Pandemic Homeschooling

Even though I personally have had to make the difficult decision to take my kid out of school for the sake of his (mental) health, I cannot fathom how parents are dealing with the decisions that are looming overhead this coming fall. I love my child, I love our time together, and I love our life. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t know the sacrifices involved intimately or think that anyone should have to make them. What I do have is some experience and an idea of things that have made it more bearable for me personally. I don’t suggest them as a bandaid, a cure all, or with any sort of confidence; just as a mom– a human– who is doing her best with the hand she’s been dealt and offering them as food for thought for others.

A while ago I tweeted that I’m not thankful for the privilege to homeschool my child, but that “I’ll be thankful when his right to an appropriate education is met by the institution that is supposed to provide it for him.” Now, yes, I have privilege. But it’s a privilege that I believe that everyone should have– the ability to provide for our children and their needs. There are so many people who may not have a choice this September, and if we have the privilege of time and knowledge we need to listen and advocate on their behalf. Smaller classroom sizes, expanded budgets, real measures to protect children and the people who work with them from this pandemic. A child not going to school can mean a loss of income, a loss of special needs services, a loss of free lunch and breakfast programs. Schools serve a very real and important purpose and we need to fight for them even if they don’t meet our children’s needs. So even if you decide to homeschool your child, please, please, please do not forget the families who do not have the luxury of a choice. (And believe me when I say I understand it does not feel like a luxury. Only in a broken world would it be one. It’s fucked. If I had a better word I’d choose it.)

Okay but I’ve already chosen homeschool/distance learning/ something that isn’t physical school. How the fuck do I survive?

Here are some of my thoughts as a part of a two parent, single income household. (Disclaimer: I know these tips are not going to be doable for everyone, and I’m really sorry. My perspective is what it is but I am conscious of the fact that it isn’t everyone’s and I’m sorry that these decisions are a lot harder on single parent households for example.)

Curriculum

Buy curriculum. Ask for curriculum from your school/ school board/ ministry of education if you can. There is no way to homeschool in a crisis and wing it as I’ve learned– as someone who has winged it every single year until recently. If you want my recommendations, I suggest Oak Meadow for science, history, and English, Beast Academy/ Art of Problem Solving for math. But there are so many choices. You can spend hours researching. Now! You might spend money on curriculum and it’s not perfect for you. That’s OKAY. I promise. Use what you can of it. Nothing is going to be perfect. That’s why for younger grades I am such a fan of just reading every book you can, getting out of the house (difficult in a pandemic so ha, thanks for the useless advice, Tiff), and baking! Baking is a disaster but there is so much learning involved. But even still, having a set curriculum for those early grades where you have weekly suggestions of things to learn and activities to do is going to take so much of the mental load off of your plate.

You don’t need to plan every waking minute

If your child is used to school they are likely used to high stimulation environments. It will take time but I promise you can train them to play by themselves. It. takes. time. A few tricks I use are strewing, patience stretching, and interrupting. Strewing is leaving crap out around the house and letting your child come to it naturally (because no one wants to do what they’re told to do.) An extension to this is say, writing your kid’s math problems on slips of paper and hiding them like a scavenger hunt because hey, sometimes the math has got to get done but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Patience stretching is not always responding to your child’s needs instantly– it’s okay to say, “I’ll help you once I’m done drinking my hot coffee.” I promise. Interrupting is disturbing your quietly playing child. I KNOW I KNOW WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT. Because if your kid is quietly playing LEGO and you’re like “hey, want to do a puzzle with me?” they’ll probably say no. And they’ll probably think hey, my parent thinks I’m pretty awesome and wants to hang out with me. And also it puts some power into their hands which is a very cool thing for anyone.

Set expectations with your partner NOW

Even if you’re already a stay at home parent, it’s important to recognize that you’re no longer a stay at home parent. You’re now a homeschooling parent. Which means that your job is the homeschooling and your spouse’s job is their job, and the rest of your responsibilities– cleaning, cooking etc are split. Now, I’m not saying 50/50. But I am saying that there is no such thing as a day off. I use to think I had to have the house pristine for my husband’s day off which was fucked. Now I think of my husband’s days off as time as a family that we can help each other out. Maybe I can finally plan that specific lesson or look for curriculum while he cleans the kitchen. Maybe we can divide and conquer the disastrous house. Maybe he can take time to hang out with our kid while I escape to the bath. If it’s not a team it’s never going to work. Often I feel useless because I’m not contributing financially but my husband is quick to point out that he is able to do his job because I’m home with his spawn, which is also why he contributes to an RRSP in my name since I have no income to contribute to it. TEAMWORK.

Remember that it’s not about falling behind/ getting ahead

The whole purpose of keeping a child home is because it’s what’s best for them. That means spending extra time exploring passions, coming back to things that aren’t sticking later, and making sure that they have their needs met rather than trying to check off items on a checklist. Some units might take a day. Some might take three weeks. That’s okay! There’s no need to stick to the pace of thirty other children. It’s about your kid and their needs and that’s a fabulous gift to give them.

Find a hobby

I specifically learned to crochet and knit when my child was an infant because I didn’t have the energy to go out and do things but my brain needed stimulation. I sit and knit while reading to him and it’s lovely because I’m keeping busy and engaging myself while supporting him. Maybe you go for a run every night when your spouse comes home if you’re a two parent household. Maybe you lock yourself in the car in the driveway for an hour to stare into space. Maybe you dedicate time every day to read, write, or take a free online class. Even if there isn’t a career goal in mind, it’s important to find time for you even if it means giving your child some screen time. I know it’s cliche to say you need to secure your oxygen mask first, but it’s cliche because it’s true.

More than anything, it’s important to find what works for you, your family, and your kid. Needs change. If something isn’t working do what you can to make life less miserable. I’m not saying every day will be roses and rainbows, but don’t be afraid to make decisions that make life easier!

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Our Homeschool Year in Review (2019-2020)

(Update: we ordered grade 7 books from Oak Meadow for this year and I’m so pleased with all of the changes they’ve made. I’m striking out my criticisms but I don’t want to delete them entirely so if you come across this criticisms elsewhere you’ll know that they’ve changed.)

Whew. And what a year that was. We started the year in a new province trying to navigate a new normal and ended up in the middle of a pandemic and what seems to be the beginning of an international civil rights movement. Who would have thought.

I’m going to be honest, I’m having a hard time remembering how we started this year and how it morphed into what it is today in what is our “final” week. (It’s not actually our final week, my kid will still be tutored through the summer because what else are we going to do and also my kid asked to not only keep going but to increase his tutoring sessions and I had to say no so that’s what’s going on over here.) But I’m going to try my best to gather my thoughts and hopefully my rambling will be helpful to someone out there, especially since September is looming and everything is up in the air when it comes to public education.

I’m going to try to split this up into subjects and minimize my rambling but if you are familiar with me at all, you know that rambling is my specialty so apologies in advance.

Math

I am a huge fan of Art of Problem Solving. Beast Academy is just the best math curriculum out there and I can say this with absolute authority as it’s the only math curriculum we’ve ever used.

We started our year continuing to use Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra and Number Theory but then something fabulous happened: my son got a math tutor. Specifically, a math teacher that teaches young kids advanced subjects and has no problem interrupting math for a few seconds to talk about dogs and is a-okay with sloppy handwriting. A unicorn, if you will. My kiddo is currently working his way through Algebra I and will be doing geometry in the fall and this is the end of my math curriculum suggesting days. I’ll just keep touting the benefits of AOPS but also be really happy that math is no longer my problem.

(sorry if that’s not what you came here for)

Science

For the following three subject’s we’re going to be talking about Oak Meadow a lot. Buckle up.

Oak Meadow’s grade 6 science curriculum is Life Science, aka my kid’s least favourite kind of science. Since he was a toddler he’s found biology “disgusting” and “gross” and “boring” and I’m sorry I’m just not the person to change his mind about this.

This was my first time using an actual homeschool curriculum set up by weeks with activity ideas and I have to say this was the perfect year for it. Opening the book, doing the reading, and then having my kid select an activity and then doing the test at the end of the week was absolutely fabulous. I’m not a science person so I can’t attest to the rigour of this program, but it was absolutely what we needed this year for this particular branch of science. Although, you didn’t hear it from me, but I purchased the teacher’s guide and opened it exactly one (1) time.

The past month my son has been working with a chemistry tutor through the University of Calgary thanks to a new program being put in place due to the pandemic and it has been such an amazing experience. Next year we’ll be attempting AP Chemistry and hopefully I can pass that off on someone a la math. Fingers crossed.

(oh surprise surprise the anti-homeschooling homeschooler doesn’t actually homeschool. sorry again)

(okay I’m not anti-homeschooling I’m just anti-me-homeschooling)

English

We used Oak Meadow Sixth Grade English. English is my subject, my jam, my I-get-drunk-and-ramble-about-the-Chrysalids. I spent the first few weeks of COVID taking an online course that focused on Jane Austen. But with the year I had I was really thankful we splurged on this curriculum if only because it kept me on track.

Now the layout of this textbook, while I understand the reasoning behind it, I kind of hated. The back of the book serves as a style guide, and each week you’re assigned a portion of it to review. Which is great especially if you want to keep this as a reference for the future, however, personally I’d rather purchase a separate style guide to have on hand and have had the subject matter put right into each week’s chapter. The reason I purchased this curriculum was to make my life easier and I wanted it even easier. I am a nitpicking whiner but at $115 USD I earned the right to be one. I’m sure someone out there would like to fight me on this and that’s fine. I get it. I encourage you to take my opinions with a grain of salt. (update: clearly I wasn’t the only nitpicking asshole because they changed this for the grade 7 books we have)

If you need help staying on task and want spelling tests and assignments laid out by week, I recommend this textbook. However, if you have your life together and just want a grammar and style review, Everything You Need to Ace English Language Arts in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide is under $20 and covers a decent amount IMO. But again, this is a subject that I’m confident in and need little handholding in beyond time management. Just my two cents especially in these exceedingly cash-strapped times.

History

I am the most conflicted about this curriculum, Oak Meadow Ancient Civilizations. I want to love it. But there were a few things that irked me and I’ll try to elaborate.

The theme of this year is loving having everything laid out for me and that’s part of my love here. Oak Meadow splits everything up into manageable 36 week parts, all laid out with readings and assignments and reviews and it really is lovely. On the most hectic of weeks I could open up to the week we were in and I needed all of two brain cells to make it through which is invaluable. Also, my husband could take over without having to try to decipher what we’re doing by reading my chicken-scratched notes. I think for my husband, being able to be involved in the homeschool and feeling confident in it was worth every penny.

Skimming the table of contents, you can see there’s a good variety of subjects touched upon in this text. But if you read a lot of “well of course there’s religion, it’s history and history has religion even though this is a secular text” you might think hmmm the writers protest too much. Or maybe that’s just me.

There is religion in this text, of course there is, but there’s a lot of religion in this text. Which isn’t a problem. But the way that say, Christianity is written about, versus say Greek mythology, is different in tone, which irked me. Maybe that’s to be sensitive to the fact that a lot of people still obviously practice Christianity but there aren’t a lot of people still worshipping Zeus (forgive me if I’m wrong here) but IDK. It felt off. Especially in comparison to say, Everything You Need to Ace World History in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide, (or even other books that we read to supplement with throughout the year) which manages to talk about all of these same topics in an extremely respectful but secular way… I don’t know. I think they are trying to be secular while still appealing to Christian homeschoolers which is fine and a good business decision, but I really want to find that perfect secular, accredited, homeschool text that doesn’t seem to exist.

I also had a pet peeve that images seemed to be pasted in from a google images search with zero context or credit which is nitpicking but again, for the price I earned that. (This has been amended with their new curriculum and it is lovely!)

If you’re looking for everything to be laid out by week with activities and assignments (I mean there’s even delicious recipes!), want something that’s secular and accredited, this is a good text. If you’re someone who has a history background even just as a hobby, you may find yourself making a lot of asides, but the bones are decent. But if it’s legal where you are homeschooling, you have time, are good at organizing, and want to save yourself a hundred dollars, use Big Fat Notebook as your spine and find books and activities to supplement on your own. Especially if those books are written by BIPOC.

Now, really do not let this scare you away because I’m heavily considering purchasing Oak Meadow’s grade seven world history curriculum. (Update: I did purchase it and I don’t regret it one bit- the new curriculum seems to have addressed a lot of my complaints!) But if I do purchase it l will probably be using it lightly and supplementing with Canadian resources. It’s a more inclusive version of history than I had growing up, but I still see room for improvement in 2020. At the end of the day, the price really is worth my sanity. I haven’t found anything that checks all of my very high maintenance boxes, and I can live with having to supplement.

Everything else

At the start of the year my kid was doing a variety of arts and sports and miscellaneous activities but in the days of quarantine everything has shrunk down considerably.

Kahn Academy, Crash Course, SciSchow, and other online activities are still visited weekly if not daily. Physical education is mostly limited to hiking and biking and a new indoor mini tramp and basketball net but we’re doing what we can in the circumstances of the day.

The current climate has given us a lot to talk about that isn’t directly curriculum related but important all the same. We’ve been enjoying CBC Kids News and Recap specifically, but we’ve always just had a lot of open conversations in general. There’s also been a lot of opportunity to reiterate the importance of shopping locally, supporting BIPOC and LGBTQ+, and how to reduce our environmental footprint even though plastic is creeping back into our lives.

Baking and cooking have become an even larger part of our lives with my kid’s discovery of the variety of cooking contests available to stream. I’d like to take a moment to plug In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy by Mardi Michels for the millionth time (if you’re on IG you probably have seen me rave about this one a ton) because we have yet to make anything from this book that wasn’t easy and delicious. Actually, I think I should do some research to see if I can find similar cookbooks with different cuisines. Hmmm.

I’m looking forward to planning our homeschool year next year however we’re still sort of unsure about what it’s going to look like (aren’t we all?) so I’m interested to see what happens. Hopefully my rambling has helped someone out there and if it’s left you more confused than helped well, this is why I rarely blog! Good luck and Happy Summer folks!

*** update: I ordered oak meadow grade 7 curriculum because after searching other secular curriculums and being lured by lower prices I ran for the fucking hills by their (other curriculum’s) statements about oh yeah we use problematic texts and good luck finding something to replace it. Also Oak Meadow’s booklist for grade 7 English has been updated and it’s much more representative of the world I’m bringing a child up in (plus I just really want to read Brown Girl Dreaming). If you want to know why we chose Oak Meadow in the first place, I wrote about that here.

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In defence of bragging

in defence of bragging

It’s no secret that parenting is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. From impossible hours to the inability to do anything right, it’s a mere wonder anyone chooses to do it. But we do choose to do it, because our little tyrants make it all worth it. So we share about the silly things they say and the amazing things they do because otherwise, what’s even the point?

The only problem is, you can’t share what your kid is doing without being subjected to eye rolls or in some cases, being accused of downright lying. Apparently it’s not acceptable to share the bright spots of parenting because then you’re a braggart. (It’s also important to note that if you complain that it’s difficult, you shouldn’t have become a parent. You can’t win.)

But here’s the thing: parenting is hard. Really, really hard. And yes, we should be able to complain about our kids without being accused of not loving them because we’re only human. But it’s equally important that we are able to share the things that we love about them because it’s those little things that get us through the day.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place. Of course, bragging at school pickup to a parent whose child is struggling is pretty uncool. But at a play date with your close mom friends? On your own personal social media page? Why the heck not?

And what does it say about us as human beings that we can’t be happy for our friends’ children? Jane said her first word? Amazing! Timmy made the honour roll? He deserves it! Roger stopped pooping on the floor? You’re going places, Roger!

It’s not about the parents. It’s about the children. And if we can’t put our own egos aside, how are our kids supposed to do learn to do that?

All kids develop at different rates. They’re all equally unique. It has nothing to do with our parenting skills or styles; they do things in their own time. And whether a child is perceived to be “ahead” or “behind” or right smack on the line that says “average,” we should celebrate the amazing things they say and do. Because they’re all amazing.

And maybe parenting would be a little bit easier if we could all celebrate their amazing qualities together. After all, isn’t it relishing in the wins that makes the training worthwhile?

in defence of bragging

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Teaching My Kiddo To Navigate The Balancing Act That Is Life

One of my favourite ways to excuse myself to eat an extra cookie or sit on the couch all day reading is my friend, balance. The cookie is fine because I had kale in my smoothie, and the couch day is justified because I’m a mom and I never get to sit down so I’m going to take advantage when I can. Stopping for ice cream on the way home from yoga? Balance.

I joke about it a lot but truthfully, balance is one of the things that I strive to teach my child. As a perfectionist, it can be hard to let things slide. But I have a little trick that I think helps.

I don’t expect one hundred percent.

What does that even mean? It means that I don’t expect my kid to get straight As. If he’s acing every assignment, he’s not learning. I’d much rather see him get high seventies and know that he’s working hard and has room to grow. I don’t expect him to be the best tennis player at lessons, I just expect him to be respectful to the teacher and his classmates. I don’t care if he has to repeat a level at swimming, as long as I know that he’s listening politely. He’s the one that will quickly figure out when it’s worthwhile to work harder and when it’s not.

I forgive my kiddo when he screws up. I don’t hold grudges. Yes, I guide him to live a healthy lifestyle, but in my opinion a healthy lifestyle involves fast food once in a blue moon and an afternoon of video games. I want my kiddo to know the importance of hard work, but the equal importance of doing things that make him happy.

And while I know that when my kid is grown he will hate me for all of these choices that his father and I are making in raising him, that’s life. We have shaped our parenting to actively help him understand when to use his perfectionism to his advantage and when to let it go. Even in my own life, I’m still learning that when I do things like meditate because “I’m supposed to” it’s far less enjoyable and beneficial than when I meditate because I enjoy how peaceful and grounded I feel afterwards. And that when I berate myself for skipping a day it’s much harder to get back into the routine than when I shrug my shoulders and get to it when I get to it.

And I don’t just model these things, I talk to my son about it and so does my husband. We make sure he knows that there are exceptions to every rule. That it’s okay to play hooky. It’s okay to have cake for breakfast. Yes, it’s important to do our best but we can’t do our best in every single thing we do every single day. Sometimes it’s enough to do our best at listening to our body and what it needs. And hopefully one day, these little things will help him navigate the bigger things in life.

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Reasons I Hate Homeschooling

I’m about to sound like a big ol’ traitor. Everyone knows that if you do something that is less than mainstream, you have to whole-heartedly back it up or you are a disappointment to the community. Or something. But truthfully, there are some days when I really, really, really hate homeschooling.

I didn’t choose it

Okay, technically I did, but it was a choice that wasn’t really a choice. When your child’s needs cannot be met in a typical classroom, or even a private school classroom, what are you supposed to do? All of the advocacy in the world wasn’t going to change the fact that my son needed more than any school could give him. I knew it was our best option, and honestly, yes, I did get warm fuzzies when I thought of reading delicious books and taking exciting field trips, but no one likes being forced into something. And I mean, let’s be honest, first impressions stick.

It’s a lot of work to find secular resources

Post that you’re looking for a secular science curriculum and you will almost always get a reply for something that is not secular. I have actually read the words “Why not just teach both creationism and evolution and let your child make up their mind what they believe? Are you worried?” Umm, no. I’m not worried. But creationism isn’t science, it’s religion. And while I have long since left groups that receive such answers, it’s still pretty difficult to avoid Christian resources altogether. Most of the outlets that stock homeschool texts and supplies are Christian. And while I have no issues with other people supporting their religion, it’s not mine, and I do believe we vote with our dollar. I don’t want to give money to a company that may not believe in LGBTQ+ rights. I don’t want to support those who think evolution is fake. And that’s my right as a consumer, just like it’s yours to support your beliefs. But it makes finding homeschool curriculum difficult.

I have yet to find my homeschool “village”

I suck at making friends. I feel awkward, say the wrong things, and lay awake thinking of all of the things I should have said or done instead. So the thought of putting myself out there and having to explain our situation of why we homeschool puts me in a cold sweat. I mean, we’re secular, accelerated homeschoolers. Oh, and I actually love public school. I think it’s a fantastic thing that every child has a right to an education. So yeah, tons of great talking points there.

I feel like my kid is missing out

I hated school with a passion. If I could get out of it, I did. I seriously considered not attending my high school graduation. My first week of grade 9, I begged my guidance counsellor to let me take extra credits to graduate early (I was extremely unsuccessful). But even still, I can’t help but feel my kid is missing out on… something.

I suck at my kid’s favourite subjects

Ever heard of math anxiety? It’s a real thing and I have it bad. It’s not that I’m terrible at math, I’m actually pretty decent with it, but the numbers get all mixed up and my heart rate rises and I snap. And then I feel horrible for being such a terrible mom. Or, my kid will get stuck on something and start bawling and I feel so much guilt because if I was an actual teacher I could explain it better. And honestly, I love science, I think it’s fabulous and that scientists are some of the most important people on the earth, but… and I hate to admit this, sometimes I just don’t care. I’m sorry! I don’t care about atom bonding or the minutiae of the Big Bang. I mean, I think it’s important to know the basics, but my kid can dive so damn deep and I would honestly rather spoon out my own eyeballs. Even though I know that’s how my husband feels when I go on and on about a favourite classic novel. I wish my kid was being educated by experts in these fields so that their passions could bleed into him.

Because it’s so much damn pressure

When your kid is at a public school, it may not feel like it, but you have access to so many different professionals. They know what your kid should be learning, what they’re missing, and how to help them get there. There are professionals that come in for class visits and you know that if your child wants to go to university, a guidance counsellor is going to help give them the tools to get there to a certain degree. But with homeschooling, I’m my kid’s everything. His mom. His teacher. His friend. His teammate. His counsellor. And it’s not that I’m not equipped to do it, it’s just that it would be so damn nice to share the blame with someone else if this all blows up in my face one day. (Other than my husband.) I would love, on those really difficult days, to have gone to school for this. Or to have learned a fun and useful hack at a conference. Or to have a PD day sans child to organize myself.

So while I don’t hate hate homeschooling and will definitely admit that it has its advantages, I won’t be suggesting it to anyone else anytime soon unless they really, really need it because it’s hard, y’all. For all that I hate about homeschooling, it allows my son’s needs to be met in ways that just wouldn’t be possible in another setting. And I guess, if I have to begrudgingly admit it, makes it worth it.

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Why I Try to Talk About my Child’s Giftedness Online

I’ve unwittingly made my child the poster child for dropping out of kindergarten.

I feel like a terrible mom admitting that, like I’ve somehow sold off a piece of his soul to a crossroads devil, but it’s the truth. I try to refrain from sharing too many personal details, I only post snapshots of our life on social media, and in this day and age it seems like a laughable worry, sure. But I’m a mom. It’s my job to worry.

However, the truth of the matter is that if it weren’t for other moms putting themselves out there on the internet I would not have survived the early days of parenting, and I know for a fact my child would not be thriving. From bloggers like My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Learners and secret offshoots of Babycenter message boards, I wouldn’t have known how to handle those earliest hurdles or where to find resources.

It’s funny, not in a ha ha way but a shit that’s devastating when you think about it kind of way, that one of the things I heard repeatedly at doctor’s appointments in the early days was “early intervention.” Our Parent Link, a local resource centre for parents of children under six, even encouraged us to fill out milestone questionnaires and have them reviewed because it is so important to help young children and parents at the earliest sign of developmental differences. And yet, even though it was obvious that my child was different, even though I was struggling so profoundly because I thought I was a terrible mother, it was never mentioned that I might have a *gasp* gifted child except by a friend who luckily planted the seed in my head. Despite giftedness reaching special needs status across school boards in Canada, it’s often one that’s left off of developmental milestone lists. Or, when it is included, it’s to reassure parents that *pat pat* their precocious little booger eater is probably anything but that.

So where does that leave parents? It leaves those of us with resources and too much time on our hands to resort to google and mommy groups on the internet. It leaves us vulnerable to being laughed off, mocked to our faces. But maybe if we’re lucky a kind stranger will take pity on us and lead us into a world that we can only wish existed when we were kids. Because yes, many of us were gifted, are gifted, too. But even if we were identified, the word probably leaves a sour taste in our mouths because we were anything but “smart” like we were told.

For those without the time and resources the picture is bleaker. If I had gone to work shortly after my son’s birth, you can bet I would have found his night-long screams and refusal to sleep more than frustrating. His quirks of knowing exactly what he wanted and screaming until he got it would have probably fractured our bond because I wouldn’t have had the time to say, “Hey, I’ll teach him baby sign language.” (True story.) He would have gone to school, got lost in the crowd, and either hid his intelligence and passions to fit in or lost all interest in trying because “why should I help you if you aren’t helping me.” It’s no coincidence that identified gifted children are predominantly white and wealthy— social injustice seeps down in so many ways it’s horrifying.

And while I don’t have the time to study giftedness intensively or become qualified to dole out proper advice to hungry parents because I am in the midst of raising my own hungry student, what I can do is give them the gift of an anecdote. I can give them hope that it’s all going to be okay, the reassurance that they aren’t alone, like so many moms have done for me. Not everyone has access to professionals, true gifted professionals are so rare, but everyone should have access to a pat on the back and warm cup of tea. And I hope, that at the very least, I can provide that.

So I hope that what they say is untrue. The internet is not forever. Any one of us who had a MySpace page can attest to that. One day my blogs may be gone but hopefully they will have helped a mom or two and their children. Hopefully by then parents will have access to real professionals who have studied giftedness, people who have experience working with these quirky, intelligent kiddos. I hope they won’t have to rely on hacks like me on the internet.

But at the end of the day, as angry as I am that it comes to this, no real help except comfort in bloggers blogging, I’m happy that in some way I’m not completely useless. That I am able to be there in some way for others on a similar path. Because as much as it’s my child’s story, it’s mine too.

Image Credit: @andrewtneel via unsplash

If you suspect you’re the parent of a gifted child, here are some excellent places to start:

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How to Low Key Troll Your Family and Survive the Holidays

What would the holidays be without traditions? The food. The family gatherings. The scrutiny of every single one of your life choices by the very people who shaped who you are today.

A better person than I would tell you to let it roll off your shoulders or have a calm discussion with the offending party explaining why you don’t want your three month old to drink a soda or why a baby doll is a great gift for a two year old regardless of gender. But this is your family! They should know you. And if they don’t, are you really going to change their minds while they’re up to their ears in eggnog? Probably not.

Now full disclosure I don’t recommend trolling anyone that you have a fraught relationship with. Save this for the nearest and dearest, the ones you have a great relationship with but they just can’t seem to keep their advice to themselves. When in doubt, text your bestie from the bathroom and bitch to her. 

via GIPHY

Without further ado here is my easy four step guide to low key trolling your family and surviving the holidays:

Step one: breathe.

The reason is twofold. One, all that oxygen is going to settle your limbic system and quiet that fight or flight response. Two, it’s going to give you time to think of a remark. And three (I guess it’s threefold) comedic timing! If you go into your response too quickly it’s going to look like an attack (and if you aren’t breathing it’s going to come out like one too.) We are not attacking, we’re bringing light to the situation like a sweary scented candle.

Step two: laugh.

Smile. Put a twinkle in your eye. You are not laughing at them, you’re laughing at YOU. You can’t make them feel that you’re joking at their expensive but at your own. That’s how satire works. By making it look like you’re mocking the thing you believe in, or making the offending party think that you are. Remember, we want to sit down and eat cheesecake with these people later. We’re not trying to throw a stick of dynamite into a straw house. 

Step three: fire away.

It helps if you have responses prepared ahead of time. (Let’s be honest, families aren’t exactly creative when it comes to their knitpicking.) Like if your family thinks your breastfeeding is indecent, exclaim that lucky for them you brought enough receiving blankets for everyone to eat under! If they think you’re irresponsible for going back to work, a quick “Yeah (male who went back to work after becoming a dad), don’t you find it so difficult to leave your baby all day?” should suffice. Oh and about that kitchen you’re excited to give your son I saw the best response on twitter:

Now I’m not definitely saying you should respond “that’s so gay” every time a male in your family eats but I mean… could be a new party game.

Step 4: shut the convo down.

Offer to get them a drink. A cookie. Feign a heart attack. Do what you’ve gotta do to make clear that your parenting and life choices are no longer up for discussion. This whole interaction should take less than ten seconds and if you laugh with good humour your family should be left laughing too, if only confusedly.

I know they say kill ’em with kindness but let’s squash ’em with humour shall we? Much more seasonal. And easy to pull off if everyone’s in the rum. I think this is where I remind you that your family loves you and just wants the best for you bla bla bla but let’s be real here: we’re all just trying to get in and get out with our relationships intact.

Happy Holidays!

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Six Books that have Informed my Homeschool (and parenting)

I love to read. So it’s shocking to me that I don’t read a lot of books about homeschooling. In fact, there’s only one homeschooling book that I’ve read and loved. Schooling your own child is a huge responsibility, so shouldn’t you read everything you can about it?

I mean, yes and no. There are so many lessons to be gleaned from books that have nothing to do with homeschooling at all, so sometimes I feel like I’m covering my bases just fine. And our homeschool is so unique that a lot of times, the advice just doesn’t apply. But for me, these are the books that have had the biggest impact on my homeschooling. And because homeschooling is such a large part of our life, I guess you can say they’ve influenced my parenting as well.

5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options by Deborah Ruf

There’s a bit of controversy surrounding this book. A lot of parents have found it inaccurate compared to their child’s IQ tests, especially with twice exceptional children, but for me this was the book that made me understand that my child has different educational needs. It seems common sense, but as a gifted child myself I was still on the “he’ll be fine” train. The more I’ve learned about giftedness, the more I’ve realized how not fine I really was. Am. Yikes. I think this book can be so helpful to parents of young, potentially gifted children, whether you intend on homeschooling or not. It was certainly the one that made my husband and I realize that damn, we were going to end up here sooner or later.

The Boy Who Played with Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star by Tom Clynes

Maybe most parents would be proud of their three year old’s obsession with the periodic table but my husband and I were terrified. While most kids his age were using their toy kitchens to pretend to cook, our child was pretending it was a particle accelerator. He would pretend he was making element 119 in the basement with Mendeleev. He was obsessed with radioactive decay chains. What was he going to be like as a teenager if this persisted? What were we supposed to do with him? The Boy Who Played with Fusion was simultaneously reassuring and daunting. Now it’s become our goal to make sure that our child’s passions don’t get squashed, which is easier said than done. I just hope he doesn’t ask me to go hunting for uranium any time soon.

The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life by Julie Bogart

Here it is, the only homeschooling book on the list. I love the Brave Learner lifestyle. We lived a lot of it before ever having heard of it, but three years in and both my son and I still look forward to our poetry tea times so I had to read Ms. Bogart’s book. I love that it is full of encouragement and inspiration but also doesn’t shy away from some of the problems with homeschooling. When you’re homeschooling your child doesn’t get an escape from their home life, so I love that this book really tells families to make their home as harmonious as possible.

Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté

My husband and I are accidental attachment parents. We never intended to do a lot of the things we ended up doing, but they work for us. So I read this book trying to find out a bit more about this philosophy we accidentally came to follow and ended up getting some homeschool reassurance. This book argues that other kids are terrible at socialization, and that children need parents to guide them so that they gain proper skills. While it’s far from an argument for homeschool, it’s reassuring for those of us who are sick of hearing “but what about socialization?”

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

I resisted this book at first but I was told I “had” to read it and I’m so happy I did. Whether Mr. Gladwell intended to or not, in my opinion he wrote the best argument for gifted education out there. A high IQ is not a recipe for success. It’s dependent on a complicated recipe of opportunity, luck, skin colour, privilege, and sometimes just being born in the right time and place. Gifted kids won’t just be “fine,” and this book reassured me to keep fighting against the myth that they will be.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

This book can only be described as a philosophical thought experiment and it definitely made me think. What kind of a world am I preparing my child for? What careers are going to be available to him? Forget about stick shift, will he ever even learn to drive a car period? For better or worse, this book has made me ease up on my screen time limitations and try to encourage my child’s love of coding. It’s the reason I love Art Of Problem Solving for math. It’s why, to my kid’s dismay, I’d rather spend our time talking about books than doing spelling tests. I want to raise a thinker, not a memorizer, because thinking is the one advantage humans have over computers. For now.

I love all things books so tell me, have you read any of the books on this list? What are your thoughts? Is there a book that has informed your homeschooling, or even just parenting in general?

Note: I have linked to the Amazon listings of these books out of ease and availability, but I was able to find all but one at my local library. I encourage you to do the same!

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The Burden of Giftedness

boy running in the woods

The idea that giftedness is “not a burden” or deserving of resources is making the rounds again. It never really left but it’s loud right now. And it’s bullshit.⁣

Sure, giftedness does not have to be a burden. If you’re wealthy and white and in a neighbourhood where there are resources and you have peers and teachers and mentors and psychologists that get YOU then it can be well, a gift.⁣

But that’s not the reality for many. At all.⁣

It’s like saying my uterus isn’t a burden. But if I’m broke and spending my grocery money on menstrual products, if I’m making 79 cents or whatever it is on the dollar, if I’m prevented from making decisions about my body because of it, then it damn well becomes one.⁣

A lot of the issues gifted kids face are rooted in their neurodiversity, but if that neurodiversity is embraced and cherished then sure, it can be a wonderful thing. Being accepted for who you are and stretched the way you need to be stretched is wonderful for anyone. But if they are shut down by their peers, their teachers, the people they respect and rely on; if they are constantly denied having their very real and very different needs met, then it can be crippling. ⁣

Moral of the story: anything can be a gift or a burden depending on the culture one’s in. We like to say we’re a culture that admires “genius” but that’s only when we can exploit genius. That’s only when genius fits into the box that we expect it to. And often times it doesn’t.⁣

So maybe giftedness wasn’t a burden for YOU. But for many it is. Which is why we need better identification methods, better training and awareness to improve access to programs rather than disintegrating them altogether. Giftedness doesn’t have to be a burden, but our society often makes it one.

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Asynchronous Development and Parenting Struggles

Asynchronous development is possibly the most difficult part of parenting a gifted child. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, it basically means that a child’s development is uneven, causing them to be “many ages” at once and is sometimes considered to be one of the cornerstones of giftedness. (This article on NAGC’s website gives a good definition.) For me, asynchronous development is a bigger pain in my butt than:

  • finding appropriate activities and extracurricular classes
  • finding appropriate reading materials
  • staying awake in the morning after being kept up until midnight by a kiddo’s overactive brain that “can’t sleep” (and then dealing with my own!)

Yes, asynchronous development is behind at least two of these issues but it goes so much deeper than that. I’ve written about my struggles with asynchronous development as a parent before and I often joke about how unnecessary it is for me to have another child since I got a four-in-one deal, but I wanted to take a moment to revisit it. 

There’s a meme that makes the rounds every so often that I’m sure you’ve seen. It’s message can be summed up as saying that it doesn’t matter if you’re good at things, it matters more that you can control your emotions. And while I understand and agree with the sentiment behind it, I think it’s misguided. Many gifted children may struggle to control their emotions and in my experience, asynchronous development is at least partially to blame.

We as adults have expectations of the children in our lives, whether we realize it or not. And a lot of times gifted children fail to meet them. Whether it’s the three year old who uses ten dollar words not being able to share or a teenager who is doing advanced chem but lacking what seems like common sense, we tend to scold them with “You’re so smart. You know better!” While our frustration is understandable, it puts a lot of unneccesary pressure on them.

We’re the ones who need to understand that just because they are academically able to argue with adults doesn’t mean that they’re prepared (mentally or emotionally) to be treated like one. Every young person thinks that they have all the answers but sometimes adults get tricked into thinking that gifted kids actually do have them.  They very well might in some areas, but that should never extend to everything blindly. When in doubt, I personally err on the side of giving my child the patience, empathy, and understanding that would be granted to any other kid his age, and if he does know better, well we talk about that too but with the understanding that maybe there was more at play than knowledge alone.

While gifted children often possess the logic of a much older person, it’s impossible for them to have the life experience. They may seem immature in programs compared to their peers simply because they haven’t had as much exposure to classroom settings. They may have difficulty coping with life events that while they understand mentally, they don’t yet have the coping skills for emotionally. And while they logically may be able to make good decisions, they don’t have enough experience with their own feelings in order to make the right ones for them all of the time. All of those things come with practice, but because gifted children hardly seem to need practice, they sometimes don’t get the extra assistance that they need. 

Asynchronous development is something that I struggle with every day as a parent. Is his tantrum an age appropriate reaction that I need to help him through, or is he acting out for the sake of it? Is he taking ten hours to put on his shoes because he’s six and my priorities aren’t his priorities, or am I lowering my expectations too far? How do I teach him that sarcasm may not be the best approach for making friends until he’s a lot older? As of now, my husband and I are taking it on a case by case basis, asking ourselves which of our four children we’re dealing with at that moment and trying to act accordingly. It’s a balancing act. We don’t always get it right, but no parent does. 

So for now I try to soothe my whiplash by reassuring myself that it’s all just part of parenting a gifted child. I remind myself that this is why I put little stock into milestones personally. And I try to make sure that I’m giving my child all of the things that all of his different ages need in a day: a bit of silliness, a bit of mental stimulation, a bit of independence, and a lot of love. 

I think that’s probably a good recipe for any child.

I am not a teacher, psychologist, or expert in giftedness. Just the mom of a gifted child and a former gifted child myself, sharing my experiences. This post is a part of GHF Learners’ October theme, asynchronous development. You can find out more about GHF Learners here.

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