I’m over here today, at the Fun School Room. Maybe you’ll come see me there?
For those who don’t know our story of how we came to homeschool, I’ll give a quick re-cap. I wanted to homeschool for a while, mostly for religious reasons. My husband was not comfortable with the idea of homeschooling. So my son went to kindergarten at our local public school last year. He attended a gifted “enrichment” class once a week, which he loved, but the rest of the week he struggled in his kindergarten class. After asking the school if they could provide more challenging work for him, and they declined to do so, we decided to homeschool this year. I’ve learned a great deal about my sons academic needs and how his brain works over the past year and a half. With the assistance of his gifted teacher and my own research, I’ve found some great activities and resources for bright learners. Actually any learner will benefit, including us grown ups!
1. Weird word of the day: This is something they did in my son’s gifted class and I decided to do it in homeschool. As part of “morning work” we learn a new word and try to put it into a sentence. We learn about where the word came from and how it’s used. The web site I use is: AWAD. They send me a new word everyday to my email.
2. Logi-puzzles: These are puzzles that use algebraic thinking and logic. The web site I get them from is here. They also have logic riddles that we enjoy doing.
3. MindWare Bella’s Mystery Deck is a new find for us. My son loves reading the Encyclopedia Brown series. He’s training his mind to pay attention to clues and try to solve the mystery before the book tells him the answer. The mystery deck is a shorter version of the same idea. Each card has a brief mystery and you try to guess the answer. To see if you have the correct answer, they provide a small mirror to read the clue that is printed backwords at the bottom of the card.
4. Tanagrams: This is IQ building 101. Doing tanagrams is great for building logic skills and an activity that can be done alone. We like the SuperMind Regular Edition.
5. “Mommy, how do cars work?” “How does air conditioning work?” For children who never stop asking: why, how and what, we love the Science Channel. Two shows in particular: How it’s Made and How do they do it? The shows take you inside factories and workshops where things are made and you get to watch the item being built step by step.
God has been working on my worries and anxieties about my kids health, since, well actually since they were born:) It was a huge struggle for me to let go of anxiety with my oldest when we went through the whole sinus thing for two years, including two surgeries. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done is watch my son leave to go into surgery. So, I’ve had to intentionally focus on the promises of scripture each time a new health issue arises.
When my oldest started kindergarten last year, he started having problems in the middle of the night. He was seeing shapes and colors and it scared him so much, he couldn’t go back to sleep. It only happened when he was over-tired (with my kids, when they are over-tired, they sleep poorly). I quickly ruled out hallucinations since they are of real things like rats, bats, bugs, spiders, etc. I decided not to worry about it and attributed his “visions” (that’s what he calls them) to stress and fatigue. He’s always had a very vivid imagination so I figured it was behavioral.
Then he started telling me he was seeing colored spots during the day, all day, everyday. I broke my own rule about searching medical symptoms on the computer (this usually increases my anxiety) and started researching his symptoms. I decided to start by taking him to a pediatric ophthalmologist. We’ve been twice now and his vision has been thoroughly tested and found to be perfect. His eyes and optic nerve are also fine. We kept a food diary for a week to rule out an ocular migraine. More and more as my son described the doctor what he sees, the doctor realized that it was related to his sense of sight. We talked about his giftedness and the fact that gifted people usually have more pronounced, vivid, and exaggerated senses. You know when you blink your eyes really tight and open them up quickly? You can see spots right? Well my son sees that all the time when he blinks normally.
So the doctor told me that he’s going to attribute his symptoms to his strong sense of sight. But he said if it worsens in any way the only other thing to rule out would be a seizure disorder. I am relieved that it’s not a major problem and he will just have to work on ignoring what he sees. And I’m not allowing my thoughts to even consider what to do if it worsens!
Hearing that his vision issues were probably related to his giftedness did not surprise me. Having our son labeled as gifted has been extremely helpful to us because before we knew that, he was a complete mystery. I know labels can cause problems are there are some negative aspects to it, but once I started reading about gifted kids, I discovered that all the issues we had dealt with made sense. So the problems with his vision does not surprise me because his other senses are very strong. For those who aren’t familiar, being gifted doesn’t necessarily mean being smart. People can be gifted artistically, musically, even athletically (think Michelangelo or Mozart). In addition to have exceptional reasoning skills and abilities in certain areas that us average folk aren’t, they have quite a few characteristics that make them unique. For example, everything with a gifted kid is exaggerated, over the top, pronounced, significant, and magnified. They have characteristics that sometimes get confused for ADD or autism spectrum disorders. They have more sleep issues than the average child–thus less sleep for the parents. They see the world in a completely different way than most so it’s hard for them to fit in or for other people to understand them (including their parents, imagine being Isaac Newton’s mom!). Their feelings are more intense and deeper than an average kid as well, which is why the littlest thing can be a big deal to our son. And so now, it seems, having pronounced senses can cause interesting “visions.”
I have to admit that I have at times wished for an average child (thankfully I found other parents online who have wished the same thing so the guilt is lessened slightly). I often feel completely inadequate and incompetent and have absolutely no idea how to help him with the various challenges he faces. But just like a parent who has a child with any kind of challenge I have to remember that God gave him to us for a purpose. Children are a gift no matter the package they come in. God has a plan for him and my job is to prepare him for what God has in store for him in the future. And each time something new comes up, be it behavioral or medical or anything else, I have to let go of my worries and trust in God’s will.
I think most people struggle with habits they wish they didn’t have. Nail biting, curling hair around your finger, etc. My oldest has had a few at various times in his young life but they didn’t last long (for a short time he used to wet his hands and wipe his cheeks with his hands, he also used to stick his hands in his mouth when he was nervous). I noticed last summer when he was in camp for the first time, he started chewing on his shirt from time to time. Once kindergarten started, it became a constant thing. It’s quite normal for gifted learners to have nervous habits so I’m not suprised by it. There’s also plenty to be anxious about in school. However, all his white shirts have a dark spot on them where he chews on them:(
We’re trying to bring the habit from the unconscious level to the conscious level. He really has no idea when he’s doing it. I point it out to him whenever I see him do it. We’ve also made a rule that when he is at home he has three choices:
1. Take off the shirt.
2. Have tape put all around the collar.
3. I put something distasteful on the collar (I’ve wet it and sprinkled pepper on it and I’ve used organic dish soap).
A friend of mine has a highly gifted learner who is now an adult. She told me that when her son was the same age, he chewed on his shirt as well. I’m sure that he’ll grow out of it in time but I am concerned about him being teased. I also want him to learn coping skills for when he is nervous or anxious so that he won’t feel the need to chew on his shirt. His little brother has learned that when he is upset, he is to ask for a hug or go and find his blanket for comfort. He’s been praying each night at bedtime for God to help him stop the habit.
In the meantime, no more white shirts!
I’ve confessed in previous posts about my strong desire to homeschool. My husband and I have been in discussion about it more recently and he seems a little more open to it than before. Over the past five years I’ve been researching and learning more about it. I’ve talked to a number of homeschooling parents and read books both by those who do it for biblical reasons and those who do for purely educational reasons.
Lately I’ve been researching about the various curriculum choices and have come up with more than I ever thought possible. It seems that a parent has to first determine their “style” of homeschooling before selecting curriculum. By “style” I mean mode and method and philosophy of homeschooling. There are a few main styles I’ve come across. There’s the traditional style where homeschooling is set up exactly like that at a school but done by the parent. There are textbooks for each subject and the day is spent going through each subject, completing work sheets and other things one might expect from a regular school. There’s also a classical view of homeschooling that is traditional in nature but emphasizes logic, reasoning, latin and greek and encourages a lot of memorization. There’s the Charlotte Mason method which is holistic in nature and emphasizes learning through literature and nature. And then there’s unschooling. There seems to be a variety of ways to “unschool” but most of what I’ve read focuses on learning through life experiences. There may not be any curriculum used. Math is learned through shopping or cooking for example. There also seems to be an emphasis on following the child’s interest in learning. If the child shows an interest in bugs, then their days would be used by investigating and researching that topic.
I have more of a moderate personality, I kind of prefer flexible structure. There is a curriculum that seems to have some connection to the Charlotte Mason method where learning is done through unit studies. A topic or theme is chosen and reading, spelling, grammer, social science, math and science are incorporated into that theme. Unit studies are actually what the gifted teacher uses in Ethan’s weekly gifted class. They are “traveling the world” this year and learning about geography, history, culture, studying fairy tales from different cultures, doing research on the computer, and even incorporating math. It’s the one day a week where he is excited to share what he has learned. The other day on the way home from school he related a story they had read about a man who had gone mountain climbing in Pakistan (3 Cups of Tea). It’s a true story and he remembered every detail and I could hear the fascination and excitement in his voice as he recounted it. Most days of school when I ask him what they did he can’t remember.
I’ve found some interesting resources on unit studies. I’ve found homeschooling curriculum developed especially for gifted learners. I really liked it but think I’d rather use curriculum that is based on scripture. After all, that’s the main reason I want to homeschool–to help my kids see all of life from the perspective of the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Here’s a neat one I’d like to do this summer on geology that is from a Christian perspective.
Here are a few more interesting links:
Orcha what? I’ll explain, but let me say first that I am so fascinated by the highly gifted brain. I guess it’s because I don’t think the same way so I find it so interesting. Ever since Ethan was a baby I just followed along in whatever he wanted to learn. One of his first words was “clock” so I exposed him to lots of clocks. When he asked to learn math, I taught him math. When he wanted to learn about space, we studied everything we could find on space. When he wanted to learn cursive, I showed him how. When he wanted to memorize the 50 states, I got him a map. His mind has an insatiable desire to learn and he has led me on quite an adventure!
One of his daily challenges is getting his mind to slow down enough so he can sleep at night. We try to give him tons of books to read, drawing supplies and give him ideas for what to do in his bed at night. One night he came out and said that he had nothing to do. I suggested he invent his own country and tell us about it in the morning. Well, that’s just what he did.
Most nights since then he has been working on the country he invented: Orchaboky. He created a flag and can tell you about their natural resources and their industry. He has been working on a power point presentation of his country and the other day we all sat down to listen to his presentation. It was really cute and we had fun raising our hands asking him questions. It’s an ongoing project that will hopefully keep his mind engaged for quite some time.
While we were on vacation, we had an opportunity to speak with a professor of education who teaches on gifted education. Yes, I did pick her brain! One of the things we discussed was the spiritual challenges gifted learners confront because of their perfectionism. She shared examples of other families with gifted children and how they handle sin in their lives.
Perfectionism is a common trait in the gifted. For perfectionists like my oldest son, sin is a big problem. Failing at anything is a big problem. When he first started to play board games, it was the end of the world for him when he didn’t win. He is hesitant to try anything new unless he feels confident he will excel at it. We encourage him to fail at something everyday. We had a debate with him yesterday about the fact that failure can be a good thing; it challenges you to try harder the next time and you learn from your mistakes. He was adamant that what we said was not true.
In our catechism devotional (Training Hearts Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism), we’ve been discussing the Fall, Original Sin, and the effects of sin in our lives. He acknowledges that he is sinful, that everyone sins, and that one day everything will be restored when Christ returns. However, he does not handle it well when he is corrected. He gets upset and berates himself, “I am the worst person!”
This will be an ongoing challenge for him and for us as parents as we remind him of his worth in God’s eyes and help him deal with the fact that he is not perfect, cannot be, and sin brings consequences. Battling perfectionism will be a lifelong internal war for him I’m afraid. But isn’t sin a battle we all face each and every day?
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:15-25
When Ethan was 8 months old, he started having night terrors. Since it’s very rare for babies to experience night terrors, it took us a while to figure out that’s what it was. (Night terrors are not nightmares and they occur when a person gets stuck between sleep cycles. Children usually scream and cry in a way that is different from their usual crying and they sound terrified. Often they can be kicking and screaming and will have their eyes opened, almost looking possessed. Around the time Ian was born, Ethan’s night terrors stopped. He has always experienced intense nightmares as well, though those aren’t quite as frequent as they were when he was 2 and 3yrs of age. I can still remember in vivid detail how scared I was the first few times Ethan experienced night terrors and how upset it made me.
A week or so ago, Ethan had two episodes of wetting his bed in the middle of the night. He hasn’t done that in well over a year so it came as a big suprise to both of us. Ethan told me that he thought he was using the bathroom and then woke up to find that he was in his bed and had wet it. I determined that he must have dreamt that he was in the bathroom.
Last night, he came into our room, got into the bed and just stared at me. I kept asking him “Ethan, what do you need? Why did you come in here?” He didn’t answer and just made noises and kept moving around. He finally got up and went back to his room. I realized after he left that he must have been sleepwalking. This morning I asked him about his coming into my room to see if maybe he had woken up at some point when I was talking with him last night but he said that he never came into my room. He was quite upset to learn about the sleepwalking.
I remember my sister sleepwalking when she was a child and I know that this can run in families. I had trouble going back to sleep last night because I started worrying that between the bed wetting and now the sleepwalking, he was developing a serious problem. When he was a baby and I read everything I could find about night terrors, I read about the bizarre and scary things that can happen to people while they are sleepwalking. I had to stop myself and confess to God my anxiety about it and ask him to protect Ethan.
In my research today, I’ve found that Sleep Terror Disorder and Sleepwalking Disorder are more prevelant in gifted children, and more so with boys. I haven’t found much advice on how to deal with it. A friend of mine has a gifted child who was a sleepwalker and she cautioned me to make sure that the doors are locked at night for safety. I’ve read that having a regular bedtime routine is important, which we’ve always had one, so there isn’t much to change there. I will be praying that God would keep Ethan from trying to go outside and that we would always wake up and hear him if this continues.
Birth order theory is a theory about a person’s personality being determined by their order of birth. I believe there is a lot of truth to that. Most oldest children are pretty responsible and dependable. And the second usually tries to be the opposite of the first. And so I’ve wondered about Ian.
Even at a young age I’ve seen him trying to establish his role in our home with who he is as separate from his big brother. Since Ethan has the status as the “smart one” who loves learning, I’ve seen Ian resist being seen as smart. He can read, do math, has great verbal skills and is very bright like his brother but he doesn’t want to be thought of that way. At Ian’s age, Ethan loved to sit down with me and do educational workbooks. Ian does not like to do that so any educational activity we do has to be in the form of a game and has to be fun in order for him to do it. And even then he often purposefully gets wrong answers.
Yesterday, I found Ian trying to spell words with magnets on the fridge. He has a worm magnet he had made in school and I heard him playing with the magnets. I quietly observed (so he wouldn’t stop if he knew I was watching) and he was sounding out the word “worm” and choosing the letters to spell the word. He ended up with WRM. I let him know I saw and helped him find the missing letter and then encouraged him to spell some other words using the Word Whammer. I thought he might stop playing with making words but he kept doing it and spelled a number of words all on his own.
The psychologist we’ve used for Ethan has talked with us a few times about Ian and what to expect from him intellectually. He assumed that Ian would end up being gifted as well but stressed that it would show itself probably different from Ethan. What do you do with a kid who is obviously quite intelligent yet who doesn’t want to be found out to be smart? How do I help him grow and learn in a way where he can still define himself as different from his big brother? I want to encourage him to enjoy learning and I don’t want him to waste or suppress his abilities. I think these are going to be ongoing questions for many years to come. If anyone knows of any fun activities or books I can read on the subject please let me know.
As the older child, Ethan has always been one to boss others around. I remember him being not yet three and telling another child at the grocery store that they were sitting in the shopping cart incorrectly. It’s only become more frequent as he has gotten older. When you add the intelligence factor, it seems to make him more bossy. How do you teach someone to have a Godly view of themselves?
One of the things that I do regularly is tell him that God gave him his ability to learn things quickly for a special reason. God planned good works for us before the creation of the world and whatever attributes, skills or abilities He has given us, they are to be used for His glory. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 And so we talk about God having a plan to use Ethan for the building up of his kingdom–whether it’s as a scientist, a pilot, a teacher or whatever his calling may be. One of the obvious reasons I tell him this is so that he would remember that his abilities come from God, not himself. But an additional reason is that it is part of my blessing that I give him (see The Blessing). Encouragement is often underused or misused with our children. We are pretty good at saying “You’re such a good runner.” or “Your such a handsome little boy.” But true encouragement is “the verbal affirmation of someone’s strength, giftedness, or accomplishment, along with the realization that God the creator is the ultimate source behind whatever’s being affirmed.” (see Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different). “The secret to true encouragement is learning to see God’s reflection in others, not just in Christians but in everyone. Encouragement is noticing God’s reflection in other people’s strengths and gifts, then verbally affirming what we see.” (Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different).
Now that he is around other kids of high intelligence, I have concerns that he will struggle with humility. So in addtion to the blessing or encouragement I give him, I also remind him of what he can and cannot boast about. He has come home saying something like “the other kids in my class notice that I am smart too because they copy what I am doing.” We looked up and read this passage from Jeremiah and whenever he makes a comment like that, I remind him of what the scripture says: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!’” 9:23,24.