Free Time: Critical for Gifted Children Who Engage in Philosophical Thinking?

“Is this a monoculture?” My daughter was four years old when she asked this question as we were driving through a rather large city on our way to an event where my band and I would be performing. I was not surprised by her use of the word, it was from a line in our song written from the perspective of a dandelion: “I don’t fit in your monocultured world…” But to hear a young child ask the question while surrounded by traffic and tall buildings, knowing her penchant for natural outdoor spaces where her imagination could run free, took the whole band by surprise. “Yes,” said the bass player looking out the window, “I suppose it is.”

There is a chapter by Deirdre V. Lovecky in the book Off the Charts: Asynchrony and the Gifted Child edited by Neville, Piechowski and Tolan that speaks to young gifted children being natural philosophers. It is full of examples of some of the complex questions that you might hear from a young gifted child regarding things like time, the nature and origins of the universe, and why we only see one image through two eyes. They are questions that may surprise us considering the age of the child but also signal to us the amazing process by which these young minds formulate an understanding of the world. This is where the gift of free time is so important.

Lovecky asserts that we “need to allow them plenty of opportunity to explore the natural world without giving them predefined answers” as this may “limit thinking because new directions the naive child might take are cut off prematurely.” p.142. She means without the TV, video games and computers that are detrimental to this exploration. A better option for free time would be “common household objects or old-fashioned toys, such as blocks” in addition to “reading extensively or being read to from books with complex language” which can also promote “complexity of ideas.”

While it can be a breathtaking experience to take part in a philosophical exchange with gifted child, the process of forming paradigms based on concepts that evolve out of abstract thinking is complex and can become an emotional minefield for these children when they attempt to navigate the world through these “untested” and sometimes rigid paradigms. This is where the really challenging work of parents and teachers begins.

First they need us to talk about their interesting ideas. This can be pretty taxing on our free time! But as these curiosities evolve into developing paradigms, Lovecky reminds us that “caring adults can help them discover their own internal resources while providing the intellectual, emotional and moral support the children need so they can integrate reasoning and compassion into wise moral choices.” p.143. Seeing the connection between the questions and the paradigms can take a lot of time and understanding.

Ten years later, my now 14 year old daughter tells me how my mother’s farm is her second home. She has a pretty special connection with her grandmother who knew at the age of five, despite growing up in the city of Berlin, that she was destined to be a farmer. There are no pesticides on my mother’s farm but lots of diversity in her garden and her ideas…and a lot of free time. All in all, a pretty safe and stimulating place for an introverted young girl to explore her place in the world with a caring adult who has seen so much.

Check out more perspectives on free time in this month’s blog hop by clicking on the icon below:

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6 responses to “Free Time: Critical for Gifted Children Who Engage in Philosophical Thinking?

  1. Off the Charts was fantastic. Thanks for this!

  2. Really great points about the importance of free time, play and the opportunity for relaxed exploration. The farm sounds like a great place for your daughter to discover nature and who she is.

    • A farm kid myself, there are things I learned there about interconnectedness that continue to shape my understanding! A great playground for budding philosophers!

  3. I grew up on a chicken farm, but I was seldom allowed to go near the animals. Nevertheless, I enjoyed playing on a small lawn just outside the house. Unfortunately, my children don’t get to do that because farms are nearly non-existent in our country now.

  4. It’s difficult to imagine the degree to which my world view has been impacted by what I learned as a child on the farm. When I studied in Japan in the early 90’s it became very clear to me how the vastness of my northern Alberta landscape impacted my thinking. I loved the opportunity I had to experience the difference in landscape and it’s influence on our paradigms.

  5. The book ‘Off the Charts’ is available direct from the publisher Royal Fireworks Press: http://www.rfwp.com/book/off-the-charts-asynchrony-and-the-gifted-child

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