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Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget

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True story: Last night at about 11:38 p.m. I was down in the living room guiltily reading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. I say guiltily because an hour before I told my husband “I was just going to read one more chapter.” Ha! Yeah, right.

I heard my nine-year-old’s bedroom door open. “Mom?” he asked. “Are you staying up late reading too?” He had The Underland Chronicles #3: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods in hand. Yup. He’s a chip off the old block.

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I could chart my life as a history of crazy book obsessions.

Start with Game of Thrones  and work all the way back to Anne of Green Gables. Or take a look at the home library I’ve assembled for my kids.

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Lots of people love books. A love of reading is easy to understand. But for the gifted and highly gifted, reading is usually just one of many obsessions. That’s because gifted people tend to be INTENSE.

I'm the one holding the baby.

I’m the one holding the baby.

Even though I grew up in the San Diego Unified School District’s Seminar Program for highly gifted kids, I always thought of giftedness as something that effected me in school when I was child, but not at home when I was an adult.

Then, when I became a parent and realized that at least one of my own children was gifted, I got a fuller picture.  Part of my work to become a better mom–at one point I printed out and read every article on the SENG resource library–gave me new understandings about myself.

As an adult, I still have passionate curiosity. I move from one learning obsession to the next. My husband likes to say “If it wasn’t this, it would be something else,” every time I pursue a new interest.

I could chart my life has a history of crazy hobby obsessions.

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Right now it’s lacto fermented salsa

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…and Zumba.

Previous obsessions have included bulb planting, vegetable gardening, canning and let’s not forget blogging.

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At one point I was even obsessed with composting which is why we have three different types of compost bins.

The one on the left works best.

The one on the left works best.

A couple of years ago I randomly became interested in the life and times of Rose Wilder Lane and the true story behind Little House on the Prairie. Over the course of a few weeks I read about ten books on the subject, all while holding a two-year-old while she napped. A year later, I wrote an article for the paper called The ‘Little House’ Books still Inspire.

A similar intense study of Ayn Rand lead to the article Motherhood is the Definition of Self Sacrifice.

I titled this post “Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget” because even after a passion fades, 80% of it sticks with me. I still compost, scrapbook, garden and blog, but those things no longer consume me. What I learned however, sticks around for the long haul.

Intensity helps you reach the 10,000 hour mark.

Intensity helps people reach the 10,000 hour mark.

So the big question is how to help gifted people deal with their intensities before they drive the rest of their family crazy.

I’m not sure I have the answer to this. But hopefully if you raise children to have a good heart, the things they become intensely obsessed with will be a blessing to themselves and their family.

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Like a mom obsessed with canning for example.  😉

From Kindergarten to College, Parenting a Twice Exceptional Child is an Adventure

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I hope you are enjoying the third annual Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour. The following is a guest post from a homeschooling mom:

From Kindergarten to College, Parenting a Twice Exceptional Child is an Adventure

Being the antithesis of a Tiger Mom and embracing a completely ”go with the flow” philosophy toward education, I was completely caught off guard when our family’s babbling brook homeschool turned into a confused chaos of babbling brook, flowing river, multi-level white water rapids, and trapping eddies.

It all started rather innocently. I was baking cookies with my son, then 6. As we were putting the cookies on the cookie sheet, he looked up at me smiling and said, “Did you know if we put them in 5 rows and we put 4 in each row that there will be 20 cookies?” It was a startling conversation.

Educationally, I had been so focused on how little progress he was making in reading that I had never even noticed that his first grade math book wasn’t even the slightest bit challenging for him. So our babbling brook entered into the white water world of 2E.

Those two words, twice exceptional, unlock a unique combination of amazing gifts combined with significant struggles that our son both possesses and has overcome. While his uncanny visual-spatial skills and constant questioning shout exceptional talent, when he was young, they were often over-shadowed by an equally visible deficit, dyslexia, and a real struggle in learning to how to read.

The advantages of homeschooling rise quickly to the surface when teaching a 2E child. I could read advanced word problems for him to solve while he was still working on basic decoding skills. As he progressed quickly through mathematical concepts, he equally slogged through phonics, decoding, and spelling. He could discuss complex science concepts while still unable to write on grade level because his reading skills were so lacking.

Learning how to select appropriate resources became a necessity. Literature intense language arts programs were not going to work because he couldn’t read on grade level selections, yet neither would simple lower grade level materials work because intellectually he was ready for far more complex materials. It became a balancing act of selecting on-his-level readers combined with audio books which actually matched his abilities. So while he might have been reading a 5th grade level reader, he was listening to the Iliad.

By the time his reading level finally caught up to his grade level when he was around 10, he was already completing algebra. His writing skills were radically behind because of his spelling and reading skills. When he was finally ready to write something that was decipherable, his instruction needed to be significantly beyond introductory level writing. Because he was used to discussing and analyzing literature, he was able to quickly move beyond basic writing skills to analytical writing. By the time he was in high school, he was functioning above grade level in all areas, but he still faced, and continues to face, the major obstacle of slow reading speed.

As he approached college applications this past fall, he kept his reading speed in mind. He opted to not apply to many of the schools that appealed to his math and science side. He was concerned that schools that function on the quarter system versus the traditional semester system would overwhelm his ability to keep up with the reading.

The entire college application process was a roller coaster. The mantra is to find a university which fits the student. Reality, being what it is, means that the school also has to fit a family’s financial situation, not just student abilities. Our family’s situation matches what is described as the “donut hole.” The donut hole means we make too much money to qualify for much financial aid, but we don’t actually have the financial resources to pay for our expected family contribution. So, finances ended up driving our son’s decisions. Because I am sure our situation is not unique, here is what our son learned through this process.

Financial safeties are schools which a family can afford. Many universities are financial safeties because they offer scholarship money to top students to attract them to attend their institutions. These schools are not the top universities in the country, but they offer unique opportunities to attract top talent. These opportunities range from honors colleges to specialized honors programs. Our son was accepted into a specialized honors program which provides research opportunities for the 40 students accepted each year. The program guarantees the individual students the opportunity to participate in research in a field of their choice. Since our son’s goal is grad school and research, this program really attracted his attention during the application process.

When he traveled to the finalist weekend, he came home impressed. He said the students he had met during the finalist weekend were every bit on par with the friends he had made at The Summer Science Program. He felt the upperclassmen already involved in the program and the high school seniors there interviewing were definitely his intellectual peers and that collectively they represented a wealth of talent. The awards that participants in the program have received testify to the accuracy of his assessment. The program has Hollings, Goldwater, Mitchell, and Truman scholars. So, while this school might not have been at first glance a “fit” intellectually, through this honors program, our son is convinced that it is.

In addition, our son has been blessed by the generosity of this university. It allows students to stack scholarships. Stacking means that additional scholarships do not decrease the value of other scholarships. Not all universities allow stacking and will reduce monetary awards when other scholarships are earned. All in all, our son won four different scholarships from this university which translates into him attending full-ride. The cost differential between attending this school full-ride versus higher ranked schools with partial scholarship or institutional aid was between $100,000-$160,000 over four years.

Another factor that advanced students need to weigh is how universities view college credits earned in high school. For students like our son, those cumulative hours may be considerable. Since our son has completed numerous upper level math and physics courses, he will have enough credit hours transferring in that he is only a few hours short of being a college junior. In choosing a college, understanding how different schools view dual enrolled credit needs to be considered. Since the school our son has chosen allows the transferring in of credit, it opens the door for him to triple major without undue burden because he has already completed so many of the “in major” requirements.

Looking back over the past 13 years of our son’s homeschooling venture, I could never have anticipated the journey we took. I know that homeschooling allowed our son to thrive and never feel like he was incapable of succeeding. He never felt like a failure because he struggled. He was allowed to be himself and thrive where he was. Dr. Seuss penned, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Homeschooling has allowed that to be true for our son.

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, 2014

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Welcome to the 2014 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour!

Parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. That’s why for the third year in row, parents from The Well Trained Mind Message boards have created a blog tour to share wisdom, joy, tribulations and advice.

Starting Sunday, June 22nd the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

On June 22nd Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with How a Gifted Childhood Prepared Me for Gifted Parenting.

On June 23d At Home in the North Woods will share Great Expectations, four ideas for dealing with perfectionism.

On June 24th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about Following the Passions of the Gifted Child.

On June 25th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature a guest post From Kindergarten to College, Parenting a Twice Exceptional Child is an Adventure.

On June 26th Homeschooling Hatters will discuss Twice Exceptionality, when just one exception isn’t enough!

On June 27th Teaching My Baby to Read will share Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget.

A difficult thing to understand about children with high IQs is that just because they are gifted, it doesn’t mean they are easy to teach or parent. In fact, often times the opposite is true.

This blog tour is written by people who understand what you’re going through. We are sending encouragement your way! So the next time you wake up at 3 AM worrying about your child, at least you’ll know that you aren’t alone.

Thanks for being with us on this journey!

P.S. There are still room for more posts, so if you have something on your heart that you would like to share, please email Jenny via Teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com.

For previous tours, click on the links below:

Washington State Gifted Ed Day

Gifted Ed Day 2014

Gifted Ed Day 2014

I was honored to join families from across Washington state today as we gathered in Olympia and advocated for gifted education. Our number one goal? Fully fund basic education, which now includes Highly Capable programs.

The House

The House

I’d like to say a special thank you to Representative Luis Moscoso who gave us his time and attention, as well as Monica from Senator Maralyn Chase’s office.

The Senate

The Senate

I hope people remember that children are not widgets. There is such a push in our country to standardize everything; curriculum, assessment and accreditation, that it’s easy to forget that variety is the norm, not the exception.

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It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Highly Capable children will do fine “because they are gifted” when that isn’t necessarily true. In many ways Highly Capable is similar to Special Education, it’s just at the other side of the bell curve.

Guest Post: I Taught My Baby to Read

I am so excited to share this guest post from Mrs. Warde of Sceleratus Classical Academy! Mrs. Warde is a wife, mother of three, and homeschooler. She’s also my co-pinner for our STORY OF THE WORLD board on Pinterest. 

Early Bird at 2 years, 10 months, building words.

Early Bird at 2 years, 10 months, building words.

A few years ago I taught my oldest child, then 4 years old, to read. Apparently my younger son was paying attention.  At 2 years 4 months old he surprised me with correctly identifying the name and sound of every letter.

I did not know  what to do with that until I thankfully stumbled across Teaching My Baby to Read. I looked at all Jen had written and decided to get the LeapFrog Word Builder Toy. It was a big hit with both my boys. I let my 2 year old play with it as much or as little as he wanted.

Sadly, Leap Frog no longer makes this toy, but you can still find it used on Amazon and Ebay.

Sadly, Leap Frog no longer makes this toy, but you can still find it used on Amazon and Ebay.

My two-year-old played with the toy for five months and then one day he said “I spelled the word ‘bed!’ B-buh, e-eh, d-duh, spells bed!” I looked at the toy and sure enough he had spelled the word “bed” on the level that tells you what you spelled. I praised him up and down and all through that day and the next he kept repeating how to spell bed and name the letters and sound they made. On the third day he said “I spelled the word ‘red’!” And the toy was off.

A week and a half later he read 40 CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) word flash cards that I showed him. I let him start playing MoreStarfall.com on his own. Some things he wanted help with, some he did not. He watched his big brother play, too.

By his 3rd birthday he could read almost any CVC word he came across. The ones he had difficulty with were the ones he did not hear in real life a lot (seriously, who says the word “sat” very much?) He also started memorizing some sight words, all on his own.

Next, based on recommendations from Teaching My Baby to Read I got the LeapFrog: Talking Words Factory video. By the time it arrived in the mail it was mostly review for him, but at the end it introduced the concept of consonant blends.

Most of the Leap Frog videos are "edutainment". These two actually work!

Most of the Leap Frog videos are “edutainment”. These two actually work!

I admit, I panicked. Typical three year olds are not “supposed” to be  reading at a first grade level! I contacted Jen since this was partially her fault and she was very helpful. 🙂 I found a group of parents at the  Well Trained Mind Forum, Accelerated Learner’s Board who had been there, done that and they were a huge help, too.

It’s been two years and some  days I’m used to it, sometimes I’m not. I’m thankful I’m homeschooling.  He’s working alongside his brother doing 2nd grade work (except in  math,) reading at an even higher level, but he wouldn’t be starting  kindergarten until the fall if I were to put him in public school. And I am very thankful for the advice I found on Jen’s blog that helped me  help my early learner.

Want to find out more about Mrs. Warde’s homeschooling adventures? Head on over to Sceleratus Classical Academy

Normally I’m anti-workbook, but…

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I just ordered another round of Critical Thinking Company books through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

This one is really fun.

This one is really fun.

These books are hard to recreate through hands-on activities. I’ve tried, but it’s a lot of work. Here’s an example of the skills covered:

One of these things can't fly.

One of these things can’t fly.

So yes, I’ve opted to go for the workbooks. A couple of pages a week while waiting for a sibling to do [fill in the blank]: guitar, ballet, swimming lessons, Cub Scouts, etc., can’t hurt. I keep the books in the car and use them to fill dead time with something meaningful.

This time for Jenna(4.5) I ordered the following:

Mind Benders Verbal Item # 01302BBP $9.99 1 $9.99
Mind Benders Book 2 Item # 01330BBP $9.99 1 $9.99
Math Analogies Beginning Item # 08501BBP $11.99 1 $11.99

Those should last Jenna the rest of the year. Hopefully they’ll also provide some practice for when she takes the CogAT in winter, a test our district uses to screen for the Highly Capable program.

But if workbooks aren’t your thing, you can always be creative! Here’s another one, just for fun:

Three of these things are symbols of weather.  One isn't.

Three of these things are symbols of weather. One isn’t.

Harry Potter, Muggles, Squibs, and Giftedness in Family Trees

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If you are looking for a serious, well researched, scientific study of giftedness in family trees, you’ve taken a wrong turn at King’s Cross Station.  Please check out “A review of research on parents and families of gifted children” instead.

But if you’ve ever stayed awake at night overanalyzing Harry Potter and wondering what J.K. Rowling might be saying about “giftedness”, then get your wands ready!

Let’s start with a vocabulary review, shall we?  (Yes, Hermione, I realize you already know this.)

Wizard/Witch: A character in Harry Potter that can do magic.
Muggle: A character that cannot do magic.
Mudblood: A bad word for a witch or wizard born into a Muggle family.
Pure-blood: A wizard who has a purely magical heritage.
Half-blood: A wizard who has one parent who is Muggle and one parent who is magical.
Squib: A character born into a wizarding family that cannot do magic.

Now, some words from our own world:

Gifted: A loaded term, but usually meaning an IQ of 130 or above.
Neruotypical: A “normal”, healthy child.
Twice Exceptional: Gifted, but also has special needs.  (Also called 2e.)
 
I’ve never been to Hogwarts but I did grow up in The San Diego Seminar Program for highly gifted kids.  Now I’m a parent of a gifted child too. I’m also married in a family with experience in gifted-ed.

If we were a wizarding family, Slytherin snobs would probably accept us.  (Actually, I know some Slytherins in real life.  I met them in college.)

Of course, we’d much rather be placed in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.  That’s because various branches of our extended family include witches, wizards, Muggles, and gasp, Squibs.

Some of us went to college, some of us went to fancy colleges, and some of us are still working on graduating…  Some of us know how to design stuff that goes into your camera, some of us can actually remember to bring that camera on vacation…

We all have our special abilities to admire.

Sometimes I think Muggle relatives have it easy.  They get to cruise along in regular or honors classes, get invited to dances, and hang out with cool kids at lunch.  Nobody in their crowd entertains people by reciting the first 21 digits of pi.

Ask the Muggle relation and she might say the opposite.  “Just because you’re extra smart, it doesn’t mean you’re magic!  Why are you wearing those robes?  Ack!  You’re so embarrassing!”

It’s no wonder Petunia and Lily Evans have issues.

Another problem wizarding families have is when a child is twice exceptional.  Think about Ariana Dumbledore.  She’s a witch, but she also had some magical control challenges.

Just like in real life, J.K. Rowling’s world doesn’t have an easy fit for Ariana.  There is no 2e program at Howarts, so Ariana ends up being homeschooled.  Sound familiar?

In my own life, I’m forever grateful that I grew up in the Seminar Program, and that my son’s school district has a gifted education program too.

The wonderful thing about public schools for gifted children is that ALL gifted children are included.  There’s no Lucius Malfoy telling kids “You’re not wizard enough,” and only admitting pure-bloods.

It’s a different story at private schools for gifted youth.  That 30K tuition keeps a lot of Hufflepuffs out.

Public school gifted programs are especially critical for Muggle-borns.

Because let’s face it, I’m going to make sure my kid passes his O.W.L.S. and N.E.W.T.S someday.  “Been there, done that!  Let’s get out my old potions book.”

But that Muggle-born witch from down the street?  Her parents are new to this wizarding stuff.  “Why are you so obsessed with owls?  Would you please stop floating in the air!  Hogwarts?  Wouldn’t you be happier at your neighborhood school?”  They love her, but it can be hard to understand what her brain needs to thrive.

Think about Hermione.  What would have happened to her without Hogwarts?  She would probably have gone to Muggle school and pretended like she couldn’t do magic.

I don’t have a magic wand.  I don’t live in 12 Grimmauld Place either.  There’s no family tree tapestry hanging on my wall, waiting to be smited.

But if there was, I could probably look at that family tree and tell you something special about each entry.  It doesn’t matter if we are wizard, witch, Muggle, or Squib.  We all weave together into one family.

That’s what’s magic.

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Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, 2013

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Welcome to the 2013 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour!

This international blog tour is organized by parents who met on The Well Trained Mind Message boards. We come from different parts of the world, different school choices, and different social and economic backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common. We know that parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding.

If you have ever woken up at 3 AM in the morning wondering “What am I going to do with this child?” then this blog tour is for you!

Starting Friday June 14th the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

 On June 14th Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.”

On June 15th Only Passionate Curiosity will share “Maturity vs. Ability; It’s a Big Deal”.

On June 16th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature “Harry Potter, Muggles, Squibs, and Giftedness in Family Trees”.

On June 17th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about “Nurturing Musical Talent in the Gifted Child”.

On June 18th Strader Spiel  will discuss “Homeschooling a Gifted Child with Special Needs” and The Washington Collation of Gifted Education will share “I’m an Advocate and So Are You”.

On June 19th Northwoods Classical Academy will write about “The Making of a Mathlete”.

On June 20th Homeschooling Hatters will share “Just Let Him Be a Kid”, and Sceleratus Classical Academy will end our tour with a guest post titled “When a Flower Blooms”.

A difficult thing to understand about children with high IQs is that just because they are gifted, it doesn’t mean they are easy to teach or parent. In fact, often times the opposite is true. But finding friends who can relate to your problems can be really hard.  Either you sound like a braggart, a whiner, or a really bad parent.

This blog tour is written by people who understand what you’re going through. We understand.  We get it.  We are sending encouragement your way!  So the next time you wake up at 3 AM worrying about your child, at least you’ll know that you aren’t alone.

Thanks for being with us on this journey!

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Announcing the 2013 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour

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Teaching My Baby to Read  is very excited to be participating in the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2013 from June 14th-21st.

This international blog tour is organized by parents who met on The Well Trained Mind Message boards.

We come from different parts of the world, different school choices, and different social and economic backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common. We know that parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding.

If you have ever woken up at 3 AM in the morning wondering “What am I going to do with this child?” then this blog tour is for you!

From June 14th-21st the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

 On June 14th Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.”

On June 15th Only Passionate Curiosity will share “Maturity vs. Ability; It’s a Big Deal”.  Childhood Inspired will write about “Nurturing Other Aspects of Giftedness Besides Academics”.

On June 16th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature “Harry Potter, Muggles, Mudbloods, and Giftedness in Family Trees”.

On June 17th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about “Nurturing Musical Talent in the Gifted Child”.

On June 18th Strader Spiel  will discuss “Homeschooling a Gifted Child with Special Needs” and The Washington Collation of Gifted Education will share “I’m an Advocate and So Are You”.

On June 19th Northwoods Classical Academy will write about “The Making of a Mathlete”.

On June 20th Homeschooling Hatters will share “Just Let Him Be a Kid”, and Sceleratus Classical Academy will end our tour with a guest post titled “When a Flower Blooms”.

There is still room for more contributions, so please email teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com if you are interested in joining the tour!

Logic Cards for Older Kids

My son Bruce(7) asked me to make some logic cards for him.  (Previously I had made a preschool set.)  Here’s what I came up with that’s more of a challenge.

Which one is different on each card?

I made all of these cards using are stamp art set.  It was way easier than drawing things by hand, but you could do that too.

Bruce Bardsley, Vampire Slayer

I’m sorry if today’s commentary is not very insightful. I’ve spent the past few hours supervising a seven year old with a pocket knife.

My son Bruce(7) is really into whittling right now. Our whole back patio is littered with wood shavings, and we now have a huge selection of stakes for____???? Okay, I don’t really know what the intended purpose of these spikes are, but if vampires ever come to Edmonds we will be ready.

The picture you see before you represents several hours worth of work, and one “finger carving merit badge”. It’s just another example of how intensity comes to our family naturally and to the point of craziness.

On a random side note, for those of you who didn’t know “Bruce” is not actually my son’s real name. So I’m a little curious if now that I’ve titled a blog post “Bruce Bardsley”, if that name will be Googleible.

Welcome to “Cruising”

In the 1987 classic essay Welcome to Holland, Emily Perl Kingsley wrote brilliantly about what it is like parenting a child with developmental disabilities.  She compares it to having your plane unexpectedly land in Holland, when for your whole life you had planned to travel to Italy instead.

I think this might be hard for parents of neurotypcial children to understand, but I have always felt a strong kinship with parents of developmentally disabled children, and not just because I am the aunt of a child with Autism.

As the parent of a gifted child, I deal with special learning needs and behavioral differences too, which often makes life difficult for our entire family.  Intellectual capability (either high or low), does not determine a child’s future, but it does make their journey different.  But try explaining that at your next playgroup…

All the moms at the park have just come back from Italy.  They have pictures and postcards, and are passing around home movies on their I Pads.  All of them are wearing designer leather shoes straight from the master craftsman in Milan.  Everyone is joking about gaining a few extra pounds from eating so much pasta.

You have just come back from Italy too, only instead of staying at the Marriott you were on a cruise ship, and not the Costa Concordia.

The other moms are including you in their conversation, but there is a palatable whiff of envy.  How much did the cruise cost?  How did you talk your husband into it? How did you afford a suite?  It must have been easy traveling without having to ever unpack at a different hotel each night, or put up with a smelly tour bus.

How can you explain what the cruise was really like?  Oh yes, a lot of things were easier.  There were unlimited English movies on TV and you had round-the-clock room service.  But keeping up with all of your shore excursions ran you ragged, and you  hadn’t planned for all of the extra expenses in your budget.

You were just starting to recover from being seasick when you came down with Norovirus.  While you sat on your balcony trying to hold down a cracker, you watched Venice pass by and thought “When can I enjoy this? When can I relax?”

Nobody at the park wants to hear about what really happened on your trip.  It’s easier to just slip on your Italian sunglasses that you picked up at the airport and pretend to fit in.  But before you disappear behind those shades you catch a glance from the mom who just came back from Holland.  Maybe it was nothing, or maybe it was a glimpse of recognition.

Our guest post fell through, so this essay is by Jennifer Bardsley

 

The Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, 2012 continues!

Don’t forget to check out the next stops on our tour:

On July 18th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about A Broader Definition of Success for Gifted Children.

On July 19th A Tree House Education will feature Why Homeschooling 2E Kids Makes Sense. Homeschool in Florida will share Get Out of Your Own Way: How to Listen to the Needs of Your Gifted Child.

On July 20th Making Music With Kids will discuss Getting Teachers on Your Side. Finding the Right Fit for Gifted Young Children. Barely Educational will offer Worrying , Over-Analysis and Parenting your Gifted Child.

On July 21st Teaching my Baby to Read will feature Welcome to Cruising.  Dancing with Dragons will write about Teaching the Visual Spatial Learner: When Your Child Thinks in Pictures.

…and here’s my latest “I Brake for Moms” column in The Weekly Herald this week.  I have to give a shout-out to Jen from Post-Apocalyptic Homeschool who suggested the last line.  Thank you!

Okay, now I’m really supposed to be on blogging vacation this week, so let’s see if I can stick to that.  🙂

Gifted Children and Afterschooling

When School Isn’t Enough; Fanning the Flames of Learning Afterschool

Quick question: What do handwriting legibility and mathematical ability have in common? If you think like me, your answer would be “Nothing at all.” That’s why it can be especially frustrating for parents of gifted children to see their son or daughter’s academic progress held back because of poor penmanship.

Yes, an eight-year-old boy could try harder in cursive. Yes, being able to write about your mathematical thinking is important occasionally. But in my mind as a former public school teacher, handwriting and expository writing should have nothing to do with a child’s grade in mathematics nor should they impede his learning progress. For gifted children, this is like throwing a wet blanket on a crackling fire.

Unfortunately, in teacher credentialing school I received almost not training in dealing with gifted children. So it is probably a safe assumption that the regular education teachers you encounter in your own child’s public school experience will have a similar lack of training in gifted education. They will most likely care very deeply about your child, but they might not fully understand how to best meet your gifted child’s needs.

This is why gifted education programs in public education are so critical. I myself and a testament to their effectiveness, having grown up in the San Diego Seminar Program. Now my own son is thriving in a similar program for gifted children in our school district. Sadly, not every gifted child in  America is as lucky.

When I taught school in Northern California the prevailing belief seemed to be that “All children are gifted in some way.” There was also the opinion out there that “If Johnny is so smart, then why can’t he behave and make friends?” Or back to the math example, “If Katie is so smart at math, why can’t she write about her explanation, and why can’t I read her handwriting?”

Even now almost ten years later, I am extremely frustrated to think about how regular education failed two of my former students who I am sure were gifted. I advocated for those children and accommodated their needs as best as I could, but in a regular education program I could only do so much.  Homogeneous grouping would have allowed them to feel normal, but I couldn’t give them that peace.

So if you are the parent of a gifted child in a school district that does not offer gifted education services, what can you do? The first thing is know that homeschooling can be a viable option. Check out Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer’s book The Well Trained Mind for a virtual how-to manual for giving your child a rigorous, quality education at home. But homeschooling is certainly not for everyone. It is not a choice that would work out well in my own household for example. A better choice for us is Afterschooling.

In simplest terms, Afterschooling is when your children attend a brick and mortar school, but you augment their education at home in a structured and meaningful way. For gifted children, Afterschooling can be a sanity saver. While public school might be unintentionally stamping out your  child’s natural fire for learning, you can fan those flames at home with appropriately paced instruction and keep their spark burning.

When my son was five he was in a regular-ed AlternateDay Kindergarten program which was created due to the school district’s severe budgetary constraints. My son benefited from all of the social interaction school provided, and loved his teacher, his friends, PE, library time, and music. However, the Kindergarten curriculum itself was extremely simple for him, so in our off hours I worked with him on math, reading, and science concepts that were at his appropriate level, and which he was enthusiastic about learning.

Many parents of gifted children are already doing this intuitively but are unfamiliar with the term “Afterschooling”. Mistakenly, they might mention to their friends that “Little Suzie goes to school but I am homeschooling her in the off hours.” But if you said this to an actual homeschooling parent, they might be very offended. Homeschoolers have to deal with an entirely different set of legal challenges than an Afterschooling family. Homeschooling and Afterschooling are similar but not the same thing, so be careful to not accidentally put your foot in your mouth!

If you are new to the concept of Aftesrchooling, where should you start? Well, maybe it’s easier to explain where you should not start. Do not go to Costco and buy a workbook. Ditto with Barnes and Noble. What your child does not need is more of the same thing he or she might be getting at school, and chances are, your accelerated child has already spent a lot of time in the corner of her classroom doing advanced worksheets.

A better way to go would be to start with your child’s interests. Does he like science? Check out the free science ideas at Science Without A Net. Does she like math? Sign her up for Dreambox Learning or consider purchasing the abacus kit from Right Start Math. Is he interested in engineering? Buy a Snap Circuits kit for Christmas. Does your whole family enjoy history? Try listening to Story of the World, History for the Classical Child in the car.  Let’s not forget to add Royal Fireworks Press to your radar, where Michael Clay Thomspon has created a novel curriculum designed specifically for gifted children.

For those fortunate enough to live in well performing school districts, or a school with a gifted education program, Afterschooling might be something you would choose to do over summer, in a light-handed way during the school year, in the car, or through carefully chosen read alouds at bedtime. If you live in a low performing or struggling school district, the role of Afterschooling becomes more critical.  (For more ideas on where to start with Afterschooling, click here).

You the parent are ultimately in charge of your child’s education. Make sure his or her fire for learning doesn’t flicker out.

Welcome to the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, 2012

I am one lucky mom. We live in a school district with an absolutely fabulous gifted program whose teachers understand and support my child’s unique learning needs. Not only that, but once a week when the school bus rolls away, I get to head to our local tea shop and chat with other moms of gifted children. No behavioral or academic issue is too crazy for these fine ladies, because they have dealt with it all. Not once has a conversation ever started with “If your son is so smart then why can’t he_______?”

A year ago when my son was in a regular education classroom things were very different. Even then, I was very lucky to have support. I thought back to my own time growing up in the San Diego Seminar Program, and emailed the mom of the smartest, funniest, craziest, most brilliant kid I knew. “Help me Mrs. G.” I said. “Help me help my child, because I don’t know what to do for him.” It was through her guidance and connections that I found out about SENG, which has been an enormous help.

Around that same time I also read Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise’s book The Well Trained Mind, and had the privilege of learning from other parents on The Well Trained Mind’s online message board, Hive-Mind. The Accelerated Learner Board there is a wealth of information.

If you are the parent of a gifted child then I sincerely hope you have your own circle of tea shop ladies, and your own version Mrs. G. on speed-dial ready to call in the face of your next parenting emergency. Real life friends who understand can’t be beat. But in reality, there are a heck of a lot of gifted children in this world feeling like nobody understands what they are going through, and if you double that then you can include their parents in that number too. I helped organize the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, 2012 with other people I met on the Accelerated Learner Board to give these parents a virtual hug.

Each day of the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, a new parent is sharing. Every voice counts; yours included, so be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts too. We also still have room for more guest posts on Friday, July 21st, so please send me an email at: teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com if you are interested in writing something.

Pour yourself a cup of tea each day, and follow our blog links all across America:

On July 15th Our Roxaboxen Adventures will discuss Identifying Gifted Minority Students.

On July 16th Sceleratus Classical Academy will share Don’t Panic! Musings about realizing that your child’s learning pattern is ahead of schedule.

On July 17th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature When School Isn’t Enough; Fanning the Flames of Learning Afterschool.

On July 18th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about A Broader Definition of Success for Gifted Children.

On July 19th A Tree House Education will feature Why Homeschooling 2E Kids Makes Sense. Homeschool in Florida will share Get Out of Your Own Way: How to Listen to the Needs of Your Gifted Child.

On July 20th Making Music With Kids will discuss Getting Teachers on Your Side. Finding the Right Fit for Gifted Young Children. Barely Educational will offer Worrying , Over-Analysis and Parenting your Gifted Child.

On July 21st Teaching my Baby to Read will feature Welcome to CruisingDancing with Dragons will write about Teaching the Visual Spatial Learner: When Your Child Thinks in Pictures.

 

I’ll be taking a vacation from blogging new posts this week, with the exception of my post on July 18th. Thank you to everyone who has made this blog tour happen; readers included!