It has become ever so clear to me that children will find any way possible to practice and challenge their gifts. Perhaps I should back up a moment. When I think "gifts", I contend that each and every child is born with gifts. The challenge of education is to provide an environment in which each child can discover and develop their individual gifts. Under those circumstances, children will naturally flourish, awash in their particular giftedness. In fact, I am finding that kids will push the issue as much as their environment allows.
Rhubarb's gifts typically fit into the category of all things physical. When outdoors, she tackles nearly every sport as if she was born to do it. There need not necessarily be a connecting thread to these sports. Biking. Running. Swimming. Gymnastics. Horse-back Riding. Throwing a ball. She's good at it all. When indoors, she manifests her physical gifts through music and crafts. She is so good at violin because her physicality is far beyond that typical of her age. Where a lot of "gifted" violinists have to work to get their musicality to catch up to their grasp of music theory, Rhubarb has to work to get her grasp of music theory in line with her musicality. She learned to knit when she was 5. She started sewing and needed very little instruction. She picked up some embroidery recently and started embroidering as if she had done it in a previous life. It seems that the medium for her physical gifts is less important to her than the ability to express her physicality. Given the chance, she flexes her physical gifts with every possible opportunity.
Recently, Eggplant watched water mix with ice and create steam (I was filling a warm water bottle with ice, followed by water). An hour later, he'd drawn up plans for a car powered by the steam made from ice and water. Later that evening, he spent time at the library with HotNerd finding books on hydroelectric power, cold fusion, and car mechanics. He proudly exclaimed upon returning from the library, "I want to be Henry Ford, except with water!" Now, the passion for an ice water powered car has waned a bit since then, but his passion for engineering and inventing grows daily. And he is good at it. When his sisters need a piece of furniture for their dolls, he starts the process off with a design and labors until they have a usable piece of furniture. He designs cars on paper with the gusto of a mad scientist, tossing rejects and completed designs alike into the air as he moves onto the next design. At 22 months, home from Haiti just one month, he could successfully change the batteries in his toys. At three years old, he figured out that all the doors in our previous home stuck because the builders had left screws in the plates that they should have removed. When we walk to the park, he looks under cars to figure out how they work. He stops drivers of convertibles at stop lights and asks them to put their tops up so he can watch. He asks fire fighters and police officers to show him the insides of their vehicles and explain how they work. He is constantly greasing the wheels of his engineering gifts. I have no idea how it will appear when he is older, but I have little doubt that his brilliant understanding of all things mechanical will serve him well in life.
And then there is Blueberry. She's going to be the topic of a whole new post, both because this one is getting long and because of the way her gifts tend to consume her every waking moment.
Suffice it to say, I truly believe that every child knows (at some point) what it is that drives them and attempts to strengthen the skills necessary for that passion any way they can. As those skills are allowed to develop, they blossom into gifts. More accurately, IF those skills are allowed to develop, they blossom into gifts. The trick here is serving the "If". Every child has it in them.