Infinity and Zebra Stripes: Life with Gifted Children

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9780910707817: Infinity and Zebra Stripes: Life with Gifted Children
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All children deserve an appropriate educational challenge but frustrating barriers and unexpected surprises often prevent this from happening. This is why parents need to speak up and effectively advocate for their children. In Infinity and Zebra Stripes, Wendy Skinner shares her family's story of struggle and eventual success in working with the school system to meet her children s needs. Enlightening anecdotes of the author s experience demonstrate strategies for minimizing parent-school conflict. Learn how to build trusting relationships with teachers and administrators, and how your voice can change your child's life.

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About the Author:

Wendy Skinner lives a stone's throw from Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, two gifted children, a dog, a gerbil, and a goldfish. She earned her B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Colorado. As the quintessential career substitute teacher, Wendy has taught nearly a decade in bilingual, Spanish immersion, special education, and regular classrooms in every grade and nearly every subject. She also teaches writing part-time in a nontraditional fifth/sixth-grade mixed classroom. When she is not teaching or advocating on behalf of gifted children and their families, she spends her time with her family, writing, and selling cut flowers at a farmers market during the summer.

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Prologue

Our very bright young son was just seven years old. We had just recently moved him to a new school because he was bored and unhappy in his other school. Now he was happy and excited about learning again.

He always fell asleep late, seeming to need less sleep than the rest of us. One night early in March, his brain was going full strength until nearly midnight. He had just seen a "Bill Nye the Science Guy" television show featuring the topic of evolution. Math was his favorite subject, and he also had been thinking lately about the concepts of zero and infinity. That night, those concepts collided in his brain with fireworks.

Thump. Pad, pad, pad. His dad and I could hear his footsteps while we lay under the covers reading. I checked the clock. It was 11:28pm.

Knock, knock, knock. "Come in, Ben," my husband said. Ben opened our bedroom door and crawled up on our bed with a sheepish grin.

"Can I tell you something?" he asked. He scooted up close to us on his knees. "I know I'm supposed to be in bed, but this is going to keep me up until five in the morning!"

"Go ahead, Ben," I said with a sleepy smile. "If it will keep you up until five in the morning, it must be pretty fantastic. What is it?"

His voice reflected everything from profound awe to giddy celebration. He began with negative numbers and the number one.

"You know you can always get back to one no matter where you are. You could be at negative 10 and add 11 and you'd get one. You could be at negative 1,000,000 and add 1,000,001 and you'd get one. You can always get back to one." Here he paused. "Now, how about infinity? You can never, ever, ever, ever get to infinity. Even if you take infinity minus 10 and add 10 back in, you can't get back to infinity. You just can't because infinity is infinity!"

Ben's enthusiasm swelled. "But now look at nature. Two plus five equals seven. Two plus five will always be seven. But black and white zebra stripes won't always be black and white. In a billion years they'll be different because of infinite evolutionary adaptations," Ben whooped...

His excitement was palpable. He was definitely not sleepy. He had been thinking about this and just had to share it with us. We shared his excitement about infinity, zebra stripes, and all the rest. This was truly fun.

Eventually I escorted Ben back to bed, but not before he made sure that we understood every detail of his discoveries. When I returned to our bedroom, Brian and I just looked at each other with eyebrows raised and big smiles on our faces. I leaped back into bed laughing and pulled the covers back up. "This kid," I said between chuckles, "has got to have more challenge in mathematics than adding five plus five."

This was our son. We enjoyed his love of learning. For a few years, we struggled over finding the right school for him. His younger sister is also highly gifted and different from her age peers. Although the two children are very different, our experiences with Ben helped us know what to do for Jillian.

I think that all parents of gifted children will relate to the joys and struggles we went through. And I think that all teachers will be interested in reading about the school examples and how we worked--sometimes more successfully than other times--with teachers and administrators using a teamwork model, not a pushy parent model, to appropriately accommodate our children's educational needs in the classroom.

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