Keep calm and close the basement door


keepcalm

You know, and I know, that when a gifted kid develops a passion in something, it is more all-encompassing than the norm. It’s not unlike Willy Wonka’s candy factory; it’s in every nook and cranny and in every detail of their lives. It becomes them.

So I should be grateful that my sons’ passions are not things like snakes or arachnids or making rocket fuel or international travel. I’m a little tweaked that their passions aren’t in the kitchen, but whatever.

Tech. Computers. Programming. Hacking. Building. Rebuilding. Tinkering.

This is my basement:

img_3450

If, like me, you like things neat and tidy and “a place for everything and everything in its place,” then this picture probably has you rocking under your desk. This is a horrific mess.

And you know what? I don’t really care. For the most part it’s out of my sight (unless I’m on the treadmill, which you can’t see here), and it rarely oozes upstairs. The boys go downstairs and they work on computers. They tinker with aging servers that friends have given them. They program their Raspberry Pis. This is their maker space.

This is their Willy Wonka tech space. Their passion in every nook and cranny.

And I get to close the basement door.

Back to school for parents too


back-to-school-for-parents-too

Well, we’ve been back to school for a month now and it is kicking me in the teeth. The boys are fine, both are rocking their individual educational setups (a homeschooling sophomore, a 7th grader at the local and awesome public middle school) better than I could have ever imagined. It’s me. So far this school year has been brutal.

When we think of gifted kids heading back to school, we tend to think of things like “will he be appropriately challenged?” and “hope she and her teacher are a good match” and “oh please oh please trust me when I say that he needs recess for his sanity and yours.” I think we forget about the parents sending them off.

I feel as though my many, many years of advocacy for my oldest son sets something off in me when school comes back ’round in the fall. Even though things couldn’t be smoother right now (lights a candle, says a prayer, turns around three times), I still get on edge. Add to that the early and fast-paced mornings and more students in my flute studio and the fact that I am the executive function for the entire household, back to school is mighty rough until about Halloween.

So all you other prematurely exhausted parents? Promise me that you’ll take it easy this school year. We can’t keep running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. Care for your kids, but remember to care for yourself, too. That’s the best way for everyone to hopefully have a great year.

From the Words of Ian Byrd…


I’m busy preparing for a keynote address and workshop at an event this weekend. As I was researching, I stumbled across this video from Ian Byrd. It’s the last 20 minutes of a keynote he did and I LOVE IT! His topic was how gifted kids identify smart with easy and how this happens. So, given our topic, I thought I’d share. Be sure to check it out –

CLICK HERE

The Social Scene at School: 5 Tips to Help Your Gifted Children


Portrait of smiling little school kids in school corridor
Portrait of smiling little school kids in school corridor

Back to school means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some of our gifted kiddos, it means back to the social grind. Many of our gifted children struggle when it comes to making friends. The five tips below can help your gifted children feel more comfortable in the social aspects of their lives:

Healthy Habits: Start off on the right foot by making sure the child is practicing healthy habits that include the following:

  • Rest – no one functions well on little sleep, and while many gifted children need less sleep, it is important that they develop healthy sleep habits
  • Eat well – well-balanced meals are the key.
  • Exercise and relaxation – both are needed in a healthy, well-balanced life
  • Playtime – gifted children are often very serious. Building in playtime, preferably with others, can help provide much-needed balance

Perspective: Teach children how to discern between the things within his control versus those things outside of his control. The Hula Hoop technique can help:

  • Imagine there is a hula hoop on the ground and step into it
  • Everything outside of the hula hoop you have NO control over
  • Everything inside of the hula hoop you have 100% control over
  • The next time you are angry or upset think about the hula hoop. Is this something you have control over, something you can change? If so, make the needed changes. If not, let it go. There is little you can do anyway.

Temperament: Learn the difference between introverts and extroverts (my post earlier this month may help) and help your child determine which one is true for them. This can help in determining the cause and solution for potential problems with peer interactions

Intensities: Help your child deal with their intensities. Here are a few specific strategies to help:

  • Teach children that their feelings are a normal part of his personality.
  • Build activity into the day.
  • Teach relaxation techniques.
  • Allow for creative thinking and creative outlets.

Social Skills: Teach your children these five success tips from 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids (Prufrock Press):

  • You don’t always have to be right.
  • Be a problem solver, not a problem maker
  • Never try to hide your giftedness to make friends – it won’t work anyway
  • Accept yourself and others as you are
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously

These tips will begin to help your children develop the social skills needed to develop healthy peer relationships at school and beyond.

Long Evenings and Good Mornings



The deep drone fills the entire house. I can feel it slightly vibrating the walls. Beep beep beep. I stop what I’m doing and listen for a moment. Then two more. Ah! The alarm has been shut off. The milk I pour into the cup is extra cold and the chocolate syrup takes a while to mix in completely. I put the milk on the table and place a napkin, no, two napkins, next to it.

The bright green digits of the clock on the stove tell me a number of minutes have passed since the alarm was turned off and I haven’t heard any noise from upstairs. At the bottom of the stairs, I pause, listening intently. No movement. I walk up the stairs and peek into the bedroom. A little boy shaped lump, like a mummy made with spaceship-decorated fabric, is laying quietly in bed with the blanket over his head, blocking the light. Asleep.

Loudly, I call to the dog. “Let’s go, Boy! Wake up time!” At the head of the bed, I kiss the round shape at the top of the blanket-mummy and say a cheery, “Good morning” just as the dog jumps onto the bed and starts bouncing him into a wakeful state. I peel back the blanket and give him a kiss on his exposed cheek.

Groggy though my son is, he is still young enough to consider such brash attention first thing in the morning with the good intentions with which it was intended. The dog sniffs his ear and my son starts smiling even though he is not quite awake. To jump start his thinking, I remind him, “Today is picture day! Do you want to wear something special or regular clothes? You have a button down shirt. What about a tie? You can use one of Daddy’s ties. I just have to learn how to tie it.” He surprises me by agreeing to wear the necktie. Google to the rescue.

In only a few years, judging from my experience with my oldest child, such pleasant, if slow, morning interactions will disappear to be replaced by pressing snooze until just enough time remains for the student to throw on (hopefully) clean clothes and dash out the door. All with very little interaction with mommy.

When did I realize our family would never achieve Ozzy and Harriet style fuss-free mornings and evenings? When my kids stopped napping regularly at one and half years old. Sleep, naps or a normal bed time, was elusive. From playing with toes to recounting the entire day and discussing the philosophy of Pokemon—why would anyone want to close their eyes and put a stop to such riveting contemplations? While I like to be understanding, and being privy to the thought processes of my precocious little one makes it easy, we still had to impose silent time.

Rather than wake up when the extra-loud alarm clock buzzes insistently, it is turned off and the morning routine starts to slip. These are the days I hope there is something simple to make for breakfast. I make sure his feet are on the floor and he is supporting his own weight before I go back to the kitchen.

Because I volunteered to learn how to tie a necktie, we’re running a bit later than usual. Just as he comes downstairs, I place a re-heated waffle on the table. I do the morning check: Shoes? Yes. Hair brushed? Good enough. Oops! The shirt is on inside out. He’s a good sport and fixes it.

The time I spent learning how to tie a necktie was probably why we missed the bus. I had the brilliant idea a week ago to get up and cook breakfast 15 minutes earlier. Did it help? No—it took an extra 15 minutes to eat. It was a relaxed 15 minutes, though. It seems, much like projects at work, the task will expand to fit the time available. Ultimately, what works for us is a bit of flexibility; I recognize that we might just need to drive in more than other families.

Back to School Pop Quiz

Parents are heading back to school too.


back-to-school-pop-quiz

Welcome back to school, everyone! So good to see so many bright and shiny faces! I know we’re going to have a wonderful year, and I can’t wait to get to know all of you.

But first, please take out a Number 2 pencil, put your devices in the Bowl of Integrity on my desk (yes, just like at Trivia Night at the local watering hole), and strap on your thinking caps. It’s a Back to School Pop Quiz!

  1. I am excited to be back to school. T/F
  2. The one thing I am most looking forward to this year is:
    1. Learning all there is to know
    2. Discovering this year’s fundraiser
    3. The new cocktails I’ll concoct to survive the year
    4. Summer Break 2017
  3. The one thing I am most dreading this year is:
    1. Homework and the accompanying battles
    2. This year’s fundraiser
    3. The After-Schooling to feed my child’s insatiable brain-maw.
    4. The second and third jobs I’ll need for #2 and #3.
  4. If Wilson is traveling west on a scooter going 10 mph and Minerva is traveling south on a hovercraft going slightly faster than it takes for a watched pot to boil, what are the pink elephants drinking when they show up at the inevitable meeting we’re going to have about your child? Bonus points for naming the song playing on the ISS at the time, including artist and language.
  5. Please diagram this sentence: Your twice-exceptional child does not test well enough to meet the qualifications for the gifted program at this school; too bad, so sad.
  6. Fill in the blanks:
    This year, I hope my child ___________ and ______________, despite the _________ and the __________. I know the _____________ can be a real ____________, but it’s really in the best interests of the _____________. Ultimately, it’s the _________________’s responsibility that ________________ gets a fair and appropriate education, and _____________, _______________, and ________________ should do well to remember that. ___________ _____________ ____________ ______________ _____________ _______  _____________ _______________ ____ __ ____________ _______________ _________!!!
  7. Are you a robot? Please type what you see in the image below: __________________
    9gbtdvc
  8. Thought experiment: Zombies have come and education as we know it is kaput. You still have a G2e kid. Please demonstrate “now what?” using either interpretive dance, modern art, or twelve-tone serialism a la Schoenberg.
  9. Your teacher is tired of making questions. So if you’ve made it this far choose #1 to get this one correct. Peace out.
    1. YASSSSSS!!!!
    2. Wait, what, really?
    3. That’s it?
    4. Can the whole freaking year BE THIS EASY?
  10. Let’s have a great year! Please write any concerns you may have in the space below:
    _________________________________________

Homeschooling and LD and Falling Through the Cracks Oh My!


eyechartWhen I was a kid, I went to public schools, but they did me no service. I was not diagnosed as having a learning disability until my senior year of college. I knew our girls had strengths and weaknesses, and they needed to be addressed. Unfortunately our experience in the public school realm displayed a lack of recognizing their needs. The school our girls attended seemed to feel that average or within 2 standard deviations of average was acceptable and if you were on the high end, you were fine.  Getting services in public schools can be a challenge; getting services for homeschoolers can be a different kind of challenge.

In schools, getting services for things like dyslexia when your child can still read and comprehend above grade level is near impossible because “she’s within normal range”, “she’s fine.”  We recognize that our daughter needs services even through she reads and tests above her grade level, however we struggle to figure out exactly what services she needs, therefore struggle to know who to ask for help.

So with all this, you may be asking, “Gee Tom, how do you get services for your kids?” Well there is no easy answer to that one. It’s a lot of talking with other parents, hit and miss, trial and error, and referrals from one specialist to another so insurance will cover whatever possible. Families who live in a rural area may not have as many options when it comes to specialists, and that can really suck. We have been fortunate to have found a wealth of knowledge in our support network. We talk to a lot of other parents who face similar challenges and are always sharing curriculum ideas, coping skills as well as therapist experiences.

When our daughter was in school and we were told that she would grow out of her letter reversals, we accepted what the experts were saying rather than follow through with our gut instinct. We delayed her services a couple years and now she struggles more than she probably should.  If we had kept her in school, she would have slid through the cracks though. At home, we know better than to say “she is performing above grade level, so she must be fine.”

When one of our daughters began losing interest in reading and said the words were blurry, we had her checked at the eye doctor who said she was fine. We were not satisfied and went to our support network to find a better optometrist. We had to travel a bit farther and we’re glad we did.  They ran a functional eye test and we learned that she was not “fine.”  This is very typical of how it works in our house: we keep pushing to find the help we need.  I think this is typical of most homeschoolers and public schoolers alike.

So as this school year starts I say, stay strong and keep pushing for help if your gut says it’s needed.  Trust your gut – it’s usually right.  And look in every corner.  You never know where you might find help for various needs.  I would have never guessed that an optometrist could help us beyond the blurry vision.  I would have never guessed an optometrist could say her vision issues are causing her to skip lines and that might be why she’s not understanding what she reads. Help and answers may show up where you least expect them.