Resources for Early 2014

Alisa reading 4Have a kid like Alisa, or know one (or more)?

We have a few suggestions to help you meet their needs, and to help others better understand them.

Gail Post, Ph.D., recently assembled a list of her top ten blog posts on giftedness and twice exceptionality for 2013. Many of these articles made it to our top list, as well. (And our thanks to another excellent resource, the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, for alerting us to the list.)

Maybe you didn’t know that a child can be gifted and also have learning differences, or perhaps you’re trying to bring a new healthcare provider or educator up to speed. On GHF’s website you can find brochures on each of these subjects. (Full disclosure: Our founder and executive director, J. Marlow Schmauder, wrote three of them for GHF.) The brochures are free to download and print, or you can read them directly on the website.

There are a number of other websites that have very, very helpful libraries of information and services. Take a look at our Helpful Resources in our right sidebar (scroll down to see the list). There are more, and we’d love to have your suggestions in the comments, as well. We’re also hoping to add a list of blogs on giftedness shortly.

Have a wonderful 2014!

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Homeschooling: An Option for Twice-Exceptional Kids

Homeschool, you say? Yes, we say.

Families of twice-exceptional kids (gifted kids with learning disabilities, a.k.a. 2e kids) are often at a loss as to what to do if school doesn’t meet their kids’ needs, particularly after they have spent no small effort advocating on behalf of their kids with limited to no success. Twice-exceptional kids struggle mightily with school. The further along the gifted spectrum the child is, and the more serious the learning challenges the child has, the higher the likelihood that schools can’t or won’t meet their needs. Most strategies for accommodating learning differences are aimed at kids who are at or below average intelligence. But that’s not what this post is about.

Many families who don’t know other gifted or 2e homeschoolers don’t realize that homeschooling doesn’t have to be about religion, that it won’t necessarily drive parents crazy to have their kids at home during the day — that it might actually vastly improve their relationship — and that it’s even possible to work part-time (for some, even full-time!) and homeschool.

In fact, being able to custom-tailor a child’s education to let her work at her intellectual age-level, while being supported in her areas of weakness, can do powerfully positive things both for your relationship with her, and for her self-confidence, work skills, determination, and happiness. Think about this. Have a 2e kid who needs help with rote math calculation, needs to move while he learns, and who has gotten the message from school that he’s both bad and stupid, even though his IQ is actually in the highly gifted range or above, and even though he excels at advanced math concepts and elaborate literary analysis? Imagine the wonders that would transpire if he were allowed work on those math concepts and analyze books to his heart’s content, while learning at his pace and when his brain development is ready to do rote calculations instead of using a calculator. Now imagine that all those battles over rote homework won’t be part of your relationship.

You’re welcome.

For homeschooling to work, it needs to be approached flexibly. Have a child obsessed with horses? Allow him to do horse math (angles of legs during different paces! How much does a horse eat a day? What are the odds a particular horse might win a race? How do vets calculate medicine for a horse of one weight vs. another?); read about horses through history; read literature about horses; write stories or film videos or research presentations about horses. Is your ten-year-old obsessed instead with chemistry? Let her do chemistry in the kitchen, using online lesson plans and free experiment resources. Let her read The Story of Science by Joy Hakim, and write essays about it, or create science artwork, or start her own experiments to catalogue for a science fair.

For most families of 2e kids, child-led learning works best. Allow your child to set the pace. Allow him to choose what to study; you serve as facilitator, identifying online resources, finding classes, getting books from the public library. Does your child need to de-school for a while after a mismatched school situation? Let her deschool for as long as she needs — the general rule is one month off per year she was in school. Check your state’s homeschool laws, to make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row with paperwork or (in some states) curricula or testing required. But even within those frameworks, deschooling and child-led learning often work.

Working at home while homeschooling has to be approached creatively as well; while your child is doing a project that doesn’t require supervision, get 30 minutes of work done. Switch off with her other parent, so that one of you is working while the other is with the child. Get up before your child does, and work for a couple hours; or stay up after the kids are in bed. Take a laptop, tablet, smart phone or even pencil and paper to the classes your child takes, or to playdates, and sit on the sidelines working. Scheduling and multitasking are often critical to making work at home, well, work. But work it can.

version-3-October-2013-Blog-Hop-logoPerhaps most of all, it is critical to find intellectual peers for your child. It doesn’t matter what age the peers are, although if you can find age peers who are also intellectual peers, that’s even better. Knowing others like them can be critical to 2e kids’ ability to cope with how different they are; finding true peers will help them deal with their challenges and celebrate their joys.

We’re proud to be participating in the GHF Blog Hop! Click on over to read more posts.

Educators’ Guide to Gifted Children

GHF is a wonderful all-volunteer organization working hard to serve some of the same population the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund seeks to serve, by offering community and information resources both to gifted homeschoolers and to the broader population of families with gifted kids in general.

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 3.33.26 PMAs an individual, I volunteer for GHF as part of their professional outreach team. They recently asked me to write another brochure for them following on the success of the Healthcare Professionals’ Guide to Gifted Children last year, and I was honored to help.

The Educators’ Guide to Gifted Children is now available on the GHF website free of charge. So many myths about gifted children and education exist. Unfortunately, even many educators buy into these myths (see link to Giftedness 101). Educators, like parents, want what’s best for kids.

This brochure aims to help provide accurate information about what gifted kids need in educational settings, whether in schools, at home, or out in communities. Please share it with the educators you know, and let GHF know how it helps. Better yet, support GHF in their work, and you’ll be helping thousands of kids and families worldwide.

– Marlow

Asynchrony and Giftedness Are Hard-Wired

A few weeks ago Seth Godin started a firestorm in the gifted education and parenting community by saying that people are not born gifted. He’s wrong. Giftedness is a neurological cognitive difference.

Are there gifted people who don’t ever learn to work hard, who never achieve eminence in their fields, or for that matter, accomplish much of anything? Yes.

Can a non-gifted person achieve amazing things by learning to work hard, persist, practice, and develop what talents they do have? Yes.

But it is not the same.

A great many bloggers responded to Godin’s post, but we particularly liked Lisa Rivero’s response at Psychology Today, and Jen Merrill’s response at Laughing at Chaos. The latter includes links to a number of other blog posts and responses.

Giftedness and achievement are not the same. People are born with neurocognitive differences. They can then choose to develop what talents they have. Please stop confusing the two, because doing so perpetuates the myths about giftedness that cause so much harm to kids and adults alike.

New Year, New Sustainability Strategy

First, a peaceful, satisfying and productive 2013 to all!

And then: We realize we have been remiss in posting to this blog in recent months, but we have a good reason. It’s rooted in sustainability.

Like many nonprofits, we struggle to raise the funds to continue our work. This is doubly difficult for the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund because we are a startup organization, and we seek to raise substantial enough funds to permit us to extend our work beyond our PSA and online advocacy to include direct aid to asynchronous kids and their families, starting in California, but eventually a national model. Launching that part of our program requires substantial funds because we need to do outreach to school districts and homeschool groups alike to find the families most struggling to meet the intense needs of their kids, and to do so fairly and transparently.

Many nonprofits start with seed funding. Seed funding is the starting investment, usually from the founder or a single donor, that’s large enough to launch the program and keep it going for a few years until staff can begin development efforts, including ongoing fundraising. Our startup funds were extraordinarily modest, limiting the Fund’s initial program to advocacy alone. The funds our generous donors contributed allowed us to continue that advocacy work for almost two years, and we have reached thousands of people with that advocacy. We cannot thank our donors enough. (Thank you, again!)

But we are nothing if not divergent, like the kids we seek to aid. We started to pursue more serious seed funding, and realized that we would rather generate the source of our own core funding, launch our direct aid program to prove its impact, and then seek more substantial donations based on those successes.

This brings us back to sustainability. One of the most successful nonprofit sustainability strategies is to set aside funds to create an endowment, the income from which provides sufficient income to sustain the core program and operations of the organization. Another strategy includes for-profit endeavors that generate profit that is donated to the charitable arm, including earned income and social enterprises. The Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund holds as a goal the creation of an endowment, but the second strategy is more appealing because if done correctly, it holds the promise of generating enough funding to allow both full program development and the creation of an endowment.

Our target audience includes a great many homeschoolers, because many families with seriously asynchronous children turn to homeschooling out of desperation when they find that the school system really won’t fit their kids, or vice versa. Homeschoolers have long been viewed as a fringe group, but it’s becoming more common than ever (at least since the spread of compulsory education in the United States a century ago), especially among those with asynchronous children. Homeschoolers tend to excel at creating tools to serve their needs, like using Excel to track their kids’ educational progress, or creating templates that other homeschooling families can purchase to do the same. But with respect to those who have created tools this audience can use, many of the tools that exist are too limited. And we think that education-tracking tools that would truly meet the needs of asynchronous homeschoolers, would also have a natural audience in the population at large. We’d like to create those tools.

And thus, in honor of asynchronous homeschoolers, the Fund’s board of directors agreed that the Fund should continue our advocacy activities, but delay our other fundraising efforts while our founder builds a for-profit startup edtech company that creates just that set of tools. A portion of the profits from the startup will be dedicated to funding the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund.

Building an edtech startup while maintaining a small (but ambitious) charitable organization is no easy task, and we hope you’ll forgive us for letting this blog languish in the process. We expect to return to more frequent, if briefer, posts in the new year. In the meantime, we hope you’re off to an excellent start to the year of the post-Mayan-apocolypse-that-wasn’t. We’d love to continue to hear from you with your own successes and challenges with asynchronous kids, and we promise in turn to continue our advocacy, helping people better understand how challenging it is to be a kid who is many ages at once.

National Parenting Gifted Children Week

It’s National Parenting Gifted Children Week this week, and SENG is hosting a blog tour. Parenting is hard enough as it is, and when you add the special needs of gifted/asynchronous kids, it’s even harder. We’ve heard such excellent things from our network about how wonderful SENG’s annual conference is for parents and asynchronous kids. The annual conference is over (but there’s always next year!), but we hope the resources on SENG’s site, and in the blogs posting for the blog tour, will be of some help.

Transforming Resistance into Support

Most families with kids who are unusually asynchronous or twice-exceptional (asynchronous/gifted with learning disabilities) don’t have a built-in network of support from the public educational system and related service providers. This is true in California, as well as much of the rest of the country, with isolated exceptions in four states that mandate (limited) services for gifted kids or the handful that specifically state in their laws that acceleration is allowed. Regardless of state mandates, however, society universally views support for asynchronous kids as unnecessary, or worse, elitist. Instead of supporting these children and their families, or at least being sympathetic, society — including extended family and friends of these families — seeks to deny their difference, to deny their need, and to cut them down as though the child’s own abilities or potential somehow threaten them.

But asynchrony isspecial need, all by itself. Add any other disabilities like ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or dyslexia, and you have extraordinary special needs. Imagine parenting a kid like this. Then imagine doing it when society doesn’t recognize that the kid needs support, resents the child’s potential, and simultaneously denies their differences.

Families with kids who have needs this extraordinary find themselves willing to do anything to meet their children’s needs. Because society doesn’t provide support, and the Internet does, parents these days usually find support in online forums like The TAG Project, GHF, and similar venues. If they are extraordinarily fortunate, they live in an area with a large concentration of similar families and can find in-person support groups. If they are a family in need, however, accessing the internet, getting computer time at libraries, or even learning about these resources can be impossible. The Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund aims to remedy that, but that’s the subject of another post.

So let’s assume you are the parent of an asynchronous child and have taken steps to find community and follow the model so many others like you are using to meet your children’s needs? How do you transform the reactions of your own parents, or your child’s teacher, or anyone else? Here are some suggestions we hope will help.

  • Help them understand your child’s unique needs, but also that there is a community of other children like yours out there, and that you are consulting with that community in your efforts to meet your child’s needs.
  • Share resources like this post, the Davidson Institute’s online database, Hoagies Gifted website, GHF, NAGC resourcesSENG, and others.
  • Join one of the online forums mentioned above, and ask other parents for what worked for them.
  • Remember that your parents/family/friends/child’s educators are likely trying to do what they think will help. If you help them understand your child’s needs, they’ll be able to be in a better position to support you.
  • If you can, have your child assessed by a professional who specializes in gifted and 2e children. The websites listed above have resources to help you find such a professional in your area.
  • Even if you can’t afford or find support to have an assessment done, you can use Deborah Ruf’s estimates of levels of giftedness to get a general idea of where your child is.
  • Consider sharing A Nation Deceived, or talking to your child’s educators about using the Iowa Acceleration Scale.
  • Debunking myths is helpful. Hoagies has a good summary.
  • Harm and the Gifted Student offers a valuable perspective on why asynchronous children need to have their educational needs met. And we love the perspective of What a Child Doesn’t Learn (pdf).
  • Remember that you, too, probably didn’t understand your child’s needs at first, and had to come to grips with it. Be patient with your own family and friends as you help them understand your child, so that they can become part of your support team. Its’ challenging, but worth it!

Most of all, remember that you are not alone. Take advantage of communities of others like you. They’re out there, and they are willing to help.