“Making Magic”

“Momma, close your eyes. I’m going to make Magic”

Itty Bitty stood on the grassy hill that gently sloped down from the library’s brick wall. She had just grasped an entire Dandelion puff in her tiny hand and was squeezing her teeny fist as tightly as possible.

“Ok, can I open them now?” I asked, playing along to see where this would go.

“Now Momma! Look I made Magic!” she giggled.

I opened my eyes and saw her standing there surrounded by soft lilting Dandelion seeds wishing in the slight breeze with a huge gaping grin, awestruck by the magic she had created.

At that moment an elderly gentleman passed by leaning heavily on his cane. I saw him chuckling with a gleam in his eye, entranced by my daughter.

She did it. She really did make magic. In that moment she was a master magician, bewitching the adults who happened upon her spell.


I stood there smiling at her, after he passed by, watching the seeds float on. After a moment she skipped off to the next flower and did it again, repeating the script and game over and over.

At one point she told me that she was a pollinator. In another she bent down and hugged the ground telling me that she was hugging her shadow like Peter Pan before telling me that she is a sunshine stopper. She scoured the landscaped for fallen Dogwood flower petals telling me that she needs to explore the differences among the fallen pieces.

I had my phone in my hand the whole time. At some moments I stood there capturing the scene through the photo lens and at other not really paying attention as I texted a friend back.

I giggled when she giggled. I watched her skip and frolic over to the adjoining grassy field speckled with yellow and white Dandelion blossoms, knowing that she is my last baby to play like this out in the field.

As I watch my baby grow up,  I’ve noticed this one truth…

Learning is Magic.

Magic happens whether I plan it or not.

Magic happens when I let go and allow them to explore.

Magic happens when I step back and take MY hands off.

Learning can, and does, happen when I’m leading or introducing new things but that learning isn’t really magical. Fun yes. Joy filled yes. But magical, no.

This moment didn’t happen because I orchestrated the timing or set things up beforehand. We were in the in between. We were moving between her one on one time at the public library and picking up her siblings at piano lessons. We just happened to have a handful of extra minutes because I got cold under the AC indoors and wanted a moment to bask in the sun before rushing to the next event.

In that moment, under those circumstances, I gave her absolute freedom and in that freedom she made magic.

Making room for magic made all the difference.

It always makes the difference…

as long as I get out of the way long enough to allow it.


Broken Glass

Today I took a nap. A real nap.

I put on a CLEAN semi trendy outfit and thought that I looked cute in my leggings, skirt and tee combo paired with boots and matching purse.

I liked my outfit. I didn’t have to worry about practicality and I didn’t need to walk half naked from room to room handling other peoples clothing emergencies, “this sock feels weird” or “where’s my left shoe” were nowhere to be heard! I chose an outfit that I liked and then I got dressed.

I had time to curl my hair and apply what passes as make up for me…basically BB cream, lipstick and eyeliner. I didn’t have to take my lipstick out of my four year olds hands and I didn’t have to explain to my daughter why I like to put eyeliner on my eyes.

After much pomp and circumstance (and several rounds of hugs and pouty faces) I left my house without children.

I went to a Starbucks not attached to a Target, alone.

I walked up to the Starbucks counter (not the drive thru) and ordered a Grande Iced Carmel Macchiato  (for the first time) without the chaos of multiple voices trying to order their own drinks in rapid succession.

I was early for my moms night out and unapologetically jammed to top 40 music, complete with expletives.


Dinner with female adult conversation and Baltimore’s third year of Listen to Your Mother was, to say the least, a blessing.

I love my children and truly enjoy being with them, but friendship and nights out are a gift, a rare and well appreciated gift.

On my way home, just to maximize my time out, I walked through a bookstore until closing… by myself! I looked at the adult fiction section, I picked up some merchandise from a clearance table and I reveled in the calming smell of paper and coffee.

I know, I’m living the dream…or at least the suburban mom dream.

The children were ecstatic to see me when I finally returned. Daddy let them stay up until I came home, letting them binge watch Phineas and Ferb. They loved it. It was just as much of a treat for them as it was for me.

Then the TV turned off. Bedtime was announced. They shuffled their feet. They tried to give another three kisses before heading up the stairs. We heard shouting. We heard running feet… and then we heard breaking glass.

A beautiful day, filled with calm and refreshing quiet, ended with the shattering of glass.

Because, of course, something had to happen.


It didn’t annoy me. The sound of shattering glass didn’t fill me with dread or anger. I was still calm. I was able to respond to the emotional needs of the children who had accidentally hit the glass while trying to brush their teeth. I was able to respond and not react.

For the first time ever the sound of broken glass made me smile.

It reminded me that life is unpredictable. It reminded me that life is fragile. It reminded me that life is transparent and beautiful exactly the way it is.

Because that shattering, fragile glass reminded me that Glass, like life, is made beautiful in its imperfections.brokenglassblogpost


Just Like… Me!?

This past fall we made the decision to let go of our Unschooling ways in favor for a more structured Charlotte Mason routine and now, half a year later, I am taking a second look at our decision. This is not what I was planning. I had glorious visions of days filled with us out in nature, surrounded by classical literature, art, and music. I had so many dreams and visions. I expected my children to love the extra reading time too but that hasn’t happened. Instead everyday has been a challenge, every assignment a battle.


Here’s the thing, I am not convinced its the change of style causing all the havoc. I’ve been noticing a trend with my two oldest over the years that has nagged at me but not really worried me. I thought it was a phase. Maybe it still is a phase, but this new style has highlighted the issue. The issue? Underachievement!

I’m sure that part of the problem began with their perfectionism and the need to get things done right but now its morphed into a need for things to be easy. Easy things don’t present a challenge, easy things can be done without really thinking, planing or having to fail repeatedly. After all, failing is not the greatest feeling in the world … I should know, I hate failing.

 I hate failing so much that I dropped honors classes in high school because it was easier to be the smartest kid in the class in a regular class getting straight A’s without trying than it was to actually have to pay attention in class, take notes and …*gasp* study (!) to make B’s in honors! That trend followed me all the way through my undergrad years and is the dirty secret behind my 5 major changes in one semester. Actually, I didn’t learn how to study until grad school and even then it wasn’t out of necessity but rather out of intrigue for the subject matter. 

I get it, I really do. Finding out that my kids are gifted opened my eyes to my own undiagnosed giftedness. My kids are just like me! I study best when I’m fascinated by the materials. I have sensory sensitivities, I displayed asynchronous development in my younger years, I felt at ease academically in every level …all of the oddities that I struggled with in myself made so much sense when I saw them in my children through the lens of Giftedness, but this is a bit different. This is like a gifted fault that I have passed on to my children…a fault that I still struggle with!

 I still choose the easy way out. I still shoot down hard options that could be very rewarding because I’ve allowed underachievement to control some of my major life decisions in really unhealthy ways. I still am an underachiever. 

I have so many ideas that constantly flow through my mind:

-possible websites that could help homeschoolers search through the millions of free and cheap resources that are already online (I’ve had this one for the past four years!),

– creating a History curriculum that looks at interactions world wide through a billiard ball effect over time (this one I’ve had festering since my teaching days back in 2005!)…

 I’ve had these ideas and the means to make them possible for years but I just haven’t even started one of them. Part of it is fear of failure, part of it is wondering if I have the credentials to be taken seriously once they are finished, part of it is wondering if they are just crazy ideas that don’t matter, and part of it is just laziness because all of them require determination and effort. 

Finding giftedness in yourself after noticing it in your children can be a wonderful link bonding the two generations in a special way. Knowing that your children’s quirks are just like yours adds to the level of understanding and compassion that as a parent is really necessary for your everyday peace, but not every quirk is one you wanted to pass down.

So now I face a new challenge.

 How do I face underachievement in its beginning stages with my young children when I have spent years running from it in myself? 

A challenge of this magnitude is usually one that I would try to avoid. I know this is going to be tough. I know that I may not succeed with my first idea. I know that the stakes are high. I know all of this, but if I am going to help any of them face their own underachievement, then I need to face my own. I don’t know if I need to tweak our style again. I don’t know if I need to put more of an emphasis on the child led aspects that we used to hold to with only some subjects being mandated by Mom. I don’t know what I need to do!

 I didn’t write this post with the intention of tackling how to fix underachievement among gifted students. This post is a part of the GHF Blog Hop: Recognizing Giftedness in Our Children and Ourselves because  sometimes recognizing giftedness is recognizing the sides of giftedness that we may not want to admit to, especially in ourselves. After all, the first step towards fixing anything is admitting that there is something that needs to be fixed. It is sometimes realizing that I can’t say “your child…” to my husband jokingly because this time, they are Just Like …Me!?



Making the Jones’ Sigh

Never fails, ever. I take the children out and about during the day to run errands between piano lessons and Library visits or for whatever reason and the sheer size of my brood brings at least one comment. The comments themselves are not always negative, nor are they always condescending. Sometimes it’s the sigh of recognition from a grandma who misses the days that have long gone by, sometimes its the unfulfilled wish from a woman who wants children but cannot have them for whatever reason and every once in a while it’s an exclamation of joy from an adult who grew up in a large family and sees a younger version of themselves in us as we pass by. I don’t mind the comments, even the rude ones.  Having a larger family was always one of my dreams. I planned to have four children and I planned them all to be less than two years apart, it’s what I wanted and so I take the comments as a part of this chosen lifestyle.

making the jones' sigh

However, what always surprises me is the sigh that comes along with the mention of homeschooling. Our area has a huge community of homeschoolers. There are homeschoolers from every walk of life in this area,  if you can name them, I’m sure we can find at least a few of them somewhere around here. I am so close to both Washington DC and Baltimore that we end up being in a mixing pot, culturally, socially, religiously… and I love it, yet homeschoolers still get sighs while out and about. Again this isn’t a positive or negative sigh. This is very much along the lines of the large family sigh with one exception. Everyone feels bad for me.

“Don’t you ever just need a break?” Is a question I am asked repeatedly. “With such a large family and homeschooling, when do you get time for you?” is usually the runner up followed by, “I just don’t have that kind of patience.”

To answer the most asked question, yes, yes I do need a break and yes I do make the time for me, just like any other mom- homeschooler or not and I do not have a patience super power. My patience runs thin, and often, but here’s the really weird thing. The more time I spend with my kids, the more I like them.

Don’t get me wrong, they know how to push every single button. They know which nerves are frazzled and exactly how to push me over the edge, but they also have a pretty hilarious sense of humor. We have inside jokes that pop up in the most inconvenient of times. They like the same things I like, probably because of some healthy geek conditioning, but still, it’s there.

I get them and they get me; over excitabilities, quirks, oddities and all. Patience running out or not, I still enjoy being with the little ones who who make me yell, cry and laugh until my sides hurt every day. We built a lifestyle that we love and we love sharing it with each other, even if that means spending bad days separated in bedrooms surrounded by books.

Being with my children everyday is an adventure. One minute my kids are helpful and kind, the next minute they are running in twenty different directions while screaming at each other and then they have a moment of curious exploration filled with intense discussion followed by a completely boneheaded decision that leaves me questioning their genetics (it must come from their father…or their uncle…but never me, right?). Being with them all day everyday makes me want to simultaneously spend everyday out of my house doing fun things and everyday hiding under my blankets.

Somedays I do wish for that break in the day that would allow me to run to the grocery store with only one child. Sometimes. Most times though, I don’t even compare. I don’t even consider the other option because I love the bonds and life we have created.

I love that I can take my kids to the aquarium in the middle of the day when no one else is there. I love that we can spend two hours in a library reading aloud from a myriad of genres in the most comfortable chairs because no one else is there. I love that I can take them into Washington DC and let them run ahead of me in a large museum because its the middle of January, freezing outside, and very few people are walking around. I love that we can do neat indoor field trips (like museums, galleries, plays, aquariums or orchestra shows) all winter, spend hours (3-5) outside in wild nature when the average temp is in the 60’s, take summer break while our friends and family are off in June and then spend the unbearably hot/humid summer/fall doing school inside. I love how easily I can change our schedule to fit the needs of our family, either because the stress is just too much and we need a brain break or because their cousin is moving and we want to spend extra time with them before they leave.

Being the person that helps them through the frustration and gets them to that a-ha moment is totally worth being the person that hears them cry about not getting it. Hours a day of repeating the same thing over and over is worth it that first time they finally do it on their own (clear off the table when you leave!) and seeing them understand something that I’ve never even discussed with them before always blows my mind. “Leave your (fill in the blank) alone!” might as well be recorded since I am a repeat repeater, and it makes me feel batty but it gets easier the longer you do it, or at least it did with me. What was excruciatingly difficult when my oldest was three is only mildly annoying to me now.

I don’t need a break from that, and when I do, I claim my vacation days and we veg out and watch way too much tv, or at least they do while I get lost in a book. Another thing I’ve learned to just accept.

When people gave me that pity sigh I used to sigh in commiseration, but something switched inside of me. I now realize that this isn’t a “poor you” situation. I recognize that my choice is different, but I don’t feel like I’m loosing anything. I think we are building a pretty awesome childhood for our children. In fact there are times where I don’t think I’ve come far enough. I wonder if I should let them roam free in the woods, or go to town with real tools but talk myself out of that because of social conventions that are still drilled into me. I would love to get off the grid a bit more and give the children even more freedom out of doors but we are too suburban for that. Our county doesn’t even allow for goats or lambs in the back yard, a fact that I hope to find a loop hole around…and maybe then we will make the Jones’ sigh some more.


The Year of Uncertainty: Looking back on 2015

The year of 2015 is coming to a close and as I sit and reflect over everything that has happened over the past twelve months I have come to the realization that this past year has been one of never ending tests on my faith and an excruciatingly large amount of unknown.  So much uncertainty has plagued the past year and in turn so much change has occurred over such a short year and in that same time so much growth has happened unbeknownst to those of us in the midst of the trials .

As a family we are a tiny bit stronger than we were last December and as a woman I am a tiny bit braver than I was this time last year.

the year of uncertainty

Going into 2015 we still had no confirmation as to our ongoing position with the Marine Corps. There was still every possibility that they would reject our request for early retirement. We had no idea whether we would be retiring in the area or whether we would be given orders to move to a new area.

We had five months left on our apartment lease but only two months to decide if we were going to stay in that tiny (for our family) apartment or leave. If we stayed it would be another year long lease and rent was rising by several hundred dollars per month. If we left we could find a better deal but how long would we be there? Orders could show up and require us to move out at any time, and while we always sign a military clause I would never want to subject a family to an unexpected loss of renters. We could buy if we knew that the Corps was releasing us but we had absolutely no savings for a deposit and no idea what was affordable because there still wasn’t a job lined up.

Oh yeah, then there was the whole job issue. There were possibilities of jobs, there were companies offering contract positions that sounded great but none of them would start an official hiring process without an official retirement date. See the circularness of this situation?

2015 was already full of uncertainty and it had only just begun.


In mid February we returned that intention to move out slip to the apartment complex before we received the yes on our retirement. We had no backup plan, unless you count moving back on base and spending more than we could afford a month on housing just to have a place to live as backup. By the end of February we received the yes for the Retirement. We had to move out of our apartment by May 1 and we still had no job lined up. After talking to co-workers who had been in similar situations, the consensus was that buying a house on active duty is infinitely easier than buying one when you’re just starting out at a new job. So the look for a house began and surprisingly we were pre-approved for enough to actually get a decent, if not older home in our area. Still, everything was up in the air and nothing in our lives had any sense of certainty.

School took on the same air of uncertainty. The children knew we were living in limbo. We were all stressed out. We unschooled more than anything else, and it worked far more than I honestly thought it would. The girls started showing more of their giftedness. Little Miss became more inquisitive than ever before, Curly Que picked up everything at light speed and there was never enough information. Itty Bitty demanded even more constant attention and information but her usually great sleeping habits stopped being great. She stopped napping most days, even though her mood needed it, and she would not go to sleep at night, not of her own free will. She would move until she literally dropped, and that was rarely ever in her bed.

I couldn’t stand being in the apartment any longer and we spent almost everyday out and about. We lived out school. We went to the free DC museums several times a month. We went to every $8 performance I could get my hands on just so that we would have an activity to get us out of the cramped apartment. The snow and freezing temperatures didn’t matter, I just couldn’t stand the uncertainty that I associated with the apartment any longer.

We spent whole days going from one wildlife refuge to another, warming up in the library or over fast food. Our diet was as all over the place as our life. The children and I were always just trying to get from one day to the next, all of us were just trying to get from one day to the next.


Then in May everything fell into place. First the house, then the job and we felt a sense of relief. We thought the rest of the year would be a breeze after that but we never even considered that I could be the one to break down next. My headaches were debilitating and I could not focus my eyes when the sun was up. I went to the optometrist because I had only ever had migraines related to needing a new prescription. Nothing was wrong with my prescription but the double vision worried the ancient man in the lab coat who smelled of moth balls and peppermint. He gave me a referral for an ophthalmologist, which I took to the base clinic and set up a referral.

If your acquainted with military healthcare than you know that a referral can take anywhere from a week to several months to set up. My referral was sent to Bethesda/Walter Reed, the busiest hospital in the military healthcare system. The referral process took a month and it was another month after that when the first available appointment was set up. As I waited the double vision began to go away and the headaches came and went with the weather. I almost cancelled the appointment but the urging of close friends nudged me ahead. Im glad I didn’t since that appointment landed me in the hospital for a week of testing and an ongoing relationship with the neurology department.

Then we found out that everything was changing with our extended family as well. My brother and his family started the process for becoming missionaries. My grandparents moved out of the house they had lived in since I was in high school, and bought a condo in a senior community. My father changed jobs and is still trying to sell his house. My brother in law moved cross country and the other brother in law started a whole new career.

Everything in our life was changing so drastically, and so quickly. Unschooling wasn’t working anymore. By the time that the new school year started my kiddos just couldn’t handle the unknown anymore. My son, especially, just shut down. He couldn’t remember why he walked into a room anymore. He forgot simple tasks. He forgot things that had always been routine before, because the routine had disappeared. Unschooling wasn’t working because we had no constant framework to work within any longer. Too much had changed. We all needed to have some consistency, especially this guy.


I wasn’t doing well either. My headaches still came regularly. My vision was better but now I could/can predict the weather based on the level of my headaches. Staying inside because of headaches was fueling my yearly depression. I felt a new story erupting from somewhere in my head and I desperately wanted to get it on paper before it disappeared again. My need to paint grew stronger and my desire to read conflicted daily with my heads aching protests to the small print. Usually this is when we take a fall break from school, but we couldn’t this year. We needed the structure. We needed the consistency so I forced my creativity to work in the sidelines.

I tried my best to be more intentional about our schooling. I planned ahead, I read out loud daily, I bought a math curriculum and looked into reading ones. I just didn’t have the ability to continue doing everything from scratch when my head was bouncing between splitting and pounding headaches every few days.  We still only schooled for half of the day, the rest was left open for masterly inactivity and pursuing of passions, but it still feels foreign to me. The children are thriving under the structure, I’m barely keeping my head above water but I’m not drowning. I’m getting better with each new day.

I am exhausted. From it all. From the year. Exhausted, but stronger and happier, even after everything that has happened.

This last week of December is my vacation. The children are watching more television that I would normally be ok with. They are playing amongst themselves and I have retreated to worlds of fantasy. I have read more books this past week than I have all year. I’ve allowed myself time to recuperate. This year I gave the children a real winter break and we are relishing every moment of it. 

I wish I could say that I know what will happen in 2016, but I don’t. Im still being held in the grasp of the Year of Uncertainty. 2016 is a mystery to me.   I don’t know whats lying ahead. I’m still trying to break free of our day to day existence. I am still looking for the joy in every moment, still finding the blessings in the every day but I couldn’t even begin to tell you what to expect from us in the next month- let alone a whole year.


Itty Bitty has been hinting towards a desire to learn how to read. Curly Que wants to learn how to build things. Little Miss has grown into dolls and sewing. Little Man has lost himself, he’s the oldest and understood the most of what’s going on and needs gentle guidance to find his way back. My husband has expressed an interest in possibly going back to school. I am just trying to learn how to deal with near constant headaches as a part of my normal. We now have family living in Spain and an itch to travel… but nothing is certain. If anything, this past year has taught us how to roll with the punches, keep the faith and like Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just Keep Swimming!”

Goodbye 2015, Bring it on 2016!


I am a quitter.


I am a quitter, and that’s a good thing.

I have been Jonah for far too long. I have run away from that which I know in the depth of my heart to be absolutely right for me.


I have transformed over the past few years. My desires and ambitions have been strong and I am finally letting them go.

I will not be a working mom anytime soon. I have grieved this realization for too long, holding on to any tiny glimmer of hope that may have presented itself to me along the way. I have quit this before, but for some reason just when I think I have quit for good, I relapse and begin the process of guilt and denial once more. I quit. I quit trying to chase down dreams of something that just isn’t going to work out for me right now. Children eventually grow up and I am a young mother, I still have plenty of time to chase ambitions once my work here is done. I am a quitter.

I am not ready to be a full time novelist. I am not ready to give myself the kinds of time that I need to get an idea out of my head and into my hard drive. Time is precious. I can set apart some time because I need it as a part of my self care regimen, but I recognize now that I have other uses of my time which I value more. I will eventually finish my novels and I will continue to write down the ideas that flow from my mind but I will do so in my own time, not because I want to meet an arbitrary deadline. So, I quit. I quit feeling guilty about how I order my time. I am a quitter.

I am tired of feeling like I need to conform to some imaginary ideal. I don’t fit the mold that I keep trying to fit into. I am creative and artsy but I hate crafting. I like big ideas and in depth conversations, not small talk or superficial relationships. I am deeply empathetic, socially moderate but also religiously conservative. I am an introvert who enjoys social interactions in small quantities. I don’t fit, I never have and I am tired of trying to help people understand me. So, I quit. Yes, my hair is now blue and green and purple and grey and I love it so back off. I am a quitter.

My children are important to me. They are my everything, but the world does not revolve around them and I am still a separate person from them. I need to practice self-care. I will not sacrifice my health or mental well being in an effort to be a self-sacrificing mother. I am not selfish, I am recognizing that I am just as important as them. It does them no good to have a mother who can barely function, or a mother who can’t concentrate because of pain and depression. I suffer from several chronic pain conditions and I require a certain amount of self awareness to keep my whole family moving. Hospitalizations should not be my check engine light. I need to be aware before I break down. So, I quit. I quit trying to convince myself that its selfish to get a day alone or to take a nap when I need it. I am a quitter.

My children desire challenges. They thrive off of new information but they also have some areas where they really struggle. I am done trying to politely explain this to pediatricians and outsiders. Those who have met my children never doubt it. I will continue to focus on what challenges them and I will continue to challenge them to think deeply about the things that they love but I am not worried about whether or not they are “on track” with ridiculous things. The schools standards are not my priority and so I will not explain why my child can tell you fun facts about dark matter and chemical compounds but not name the state capitals. I quit. I will continue to teach them big ideas with little interest regarding your checklists or “what a third grader needs to know”… blah, blah, blah. I am a quitter.

The great thing about philosophies are that they are fluid. Methodologies don’t change but philosophies do. Right now my educational philosophy is in the midst of a metamorphoses. At the core, what I believe is the same, but in practice some philosophies have switched places. I’m beginning to lean a bit more CM than I have in the past and a whole lot less Unschooling. Not because I don’t believe in the message but rather because I’m finding that the structure of CM fits better with my focus challenged offspring and the others enjoy the flow. I’ve been making this transition over the past several months and I admit that I’ve been grieving the loss of our unschooling nature. I thrive in that natural learning environment, but I am not the one who needs to be thriving and coming to terms with that realization has been a slow transition.

As a form of early childhood education, that philosophy has been wonderful for our family but now a new style is fitting better and so I must say goodby to my favorite shoes that just don’t fit and break in a new pair. I hate breaking in new shoes. I am not ready to quit, but I must because I am a quitter. I quit when things just don’t work and I move on, I move forward. This past year has been so full of change and so full of quitting that its almost as if I am growing. Why else would I need so much newness? Or maybe, like Jonah I am just tired of running away and ready to face my calling, even if it is one I swore I would never do.

I quit. I quit trying to be someone I am not meant to be. I quit trying to create the life of my dreams and instead I want to dream of the life that I live. I am proud to be a quitter, how about you?


Breaking the Mold

Meet Sally and Jane. Sally is an out of the box thinker while Jane is your average stereotypical girl. Sally enjoys STEM activities while Jane prefers to read. Sally prefers comfort and functionality whereas Jane prefers style. Sally is able to fit in as “one of the guys” but Jane does better with female social circles. Sally crashes through glass ceilings however, Jane has to make sure that she doesn’t come across as too bossy.

Sally and Jane are sisters. Their mother was a glass ceiling crasher as well. Sally is conforming to the ideal she was raised to respect. Jane is being true to herself regardless of societal pressures.

That probably not how you imagined that particular scenario flowing, is it?Breaking the Mold

For decades, Jane represented the perfect woman, at least according to images and characters in the media. However, I would argue, that she is no longer what we teach our daughters to become. Not because one is better than the other. In fact neither truly represent the inherent complexity of a persons identity. I would argue that in our effort to change stereotypes, we have not created a free place for each individual to become their own person, instead we simply created a second mold for girls to force themselves into. We have created a binary language, an if-then universe where a child must choose at an early age to be one or the other with little room for variables.

Do you see how ridiculous this is? What about girls who love fashion and want to build robots? What about a bug lover who reads romance novels? What about an artist who hates fashion? What about all of the what if’s?

What if societies problem is not just limited to girls? What if we’ve allowed our need to compartmentalize data to create an imaginary world? One that exists in our mind but is not accurately programed with the statistical probability of variables? What if every time someone frees themselves from a box they are simply joining a new box? Like a never ending version of those adorable Russian dolls that stack inside of each other.

What if we do this to gifted children? We test them, analyze them, force them to prove their intelligence based on a preconceived notion of intelligence (which itself is based on cultural biases) and then after they have jumped through all of these hoops adequately we assign them a gifted mold to fill.

The truth is every child is different. Gifted or not, Girl or boy. Worse, gifted children grow up to be gifted adults: and we are all different too. Arbitrary measures of success are not adequate markers for a healthy adult. Not every gifted child is going to cure the world of a major disease, invent an alternative fuel source or write the next great American novel…and they won’t be doing it at 20, 30, 40, or even 50. Why? Because everyone is different!

To prove this point I am going to use anecdotal evidence, evidence from my own four children, four siblings who have the same parents yet who present giftedness in varied ways.

greName: Little Man

Age: 8

Learning Style: Visual

Gifted Over Excitability: Psychomotor, Informational, Imaginational, Emotional and Sensory

When Little Man was two days old he held his head up, and turned it as much as a two day old could while following my voice. He walked at 8 months and ran at 10. By 12 months he had figured out how to play Wii baseball. He spoke very little until after 18 months old (when he began speaking in complete sentences) but would listen to me read my grad school books out loud for more than 30 mins at a time. By 2 1/2 he could name every planet in the solar system, tell you if you were going to the wrong way while driving in our neighborhood, point out all of his letters and their sounds and count to 30. He could read fluently by 4 but also could not stop moving. By 5 he was reading at a third grade level- this was when I discovered that he was gifted. By 6 1/2 he had learned all that he could about space from childrens literature (including nonfiction selections up to middle school). While listening to a podcast (a college lecture) he was introduced to the idea of chemical make up within atmospheres and the necessary ingredients for finding life on other planets, this led him to Chemistry. His interests went beyond bases, acids and the reactions so I introduced him to the Periodic Table of Elements. He is still memorizing the bottom third of the elements and has now begun asking questions about Dark Matter, Black holes and the physics behind light speed.

—-It was obvious to me that Little Man was gifted. He had an intense need to constantly learn new information and has always been bombarding me with questions. jo

Name: Little Miss

Age: 6

Learning Style: Auditory

Gifted Over Excitability: Emotional, Imaginational

When Little Miss was a baby she hit her milestones at about the same rate as her brother. I thought nothing of this. He was my first and she was my second, so I never questioned the time lines. The only exception to this being her ability to speak. Little Miss began talking at 10 months and was speaking in complete sentences before her 1st birthday. I assumed that it was different because she was a girl and girls talk a lot more. Before her 2nd birthday she could count to 30, but she stopped there and didn’t learn past 30 until after she was 4. She could sing her ABC’s before three and began asking me to teach her how to read at about that time. From three until now we have been working on blending words, she is only now beginning to put them together. By the time she entered kindergarten (@ 5) she could add and subtract numbers with single digits, finish patterns, knew all of her shapes and colors and could tell you which one was bigger or smallest. She could listen to a story once and tell you what a character was feeling based on the flow of words and use of punctuation. She could recall every history fact mentioned and every character’s description read. She is a curious girl who loves to question but is inspired by multiple passions, not one pressing obsession. She is learning both the guitar and piano and has picked up both effortlessly. Her drawings have had arms and legs with five fingers on each appendage and a realistic feel to them since her 4th birthday. Her handwriting is beautiful for a six year old and looks better than some of the boys handwriting I graded while teaching middle school.

—- I never once considered that she might be gifted. It was pointed out to me by a developmental pediatrician. I knew she was smart, funny, and compassionate. I figured that she would be a high achiever once in school, but because she wasn’t reading yet by 5, I assumed she was going to be my normal child.


Name: Curly Que

Age: 5

Learning Style: Kinesthetic

Gifted Over Excitability: Imaginational, Sensory, Psychomotor, Emotional

Curly Que developed in the same way as her older siblings as an infant, I still didn’t know that this was uncommon.  She began crawling later than the others and went from crawling to running in three months (7-10). On her first birthday she could say a handful of double syllable words but before she was 14 months old she was speaking in complete sentences. She has almost never outright asked for more information but she has been able to learn a new concept just by being there with her siblings after a handful of repetitions. She is my girl who is sensitive against fabric materials, tags, food texture. She is the one that would push everyone away until she was ready for physical contact and then try to climb inside you, because on top is too far away. She feels great emotions and they completely take over her reasoning abilities but she is also empathetic to the point that she will wait until after her older sister has learned something to show that she too has learned it. Often leaving the middle girls at much of the same level even though there are 19 months separating them. Curly Que is the one child in my house that wants to understand how things work. She is the one that will build with legos for hours or puzzles. She is the one that will spend hours trying to figure out how or why something broke. For her every set back or problem is a puzzle that must be put back together- and she loves putting them back together. Curly Que is a strong willed child who cannot be coaxed into anything not of her choosing. She will look at you while disobeying and pretend like nothing is going on.

—Curly que is my fast learner. She doesn’t always learn things ahead of her peers but when she does learn something new, she learns it quickly. I had suspicions that she might be gifted but I believed that she was too young to know for sure (3 at the appointment), the developmental pediatrician assured me that she was positively gifted.


Name: Itty Bitty

Age: 3

Gifted Over Excitability: Imaginational, Psychomotor, Sensory, Informational, Emotional

Learning Style: Unknown

Itty bitty is by far the smallest yet most opinionated of my children. Her milestones where the same as the others but this time a doctor pointed out that she was ahead. I was confused and asked “are you sure? I thought that was normal.” to which he responded with a list. Apparently they were a few months ahead of their aged peers, I shrugged my shoulders and forgot about that information until much later. At 4 months old she sat through an entire play (in Lancaster PA at the Sight and Sound theater), completely engaged and watching the show (following with her whole head) for a full two hours, not crying once. Itty Bitty did not talk as early as her sisters. She talked even later than her brother. I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with her voice when at almost 2 1/2 she still didn’t say more than 20 words but she surprised us when one morning she started speaking and within a few months two word sentences became four word sentences and then complete thoughts. She would pull out my books from my library shelf for her reading time (my favorite time was when she pulled out Hans Morgenthau’s The Restoration of American Politics and then demanded that I start in the beginning with her silent pout). She refused to potty train at two and once she began talking would argue with valid points agains the need to potty train. She chose her own potty training schedule and demanded that we follow it. She is my strong willed child. My defiant one who will tell you “mommy I love you” before disobeying. The one who will look at you while defying orders and smile sweetly. Itty Bitty is also my imaginational mastermind. She has an innate knack for making up stories and already understands that good stories have parts. She creates her characters with details down to the shoes and tries to figure out what is happening next before it does. She analyzes new information quickly and is already answering her siblings school questions. She can count to twenty, name the ABC’s and is always searching for new information.

— This girl is a mixture of her siblings but with very strong leadership qualities. She is head strong and stubborn. She is sassy and inquisitive. She lives in a world comprised of entirely make believe scenarios and people and is a natural story teller.

Four siblings who are all gifted and yet none of them have the same strengths or weaknesses. Only during their infant development did it seem like they developed in the same way. One loves science, one prefers math, one wants to take apart everything she touches and the last has a story for any dull moment. Some learn to read at 4 others are still struggling at 6 1/2. If just my four present themselves in such different lights, imagine the possibilities for every other gifted child. Imagine the possibilities for every other child, period. Why would we want to stifle those possibilities?

If I were going off of checklists or trying to figure things out based on the model of giftedness that is expressed in the media and culturally as a whole, then I would probably would have never toyed with the notion that giftedness could be found within my family. it was only through our interactions with others that we discovered that giftedness was more. It was only after talking about giftedness with others that I discovered that giftedness doesn’t mean reading at 3. It wasn’t until after I was already fully immersed in the gifted community that I found out that a child could be simultaneously speeding forward and stopped. It should not have taken that long for me to find out, I consider it a great sadness.

There is the statistical possibility that hundreds to thousands of gifted children think that their differences make them less than the others because they don’t fit a preconceived mold. In our over simplistic concept of 0’s or 1’s as descriptors of humanity we lose all of the 6’s. We lose the oranges and triangles. We lose the possibilities for diversity that make our world beautiful. In binary you get diversity by lining up 0’s and 1’s in unlimited ways, turning on and off possibilities but why do we have turn people on or off. Why would you want to turn people off? Why would you shut down a child who still has the wonder and amazement of possibility by telling them not to be them? Binary works for computers, it’s an excellent standard for logical computations but its not reality. Reality is messy. Reality is wild. People live in reality, why would we try to change that?

Our world is a giant puzzle, a giant puzzle whose pieces are scattered and some of the pieces are turned upside down. We need dreamers, thinkers, and game changers to find the puzzle pieces, We need scientists, engineers, and artists to pull them in place. We need speakers, writers, and readers to open doorways for the puzzle piece movers and finders. But above all we need to let each actor move in it’s own right. If we tell everyone to be dreamers we miss out on thinkers, but what happens when we get too many dreamers? What happens when the thinker sees the importance of the piece they are working with and become speakers or artists? Are they failures because they changed their minds? Have we limited the parameters of success to only focus on those who completed the job? Are we missing out on gifted individuals because no one recognizes the giftedness in them? Are we telling children they are not gifted simply because they don’t test well, don’t sit quietly in class or are maybe not quite ahead enough? Are we ignoring the autistic child or the latino child or the poor child simply because they don’t quite fit the mold? Why would we do that to ourselves?

Childhood is not a race. There is no finish line. There is no winner. Life is a journey, but none of us make it out of here alive. It is all about how we travel. Are we speeding through on the bullet train? Are we picking flowers along the way and sitting down for naps? What are we expecting from our children? Why are we fitting them into the mold? Are we helping them to find their gifts? Are we teaching them to use them?

Just a little food for thought.

When you look for gifted children, either as a teacher or parent, remember…you are not looking for a mold,

gfh october blog hop

This Blog is just one view of the Depth and Breadth of Giftedness and is a part of the GHF October Blog Hop. Click here to read some more about this topic by other GHF authors.