After years of on and off blogs that I never stuck with , here I am trying it again. This time the focus is a little more clear. I have two boys, L 8 and S 4. We have decided to homeschool or, rather, unschool. This decision did not come easily to me nor was it ever something that I thought I would have to do...and that is just what it is...something I HAVE to do. L needs it. School doesn't work for him. We have tried our local public charter with the 10 star rating and an incredible progressive/elite private school. The private school was significantly better and repaired Liam's social emotional pysche after a particularly hostile and regressive 2nd grade year at public school. L is a profoundly gifted child whose intellect was obvious at a very early age. By 8 months he was talking, by 1 year he had easily over 100 identifiable words, he conversed in a complex and grammatically correct manner by 18 months and was doing 100 piece puzzles at 18 months. We knew early on that he was bright but since he was our first child we did not know just how advanced he was. Sure, I compared him to our other baby friends and read the developmental milestone checklists which never applied to him. He was "off the charts" back then. I would also occasionally google gifted children to review the checklist for what the symptoms where....Yup, he has that...he is gifted. We knew it, and then moved on and didn't really think about it. I satisfied what I already knew to be true. Great I thought, "this kid will do well in school....life will be easy because he is so smart." WOW, was I wrong. As I have delved deeper into trying to understand what I have on my hands I started seeing how the literature states that
"Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally."
Oh, I had missed the part where it says one must change their parenting and educational approach. Nothing about having a gifted child makes life or school easy. NOT AT ALL. All the parenting classes I took, the parenting books that I read, the advice that I received from well meaning parents and educators...I didn't realize then that NONE of it would apply to me. L is not neurotypical. His brain is wired differently and this makes living with him both incredibly interesting and entertaining as well as absolutely frustrating and crazy making. L is quite asynchronous especially with regard to the disparity in his cognitive abilities as compared to his physical abilities. An athlete he is not. He is; however, laden with a sharp, witty tongue and filled with quick quips...this I find interesting though some may not. He challenges the status quo because he has to. He doesn't try to be different, he just is. He is an outlier.
Public school is designed for the "normal" neurotypical kid and probably works great for the teacher pleasing student. L thinks differently. Out of the box, divergent thinking is not celebrated in a typical classroom. In our experience, especially in second grade, his out of the box thinking was punished. Second grade was the turning point for us in realizing that L needed more although I did not realize just how much more he needed.
Without rehashing all the problems with second grade, I can sum up that it was a regressive year all around and his teacher ruined his confidence with regard to writing...something we are still trying to recover from. Writing for many gifted kids, especially boys, proves to be a laborious ordeal where their hand cannot keep up with their fast brains and the output never really demonstrates their expressive abilities.
Third grade proved to me that this is a kid who appreciates having a nice social life but even this great progressive school had too much structure and rules for him. I loved this school and thought it answered all our problems. It was great socially emotionally but still not the right academic fit. He needs time to delve deeply into topics of interest without time constraints. This past Spring 2012 I started to go back to the school search drawing board and stumbled upon the idea of homeschooling. I was very hesitant and it has taken me several months to realize that this is what we needed to try. I started researching curriculum and approaches with the help of a gifted homeschooling community which has been invaluable. We have even made some nice friends through this group that we see weekly for socialization and field trips. It is amazing to find families with similar experiences and relateable struggles. Oh, yes, there are struggles and challenges with raising gifted children and not a lot of manuals out there as one size never fits all. When I first broached the subject with Liam he had a smile on his face and stated that, "The great thing about homeschooling is that we can do it on weekends and in summer too!" Yes, you can L...this is a kid who WANTS to learn but has not learned much in school. He had complained of being bored ever since Kindergarten but I didn't put much weight onto it as I was blindly believing that an average school could actually educate my far from average child. Now to S. S, who just turned 4 and has not been to preschool, is quite different and also showing signs of giftedness which is a trait that tends to run in families. Siblings generally have IQ scores within 10 points of each other so S, though not yet tested, is likely gifted as well but in a very different way. He has great dexterity and is also quite adept with 100 piece puzzles and building Legos. Before he was 1 his favorite word was THIS ("dis"). He would point at everything and I had to tell him what THIS was. I was explaining the world to him all day long because he made me do it...he needed to know. It didn't dawn on me then that this was showing signs of his own giftedness at an early age. S is extremely sensitive emotionally and intense in his own way. Sensitivities and intensities are part of the deal with the gifted child. I am homeschooling S by default...which I guess is how we got here with Liam. I am too scared to try putting S into a regular pre-k school as I saw how damaging bricks and mortar schools were to L. I am still trying to undo the harm caused by public school and I am scared to throw S into a situation that may not work for him.