Being Human

The best part of being human is being able to recognize your mistakes and to rectify them and learn from them going forward. Madison recently moved from Second Grade to Third Grade. Normally, in a classroom setting she would start the Third Grade year with review of Second Grade and ease into Third Grade expectations. But not in homeschooling. There was no pause. It was pass Go, collect $200 and keep on going.

Except, Third Grade is more involved then Second Grade and takes more time. And mom found another great English curriculum. Which essentially means Madison was doing double to the work. And for many hours longer than she should be. And after a couple of weeks, she got burnt out.

When I noticed her behavior change on Friday, I needed to stop and access the situation. I needed to figure out the sudden change and the resistance to her wanting to learn. And after hours of analyzing, it hit me. I pushed too far and expected too much. I realized she was doing two hours of Math and three hours of English a day.

When you have a gifted child that loves to learn it’s really hard to not get caught up and want to download as much as you possibly can. But she’s human and I realized we had download overdrive. So this morning when she woke up, I said, this is a free week. You don’t have to do any structured learning at all. Her eyes immediately lit up. She chose to watch Mickey’s Clubhouse even though she knew it was ‘too young’ for her and laughed the entire time. I felt SO gulity.

And then the element of conflict arose. I realized our subscription to Timez Attack expired in 2 days. She had reached the post test last week and had ‘mastered’ subtraction at 79%. To me that isn’t a true mastery grade. Her reward for mastery is going to Chuck e Cheese. So I explained today that she didn’t have to do any schoolwork. But….I wasn’t going to pay $20 for another 3 months of subtraction when I knew she could do it. She had the choice to master it before the subscription ended and earn going to Chuck e Cheese  or she could skip it. The choice was hers.

She spent 30 min today on subtraction and mastered it with a 90% on the post test. And 90% is awesome in my eyes. I don’t expect perfection. I also know it has to be her choice to learn and succeed.

I also know she will learn plenty this week on her own and I won’t purposely teach a thing. Everything I do is by what she needs, but switching gears and realizing what that is, is the hard part. Listening and trusting in her and her drive for learning when and how she wants to is a scary process. But in the end I don’t really have a choice. If we go by ‘my way’, she shuts down. And that’s not basics. She’s very good about understanding she has to do things she doesn’t want to, but not for hours upon end. Madison has her own gauge and internal curiosity and she also knows when it’s pushed over the max.

Today we went shopping and she picked out an outfit she LOVED. We had lunch and came home and played dolls. She was a very happy child today. And she begged me to read her a non-fiction book about Kansas before bed. LOL. It’s all about the natural, self-driven learner and not sucking the love of learning out of a child.

Homeschooling is learning process for both of us. I am just grateful for the groups I have come to rely on for knowledge and experience because that is what helped me understand that there was a problem, I was the problem and what I needed to do to change it. I am not perfect. I never expect to be, but the fact I can admit when I make mistakes and always try to do what is best for my daughter is something I am very grateful for. I am sure I will make many more mistakes because I am human, but learning from my mistakes and preventing doing the same mistake twice will be a blessing. Life is full of challenges and I am ready for all of them, because the rewards are tremendous. As is the natural thirst of learning from my daughter that I now understand I can not push or it will disappear.

The happiness I saw in her today while watching her show and shopping and lunch and playing dolls is priceless. The happiness I see when she is excited to learn anything she can, asks 1,000 questions and applies her knowledge in amazing ways. A happy childhood by whatever definition that may be and is chosen by her and is driven by her is priceless.

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The Gift of Curiosity

Madison has been a self driven learner since she was born. I didn’t fully realize how much until she was 18 months old and recited her ABC’s on her own and sang anything she heard on her own from memory. From Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to songs on the radio. By the time she was two she exceed the numbers of words spoken for her age times 5. She didn’t play with toys like other children. She lined them up and made patterns out of everything. She never kept the sand in the sandbox and the backyard was always a mess with her creations and she was always covered in dirt from head to toe if you let her outside, even for a minute. Everything she did was ‘different’. And in this ‘different’ way she learned. And by learned I mean soared. She always craved knowledge and couldn’t get enough. And if she didn’t, she was a mess emotionally.

Then came kindergarten. She loved school, her friends and her teacher, but she had many tears. She didn’t thrive in the classroom setting. She got in trouble a lot. She wanted it to work so badly, but I also saw it was emotionally draining and I lost a piece of my child during that process. But nothing like what was to come….

First grade came and it was a disaster. I advocated. I got mad. It tore my heart to pieces to see my child so miserable. She became depressed. The child I knew was gone. She begged me to homeschool to her. To pull her and not look back. Instead I chose to test her and advocate. That was the one choice I will always regret. Not listening to her. She had no opportunity to be a self driven learner for an entire year. I had lost the child I once knew. This child was miserable.

I made the decision to homeschool her.. And not without scrutiny from family, which was extremely hard. (Major shout out to my dad for understanding! Honestly would have been 1000 times harder without his support and it means the WORLD!) Slowly, I started to see the child I once knew come back. She became happy again. She started to love learning again. She is a subject matter expert in Ancient Egypt. And rocks. And so many other things. The child who is allowed to pursue their interests retains that information for life.

She drives and I follow. And once again I have the child I once knew. The one who qualified for Mensa. The one who can’t get enough information. The one who loves to learn. And I am SO grateful and thank God everyday that I didn’t loose her. And I thank God that I get to be a part of the miracle I experience each and every day when I watch her learn and not because I tell her she has to, but because she wants to. She is naturally curious. All on her own with such enthusiasm. That in itself is such an amazing experience. One that I am probably not worthy of, but am so very grateful for.

Today she chose to read a biography on Harriet Tubman. Not only did she choose to read it on her own, she couldn’t wait to tell me all about it when she finished. This is Madison’s ‘normal’. It is her normal to want to tell us everything she knows. It is her normal to create projects and to soak up any information on anything that interests her like a sponge. And it is also her normal to play with dolls and to play games and to be a kid at the same time. And with a great balance of both, she is happy. And honestly that is all that matters to me.

I am grateful my husband supports me 100%. He has lived this as well and knows what Madison needs and is grateful I am able to provide that for her. He sees the difference and knows we are making the right choices for her and is proud. I am grateful for this because I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

My dad has always supported me. He has always believed in me. And this has allowed me to do what is best for my daughter even though many don’t and probably will never understand. He took the time to understand. And I will be forever grateful to him for that because I wouldn’t be able to do what I am with confidence without his support.

I am also grateful for my older daughter’s support. She has always thought homeschooling was the best option for Madison and is very helpful with any questions I have. She is my go-to when I am not sure of a direction I should go. I am grateful for her knowledge and success on tests to get into college to base what really is important for Madison to learn outside of her interests and what is not. She rocks!

I am am one very lucky girl.

Homeschooling a Gifted Child is an Evolving Process

I thought I had it all figured out. 🙂 But I was told during my first year of homesçhooling I would be changing my curriculum and figuring things out many times. And they were right. 🙂 Madison is a free spirit that doesn’t like routine. She would suffocate if she had to do the same thing at the same time everyday. Everything has to have a purpose and has to move at her pace. Homeschooling a gifted child is an evolving process both educationally and emotionally.

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So here is an update on where we are at and what I have learned so far:

Today, Madison officially completed Second Grade in all of her subjects. And not only in all of her subjects, but with several different curriculums. She is looking forward to celebrating with an ice cream party that includes pizza too. She’s worked hard and she deserves it.

imageTaking a step back, I want to note she achieved this goal by working hard for about 4 hours a day. The rest of the time she enjoyed field trips, playing at the park with other homeschool kids, hands on Science classes, having ample time to create on her own and use her imagination, learn basketball skills, and taking art classes. She didn’t sit at a desk and cram for hours on end.

She is getting a very well rounded education that exceeds state standards by far and in a way that she is retaining it all. She does online learning for Math and English. We do spelling, vocabulary, cursive, Science and Social Studies. All of her other classes she does outside the home.

I have found by homeschooling her she is engaged because she moves at her own pace. She is not frustrated and actually loves to learn. This also leaves us with plenty of time for field trips and hands on learning.
imageLearning with a purpose. Madison is also looking forward to upcoming homeschooling classes in Science, like Robotics and private piano lessons.

I know the public schools are implementing as much hands on learning as they can and that is SO awesome and important. I also know it is not the right fit for Madison because she LOVES the curriculum that we use at home and she even mentions how grateful she is that we are using it and she knows she couldn’t if she was in school.

Madison is very literature based and the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum is perfect for her. She gets excited and cheers when it’s time to do it. It covers English, Science and Social Studies in a great way for gifted children. She is able to makes choices on activities and it is a great curriculum for her to be able to express her creativity.

She loves giftedandtalented.com because she doesn’t have to have a lot of repetitive instruction when she grasps concepts quickly. It makes sure she’s mastered concepts and she loves the pace. It is through Stanford University and is amazing. We will be using this curriculum for Math and English the entire time we homeschool and it records all the concepts and scores automatically.

We use time4learning.com as a supplement for Math and English to mix it up for Madison. It is a different format with fun videos that makes learning fun. She watches the videos and laughs because they are very entertaining. She also enjoys taking the quizzes too.

I love the fact we are able to dig deeper into the topics Madison is interested in and have the time to be able to let her explore all she wants. Her latest topics of interest are tornadoes, the Plimoth Plantation, and Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’.

We read Story of the World as a bedtime story and she looks forward to it every evening. She reads Life of Fred and Christian Liberty Nature Reader for fun and loves them.

At the beginning of the year I was bitter, because I felt like Madison was ‘cheated’ not being able to flourish in the public school system. I was upset because my life was now consumed with teaching (something I had not planned on) and the expense of homeschooling while paying taxes was extremely frustrating.

Now I can see that it is a blessing. I see the major impact it has had on her in such a positive way and I enjoy teaching her because it is so much fun. It is very expensive, but worth every dime.

The public school system it is still a place that is getting better everyday for the students to give them the freedom to learn differently and it is great for the students there. But I also realize it is not for Madison. I believe that 100%. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s not the school’s fault and it’s not Madison’s fault. It just is what it is. She has the opportunity to learn how she does best and that’s great for her. And the public school will provide an excellent education to the students there. And that’s great for them. It’s not ‘just one teacher’ that made my decision easy to homeschool and to have Madison beg to homeschool, it’s because she now has the freedom to learn how she does best, at her pace, all day, everyday. I will always advocate for hands on learning and the opportunity for students to explore their own interests in the public school system, because I see first hand how it has impacted Madison in a such a positive way. But I know it is very hard with class sizes that exceed 20 students (which I think is INSANE) and needs to be addressed immediately.

Madison gets plenty of socialization with other kids through activities. She works in groups on a weekly basis. She sits in a classroom setting and can do so better now then before. She is very attentive and has awesome behavior in all of her activities and classes. I am very proud of her.

She isn’t missing out on a thing, she has actually gained so much richness, meaning and purpose in her life. She is blessed and is very happy. As am I.