for him given his biological age.

I need to be extra patient with him when he can't turn his mind off and he finds it hard to go to sleep in the afternoon or at night and he seems to have more questions when it's time to sleep.

I need to be extra understanding and loving towards my son when he is being overly sensitive in many ways because he's not over acting or magnifying things into unreasonable proportions. He's simply being true to his emotions.

The word GIFTED would mean differently for every parent of a GIFTED child since there are many ways by which giftedness is manifested.

However, I think that parents of GIFTED children will still agree that not all children are GIFTED. Sometimes, even when you don't know the clinical definition of the word, by simply observing a child or by talking to a child for at least 5 minutes, you would come to realize that he/she is GIFTED.

I hope that by writing this post, I would be able to help raise awareness on the special needs of the GIFTED, especially gifted kids, and that parents of gifted kids would be able to find support in one way or another from other parents of gifted children and from the people who are closest to them. Being a parent is hard. Being a parent to a child with special needs is extra challenging. Recognizing this group's unique needs by acknowledging what the word GIFTED means is one way of showing your support.

How We Celebrated the Feast of the Archangels

I was supposed to write this post yesterday after our storytelling session but I felt tired and sleepy after my husband showed us a video about angels. ;)
Let me share now what we did yesterday to how we celebrated the Feast of the Archangels.
First, I guided the boys in hand painting angels. I got this idea from Catholic Icing. But instead of using canvass or fabric bags, we used blue bond papers in painting Saints Gabriel, Raphael and Michael. We also used a potato to paint the face instead of using a sponge.
Mateo, my 2-year-old son, painted St. Gabriel. I asked him to use yellow paint for St. Gabriel's clothes to symbolize the happy and good news that he announced to Mama Mary. I initially wanted to use white paint for the angel's wings but I discovered that there is very little white paint left in our supplies. It was just enough to make our dark blue paint lighter. So, we mixed the left over white with the dark blue paint and used it for the angels' wings.
Mateo's hand prints.
Yanthy, my 5-year-old son, painted Saints Raphael and Michael. He was excited to paint St. Michael because he wore St. Michael's costume last year during our homeschool group's All Saints' Day party. I asked him to use red paint for St. Michael to symbolize courage since he led the good angels in fighting the bad/fallen angels.
Yanthy's hand prints.
I asked him to use pink paint (we mixed white with red paint) for St. Raphael's clothes to symbolize that we can get back to the pink of health after this saint brings us God's healing touch.
I explained these symbolisms briefly to the kids before we worked on our hand paintings.
The kids used their hand prints to paint the clothes and wings of the angels.
Then, we air-dried them while we had lunch and they had their naps.
I guided Mateo's hands in adding glitters to his Archangel.
When they woke up, I asked them to finish their art work by adding a halo, glitters to the angels' wings or clothes and by writing the names of the Archangels and their names on their art work. I drew eyes and a smile on the faces of the angels.
Yanthy writes the Archangel's name and his name on his art work using crayons.
Mateo proudly shows his masterpiece.
After that, the kids played in our garage before we had dinner and prepared for Mass.
My husband arrived just in time before the Mass so we were able to go to Mass as a family. Yanthy noticed that St. Raphael was holding a staff in the photo shown at the beginning of the Mass. So I explained to him why during our storytelling session before bed.
Before bed, we told the boys stories about the Archangels beginning with a review of the Annunciation and St. Gabriel. Then, I told the story of St. Raphael and how he helped Tobit and Tobias. Lastly, we told them the story of the fight in heaven that happened between the good angels and the angels who chose to disobey God.
After that, my husband googled some short prayers to the 3 Archangels and we prayed them with the boys.
He also found a video about angels so we watched it first before finally retiring for the night.   
That's it! How about you? How did you celebrate the Feast of the Archangels with your family?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

10 Tips on How to Raise an Author or Illustrator

I have shared in my previous post that our family attended workshops during the recent Manila International Book Fair. One of the workshops we attended was conducted by Zarah Gagatiga, a children's book author. I initially thought that the workshop was for adults but we found out on the day itself that it's for kids. Still, we were glad we went to attend it with our eldest son.

As I've mentioned in my previous post, the workshop became a one-on-one activity between the author and my eldest son because the other kids who bought copies of her books left right away. We, however, lingered even after we had our copy signed.

I think it was a blessing in disguise that I made a mistake and thought that the workshop was for adults and that the workshop became a one-on-one activity. I eventually discovered that the activity had a big impact on my son. But before I go ahead and tell you why, let me share what Yanthy and Zarah did during the workshop.

First, Zarah showed him some slides when she was younger and she showed him some picture/illustrated books as part of her presentation.

Then, she taught him the basic elements in writing a story: the beginning, middle and the end.
My 5-year-old pondering on what story he would write.

After that, she gave my boy a bond paper, a pencil and some coloring materials. She folded the paper and wrote page numbers on it. She also wrote on the 'book cover.' She explained to Yanthy that the 3 pages would be the beginning, middle and end of his story.
Then, she asked Yanthy what he wants his story about.

The story that Yanthy thought of that morning was about their toy dog. He shared his idea with Zarah and she in turn encouraged Yanthy to draw/illustrate his ideas. She also helped him out in illustrating his thoughts. After sketching/drawing on his 'book,' Yanthy colored it with crayons. 

Yanthy obviously enjoying the activity. Mateo looks on.
After the activity and after I found out that there is an adult version of the Children's Book Writing Workshop in the meeting room upstairs that afternoon, my husband and I decided to make time for that workshop. We went there right after the storytelling and book signing activity of another children's book that my kids like.

Zarah Gagatiga's turn to speak.

There were three (3) speakers for the workshop but we got there late so we were able to listen to only two (2) speakers. The speakers were also children's book authors. The third one was Zarah Gagatiga, children's book author, school librarian, storyteller and President of KUTING or Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting.

The 3 speakers during the workshop.
I thought that it was only me and my husband who learned and were inspired by the workshop. The second speaker (Eugene Evasco) spoke mainly in Filipino and some or many of the words he used were too deep that my husband and I had difficulty understanding some of the materials discussed. My husband even joked days after the workshop that there should have been an English subtitle in his slides. Still, his presentation was so rich that we were very grateful that we attended the workshop. My sons kept reading the new books we bought at the fair (downstairs) during the workshop. Sometimes, they would look at the screen and the speakers. I did not think that he and his younger brother were really paying attention because the speaker was speaking in Filipino that is quite challenging to understand.

Below are some of the slides used in the workshop by the second speaker.

We went back to the book fair right after the workshop.

Yanthy's book cover.
The following day, my son got a piece of bond paper again and he had it folded in the same way that Zarah folded it for him. He also wrote page numbers on the three pages. He said that he will write a new book. I was pleasantly surprised!

I observed him and engaged him in conversation.

Since it has been raining in the past days and the news was about floods, Yanthy thought of writing a book about the rain and flood. I interviewed him about what he plans to write in his new book.

I noticed that he was working confidently on this project. I think the one-on-one workshop served him well. He was imitating the steps that they did. He also got some of our new books and looked at the front covers. He used them as his guide or reference for his book cover. He said that he wanted to be an author and at the same time illustrator like Kuya Jomike Tejido. Jomike Tejido is the children's book author and illustrator of Jepoy the Jeepney Series whom we met at the book fair. We also learned in the workshop that we attended that he has already illustrated many books. The second speaker showed some of the books he has illustrated. I discovered that Yanthy was paying attention to the presentation/talk also because of his comments while he was working on his latest book. I was also amazed that he noticed that the book authored by Zarah Gagatiga (My Daddy! My One and Only!) was also illustrated by Jomike Tejido. I missed that detail but my boy took note of that. He even reminded me and showed me the book so I would remember.

Yanthy's latest story.
Yanthy finished his new book and proudly showed it to me and his Dad. We took pictures of it. Then, when my mom came to visit us days later, my son proudly showed 'his books' to her, telling her that he authored and illustrated those books.

Let me now share some tips that I have learned so far from my own personal experience as an author and as mom of this aspiring author and illustrator.

1. A future author usually starts as a book lover or an avid reader. I think this is the first thing that usually happens. A child falls in love with books first and learns to appreciate the illustrations in the books that he/she reads.

2. Parents can help develop this love for books and reading in young children even at an early age by providing for them an environment where books are easily accessible. 

3. Let your child's imagination soar through pretend and unstructured play and storytelling activities. I spent a lot of time imagining and daydreaming when I was a child. I wove many stories in my spare time. I used my journals or my toys as I wove these stories. I see this happening in my child as well. He makes his own stories as he plays pretend on his own or with his younger brother. I actually enjoy listening to him as he plays and tells his stories. You'll learn a lot about how your child thinks and processes information by simply listening to his stories.

4. Make papers, pencils, crayons and other drawing and coloring materials accessible also for your kids. Let them doodle and draw to their heart's content. My son and I both grew up having writing, drawing and coloring materials available for us. I spent many hours in my childhood sketching whatever caught my fancy. My son gets to write or doodle a lot. There was even a phase when he would draw and doodle on our floors and walls.

5. Let them enjoy creating their own books. Let them make mistakes in the process. Just observe them work. Do not criticize their work. Refrain from correcting their work (grammar, spelling, punctuation, storyline, illustrations and colors of objects). Too much criticism at an early age can discourage a child to explore and try out this adventure. Let him/her work on his story first. Editing and refinement can come later. Remember that authors can always hire editors afterwards.

6. Give your child opportunities to meet authors and illustrators. Although, my son sees me work at home a lot, it also helped and inspired him to meet other authors and illustrators, especially of children's books.

With children's book author, Zara Gagatigia.
The boys with Kuya Jomike Tejido.
7. Let your child attend workshops where he/she can develop and hone his/her skill. You'll never know how a workshop or seminar would impact his future career.

8. Praise your child for trying even if his/her work is not exemplary. Offer constructive feedback gently and at the appropriate time when the child is older and ready. Don't give this too soon so as not to discourage the child. Give the child a chance to dream and have fun dreaming and pursuing his dream first. The next stage is gaining the skills necessary to fulfill his/her dream.

9. Support your child's interest by providing the materials that he requests for his book projects. 

10. Make the adventure child-led. Don't pressure your child to pursue this path. Let him take the initiative/lead in pursuing this path. Take cues from him. Although I'm an author, I do not force my son to follow in my footsteps. I let him pursue his own dreams. If he wants to do the same things that I do, it's up to him. So far, he shows interest in the kind of work that I do. He likes the same activities that I engage in. I take cues from him. If he wants to learn more and if he shows readiness, I provide whatever he needs and wants at the moment. 

Yanthy and me during my book signing activity
for Breastfeeding: A Journey Worth Taking.
Hope these tips help you and your aspiring author and illustrator!   

Friday, September 26, 2014

Our Adventures with The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I've been trying to get a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar board book ever since I learned about the book; but only paperback editions or small board books were available whenever I was in the book stores to check its availability. One time, when a big board book was on stock, I hesitated when I found out about the price. I thought of waiting for a sale before buying a big board book for my kids.
Then, announcements were made about the dates for the 35th Manila International Book Fair. I checked one of the local bookstores (Fully Booked) where I know this book is being sold. I checked the available stocks and their prices. I took note of the versions that I'm most interested to get for the boys. I also hoped and prayed that the book would be on sale during the fair.
I included Fully Booked as one of our priority booths to visit this year during the MIBF. I'm glad we did check this book out during the fair! Although the big board book was not available at their booth when we visited, a staff offered to check the availability of stocks from the Fully Booked branch in Mall of Asia. The great news is that a big board book was available and it included an audio cd of the story (read by the author himself). The regular price for the board book that we got was P640. But it was also part of the sale so we got the book at 20% discount! I was so happy! As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait! I'm thankful that their staff went the extra mile by getting in touch with the nearby branch so we could still purchase our desired book at the size that I wanted.

You can read more about our MIBF experience here.
The boys and I wasted no time in enjoying our new book. We read it the following day after we bought our copy. We also listened to the author tell the story. Then we did some activities as we reread the story in the days that followed.
If you have small kids, you might want to try the same activities that I did with my boys. They surely made our storytelling sessions more fun!
The first part of our activity was hand-painting cut-outs of what the caterpillar ate in the story.
1. First, I drew the food that the caterpillar ate on a white board using a pencil. 
2. Second, I cut them using a pair of scissors.
3. Third, I guided the boys in painting the cut-outs using their fingers. We also mixed some paints to get the colors we needed. To make our painting activity less messy, we covered our dining table with used paper and had wet wipes and rags close by.


4. After painting all the cut-outs, we air-dried them while the boys took their naps. I also added some details on the cut-outs using a black sign pen when they were already dry.
5. As soon as the boys woke up, we read the story again. This time, we used our painted cut-outs. I handed the boys a puncher. I told them that as the caterpillar eats something in the story, they will take turns punching holes on the cut-outs. The boys enjoyed doing this! What they did was punch a hole on the food cut-outs that they themselves painted. They were proud of their work!

We had the second part of our activity the next day.
6. The following day, since my mom visited us, we asked her to make a caterpillar for us using a green yarn, which we planned to use in lacing/threading the hand-painted cut-outs.
7. We read the book again. This time, the boys were excited to thread the cut-outs using the crocheted green yarn that my mom made. Again, they took turns lacing/threading cut-outs that they themselves painted. The boys proudly showed their grandma the cut-outs that they painted.

8. After our storytelling activity using our new props, I tied the ends of the green yarn to secure the cut-outs and prevent them from getting lost.

9. Lastly, my boys sang a caterpillar song. They spelled the letters in the word BUTTERFLY by singing it. So, now even my 2-year-old knows how to spell BUTTERFLY!
My plan is make two more caterpillars using different materials next time -- one would be small while the other one is big. Watch out for our next adventures with the very hungry caterpillar!
Have you done some activities with your kids that were inspired by this book? Feel free to share it in the comments. Would love to learn from you, too.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Our #MIBF2014 Experience

The boys holding their precious finds
from the Adarna booth.
I wrote about my plans on attending the 35th Manila International Book Fair in my previous post here. But my original plan did not push through because of Typhoon Mario. My original plan was to bring the kids to the book fair last Friday for our field trip. But Pagasa sent out an advisory placing Metro Manila and other provinces/areas under Red Alert. I was afraid that we'd get stranded somewhere because of floods so I decided to stay home instead on Friday.

Good thing that it was also part of my plan to go to the book fair last Thursday afternoon. We planned to leave around 3 or 4 PM but the package that I scheduled to be picked up was not picked up until around 4:30 PM. So we got to leave the house around 5 PM already. We were trying to catch the weekday Mass in the church beside SMX but because it was a rainy day and the rush hour has begun, we had a hard time getting a taxi ride and we eventually got caught in heavy traffic. Sadly, we missed the Mass and arrived at the SMX Convention Center just before 7 PM.

We stayed long at the Lampara Books booth
because the boys loved playing at Barangay Pag-asa!
We even met the author and illustrator of the book that evening.
We wasted no time and headed right away to the booths that I listed as priority destinations. We quickly bought the books in our priority list, had some photos taken and moved to the next booths in our list to look for the books that we wanted to buy. Praise God that even with very limited time that evening, we got to find and buy all the priority books in our list! I was already paying for the last book on our priority list when my husband called me that he's already outside the convention center with our vehicle waiting for us.
Our first day loot from the #MIBF2014!
My 5-year-old with his new World of Flags poster
that we found at Fully Booked's booth
and globe now displayed in his study area.

The following day, when I woke up and learned that there's a storm, I cheered the boys instead by reading some of the books that we bought from the book fair. Even though classes were suspended that day for all levels, we had our homeschool lessons using our newly-bought books.

We used these books as homeschool materials
last Friday while there was a storm.

We went to Mass also that evening and prayed that the weather condition would improve the following day so we can go back to the book fair and attend the workshops that were scheduled the following day.

God heard our prayers and we woke up to a sunny day last Saturday morning. We hurriedly ate our breakfast and got ready to go to SMX!

Book signing for Ngumiti si Andoy.

Just like in our first visit, we went to our priority booths again. Our priority booths were divided into tiers. We went to the booths in the second tier last Saturday. We also bought the books which were next in our priority list.

Happy to find a book on the young Jose Rizal from the Vibal booth!
We went to the activities and workshops that we planned to attend. Most important to us were the storytelling session and book signing activities with the Author and Illustrator of the Jepoy the Jeepney Series, Jomike Tejido. 

Yanthy's one-on-one workshop
with author Zara Gagatiga.
We also attended the Children's Story Writing Workshop by Zara Gagatiga. She's the Author of the book My Daddy! My One and Only! I initially thought that the workshop was for adults but it was for kids. So, my eldest son was the one who participated in it. It became a one-on-one workshop since the other kids who bought copies of the book did not stay for the workshop.

Had our copy signed and a photo taken
with the author.

Our whole family attended Lampara's Story Writing Workshop last Saturday afternoon as soon as we had our books signed by Jomike Tejido. 

Book signing with the author and illustrator
of Jepoy the Jeepney Series.

My husband and I learned a lot from the workshop. I have already written a few manuscripts of children's storybooks and the new things I learned will definitely help me fine-tune them.

The speakers at the workshop.

We hurriedly went to the mobile planetarium set up near the stage area right after the writing workshop in one of the meeting rooms. Thankfully, we already had our tickets printed so we were able to watch the free movie before we left the book fair. The movie that we watched was about the birth and death of stars and the telescopes launched into space to take photos there. Very timely for our science lessons also based on our Space Book. (You may read about my book review of this book here in one of my previous posts.) 

After watching at the mobile planetarium. 

Our second day loot from the #MIBF2014!

We still didn't have enough time to check out the other booths in the book fair. There was so much to explore with very little time! I didn't even get to say hi to my author friends who had scheduled book signing and book launching activities at the fair. I was one busy mom during the book fair! Since we had other appointments for Sunday, we were no longer able to go back yesterday. At least, we got all the books I listed that I wanted to use in our homeschool and we got them at discounted prices. We will definitely come back next year to buy more books, homeschool resources, search for educational toys, meet other authors and illustrators and attend workshops. Who knows, I might even launch a book there next time if God wills it!

Did you also go to the 2014 MIBF? Feel free to share your experience in the comments.