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Chicago Gifted Community Center

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Welcome to our blog.   Please note that this page is open to the public, so any comments made by members will be visible to the general public also.  At this time, only members can make comments to the posts. 

  • August 01, 2020 7:18 PM | Pamela Shaw (Administrator)

    From what I have observed, it appears that schools spent much of the summer preparing for face-to-face or hybrid instruction, focusing on issues surrounding the physical safety of students and staff. However, with the uptick of the spread of COVID-19 around the country and slowly increasing numbers in Chicagoland, many schools have made last-minute decisions to return to all-virtual instruction. Our schools will have to quickly come up with plans for virtual learning that will last for several months, if not more.

    I am not new to online instruction, as I am beginning my ninth year as a Music Appreciation instructor at Illinois Virtual School (IVS), a public, nonprofit, supplemental course provider that offers courses to private, public, and home schools across Illinois. I also facilitate professional development courses for Quality Matters (QM), an international organization focused on providing quality online learning experiences. There has been great demand this summer for professional development courses, and I have been busy running workshops about the QM K-12 standards, teaching online, and designing online courses.

    It used to be that I would get quizzical looks when I told people that I taught online, but things changed this spring. However, what we all experienced last spring was emergency online instruction. There are many misconceptions out there about virtual instruction, and schools may not realize how much support will be necessary for teachers to be truly successful teaching online. I think it's a matter of "they don't know what they don't know." People honestly don't realize that online instruction is a very different kind of pedagogy with its own set of best practices. Hopefully, schools will see the need to provide specialized training, but until then, we may need to give teachers a bit of patience and grace as they move into a more long-term virtual space.

    If you are interested in learning more about virtual instruction from those who are specialists in the field, these are the best, most reputable resources that I am aware of:

    Quality Matters and the Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance are some of the major organizations in the field of K-12 online education.

    There is also a set of National Standards for Quality Online Learning, a cooperative effort between QM and VLLA, which replace the old iNACOL standards.

    Illinois Virtual School  offers self-paced courses about online and blended learning for a reasonable price. The Northwestern Center for Talent Development has been offering a series of webinars through the Illinois Association for Gifted Children and the Illinois Principals Association regarding online instruction for advanced learners. Northwestern CTD will also consult with schools.

    You might even consider passing along these sources of information, professional development, and training to the teachers and administrators in your life.

  • July 22, 2020 4:53 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    From the 7/22/2020 Davidson Institute eNews-Update: July 2020 . . . 

    Davidson Academy Online Campus Briefly Re-Opening 2020-2021 Application

    The Davidson family has always believed that young people should have access to an education so they can learn and achieve at a level appropriate to their abilities. This is why the Davidson Academy was created. Our admissions practices are designed to ensure that we accept students who are optimally matched to our deep and rigorous curriculum so that they are successful. 

    While we have a long-standing practice of accepting applications from August through early spring, we understand the strain that COVID-19 has had on profoundly gifted students and their families. We also understand that the demand for high-quality online learning is at an all-time high. Our team has been at work brainstorming ways to continue our support of profoundly gifted students and their families. As a result, we have taken the unprecedented step to launch a special Davidson Academy Online Extended Application for one week.  

    The application is open as of today, Wed., July 22, and will close Mon., July 27. See details here.
  • July 17, 2020 11:55 AM | Newenka DuMont (Administrator)

    I found this YouTube video called I am Gifted.  It is a 4 minute video about Asher Farris, narrated by Asher, who is probably about 4 years old in the video.  Watch the video here.

  • July 13, 2020 11:50 AM | Newenka DuMont (Administrator)

    Part-Time Homeschool: A Win-Win for Family and Community
    By Rebecca Berbaum

    Last year, my 12-year old son, Owen, opted out of public school science and social studies in order to dedicate that time and energy to reform our school lunch program. He joined our school district’s wellness committee, conducted research in our school lunchrooms, presented his findings to local teachers and administrators as well as to students across the state, applied for grants, conducted a district-wide parent survey, designed and 3D printed a lunch tray prototype, was selected to compete against adults in a health innovation contest, and initiated several changes through research-driven advocacy. 

    It would be easy to look at this list and get a picture of a relentlessly self-driven child, or perhaps an ambitious and overbearing parent. The reality looks more like a clumsy but rewarding path of mutual decision-making,  frequent re-envisioning, and submitting our obstacles to God in prayer. We stumbled through many attempts at time and task management. Sometimes he got so frustrated with his lack of progress that he gave up on his own great ideas, and I had to bite my tongue and accept this. Sometimes I pushed my agenda and made everything more stressful.

    In the end, though, this is what he had to say about his experience: 

    “It’s really uncommon to feel like the things you do impact more than just a few people, but I felt that I did make a difference in my community this year, and that’s a really good feeling, a surprising feeling. Even though some days were hard, it was worth it. I learned a lot of things that I wouldn’t have normally learned at school, like how to collaborate with adults and find the best way to achieve a goal. Next year I want to build on what I’ve already done and figure out a way to include my friends in tackling problems in our community.”

    Honestly, what I’m most proud of are not the accomplishments that are obvious to others, but the challenges we overcame together day by day, the little victories of hope and patience and discernment.

    Part-time homeschool? How does that work?                

    Owen was enrolled at our local public junior high school during this time. He took the bus to school, participated in elective courses, speech therapy, math, language arts, and band. There were significant upsides to this: 

    • He was able to keep school friendships intact.

    • He could continue to be influenced by other adults who cared about him and the content they were teaching.

    • School connections we're essential as resources for achieving his goals.

    • We were able to focus our time on the areas he was most passionate about.

    There were downsides, too:

    • He missed out on standards-based teaching in science and social studies. We covered some (quite memorably) but not all of those standards in this experience.

    • The extra trip back and forth from school was annoying for both of us. He attended the first 4 periods, then I picked him up for homeschool & lunch before returning for the end of the day. We often reduced the travel by spending our homeschool time at our local library or a nearby restaurant.

    You may be surprised to learn that in the state of Illinois, students are eligible to benefit from all or part of the free education offered to them through public schools. This allowance is dependent upon whether there is adequate space in the school (full-time students would get priority). 

    We’ve been participating in part-time public school with our children for 8 years. At first, our elementary school was not sure this would work. Our request was met with some resistance, but only because they didn’t know how they would report attendance, which has legal and financial implications for the school district. Once they were able to talk to a lawyer and work out the logistics, they accommodated our request.

    Our state requires that homeschooling be done by the child’s parent or guardian, but it does not require documentation or testing. Parents are trusted to decide what kinds of activities constitute “science” or any other subject. With that kind of radical permission, families have the opportunity to truly think outside the box, looking at the problems our children are passionate about as educational goldmines.

    This is nothing new

    If you’ve dipped your toe in homeschool literature, you know that there are others who’ve written about homeschooling this way. One of the early leaders of the unschooling movement, John Taylor Gatto, has suggested a student-led approach in his book, A Different Kind of Teacher, inviting homeschool parents to see themselves more like librarians (providing resources as needed) than like teachers. He and others, like David H. Albert (in his book, And the Skylark Sings With Me), have pointed the way toward community-based education, where students are supported by parents to find mentors and apprenticeship-like opportunities. 

    Many leaders in the realm of public and private education have also stressed the importance of student-centered approaches, especially inquiry-based and project-based learning. The Montessori model is known to embrace this value, but public schools have also made many attempts to integrate student-centered learning approaches (KWL charts, Genius Hour, etc.). Most of the teachers and administrators I have known believe that student-centered learning is a goal they want their schools and classrooms to work toward. However, the strict standards requirements have functionally operated more like conveyor belts than adventure maps, so students and educators have continued to feel pushed along a track that is less than ideal.

    We parents are often disappointed by this as well, but stepping off a conveyor belt is scary for anyone, especially when you wonder if that belt represents “progress” and if your child will be able to catch up with his or her peers after you’ve tried a different approach. Unless your child is having a catastrophic school experience, you might find it hard to step entirely away from the educational and relational constants provided there. Yet, that is precisely what happens in a high school foreign exchange program, which is often described as a rich, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and does not prevent students from re-joining their peers afterward. Replacing one or two subjects in the school day with intentional time for your child to address real problems in his or her community is not nearly as extreme but also of great value.

    Changing tracks

    A friend of mine once said, the key to homeschooling is to make sure you lay enough track (curriculum) ahead of the train, otherwise the train stops. That's wise advice, and generally I find it to be true. But the metaphor changes a bit when you're orienting your child's learning around a problem. There are many ways to approach a problem, and until you try them out, you don't really know which ones will be the most successful. That's part of the learning process. This type of homeschooling is like driving in the train yard, with lots of tracks side by side and track switches available along the way. You must lay down track in each one and always be ready to switch. This level of adaptability is generally easier for kids than it is for parents, but our thinking becomes more creative and flexible when we embrace these kinds of rapid-learning opportunities. 

    In our case, we started out with a primary goal of improving the nutrition of our local school lunches. The various tracks along this route included becoming experts on nutrition recommendations from USDA & AHA, doing in-house research on what parts of school lunch the kids were actually consuming, writing grant applications or requests for fresh fruit donations from local grocery stores, promoting improved nutrition policies on the wellness committee, etc. However, after my son saw how much trash was generated in the lunchroom, he became more passionate about the environmental impact of the school lunch program. We started to include that focus in our goals, too, and many more tracks opened up, including inventing a foldable reusable lunch tray that kids could bring to school in their lunchbox, use for their school lunch, and then bring home with any uneaten food.

    The key was revisiting our primary goals every week, choosing the tracks we were going to focus on that week, and using those tracks to guide the weekly task list. We also used file sharing (Google Keep) to archive articles, documentary recommendations, and other resources that could come in handy on various tracks. These ideas were included in our weekly collaboration to create the task list. On a daily basis, my son would look at the week's list and choose what to focus on for the day, crossing off tasks as completed. Sometimes, when we needed a little extra motivation, we'd commit to going out to lunch together on Friday to "check out" other healthy lunch ideas if all the tasks for the week were completed. 

    The essentials

    From my experience, here are the components needed for this to be successful. 

    1. A true passion
    Don't ask your child to pick a "topic" as if they were writing a report. Instead, consider a deep-seated concern your child has, and explore the possibilities of addressing that concern together. Write down all ideas. This is how the path forms.

    2. Buy-in
    Are you both fully committed to this? Have you decided how long this commitment is (semester, year, etc)? 
    Are other family members supportive? Do you have a routine in place for dedicated time to this issue?

    3. Goal-setting
    Set up short and long-term goals and revisit (or revise) them every month. Use those goals as the reference point for weekly or daily task lists. 

    4. Inspiration
    Everyone loses sight of the vision sometimes. Make sure you include ways to keep it fresh. Have conversations with other people who care about the issue, watch a on-topic documentary, celebrate the successes (especially the hard-won ones) in meaningful ways.

    5. Community
    If your child is addressing community problems, he or she needs community solutions. We needed the kids and staff in the lunchroom, the wellness committee, the teacher at the Jr High that taught 3D printing, the high school environmental science teacher, our friend with a nutrition certification, and of course the supportive administrators who accommodated us. Most of our community was adults, but as my son stated, next year we want to include more of his peers.

    If this is a path you are considering, I would challenge you to talk to some teachers or administrators you respect. Listen to their description of the educational ideal and embrace the kind of flexibility you have as a parent to do what teachers are too restricted to actually do. Stay close to your community and guide your child not to be "against" the problems as much as they are "for" the flourishing of the community. Doors are opened when you are seen as an ally, but they close when you are seen as an enemy. And this applies your relationship with your child, too. Be on the same team. Stay in his or her corner. Never shame your child for getting discouraged and giving up (which looks like stubbornness, sometimes). The reward of weathering the ups and downs together will be well worth the struggle. 


    Gatto, John Taylor. A Different Kind of Teacher. Berkeley Hills Books, 2001, p. 33.

    Albert, David H. And the Skylark Sings With Me.
    New Society Publishers, 1999

    McNair, Andi. Genius Hour. Prufrock Press Inc., 2017

  • May 08, 2020 9:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A rollercoaster. That is the one word that describes my experience as a 2e parent. My “ride” started 12 years ago when I noticed my 15 month old starting to speak in whole sentence instead of just baby talk phrases. I was amazed at his capabilities at that age, as I am today.

    Being a parent of a gifted child, you embrace the highs of their achievements and endure the lows, which can be dramatic. One of the most important pieces of advice I received was from a retired special ed professional was to “find your people”. When my son started Kindergarten and I realized the uphill journey he was to endure, that is exactly what I did!

    I went to any meeting that involved gifted and accommodating learning disabilities. I attended seminars and workshops, created a parent support group with another parent called SOS for 2e (Supports, Options and Solutions) and finally landed at the door steps of the Chicago Gifted Community Center.

    I have the honor of being elected President of CGCC this coming year. I am proud of this organization and our mission to help all gifted families and students create a community, so no one is without support. To me, the most important part of the rollercoaster is to have “your people” who you can talk to when things are going great and a shoulder to cry on and figure out solutions when it seems the world is crashing down on you.

    Since COVID-19, the world is a much different place and never has there been a time that a community for supports was needed more than right now. As I start with my new responsibilities, I want to thank Newenka DuMont, the past president, still active Board Member and a founder of CGCC, for her past contributions which are numerous. Lastly, I want to honor the mothers for the strength and determination that you display day in and day out. You are an extraordinary group of moms determined to make a difference. Enjoy your special day and below is a quote:

    “Be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart and strong enough to live the life you’ve always imagined.” – Happy Mother’s Day!

  • April 28, 2020 4:23 PM | Newenka DuMont (Administrator)

    I joined the board of the Chicago Gifted Community Center about 10 minutes after it was formed in 2011.  At that point my oldest had graduated from the Illinois Math and Science Academy and headed off to Harvey Mudd College and my youngest was taking a year away from public schools to learn exciting things before attending the local high school. 

    I have spent the last 5 years leading our organization. In this time I have learned a ton and I hope I have helped a few people understand their children just a little better. However, now the time has come for a change, and I am happy to announce that board member Carole Jones has assumed the presidency.  I will remain on the board and will continue as the West Suburban Coordinator.

    Please join me in welcoming Carole

  • April 18, 2020 9:58 AM | Newenka DuMont (Administrator)

    The National Association for Gifted Children has an entire array of very useful tip sheets for parents raising gifted children.  Their newest offering may be very useful to parents today!

  • April 03, 2020 3:44 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    From the Talent Development Cooperative website . . .

    KidsTalk is an online meet-up promoting mutual support and the sharing of insights and experiences of kids for kids. KidsTalk is a program of the family-centered clinical practice of Melissa Sornik, LCSW PLLC and was created to provide children and adolescents an opportunity to make connections while they adjust to the isolating impact of COVID-19. (The practice specializes in support, guidance and a range of therapeutic programs for gifted (including 2e) children, adolescents and their families. )

    We’ve been talking with many of our young clients and are impressed with the resilience, creativity and coping strategies they’re developing as they adapt to the “new normal” they are now living every day. They have thoughts, ideas and experiences to share with each other and we have created a safe, welcoming and positive online space for them to connect.

    Three one-hour online KidsTalk meet-ups are offered several times weekly for children and adolescents ages 9-17. There is a KidsTalk meet-up for elementary schoolers in grades 4 and 5, a KidsTalk meet-up for middle schoolers in grades 6 through 8, and a KidsTalk meet up for high schoolers in grades 9 through 12. Each one hour meet-up session will host 4 - 5 participants.

    Meet-ups will be supervised and supported by teacher and therapist Jacob Greebel, MEd, LMSW, who will ensure that all meet-up members are given an opportunity to participate comfortably in discussions that are meaningful, productive and positive. Topics will be kid-centered and will include sharing experiences, advice, recommendations and perspectives about home schooling, ways to beat boredom, exercise, developing new hobbies and interests, navigating interactions and relationships with parents and siblings in shared spaces, and different ways to stay connected with friends and extended families while practicing social distancing. KidsTalk meet-ups will promote creative problem-solving, kid-driven topics, and skills for building and maintaining social connections and relationships.

    There is a $25/per participant/per KidsTalk meet-up session.

    All Kids Talk meet-ups require a designated link to join.

    Program will begin the week of April 12th.

    Click here for complete details and registration information.

  • April 01, 2020 10:00 PM | Newenka DuMont (Administrator)

    My sister has been adventure homeschooling for three year. While homeschooling she, her husband and their three children (now 3, 6, and 10) have zigzagged on bikes across Europe, spend months skiing and  RVing across New Zealand. When the schools closed, many of her friends and acquaintances asked for guidance on how to handle their sudden homeschooling situation. I offer her advice to those looking for help.

    How to Minimalist Homeschool: You Can Do This! by Maneksha DuMont

  • March 29, 2020 1:20 PM | Newenka DuMont (Administrator)

    I am not the editor of our Weekly Update - this would not play to my strengths. But we have two excellent editors - Linda and Pam - who have been hard at work this week assembling an amazing link of resources for you!  I am so impressed with it, that I have linked it to this blog post for anyone who is not currently on our distribution list, and for those who have lost it in their email boxes.  

    March 19 Weekly Update

    To join our mailing list press the subscribe on our home page!  (scroll to the very bottom!)   

About cgcc

The Chicago Gifted Community Center (CGCC) is a member-driven 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by parents to support the intellectual and emotional growth of gifted children and their families. 

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We  are an all volunteer-based organization that relies on annual memberships from parents, professionals, and supporters to provide organizers with web site operations, a registration system, event insurance, background checks, etc. 

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