As I write this, my husband and I just finished watching Only the Brave, the movie detailing the events surrounding the death of the Granite Mountain Hotshots - the nineteen elite firefighters who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.  The first half of the movie is the firefighters seeking to prove they have the experience to become “hotshots.”  Once they do, the superintendent has enough experience to see that they are in imminent danger, but there is no escape path.  It’s a truly heartbreaking recount.

    Earlier in the day, I took the final two high school students who needed to qualify for speech regionals to competition.  Both were suffering from extreme anxiety about speaking publicly.  Oddly enough, both had experienced success in previous years in public speaking events.  

   Experience is a funny thing.  Fresh college graduates hear again and again, “We want someone with a little more experience,” and they wonder how they will ever get that experience if they cannot get the job.  

   I don’t have a definitive answer on how to get that experience, but I do know that gifted kids need to be exposed to a multitude of experiences.  While colleges like to see a potential student stay with one experience for an extended period of time, they are equally happy about the student who has been involved in many activities.  Your gifted child fits that bill.

   Several times during my son’s high school years, I offered him the chance to go back to public school.  His answer was always that he could not be involved in as many activities there as he could at our school.  He and Bria did everything.  Band and vocal music, student council, class officers, honor society, art, speech, cooking, robotics, drama, dancing, foreign language… if we offered it, they were involved!  I so see where those experiences have made them outstanding in their chosen fields.

   The really cool thing about gifted kids is that they are usually really good at juggling multiple activities and at doing them well.  I used to worry that my students would not be able to pull it all together for our end-of-the-year musicals, but not one group of gifted kids in the last fifteen years has let me down.  

   As the parents of gifted kids, please give your children as many experiences as you can.  Let them try it all… within reason, of course.  After all, you become the financier and the chauffeur for all these experiences.  You can only do so much!  I hear parents worry about their kids become overcommitted.  The only kids I’ve seen let responsibilities fall by the wayside are the ones allowed access to their video game consoles and devices without limit.

   I believe I have more-than stated my disdain for the experiences the Internet affords.  I will never be a fan of “virtually” experiencing life.  I do not understand how children can be allowed to have their faces glued to a screen non-stop.  Heck, some are even encouraged to while traveling with their parents.  These same parents wonder why their now-driving-teens cannot find their way out of a box.  They’ve never looked up, Mom and Dad.  

   Every experience is an investment.  Don’t let a device become the pacifier for your young child, don’t allow your teen to retreat to his room every evening till bed, and don’t model either of these behaviors for your children.  Their lack of experience will be their downfalls.  Those of you exposing your children to travel and new foods and activities and conversation:  keep up the great work!  Our school is designed for your children, and we gladly come along beside you in offering your child truly great experiences!

-       Michelle