Friday, August 29, 2014

Two sides of family.

I have a giant family.  Like, huge. No, I don't mean there are 20 people in one room for holidays, I mean there are twenty people in one room, fifteen in another, ten in a third, and five either smoking or peeing.  There are sixty some-odd people in my extended family, and we still gather as a group for The Major Holidays.  Easter. Camping. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Usually at my mother's house, as that's traditionally the largest of the lot.
(Please bear in mind that the story below may be triggering to some readers. I have, at this time, no concrete plan for going forward, though I am open to suggestion. It is not my intent to trigger anyone, so please let the reader beware: verbal abuse)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spaceman Spiff!

Mad Natter and I recently came home from a trip to Hammie and Buppa's house. This is a six-to-eight hour trip in the car, each way. This time, we had a bonus trip, five-and-a-half-to-six hours to Upper Peninsula Michigan for our annual family camp-out.  Needless to say, we spent a LOT of time in the car this month.

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's August 25th!

"We are spreading the word to all homeschoolers to fill the social media sites with their #notbacktoschool photos on August 25th in a community effort to normalize homeschooling.

On August 25, unite with the community of homeschoolers by posting your #notbacktoschool photos in a widespread effort to normalize homeschooling, regardless of your actual start date. What will your first day look like? Will you be at the beach, the kitchen table, museum or on a road trip? Add the hashtag #notbacktoschool to all your photos."

It's Not Back To School Day on the internet! I'm very excited to share some of the highlights of our Not Back To School Day, part 1 (Part 2 will be on 9/2, when our local Mooselandia children DO go back to school!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An exploration.

As most regular visitors know by now, and as a heads-up for those who might be new here, I write in a very... present-tense, stream of consciousness style.  This entry is likely to be a bit different than others, though, as it is an exploration of self and my experience as an underground gifted child. I'm never brief enough for these things, but I'm hoping to compress this to less than a giant Wall Of Text.

photo by Sarah Klockars-Clauser
As a small child, nothing was really amiss.  I was definitely “more” than my brothers were for the same ages, but honestly, it was the seventies, and nobody was really feeling too into diagnosing whatever was up with their kids, it was more about training them to not be that way.  When I arrived in kindergarten, I was one of two children who could already read.  This wasn't any particular oddity, as I was the eldest, and there was no baseline that said four year olds shouldn't be reading. Because it was kindergarten in the early eighties, it wasn't a big deal.

Friday, August 1, 2014

But what about friends?!?

Raising a gifted child is sort of like opening a can of peanut brittle.  Is it really peanut brittle, or is it the can with the snake inside?  As I'm getting farther and farther into this glorious mess, however, I'm finding that I have the best success relating to Mad Natter when I treat him, to the best of my memory, how I would have wanted to be treated as a child.  Mercifully, as a gifted adult, my memory is incredibly long (yes, I do remember the rock The Law Mom's dog used to pee on when we were four, why do you ask?), so this isn't quite as hard as it could be.

The thing that seems to weird people out is that between Mad Natter being gifted, and his being homeschooled, people are convinced he'll never have any friends.  He's "different" by design, and therefore needs to be put into a classroom full of age-peers so he can make friends. Because without that, there would be no friendships.  Ever.  But, stop and think.  How many of your friends - can you count them? - did you meet in school?  Now, how many of those friendships were genuine, and are lasting?  Because I have maybe three people in my life now that I met at school and not outside of it.  Three.  And that's a guess, and putting a couple people in there because I'm not quite sure where I met them after all.

When I think of the people who are truly my friends: The Law Mom, Stellar Mama, AngusChick, Daizy, KD, Mrs Warde... I didn't meet any of these people in school.  I met one before, four after, and one in University.  The friendships that have had the most impact on my life are not the ones forged in the schoolroom, where I sat being the odd kid out, the "friend of last resort" or the friend of the new kid - until they found 'cooler' friends than Care.  The friendships that matter were made on my own terms, outside of forced interaction, and in the context of living my life.  These are people who have the same struggles, the same interests, the same... Almost the same sort of soul.  We get on well because we do.  We can not speak to each other for months or even years... and pick up one day as if we'd only just talked the day before.

So what kind of friendships do I want for my son?  The kind that are forced, and don't last beyond the school building?  Or the ones that really last?  The ones with people who genuinely care about you, and think of you fondly?  There is a reason that Mad Natter still has Skype chats with Girl Friday, even though she and Stellar Mama moved across the continent six months ago.  They get along. They like each other.  They miss each other, and I'm not going to encourage Mad Natter to make friends with whomever he's the same age as... and not encourage him to keep his friendship with Girl Friday - where there's a genuine connection.  Friendship has a few things in common with childbirth - you can't rush it, and something beautiful is waiting for you if you take care of it.  And I'm not going to force friendships.  It never led to anything good for me - quite the opposite - and I doubt it would lead to good things for Mad Natter either.  And so, let childhood run its course.  Let parents matter more than peers.  Let your kids find their own friends, don't force them into superficial relationships that only matter in counting how many kids are coming for a party.  Let them pick their own friends, and let them develop real friendships.

Now, mind, if your child picks up friends like mine does dirt, that's different - it's the choice of the child, and not the number of friends, that's important.  Let them move at their own speed, to their own comfort.  It will all work out in the end.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Injury. Interesting times.

In our house, while everything is crazy, it all falls into a kind of routine-crazy.  We do our schoolwork in the morning after we watch some Magic School Bus or Monster Math Squad, once that's done we'll watch a couple videos while we eat lunch, then go out to play (or stay in to play depending on the weather). We come in a bit ahead of dinnertime to cook and calm, and then we have dinner, relax (for variable definitions of the word), and then bedtime.  In that time, there's a lot of running, a lot of jumping, a lot of excited playing.

This week, after our schoolwork on Saturday, we went out to the store on foot.  I pulled Mad Natter in the wagon, and we went down the block.  When we came home, we planted potatoes, and I weeded the garden.  That's when I noticed, my back was really sore.  I attributed it to all the bending for gardening, and to pulling a fifty pound child in a wagon up a hill.  It was uncomfortable, but I deal with discomfort all the time anyway.  It didn't go away.

I woke up Sunday feeling like death warmed over.  My back was sore, a radiating pain across the entirety of my lower back.  Couldn't stand up properly, could bend at the waist, nothing.  It was all kind of bad, and it didn't get better.  Monday was worse.  Today, it is still ongoing.  

We don't know what's wrong with me, but it's at times like this that my family really shines.  Skeeve has picked up the slack for all the things I can't do, and Mad Natter has made a point of checking on me to make sure my hot packs are appropriately placed.  We've been cobbling daily living together, and if it continues, we're looking at possibly having school days starting on the couch, so that there's as little jostling as can be had.  But, we still make it work.  Mad Natter is understanding that sometimes his mama's body believes it is its own enemy, and when that happens, his mama needs some extra help. He's learning how to work together as a family to get done the things we need to get done even with one of us on the fritz.  

It isn't a standard homeschool lesson, no.  But, it is a very important lesson all the same - working together, taking care of the people who matter to you, and how to keep things working, even when things don't go to plan.  I'll take it.  Every time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Parenting the Gifted: No limits on trouble.

An acquaintance told me earlier this week that with gifted kids, it seems there is no minimum age, nor maximum age, for any kind of trouble. I found that out myself, the hard way, last week. And, since this blog hop happens at the perfect time to share, I felt that you know, our story? Maybe it'll help others. Either for safety, or to feel less crappy about themselves. Either way, it's something I felt I needed to share.

Ages ago - just ages ago - I read a blog post about a little girl. She was three years old, and was crushed and killed under her little dresser. I have a climber of a child, and the first thing I did when I read this story was to check all my bookshelves. We have six different bookshelves in the house, and I had bolted them all to the walls before my son started walking. They were in tight, everything was okay.

Now at the time, I didn't think anything more of it. I didn't for years. Not until earlier this week. You see, I have a giant dresser in my bedroom. It, alone, weighs 140 pounds. It has a television on top of it, bumping that up to a good 200 (it's an old tube television!). Then, all the clothes in it. I didn't think much about it, after all, that's a HUGE dresser, and I can't move it by myself, how could a child? And even more, what nearly six year old child - especially one who loves logic as much as Mad Natter does - is climbing a dresser anyway?

That night, there was a bang. A HUGE bang, that sounded like someone had fallen down the stairs, even through headphones. Turns out, Mad Natter, while he was supposed to be using his hour in bed before lights out to read and play quietly, decided to try to climb up that dresser. It tipped. He fell, it fell on top of him, and the television hit his head on the way down.

Mercifully, the physics of the situation were in his favor. He fell next to the bed, and the dresser fell across the bed to the floor. He was pinned, yes, but by drawers alone, and not the full crushing weight of the dresser. The television knocked him on the head, giving him a goose egg and a scrape... then rolled off to the side. Skeeve lifted the dresser off our precious son, while I dragged him out from underneath. He was conscious, but obviously very shaken up. I checked him over for injury. He seemed fine, but very sedate. I called my mother - does he need to see someone NOW, or will the morning be early enough? We took him in to emerg, just to be safe.

Mercifully, he has come out of this with two scrapes, one scratch, and a few bruises. No broken bones, no concussion.

This is all I needed. This is the "huge" investment of time and money we needed to make this dresser safe. It cost me $7.30 after tax, and thinking we were safe and not spending that $7? It nearly cost my son his life. I thought we were safe. I thought there was no way he could ever knock over that dresser. It was well over 200 pounds! He's not even 6 yet, and barely over 45 pounds soaking wet! It didn't matter.

We're all readers here - and likely parents. Please. Take my experience to heart, I beg you. For under $10 and 15 minutes per, you can anchor your bookcases - and dressers -  to the wall. You can keep your most precious creations from tragic ends - no matter how old they are. Anchor the bookcases. Anchor your dresser. That piece of furniture in that room your kids never go in? Anchor that too. Please. Let my experience be the closest you ever come to this kind of disaster. Raise your precocious, and keep them safe.  Remember, with children like this?  There is no minimum age for disaster... but there isn't a maximum, either.

This post has been a part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum's July Blog Hop: Gifted Parenting.  To read more viewpoints on the topic, check the sidebar, or click here!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Video Games and Yellow Blankets

I have memories, beautiful memories, of a big yellow fleece-ish picnic blanket, it had satiny-lined edges with zig-zag stitching, and I'd go out in the summer, put out that big yellow blanket on the dark green grass, and park myself there all day.  I'd have a drink, and a book or four, and that was the place to find me.  I miss it.  Even thinking of it is peaceful, and I am suddenly left with the desire to share that experience with Mad Natter.  Except... the big yellow blanket is twenty years gone, and my child would sooner nail his foot to the pavement than hold still long enough to read a book.

No, this year... Summer reading for me is an air conditioned bedroom long after bedtime, reading an old favorite or possibly an ARC for a beloved author....  And for Mad Natter, it's both 'work' and play.  We run school year round over here.  We take our breaks when we want them, for as long as we need them, but we do have school days in July and August as well as most of the rest of the months of the year.  So, yes, some summer reading will be assigned, but...

Summertime is perfect for stealth reading. We go out for walks, and Mad Natter reads the signs to me.  We go for hikes, and he has to read the trail markers.  His free time spent playing video games?  All involve reading - at least the menus, and usually the dialog as well.  Now that he's gotten truly into Minecraft, he's found the Minecraft Manuals.  He got the Creations Manual not long ago, and pores over it daily.  He still enjoys his TAG, which reads books to him, but he's starting to enjoy reading stories to me, as well.  And so, while it's not the reading of my own childhood, I'm going to say it's still a wonderful thing. 

We have a trip coming up - in the next few days, actually.  As we travel, there will be road signs, storefronts, highway notifications, and a car full of books.  I have hope that maybe some of these will buy me a few moments' peace, though I kind of doubt it.  But hey, at least he's reading - and all reading is good reading, especially for a five year old boy.

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on Summer Reading.  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Twice Exceptionality, when just one exception isn’t enough!

Giftedness.  It's a pretty known phenomena.  People don't like to admit it exists, because egalitarianism, but everyone knows it does, deep down.  That some people are just crazy smart.  But they don't know any of those people.  Nope.  Like foxes. Everyone knows foxes exist, and can generally recognize them if they need to, but nobody ever sees one in the wild.

Twice-exceptionality...  Everyone recognizes a fox on sight, generally. But when asked, does anyone know what the fox really says?  (I guarantee you that most gifted

and twice-exceptional kids do know what a fox says - if they're interested in animals, anyhow.)  That's the 2E - that fox's voice.  When you tell anyone that your child is twice exceptional, the first response is usually "oh... ouch."  This is largely because the only people you're really telling are people who also have 2E children, and they've come to your house bearing booze and cupcakes on a really crummy day.
Talking to professionals...  That is much less easy.  Mad Natter has a secondary diagnosis, and we are looking into a tertiary as well.  Skeeve and I both have executive function issues, and it looks like in addition to smarts, we've passed on a few other things.  Telling any care providers that we suspect Mad Natter is twice-exceptional usually goes over like a lead balloon.  Why?  Because most people have barely studied up on giftedness, much less twice-exceptionality - and care providers, like everyone else, doesn't like to have someone pop up in their office and know more about a topic they are seeking advice for than the person they're seeking that advice from.  So far, it has resulted in "boys will be boys," and 24h turnaround on an appointment for me, plus "well, we'll see..." and "what makes you think he's gifted?"  The automatic response is to put us on the defensive, having to justify that a 5 year old reading (and comprehending) chapter books, but utterly unable to focus for more than a minute or two at a time, is having challenges.

Mad Natter does not officially have the third diagnosis.  However, as every practitioner has shooed us out their door, telling us to return when Mad Natter is seven years old, they hand us paperwork.  Every time it's the same paperwork.  Sometimes it's two different things - one sensory - confirming to us that there is something valid in our armchair diagnosis... but no one is willing to assess for another year and change.  No matter the urgency, no matter the obvious support we bring in for that assessment and the potential diagnosis, we are getting the brush off.  He'll be fine until he's seven.  He's gifted. 

The question I'm left with is "am I seeing blowback because I dare identify myself and my child as gifted? Or am I seeing it because I'm implying that gifted children might not be 100% people-pleasers, easy children, eager learners who want nothing more than a stack of worksheets to do over an ice cream breakfast?"

Because, you see...  The twice-exceptional tend to be invisible.  They're marginalized in the classroom, under the insistence their "behavior issues" come "under control" before they are accelerated - often making their acting out worse, because of utter boredom.  They're marginalized by professionals, who have little training on the gifted population, and don't understand how gifted intensity can either mask other issues, or intensify them.  They're side-eyed in public, because they're simultaneously incredibly intense and curious... and also just inherently... 'odd.' They approach things so very differently, and are less able to mask their inherent differences, and so they... for lack of a better phrase, they 'feel' odd to others.

Trying to make the appropriate care decisions for a complicated child, understood by neither general society nor his care practitioners is exceedingly difficult.  Being brushed off time and again when you're bringing a valid concern forward is frustrating, disheartening, and maddening.  Knowing what is likely helpful for your child, and being denied the opportunity to find out if this is the case?  See above.  Knowing that if this were any other child, this would have been determined and care would be much simpler is just defeating.

Twice exceptional children (and adults!) are real.  They're out in the world at large. And when you find others, you will find help - or at least someone to listen, and bring you booze and cupcakes when you need 'em.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Welcome to the 2014 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour! 

The Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour holds a very special place in my heart.  You see, it was the 2012 tour that led me to this post from The Younger Mrs Warde at Sceleratus Classical Academy at exactly the time I needed that post.  Two years later, I am still grateful to call Mrs Warde my friend, and at this point, a partner in crime.  That led me to Twitter's #gtchat, which led me to the Gifted Homeschooler's Forum, and to Jen, and Pamela, and Amy, and Mona...  But, I digress.

Parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. That’s why for the third year in row, parents from The Well Trained Mind Message boards have created a blog tour to share wisd
om, joy, tribulations and advice. The Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

On June 22nd Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with “How a Gifted Childhood Prepared Me for Gifted Parenting”.

On June 23rd At Home in the North Woods will share “Great Expectations, four ideas for dealing with perfectionism.”

On June 24th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about “Following the Passions of the Gifted Child."

On June 25th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature a guest post.

On June 26th Homeschooling Hatters will discuss “Twice Exceptionality, when just one exception isn’t enough!”

On June 27th Teaching My Baby to Read will write about “Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget.”

 A difficult thing to understand about children with high IQs is that just because they are gifted, it doesn’t mean they are easy to teach or parent. In fact, often times the opposite is true. This blog tour is written by people who understand what you’re going through. We are sending encouragement your way! So the next time you wake up at 3 AM worrying about your child, at least you’ll know that you aren’t alone.Thanks for being with us on this journey! P.S. There are still room for more posts, so if you have something on your heart that you would like to share, please email Jenny via Teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com.For previous tours, click on the links below: