Brave New World

All my life I have felt like an outsider looking in. Social experiences as a kid were awkward, often. As an adult they are still awkward, sometimes.

Reading to me has always been an escape. Far more than any vacation and it wasn’t until I got married that I realized not everyone disappears when they read. You see, I don’t just get lost in a book. When I read my body ceases to exist. I feel no hunger, no pain, no need to use the bathroom, no cold or heat, I do not even hear others around me. Characters are real people. They become friends who share their thoughts and experiences through an almost Vulcan mind link.

Learning is insatiable. I cannot learn enough. I am indecisive and contemplative because I analyze everything around me. I need to understand relationships and data. My mother often tells me that I have been asking why since before my first birthday. Though why is never really enough. I want to know all that I can. It’s a hunger stronger than any physical need. When I say I need to learn I am not being figurative, it is an actual part of me. I will read and research to death, anything that crosses my path… Including formula ingredients.

Then I will wonder which item does what, why do they need to add it, how much of each is needed. Who created the first one? Who bought the first set an trusted it enough to feed their child. What were the circumstances behind its inception? Each new question brings forth another question and the whole thought process happens in less than a minute.

The hardest part of becoming a parent for me has been the need to let go of reading and learning for myself in order to read and teach my littles. When they were quite young I would read my own interests outloudz to them since they barely understood anyway…Ellie loved when I read her Kissinger, Jo loved Frost, Ana would coo at Friedman, while G would animatedly watch me while reading Machiavelli or Hobbes. But that didn’t last long. Now I’m lucky if I can read a book in a month! If it wasn’t for G’s love of science and his appetite for knowledge or Jo and Ana’s love for fiction I would feel completely lost.

It is absolutely amazing to me that the very things that made me so different from my peers growing up has become exactly what I need to relate to my children.

I was never identified as being gifted, it runs in my family but it’s never been something any of us have really talked about. My need to understand everything around me lead me to research the oddities that were popping up in my kiddos. I’ve worked with children enough to know that what I was seeing was not “normal” and I was terrified that maybe something was wrong. I’ve spent years reading up on traits of Aspergers, autism and other sensory processing disorders trying to find out if my sons quirks fit. He displayed a little bit of one or a little bit of the other but he didn’t match up enough to be diagnosed.

Then I came across an article about twice exceptional learners and gifted traits which lead to another article about gifted children. Suddenly it all made sense. But it’s more than just him. Reading article after article about gifted children, asynchronous learning and the intensities that come with gifted children has more than anything opened my own eyes to the oddities of my own family and childhood!

Now I know why my brother needed to touch EVERYTHING we walked by. I understand why I cannot watch certain movies or shows even as an adult without getting terrible nightmares! I understand why my brother used to physically shake when he got excited about something and why I have had such existential depression over the years. I know why my brother (who understood things faster than me and who’s art talents were greater than my own) always received C’s in school and why I often had B’s even though the work was easy. I understand why it was so hard for me to make friends and why reading was such a great escape!

Yet even though it feels great to know why all these thing happen I am still faced with constant misunderstanding!

There was an article recently about a 6 year old kid working with early entry college teens in Texas on physics and Chemistry. The responses were fantastic. The praise and encouragement noted in the comment section was laudable. However, the whole thing stings me as rife with hypocrisy.

When I was growing up only gifted children to that extreme were noticed. Now only gifted children in college are praised. Instead of encouragement, parents of gifted kids are often fighting a battle alone.

It’s not all rainbows and sunshine! Yes it’s a gift but all gifts come with a price. I often get odd looks and disbelief when I talk about my son or daughters. I am still struggling with an overwhelming sense of being alone and unacceptable. Although now it’s compounded because not only do I personally still feel like an outsider, now I’m fighting for the acceptance of my children as well.

I understand them perfectly but how do I translate why we do things differently without bringing up what brought us here? Why do I feel as though I have to beat around the bush when it comes to the giftedness of my children? Why do people think I’m bragging? Why do other parents act as if I’m claiming my kid is better then theirs? Why do we rank them?

I really hate the phrase “all children are gifted” because it is referring to the term “gifted” in the diagnostic sense. All children are not gifted, gifted children think differently, they are emotionally intense, their imaginations are insanely wild, their senses process things in a different way. They are different. Not better, just different.

Instead I think it is safe to say that all children are a gift and that all children have a gift. Every child is unique. A present that slowly unwraps, blessing the world with their very being. I wish we lived in a world that understood that. A world were oddities are normal and strengths are encouraged. Where parents can be encouraged by other parents without a need to rank our children.

My children are different, my family is different, I am different. It’s hard to come to terms with considering that I have spent my life trying to conform to social conventions and this idea of normality. I’m working on it in my own way. I embrace the tantrums and quirks while instructing and leading. I teach my children compassion and love. Each step brings me closer to a Brave New World.

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Unschooling Success!

I have been freaking out! Seriously undermining every thought and action that comes our way. I go to sleep at night and have nightmares about a school official from the district telling me that I’m doing this all wrong and no longer have the right to homeschool. I wake up terrified!

I’m always wondering if we are doing enough. I doubt whether this Unschool style is working at creating life long learners. I have very little faith in my juggling abilities even though I have an enormous amount of faith that God led me here.

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I look at days like this, when it’s the middle if the afternoon and we are still in pjs and watching tv. Granted we are watching Nova: Hunting the Elements and my kids are fascinated by all the chemical reactions, but still I have a hard time with tv as school! Then my son will randomly spout out something he learned from said TV show (like pass the sodium chloride at dinner) and I know he’s really learning! But random Ah-hah moments for me are not proof to the district that I’m regularly and thoroughly instructing my kiddo.

So you can imagine the anxiety I felt walking into our review last week with my accordion file folder worth of materials, my son and our iPad. I looked around the room at these moms with five gallon totes on wheels with perfectly organized file folders filled with projects and work sheets and I swear I froze momentarily!

Thank goodness my little fireball was with me (and that daddy kept the girls!) because he thought the whole process was so cool and kept asking questions the whole time!!

I signed in, sat down, pulled out my materials and the woman sitting across from me asked what curriculum we use. As I was pulling out my materials I responded that we don’t use any.

You can imagine the look this retired teacher had. She instantly regained her composure, looked at my pile and said “oh well we count explode the code as a curriculum” to which I replied yes but we use it as a review, not a curriculum. I could tell I was confusing her so she did what all teachers do, she asked my son what he is learning about and what books he likes to read.

You can imagine her shock as he answered that he really likes Harry Potter and Eragon right now but that “Geronimo Stilton and Captain Underpants are hilarious!”

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This little extrovert completely took over! I showed her our work samples, he wowed her with his intelligence and vocabulary, she was awed at the work he was able to do in the past few months and we got signed off with flying colors!!

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This whole experience has not only encouraged me (maybe I need to give myself some grace, ok definitely, not maybe) but mostly it reminded me that God equipped me to do this! I am not forsaken, I am not alone. I was called onto this path for a reason and I really need to let go of my preconceptions and worldly tethers!

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Our homeschool doesn’t look like anyone else’s. Yes we are conservatives, yes we eat and make old fashioned recipes, yes we Unschool and above all no we don’t need to look like anyone else. So it’s ok if we use Star Wars to explain plot structure, character development, good vs evil, the hero myth, quantum physics and hyper drives, tactics and strategies. It’s amazing how even a three year old can understand these concepts (she swears that Darth Vader is confused and the real bad guy is the evil Baba Yaga!)… So yea I guess this is what Unschooling Success looks like for us.