More Open Courses

It is exciting to see the proliferation of online courses from universities across the country and around the world. The most recent offering was announced last week, with course selections beginning in the fall of 2012, which is a collaboration between Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). You can read more about "EdX" at

At least one of these open courses offers a certificate upon completion, although none awards a degree. But if you're interested in some in-depth knowledge about a particular subject, this is the way to go. For more information about which universities offer open courseware, a good start is with the blog DIY Learning, which has posted the top 50 collections.

Shining Light on Giftedness

We at TalentIgniter wish to highlight SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted), which recognizes that gifted individuals have different intellectual and emotional needs and works at educating others in how to deal effectively with those special needs. So we encourage members of gifted families to attend SENG's 30th annual conference, which will take place in Milwaukee July 13 and 14. Learn more here:

SENG's conference is a unique venue for educators, parents, and mental health care professionals to come together to learn, discuss and connect. There will be more than 40 educational sessions presented by noted experts on key themes that include misdiagnosis and twice exceptional; education; parenting and grandparenting; gifted adults; and multicultural outreach.

This is a family-oriented event complete with interactive programs for children and teens, ages 8 to17. It's a great way for your children to socialize with other gifted children while learning about themselves.

Mensa offers newsletter for kids

We have often directed our readers to the Mensa For Kids websites. And now Mensa for Kids ( and the Mensa Foundation are offering Bright, the smartest monthly enewsletter for kids ages 6-10.

Every issue is full of fun games, puzzles, activities and factoids specially selected to encourage children to learn, explore and think in new ways. Regular features include games of logic, math, spatial relations and word usage; science features; activity ideas and “edutainment” programs; and feature stories courtesy. (For example, March’s issue includes brain bending trivia from American Mensa’s annual CultureQuest® event, tips on how to become a mad scientist, comics and word games.)

It’s easy for all your favorite young people to subscribe. Current Mensa members can subscribe at, and nonmembers can visit and follow the links under “Bright Newsletter” (parental permission for nonmembers under 13 is required). The most current 90 days of issues are available on both sites, and PDFs also are available for download and printing within each email issue.

Support the Mensa Foundation and programs like this at

Rethinking Giftedness

Children who show early talent in music or athletics often are identified and supported in order to develop their talents. Why is this attitude more rare in the cases of children who show academic promise? Yet we know that the academically gifted need opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills just as much as athletes and musicians need opportunities to develop their talents.

Rena Subotnik, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius and Frank Worrell write in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, about Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education: A Proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Science.

Homeschooled Character in Fiction

When our friend Leslie Schultz was first homeschooling her daughter, Julia, she said she could not find any realistic fiction for kids where at least one of the characters is homeschooled. Although that has changed over the past five or six years, she decided to write a book of her own. The result is "The Howling Vowels," published by Do Life Right, Inc. and illustrated by Heather Newman.

The story centers around Alexa Stevens, a 10-year-old homeschooler who has moved with her family from New York City to Sundog, Minnesota. Her growing circle of friends include Eduardo, Isabelle, Otto and Ursula.

Read more about this book on Schultz's web page at

Perfectionism in the Gifted

There are a number of behavioral traits that are common in gifted children. Perfectionism is one of those traits.

Dr. Sylvia Rimm, an acclaimed author and speaker who has a blog about raising kids, has recently published an item called "Gifted Kids Can be Perfectionists." In the blog, she touches on some of the reasons gifted children are perfectionists, and then lists 12 ways to help mitigate these tendencies.

This link was also featured in the March issue of our newsletter. Please visit our archive to read about other resources for and about the gifted.

Working Together to Save Our Schools

Is real progress is the U.S. education system virtually unobtainable? After WWII, the U.S. had the highest high school graduation rate in the world. But now we rank 18th out of the top 24 industrialized nations. And every year more than a million students drop out before graduating from high school.

In the article Collective Impact (Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011), John Kania and Mark Kramer look at some of the barriers that impede progress in our schools.

Regarding this article, Dr. Ruf says: "Like many of the people I know, I am an educational crusader. But slight differences in pet causes, belief systems, viewpoints ... can lead to a disorganized and ineffective approach. We all read the interviews and recommendations and start to disagree with one point or another and wonder why no one asks us what we think. This article is like a template as to how to do a better job by working more effectively together. I’m going to read it and reread it. Thank you!"

Annual Scholarship for 7th Graders

Applications are now available for the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program. This is a highly competitive national scholarship program that is open for academically talented 7th graders. If awarded, the scholar will be given academic and financial support through high school and college.

Please visit the program's website at for more information. The deadline for submitting applications is April 16, 2012.

Dr. Ruf to Speak March 10

The Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented (MCGT) and the MCGT
Homeschoolers Chapter will host a joint event, the eighth annual MCGT
Gifted Education Resource Fair and second annual Gifted 101
mini-conference. The event is this Saturday, March 10, at the Edina Community Center.

There will be three workshops available during the Mini-Conference, each presenting at 9:00 a.m. and again at 1:00 p.m. Dr. Ruf will speak on levels of giftedness; Thomas Greenspon will speak on perfectionism and how to deal with it; and Teresa Boatman will speak on young gifted children. The sessions will be geared to parents who are new to the world of gifted.
For more information, visit the MCGT website at

The Edge: Thinkers Thinking

To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.

This is the theme of The Edge Foundation, which was launched in 1996. It is an online, informal gathering of intellectuals that encourages and facilitates discussions on deep topics. Every year a new "annual question" is posed. This year, 192 intellectuals have responded to this question: What is your favorite deep, elegant or beautiful question?

Here is the explanation for this question as posted on The Edge's website: Scientists' greatest pleasure comes from theories that derive the solution to some deep puzzle from a small set of simple principles in a surprising way. These explanations are called "beautiful" or "elegant". Historical examples are Kepler's explanation of complex planetary motions as simple ellipses, Bohr's explanation of the periodic table of the elements in terms of electron shells, and Watson and Crick's double helix. Einstein famously said that he did not need experimental confirmation of his general theory of relativity because it "was so beautiful it had to be true."

To read all 192 responses, go to The Edge Foundation's website at, where you can also sign up to receive by email.

Is Ritalin a Good Idea?

In her many years of working with the gifted, Dr. Ruf has seen many families where a teacher has suggested that a child has some form of Attention Deficit Disorder and recommended medicating the child with Ritalin. In the vast majority of cases, what we find is that the bright child in question just didn't have enough to pay attention to. Changing the environment to one that was appropriately stimulating often solved the problems of disruptive behavior!

L. Alan Sroufe, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development, has recently published an article in the New York Times calling into question the efficacy of Ritalin on children's ability to focus. In Ritalin Gone Wrong (, he discusses issues that should be considered by anyone debating whether medication for their child is the right answer.

This article was posted in our February 2012 Newsletter. To get our free newsletters delivered monthly to your inbox, go to and subscribe.

A Primer for Parents New to the Idea of Giftedness

You may not even know if your child is gifted or not. But if you have a bright-eyed, curious child, "Keys to Successfully Parenting the Gifted Child" can help you.

In downloadable PDF format, it is interesting and readable. The authors, Dr. Deborah Ruf and Dr. Larry Kuusisto, write for parents who are new to the idea that their children might be intellectually advanced or gifted. The book addresses important parenting issues, including what to actually tell your child about his or her giftedness, how schools approach learning differences, best ways to provide emotional support, sibling rivalry, and more. To see what else is included in this book, browse the Table of Contents at

World Education Games 2012

Imagine students from all around the world spelling the same words, solving the same math problems, and answering the same science questions. That's what will happen on World Spelling Day (March 6), World Maths Day (March 7), and World Science Day (March 8). Each official competition runs for 48 hours, for as long as it is March 6, 7 or 8, respectively, somewhere in the world.

Students (including homeschoolers) play at home and at school against other students around the world in live games. Each game, whether in spelling, math, or science, lasts for 60 seconds and students can earn points for up to 100 games. There are 5 different levels of play, 20 games on each level. The students who answer the most questions correctly appear on the Hall of Fame.

Registration begins February 1 on the site, it is quick and easy, and participation is free of charge. Visit the World Education Games 2012 website at for more information.

A book about dealing with bullies

"Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain (Laugh And Learn)," by Trevor Romain (1997).

Millions of children deal with bullies every day. The author offers this book as self-help for kids, with cartoons offering clear and helpful advice.

See what else our reviewer has to say about this book at

Why Do So Many Gifted Kids Think They Don't like Math?

Why do so many bright and gifted kids think they don't like math? Experience and the reading of lots of research leads me to believe that boredom, under-instruction and poor instruction throughout elementary and middle school lie behind the problem.

My best girlfriend since high school is a math teacher north of Philly. We've talked about this a lot. She and I are both aware that our own math instruction lacked a lot. As I give IQ tests, too, I see something that I thought many people would be interested to know. As those who have read the work of Benbow and Lubinksi, among others, know, math-reasoning ability has a huge ability spread among individuals of the same age. Even when kids are ability grouped, there tend to be outliers—people who are truly math geniuses compared to other really bright kids—in the top group. My friend Pam and I were not math outliers but we were 99th percentile people in math. Having an outlier in your class is a problem for self-esteem and confidence related to math. What I see really missing in math instruction for high ability kids who aren't outliers is twofold:

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