That Mom

When my son’s kindergarten teacher said to me ‘I think its because he’s gifted’ that’s all I heard. I was in car line and honestly wanted nothing more than to peel out to get home to tell my husband – she thinks our child is GIFTED!!

Doesn’t that sound amazing?

Little nutIt wasn’t until years later, reflecting back, that I realized she had just given me a laundry list of bad behaviors – something we had been dealing with all year, that preceded the words ‘I think its because he’s gifted’. It would take me a long time to put these puzzle pieces together.

The next few weeks another mother, finding out that my son had been labelled gifted and being much further along on her journey than I, started chatting me up in the corridors while we waited for our kids to get out of school. “CHALLENGE my child” she would complain, often loudly enough that I felt embarrassed. “Why doesn’t anyone provide any services for these kids?” she would lament in front of others. She was vocal. She was in the faces of the teachers, and the administrators, she didn’t seem to mind what other people thought when she said her child was gifted.

I was concerned about how I looked to others, I didn’t want people to think I was bragging. I didn’t want to stand out and be noticed and be vocal and loud. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ mom.

Instead I quietly watched as my son made it through kindergarten (whew). Then in first grade, every day was a ‘how was his behavior today?’ day. In second grade I found myself trying to explain to his teacher why he was refusing to write anything on his math tests – “just give him harder work” I pleaded (oh, I’m starting to sound like ‘that’ mom).

“We can’t do that. They have to work within the second grade curriculum. Besides, he won’t prove that he knows how to do this work, I can’t give him harder work yet.”

He was moved to a ‘gifted classroom’. The rest of second grade went by…we made it (whew). Third grade was the same old story. Every email, every time my phone rang, my stomach sank with dread. When I was faced with ‘yes, he is being called names, yes, he is being excluded and yes, he is being laughed at but, really, he brings it on himself’ I tried to work with the teacher and with my son to see what we needed to change. When I met with administrators and I could see their contempt for my child dripping from every word that came out of their lips, I tried to make them like me – maybe if they liked me and knew that I was trying really hard they wouldn’t be so hard on him.

When I saw my precocious, energetic, confident 8 year old start to turn pale, have crying spells for no reason, start to retreat into himself and not want to talk to anyone, I was terrified. When I saw that same child come home from school with a fury of energy and “build” his own library in his room, complete with library cards for every member of our family I was elated! I came to find out that the librarian at the school had offered to let him spend some time there every day – reading and shelving books. He was on cloud nine. But then his teacher insisted that the only way he was going to be allowed to take advantage of this offer was if his behavior was 100% perfect – not one complaint. And of course, he never got to go. Ever. Again. That’ll teach ‘em.

ER quoteWhat no one seemed to understand was that he needed something different. He is wired differently. He wasn’t able to do what they needed him to do because they weren’t giving him what he so desperately needed. We ended up pulling him out of school.

Man I wish I could have been ‘that’ mom – her kid is still in school. She is doing something right. She is so much braver than I was.

So if I could offer up one trick that I wish I known from the beginning, one tip that could have saved us all so much heartache or one tool that I know every parent of any child who is different –  any parent of any child at all, needs to have in their arsenal, I would say to be brave. Be more brave than you ever thought possible. Be the brave that you imagine you would be if you had to go up against 400 pound black bear to protect your child. Be the brave you are when you know, in the deepest pit of your soul, that you could lift a 16 wheeler and toss it the length of a football field if it meant that your child would have the opportunity to live the life that you wanted for them. Don’t worry about what other people think. Be bold and courageous and brave. Be that mom for your child.

This article is written as part of the May 2014 Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop.

Click on the graphic below for more Tips, Tricks and Tools for Gifted/2E Kids.

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A Checklist For Exceptional Education

One of my posts Why Parents of Gifted Children are Turning to Homeschooling, generated some very heated comments. One very passionate teacher had this to say:

I do love my job, but I am making plans to leave it. The problem is that I just cannot meet all of the demands I’m under without compromising individuals’ experiences, and my own failure to reach some of these kids is emotionally damaging me in ways I could have never anticipated before I took on this career. Today, I had a surprise walk-through evaluation in one of the most
hectic weeks of my career (5 brand-new students, one on an IEP, one with a 504, and one who speaks no English and whose language is so rare my translator app cannot accommodate her- I teach freshmen English). Despite this week’s thousands of challenges, I was conducting a wonderful lesson in which each student took part in enlightening their peers in an investigative research report. The kids were quiet, well-managed, respectful, and they had impressive projects. I was so proud!

The principal, in the four minutes he stayed, did not see several of the checklist requirements within those four minutes of student presentations, and I got a mediocre review. His biggest criticism? A student was wearing a hat when he walked in. I have 150 students throughout my class in a day. I have noticed when they are depressed, high on drugs, hurting themselves, or in violent moods. But I did not take care of that hat. I get a mediocre review.

We aren't just failing our students, we are failing our best teachers too.

We aren’t just failing our students, we are failing our best teachers too.

We aren’t just failing our students, we are failing our best teachers too.

I think her story strikes at the heart of what we are struggling with in education right now. We feel the need to measure everything with checklists and data. The problem is, the things (I think) we want from education aren’t so easily measured.

We want innovators, leaders, creators, critical thinkers, and hard workers. We want people who are going to change the world, who are going to lead in science and technology and arts and humanities, who are going to be able to tackle the big problems currently facing our planet. We want students to be confident and bold, compassionate and caring.

Faced with a hectic week and several unexpected curve balls, the teacher focused on what was important and led her class through a lesson. A lesson that resulted in impressive projects. In one period, she was able to give those students an example of innovation, leadership, and hard work. She modeled how to be confident when faced with challenges, and when she was proud of what they accomplished, the students experienced genuine compassion and caring.

She led by example, she was a role model.

But what she did wasn’t on the checklist, so she got a mediocre review. I think anyone can tell just by the paragraph she wrote above, she is not a mediocre teacher – she is what our school system needs more of.

Great Teachers Inspire

Great Teachers Inspire

 

We need to inspire curiosity, we need to empower students to take risks and make mistakes instead of penalizing them for doing either. We need to give children time to pursue their own interests, we need to teach them how to set goals and how to achieve them, we need to teach them how to value each other and how to lead effectively, we need to teach them how to co-operate, how to embrace or at least entertain radical new ideas, how to think critically and how to believe in themselves. We need to let them soak up great literature, we need to give them space to enjoy and understand art, we need to show them history – show them how it helped, hurt or changed the world, show them how we learned from it and how we can use it to create a better world going forward.

And just how can we do that?

We have to trust each other more. We have to hire great leaders who can inspire our teachers to empower our children. We have to believe in them and recognize that this doesn’t always translate into high standardized test scores. We have to spend money on art and PE and music and nutritious food, not on big corporate testing contracts or empty initiatives with fluffy names. We have to care more about students than we care about test scores and we have to value teachers who are creative and compassionate and who try to make learning about more than getting test results.

 When we are able to let go of standardization, when we are able to see children as people and not as statistics, and when we value teachers for their ability to nurture learning and inspire questions rather than memorize answers, then we will have education that can accommodate all different learning styles, speeds and abilities. Then we will have a system that will accommodate the diversity in our children instead of trying to stamp it out.

Is It Time To Think About Regular School?

Regular schoolIt was a Wednesday, and, because we had drama classes and ice skating lessons, my son was the only one of my three children that had done any school work AT ALL that week. And he had only done 60 minutes of math.

But Wednesday we had the whole day. No errands to run, no activities, no co-op, nothing on the schedule. So I was sure we would get lots done.

By 2:00, only one child had done anything; 30 minutes of math.

At 3:00, I sat down at the kitchen table where my son was eating a pear (he called it lunch). It felt like I had failed in every area – I couldn’t even get a proper lunch going. I tried not to cry and I tried not to make it sound like a punishment when I said, “maybe it’s time to think about regular school”.

The protests started like sirens –  this wasn’t what I was looking for at all. I needed to curl up in a ball, cover my head and pretend to live in a magical kingdom where laundry didn’t exist and all children have nannies. But I had caused this upset I owed it to them to at least listen to their pleas of why they needed to continue to homeschool. Part of me wanted them to be right (like the toenail on my baby toe part of me) and the rest of me, right at that moment, wanted them to want to go back to regular school.

I explained my concerns. I didn’t want to have to fight, coerce, cajole, beg, plead and bribe them to get stuff done. I wanted (needed) them to be invested in this process too. I couldn’t have them wandering around not learning anything.

“Mom, we haven’t not been learning anything (I cringed, not only at the double negative, but also at the confirmation that the irony of its use drove home). I learned about golden ratios this week”. I stared at him blankly, this wasn’t helping to convince me as I wasn’t sure what the heck that was.

My daughter said “I’m doing double digit division”. They continued,

My classroom2

“We learned all about The Grand Canyon because we went there and then you let us make a diorama and a power point presentation.”  (I let you?) “I wrote an essay for that project mom! And I learned about the water cycle because I asked you what H2O meant and you told me to look it up and I did.” (You did?)

“And I learned about Leonardo Da Vinci from that library book, and we learned about fossils, and we spotted that Mourning Dove today and we found out what it was called from our Feederwatch project.”

I got out the puzzle with the US states on it at this point. Thinking to myself, but your cousin knows where all of the states are on a map.

We quietly began working on the puzzle. My daughter said to her brother “do you remember the European Starling we saw the other day?”

All was quiet for a bit and then my daughter said “I just learned that Hollywood is right next to Arizona. That’s cool.”

My son looked up, “See mom, we’re learning all the time, even when you aren’t teaching us.”

I guess you are.

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This post is part of a blog hop on the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.

Click here to see more posts like this one!

Why Parents of Gifted Children are Turning to Homeschooling

gifted kids leaving school

Tell someone that your child is gifted and they’ll probably roll their eyes. They might wait until you’re not looking, but eyes will roll.

Tell someone that your child is at risk for not finishing high school, more likely to struggle with depression, at an increased risk of suicide, or even more likely to be incarcerated than the general population, and you’ll probably get more concern than eye rolling.

Of course most parents of gifted children realize that I’m saying the same thing. But many people have no idea.

Many people feel that the label of gifted is unfair – that is somehow implies that children who do not make often arbitrary sounding cut offs on IQ tests or other criteria are not smart, talented or in any other way special. And I would agree, it does imply that, and that has done a huge disservice to everyone, gifted children included.

The problem is that the label ‘gifted’ sounds a lot like ‘has gifts’. This problem is compounded by the addition of “and talented” to many gifted programs. So little Johnny goes in for testing for the “gifted” and “talented” program. Turns out he didn’t make the cut off. So now, as a parent what I’m hearing is “little Johnny has no gifts and is not talented”. See how I might find that off-putting?

The reality is that gifted kids are often difficult to understand, can be overly sensitive and unusually excitable. They can have a very hard time with injustice or unfairness and they think in ways that can make them hard for other children to get along with. They are often extremely intense. They can find themselves turned off of school completely after facing too many long days of being bored, and forced to be taught things they have already learned. They can struggle with depression, understanding big, heavy issues like poverty and world hunger on a profound level, but lacking the life experience and maturity to be able to cope.

Don’t get me wrong, they can also be amazingly empathetic, fiercely creative, able to solve problems far beyond their years and have many other remarkable qualities. Their intensity can allow them to absorb vast amounts of information when something is interesting to them. But the semantic mishap that has called this condition ‘gifted’ has left these kids and their parents accused of elitism and demanding too much from an already stretched school system. Because they are gifted people assume that they will do “just fine” without the extra help and support that they truly need.

Many parents of gifted students know first hand, they don’t do “just fine” without the proper help and support.gifted kids leaving school2

Sometimes their boredom translates into disruptive behavior. Sometimes it creates apathy for school, or worse, hatred. Some kids  become withdrawn or even depressed. Whatever it looks like, parents know something is not working. Parents of gifted children advocate for their child, for acceleration, alternatives, some kind of enrichment so that their child can get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing: LEARNING.

A lucky few have full time gifted programs that their gifted child can attend.

Some are given pull out classes. Once a week for an hour their child can move into a higher grade level of math or science.

Many are told that they could access some enrichment, that the school could provide alternatives that would engage this child better. But first he has to learn how to behave, that if he can’t do what is required of him in the classroom now they cannot even consider accelerating or enriching his curriculum. This is like offering to give medicine to a sick person on the condition that they get well first.

Others are told that, because their child doesn’t have a diagnosis, they really can’t do anything for him. Some are even told to go and “get” a diagnosis, so that funding can be allocated for their child’s education.

At some point along this path, many parents of gifted children find themselves exhausted and out of options. Needing to find some way to meet the needs of their children, homeschooling emerges as a viable alternative. Homeschooling offers the gifted child time to really explore their interests, it allows them to move freely through subjects that they grasp quickly and gives you the opportunity to address their unique set of needs.

Of course homeschooling comes with its own set of challenges, and its not for everyone. But for those of us who have spent time and energy trying to get our square pegs to fit into the school system’s round holes, the responsibility and effort of homeschooling, while at times daunting, are a welcome reprieve.

Are You Qualified to Teach Your Child at Home?

Are you qualified picRecently, I heard a teacher compare homeschooling your children with choosing not to take them to the doctor and (her words) “doctoring them” at home. Her point was of course that in order to teach one must have teaching credentials. I love teachers and have many teacher friends. I truly believe teaching today has to be one of the toughest and important jobs there is. NOT everyone could teach a room of first graders how to read – that is what teachers are trained to do.  But can anyone with the means and the will teach their own child academics? Can anyone can teach their own child at home?

Currently, the laws in most states say that you can. Many states only require that you state your intention to homeschool, some require some test scores and/or a professional evaluation of student progress, but only a tiny few require any kind of qualification of parents. So for most Americans, if you have the means and the will, you can legally homeschool your children.

The means and the will.

What does it take to satisfy the ‘means’ of this equation?

There is a commonly held belief out there suggesting that you need to have a two parent intact family where only one parent works. However, there is a ton of information out there showing that this simply isn’t the case (see Pamela Price’s book How to Work and Homeschool). Single parents who work while homeschooling? It can be done. There are also a ton of free or very cheap resources out there for homeschoolers, so satisfying the financial means does not require a six figure income.

But what about the intellectual means?

I don’t think there are a ton of people out there who would agree with our teacher friend from the beginning of this post. First of all, the comparison between teaching and medicine is ludicrous.

And secondly, as I mentioned before, teacher training would be a necessity in a classroom setting, but at home with your own children? No, I don’t think most people would say that there is a need for that.

But should we hold homeschooling parents to a certain standard before allowing them to school their own children at home? Can someone with, say, a GED, teach advanced chemistry? Can a high school dropout teach foreign languages? Can someone without a college degree teach advanced high school mathematics? Can someone with a college degree in English Literature teach advanced chemistry? The list is endless and clearly parents can’t be all things to all subjects.

The internet has become such an amazing resource for homeschoolers that they literally can find anything they need with the click of a mouse. And you can purchase curriculum in nearly every subject. There are free online courses in many subjects and public online high schools abound. So would teaching an advanced subject be problematic for a homeschool parent who doesn’t understand it themselves? I don’t think it would for a parent who places a high value on such study, assuming they have the ability to seek out and utilize the tools necessary.

But what if one is not motivated enough, or does not place a high enough value on a high school education to get one themselves? Are they going to impart to their children the view that education is not important? What about the parent who does not have the capacity to seek out the information they need to teach, or the ability to teach it?

I guess I would argue that the parent who does not place a high value on education is going to affect their children regardless of whether they send them to school or not. And anyone who does not have the capacity to seek out the information needed to homeschool would be unlikely to undertake homeschooling in the first place.

So are you qualified to teach your child at home? I believe that you are, but I would love to hear what others have to say.

Gifted is Not Always a Gift

Jennifer Charboneau:

Too great not to share…

Originally posted on unnecessarywisdom:

When we hear the word “gifted” we usually think of someone who is extremely intelligent, has remarkable talents or an unusually high IQ. Most people think of being gifted as, well, a gift. It certainly is, to some extent. You learn new information quickly and easily. You pick up new skills with ease. You excel in several, if not most, areas of your life. But being gifted is incredibly difficult and comes with a variety of issues and complications that are rarely observed or addressed. It’s not always a gift.

I come from a family of extremely intelligent and talented people going back several generations. They accomplished world-renowned feats in science, art and education. These talents have been passed down for several generations now. My biological mother graduated medical school and college simultaneously. I was considered gifted and earned multiple awards and scholarships, graduating from high school early. Now I…

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Holiday Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Children

holiday graphicSometimes the holidays don’t feel like ‘holidays’ at all. For gifted kids they can be tougher than normal days. Gifted children can have a hard time with everything from clothes to noise to lights to crowds to foods to expectations and just being ridiculously excited. When holiday time happens it usually means spending a lot more time with other people, whether they are coming to your house or you are going to theirs…whether they are coming for dinner or staying for a week. It can also mean parties and crowds and loud music, which for a gifted child can sound like no fun at all. And if your gifted child is an introvert or is anywhere on the sensory processing spectrum it can be downright nightmarish.

We’ve been through it a total of nine times and counting, and every year we get better at it. So here are a few of my best tips and tricks for surviving this holiday season.

Sleep

Surprising right? Of course not. We all know how important it is, so I won’t waste time on it. This is your reminder.

Nutrition

See sleep above. You know it and I know it so just make it a priority.

Keep them in mind

Don’t forget about your gifted child when making crazy plans. If you promised you would read four chapters of Harry Potter but you know that after nine hours of shopping you will be too tired to read four chapters of Harry Potter then don’t shop for nine hours. Keep the promises you make and be aware of how your schedule affects them. You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way. I have heard from many other parents that other family members can make them feel the most pressured and other family members are who they are most afraid of offending. Talk it out with them. If your family is anything like mine they’ll probably tell you its fine (then they’ll wait until they are all together and you’re not there and talk about how crazy you are). But at least you’ll get what you need. And if that doesn’t work, think in terms of compromise. If being over at your parents’ house from 8am until 8pm causes meltdowns and winds up being no fun for anyone, then skip one end of the deal; tell them you’d love to come for dinner OR come over in the morning but you just can’t do both. Or go for breakfast and presents and then go home for a few hours (if that’s feasible) or go for a long walk in the snow or drive around to look at Christmas decorations pop over to a friend’s house. Then come back later in the day refreshed and ready to handle the second leg of the journey. Whatever gets you through.

Set them up for success

This time of year we are all busier than usual and this is one thing that almost every year I let slip by me at least once. Tell them where you are a going, what’s going to happen (I mean no need to spoil the Santa surprise here or anything, just a general idea), and what is expected of them. If you know there are going to be things that bother them, talk about it beforehand and come up with a plan. If too many people upsets them, find a way to give them some space. Take a walk or bring a book with you and ask Grandma if they can have a little spot to be alone and read for a while. If your child likes using code words those have worked well for us in the past. For example, my son is a ‘texture’ fusspot when it comes to food. So he’ll eat some people’s mashed potatoes but I’ve seriously seen him gag trying to eat others – its all in the minute differences in texture. So when we are eating a Christmas dinner somewhere else he can use the ‘code’ word to tell me discretely that he’d like me to take his potatoes off his plate. (He gets that grossed out if they are “wrong”). I think the code word thing works so well because they feel like they are in on some fantastic secret with just you. Or you can plan ahead and just not put potatoes on his plate. Whatever gets you through.

Being alert to changes and heading disaster off at the pass

When things move or change in a different direction, keep an eye on your kiddos and watch for subtle changes that may mean you are on the road to meltdownville. When you see that coming it might be time to make an exit, or if that’s not appropriate, sneak out for a ten minute walk and give your child some one on one time and a little quiet time without the noise and people so he can calm himself down. It’ll also help because if it starts to happen again he’ll know he can come to you and you can problem solve together.

Perspective

Try to zoom out of December, look at the big picture. This is only a few weeks of the year, remember to look outside of all the craziness hopefully you can make decisions with a calmer head and not get caught up in “perfection” or trying to do it all. Sometimes I can find myself feeling pressure because its a ‘special’ time of year. Remember that everyday is special, and whatever greeting card memory you don’t get to recreate, you will have 335 other days of the year to make amazing. Don’t burn yourself and your kids out with expectations – you don’t actually live in a snow globe, so you won’t actually look like that family on the Hallmark commercial.

Reciprocate

If friends and family aren’t supportive of the little extra accommodations you need for your child, then you are not obligated to be supportive of the little ‘extras’ that they expect for the holidays. For example, above I mentioned bringing a book and asking Grandma if there is a quiet place to sit and read for a bit. If having that conversation with Grandma is going to result in her giving you the gears and if it ultimately is too much for you to ask, then don’t go. Or go, but leave early. My point is simply that making yourself and your child miserable isn’t doing anyone any good. Try your best to just do what works for you and let go of the guilt. This is your time to make memories with your child, prioritize the people who make you and your child a priority and ditch the rest. I know, I know, there are just some situations where this doesn’t work. In that case, have an extra eggnog and keep smiling – January is right around the corner. Whatever gets you through.

What about you? What do you do to survive the holiday season? We could all use some fresh ideas, so please share!

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Homeschooling your Gifted Child

Homeschooling gifted blog post

Homeschooling a gifted child can be summed up in one deceptively simple word: intense.

It will be intensely challenging,  you will be intensely exhausted, they will intensely fight your efforts to stay on task or stick to any kind of a schedule, they will react badly if you cannot stay on task or stick the schedule that they hate with intensity, they will fixate on a thing with such intensity that you will be sure they have left this world entirely, and most of all homeschooling your gifted child will be intensely rewarding.

Why consider homeschooling a gifted child?

Homeschooling a gifted child comes with all the benefits of homeschooling all children. You will enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle, you won’t have to defend your child to teachers that just don’t ‘get’ him, you can enjoy travel or spend time doing other things because school won’t take you seven hours a day. But gifted children have a unique set of needs that the current public school system is struggling to meet. Gifted students process things differently, and that can mean that a math lesson that is 45 minutes long can be learned in 5 minutes. It can also mean that a science lesson that is 45 minutes long leaves them yearning to explore the topic more deeply and creates a preoccupation in them that makes it difficult to sit still and pay attention for the rest of the day.

There is ample research supporting the fact that compaction and subject matter acceleration work really well for gifted kids. The problem in a school setting is that they both require an intense amount of time spent on each individual student.  With compaction the idea is that the teacher will assess what the student knows and then teach to fill in the gaps. This sounds simple enough, but when you have twenty or more students, this suddenly becomes an exercise in infinite workloads.

Another option that works well for many gifted children is acceleration. If whole grade level acceleration is appropriate for a child then the public school system can accommodate that quite efficiently. However, often subject matter acceleration is more appropriate. A gifted child can be working two or three grade levels ahead in math while still working at their grade level in other subjects. Some school settings do accommodate subject matter acceleration, but as with compaction, it requires an increase in workload – something that is difficult to get out of an already overtaxed system.

If you are in a situation where your school can’t or won’t accommodate your gifted child, homeschooling can be a great alternative. With homeschooling you can use both acceleration and compaction. You can make information more compact if he or she understands it, and you can move ahead at your leisure – you don’t have to wait for the next school year to start the next school year’s math. You don’t even have to wait until your kids are done this school year to allow them to learn something that is several years ahead. They can feel free to explore their own potential. I have noticed with my own gifted children that they have an uncanny ability to fill in the blanks. In math this can mean learning several skills simultaneously. Learning multiplication facts while learning fractions and decimals. (Or maybe its learning multiplication facts because they are learning fractions and decimals, maybe one skill somehow helped them with another?). Whatever it is, homeschooling allows them to do more of it.

An additional academic advantage to homeschooling a gifted child is the ability to accommodate the gifted child’s areas of interest. If they want to spend a week exploring anti-matter when they should really be learning about division, that’s usually okay. The learning style and speed of a gifted child means they’ll typically make up for lost time quickly. If a spark is ignited when he or she learns how to do basic algebra, you can let them do as much as they want. If they pick up Huckleberry Finn and just can’t put it down, you don’t have to make them. The love of learning and the thirst for knowledge that, it seems to me, is innate with the gifted mind, can truly be accommodated by homeschooling. By pushing that passion into the 45 minute boxes that we call school, we often extinguish it.

One non-academic reason for homeschooling your gifted child is that gifted children tend to prefer to be around people of all ages. They are more likely to relate to a person who is their age intellectually or socially in a given situation. This doesn’t always mean they need to be around older children; sometimes asynchronous development leaves them behind in one or more areas and they are more comfortable with younger children. Either way, more variety of ages then is typically is allowed in school settings can be very good for gifted kids.

How to homeschool a gifted child?

There are many methods of homeschooling and different curricula and approaches, what you do in that department really comes down to personal choice. From my own experience homeschooling gifted children, I can tell you that there are three things that keep me sane. When things start to feel like they are unraveling (and they will, trust me), these are the three things I always come back to to get us back on track.

1. Scheduling. That’s right, we need to have a schedule. I know of tons of homeschooling parents that don’t , but we do. And then we have to be ready to abandon it at a moments notice. My experience has been that my kids need to know what we are doing when and for how long. My son will hold me to this as if it is tattooed on my forehead and my daughter will forget it the moment I tell her what it is. But they both need it before they can settle in to doing any real work. On the flip side, if we stumble across something that captures that intense desire for more, we had better be ready to abandon it, or what makes them love learning is lost.

2. Keep them moving. This one might be just so that I can catch my breath, and try to figure out how the heck I am going to find more information on tectonic plates and still have time to sort something out for dinner, but it helps. I find a way to get them some exercise everyday. If they tire themselves out, when its lights out time at night, they are better able to turn off their brains and get some much needed rest.

3. Take care of yourself. I know I know, you’ve heard it before. But it is so important and so true it is worth repeating. Do you know why, when you are on an airplane, they tell you if the oxygen masks ever come down to secure yours first, before securing your child’s? BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF YOU CANNOT TAKE CARE OF OTHER PEOPLE. This is not just a “you deserve a break, give yourself a gold star” moment with a bunch of smiley faces. This is a necessary part of taking care of anyone. If you don’t do it you will run out of oxygen and then the people who depend on you will be left to fend for themselves.  Homeschooling a gifted child can at times feel like you are constantly pouring liquid into a bottomless vessel. Their thirst for knowledge can exhaust you very quickly. Take care of yourself so that you can continue to fill up that vessel.

This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop. For more blog posts on this topic click here.

For more information about homeschooling check out the book Modern Homeschooling – a comprehensive look at how homeschooling has moved into mainstream society in recent years.

The Glorification of Busy

“I have to pick up one child at school at 3:10 and be across town – a 20 minute drive, with another and have her ready in her leotard for Ballet for 3:30, then I have to race back and get the third one to a scout meeting for 4:00 and then back to the dance studio to pick up the second one for 4:15 and then get over to the other side of town for the first child’s football practice that goes from 5 until 7. At some point I have to leave there and grab my second child from scouts at 5:30. After 7:00 I still have to get dinner, homework and baths done!”

She says this as though these horrifying conditions have been imposed upon her by some higher power that would mandate that, unless her and her children are running ragged all day every day, she is not fulfilling her motherly duties. And she is looking at me as though I should be impressed. I’m not. I feel sorry for her and her kids.

But what’s really going on here? Do some parents really feel that their children need all that? Or is this some kind of strange competition for busiest parent of the year? Are these schedule run-downs that seem to happen any time you ask “what have you been up to?” their way of excusing themselves from the PTA? Or that play date you talked about six weeks ago? Or just making sure you know they aren’t lying around eating bonbons all day?

I try really hard not to judge other people’s parenting. But I have to ask, what is the benefit of having such a packed schedule?

What does this teach our children? Do they hear that, for time to be well spent it must be spent doing some formal activity? What would they do with themselves if they had some lengthy span of unscheduled time?

What values are we imparting during this mad dash? How are we cherishing our time…or theirs? Are we suggesting that we, as parents, have very little to teach them ourselves so we have to rush out at every opportunity to pay someone else to teach them something? Or even that every usable minute should be used to learn something?

I used to think it was an over-indulgence of the child’s requests for extra curricular activities, but having heard parents complain about how their children detest piano lessons or how hard it is to get them to pay attention for the entire dance class, I don’t think it is. I’ve also heard parents comment on how well their child ‘held up’ given the grueling nature of their schedule, or what a ‘trooper’ they were for having endured it. I think it holds some kind of value to the parent, not the child. A status symbol, or the ability to partake in a discussion about nearly any child related activity from experience. Maybe its a justification of what they ‘do’ as a parent, a strange sort of accounting for their position as mom or dad. A way to feel that not working outside of the home is justified, or a way to feel that working outside the home doesn’t negatively affect their children’s lives.

Whatever it is, I don’t share their admiration of their own impossible schedule and their insane quest to fulfill it.

I treasure family dinner times, together, at the table. I adore when my kids want to show me some crazy game they invented or some contraption (like the “exercise machine” they recently invented…a box, tied to a string, tied to one of their ceiling fans. Turn the fan on and it chases you and you run…voila, exercise machine!). I crave the days when they beg me to read just one more chapter of Magic Tree House and I’m not completely exhausted and I kind of want to know what happens next too, so we do. I love to do something we hadn’t planned on doing, or call some friends over on the spur of the moment for game night.

That’s not to say that we don’t do activities, we do. We have skating and scouts and karate and gymnastics, and next semester we’ll have a handful of things that take us from here to there. But we choose carefully and treat our time with the same care and thoughtfulness that we give to anything that we place a high value on in our lives. And when we do get to skating or scouts or gymnastics, I want them to enjoy it, not endure it. I want them to be ready, rested, well-fed and clear minded. We only get a finite number of seconds in this life, and I would rather cherish every one of them, then be so busy scheduling them all that they race by in a blur.

Staying Home and Being Social

Homeschooling’s #1 critic is socialization. Socialization has literally kicked the crap out of homeschooling in the mainstream psyche for the past hundred years or so. But homeschooling has a new ally and socialization did not see this one coming.

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, I’m a blogger, I send emails, I text and, occasionally, I even talk on the phone. Before I’ve even had my second cup of coffee in the morning I have contacted, spoken to, informed, and conversed with dozens of people, maybe more. I work out of my home, and my husband does too. Mind you, no one has ever called us unsocialized.

Now that my kids are homeschooling it comes up all the time. What about socialization? Aren’t you worried they won’t be socialized?

There are some people who would argue that socialization has never been a problem for homeschoolers. That may be true. I went through the ‘regular’ school system so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that my kids are homeschooled and they have more opportunity to socialize now than they did in school.

That’s a pretty bold statement and I’m sure some people are doubtful. But hear me out.

At school they had to sit in a room full of people that they weren’t allow to talk to for a good deal of the time. They got 15 minutes to eat lunch (eat fast kiddos) and then 30 minutes to play. They were also given another 15 or 20 minutes for recess (if that wasn’t taken away as a punishment). These were definitely social times (except for that 15 minutes that they had to eat – how much socializing can you do when you need to scarf down a sandwich and a piece of fruit in 15 minutes?). Then, of course there were times throughout the day that they were able to work on projects with other kids and class discussion, that sort of thing. But the rest of the time they spent lining up to go to another classroom or listening to instruction/lectures and being shushed if they were caught chatting with their friends.

Now they spend about 3 or 4 hours a day actually buckling down and doing school work (much of which we access online). When we head out during the day to hang out with other homeschoolers (we can find tons of groups online with the click of a mouse), we are gone for 2 or 3 hours – and all they do is socialize. We do that at least 2 or 3 times a week. They are in more activities than we had time for when they were in regular school and we still have time to sit down and eat dinner together every night. Add to that the fact that they can Skype with their friends and family, that they connect on Minecraft servers and that they still hang out with kids who live near us when those kids aren’t in school and I really think we’ve got ‘regular’ school beat on a quantitative level. But when I think about the quality of their interactions now I am even more pleased with what we are doing.

My kids have a much more varied social life than they used to. The homeschool groups we meet with have tons of members and when the kids find other kids they connect with we make more of an effort to join in the activities that those kids are joining. Because they have more time for activities they are meeting more kids from other schools and other districts. Because of technology they are connecting with people in different states and different countries. Because we have more time in general, they have chosen to keep in touch with kids they met on our recent travels. They are being exposed to all kinds of people from all walks of life. They have met kids who homeschool because of medical issues, or because of developmental disabilities. They have met people who live totally different lives than they do and it has changed the way they see the world.

So yes, we are staying home and being very social. And they are getting an education in life to boot.

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