From amazing travel and adventure to early entrance to university, has homeschooling finally evolved enough for you to take it seriously?
Sometimes 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.
Surprising right? Of course not. We all know how important it is, so I won’t waste time on it. This is your reminder.
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.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
We’ve all seen them. Oddball homeschooling families. The kids are awkward, mom wears grandma jeans, dad is surly…sound familiar? Well its changing. The new face of the homeschooling family is the over achieving student, the soccer mom, the wealthy family who likes to travel, the family who wants to spend more time together or to free up time to explore other interests more intensely. The new face of homeschooling encompasses everyone – and it could be you.
Homeschooling has been a fringe activity in the past. But changes in technology and access to amazing resources are enticing families from all walks of life and all corners of the globe to reconsider. If this is you, I have written a book about Modern Homeschooling and you can purchase it on Amazon here.
The internet and computers have made school at home options literally point and click. My kids (in 3rd and 4th grade) can do an entire day of school on their own – without my help. (Don’t laugh homeschooling moms, I said “can” whether they actually ever will is to be seen!) The academic side of homeschooling has really been made unbelievably easy for anyone to do. And whether your kids are breezing through school or really struggling to get through it, when you bring it home and they have 1 on 1 learning, they can come leaps and bounds in just a few weeks.
The choices homeschooling families now have are endless. Make your own curriculum, get one free off the internet, unschool them, sign them up for an online school or an online private school – the sky is literally the limit. We have our kids enrolled in an online public school in Arizona. They get boxes and boxes of supplies and books shipped to them each year – text books, work books, science equipment, art supplies, instruments – you name it. They each have a teacher and a class and have the option of joining into virtual lectures/discussions in every subject they are taking. There are counselors, clubs, field trips, after school play dates and much much more. Even though we find ourselves only spending about four hours a day on schoolwork, we don’t have time to take advantage of everything that their school has to offer. And that’s because we are busy doing things like creating our own server, learning to cook, taking swim team to a competitive level, ice skating 4 times a week, and just spending a lot of quality family time together. And I can’t think of anything better than that.