Category Archives: Successes

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.

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Feeding kids’ brains at home

Note the apostrophe: Though zombie fans might like the title better without it, I’m talking about feeding the brains that belong to the kids. The more asynchronous/high-potential the child, the hungrier the brain.

There’s a wonderful blog post on how to help feed kids’ hungry brains, right in your home: It’s called 9 Ways to Make Home a Place of Delightful Discovery, Part 1, and it beautifully describes what we’ve observed being so incredibly effective for kids who fall into highly, exceptionally, or profoundly gifted categories in particular; but we think that there isn’t a child out there who wouldn’t benefit from doing what you can to create such creativity and learning opportunities in your own home.

Do you have any particularly effective modifications you made to your living space that helped your kids learn?

How We Will Change the World in 2012

Inspired (belatedly!) by Craig Newmark’s “How Will You Change the World in 2012″ post on craigconnects, we want to share our plans for changing the world in 2012.

But first, the setting:

With all the progress made in many places over past decades as regards helping children with disabilities, children in need, improving education, and the like, most people would think that there isn’t a group of kids who aren’t being helped. It seems like we’re helping kids more than ever before.

But there is one group of children who don’t. Worse yet, these children are very nearly universally scorned, ignored, and even actively hindered because of their very nature. These kids are intense. They have intense needs. They’re extremely misunderstood.

Because of the way these kids are treated, they don’t learn like they should — not just content, but also good work habits, persistence, and trust. These kids constitute as much as twenty percent of all high-school dropouts. Few, if any, reach their potential.

Emotionally, many end up angry, bewildered, stressed, scared, disillusioned, despondent, even clinically depressed at ages as young as 3 or 4. (Yes, you read that right.) This kind of emotional trauma leads directly to severe physical health problems: blinding headaches, nausea, stomach aches, even ulcers. (Again, yes, you read that right. Stress-generated ulcers in small children.)

Socially, many such children founder, because they’re not placed with peers, and have little to nothing in common with those they are placed with. By adulthood, years or decades of this kind of treatment, lack of support, and even vilification by their very own teachers take severe tolls on health, social adjustment, work performance, and families.

Who are these kids, and why is society persisting in doing this to them?

Before I tell you, i’d like you to take a moment and scan your emotions. Do you feel sympathy for these kids? Now I’ll tell you who they are, and check again… still feel sympathy?

They’re gifted. Highly, exceptionally, and profoundly gifted.

I’m willing to bet you are now kind of annoyed. If they’re gifted, they don’t need help, right?

Wrong.

Here’s how we are going to change the world in 2012:

1. We are going to work to spread awareness of the extremely intense educational, social and emotional needs these children have. To help people understand that what they believe about gifted kids is 99% wrong. (The one thing that’s right? They’re smart! But that’s the source of many problems for these kids, instead of being a source of solutions.)

And we’re going to not call these kids “gifted,” because too many people have the wrong understanding of what that means. We’ll call them a more accurate word: Asynchronous.

2. We will continue to raise funds to launch a program to help asynchronous children in need by providing their families with aid for assessments for identification, advocacy, and educational support; supplies, books, and materials; and tutors, counseling, and the like. Our program is based on the real-life, proven effective approach thousands of families have used across this country for decades. Research on meeting the needs of such asynchronous children unanimously supports our approach, despite public misconceptions (and ironically, the misconceptions of teachers and administrators).

By doing these two things, we expect to help a generation of unusual and exceptional children and families, starting in California but as a model for the rest of the nation. We expect to help them grow up knowing what it is to be educationally challenged; to have good work habits and persistence; to reach their educational (and life) potential; and to have a chance to be as well adjusted socially and emotionally as possible.

These are things we wish for any child. Asynchronous children deserve the same.

Bring it on, 2012!

Finding Their Tribe: The Importance of Intellectual Peers

Attending a national gathering of profoundly gifted children, we are reminded how critical it is that children this asynchronous be given the opportunity to be with their intellectual peers. Given their asynchrony, this doesn’t necessarily mean their age-mates, even in a gathering like this; but knowing, by experiencing directly, that there are children in the world who are “like them,” is revelatory for kids this unique.

Profoundly asynchronous children at this end of the spectrum move through the stages of friendship development at a faster rate than more typical age-mates. For such a child of six, this may mean seeking friendships that typical children don’t seek until age 11 or 12 — the “sure shelter” of a friend who will accept you for who you are, no matter the circumstances, while most other six-year-olds are seeking a play-partner or person to chat with. Add to this mismatched level of expectations the feeling of differentness and that asynchronous children feel from a young age, and you have a recipe for isolation, alienation, and even depression.

Tending the social and emotional wellbeing of kids like this is critical, and the most amazing transformations happen when kids find their tribe. This can happen in more limited settings, like discovering the one-in-a-million kid who also happens to go to your new school in a big city. But for some children, especially those in more rural settings, it can take traveling across country to participate in a program like the Davidson Young Scholars’ program, PG Retreat, some of the national talent searches, or competitions like the Intel Science Talent Search to fell like they’ve finally found other kids “like them.”

We’d love to hear your stories of how your unique kids found their tribe. Let us know!