Monday, November 11, 2013

Keeping my Sanity Through the Holidays with a 2E Child

Today's post is part of a blog hop sponsored by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum!  Take a look at what others have had to say!

Typically, at our house, "holidays" and "enjoyment" are near oxymorons.  Finding a way to keep some form of routine during this period is neigh torture. This week, Mad Natter starts a skills development program for hockey. This lasts six weeks. So, once the schedule gets to be routine, it changes again because the program stops.  Now, this year, we're not travelling until Christmas, but ordinarily, we'd be heading to Chicagoland from Mooselandia for American Thanksgiving.  And this year, it's our Christmas in Chicago, as well.  So we'd be travelling for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, holiday set-up and tear-down, then New Year's...  There's so much change, so much commotion, and a boy who stresses with even slight changes? The whole season is a wreck.

Now, as if that's not enough commotion... This year, Mad Natter takes up hockey.  So, our school schedule was already screwy from having the sudden arrival of practices on Saturday and Sunday mornings (both days before Mad Natter would usually even be out of bed!), then once that's settled, we have the arrival of the skills workshops, then at the end of the month will be a scrimmage at the local OHL team's game, then the schedule changes again - practice on Saturday, and games at variable times on each Sunday.

So what do you do? What can you do, if the very nature of the season throws your kiddo into a tailspin - and not just any tailspin, but the kind that doubles up each day things are crazy?  In our house?  I try to reduce the changes.  So, effective Hallowe'en?  School's out.  I refuse to run school on Candy Day itself, there's just too much craziness. Then the whole week following is a loss in a sugar-induced high-low fest of epic proportions, and then there's on-again, off-again with the holidays... So, I put our large year break in winter - where we can ease at least some of the stress on Mad Natter before we hit the year fresh in 2014.  I have to remind grandparents and Skeeve that a) we've already accomplished a half year of schooling (minimum) since mid-August, and b) it's not like he's going to be behind - ever.

What this means in the big picture, though, is that we're able to have relatively low-key holidays, vaguely stress-free (or at least manageable stress levels), and I get to take the low-key time to have read alouds with Mad Natter, going over things like fairy tales, or cultural stories - things we all know, but don't remember where or when we learned them... Cinderella, or Jack Spratt.  It means school is much less formal, and instead we have a lot of stealthy schooling, and honestly? It keeps all of us saner over the crazy-making time that is any holiday, but particularly the cluster of fall and winter holidays.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Wait, it's November? Already?

Apparently, the Big Deal in November is NaBloPoMo.

I'm probably not going to get through that.  But, I suppose it's worth trying.

I'll kick this year off with Hallowe'en - Mad Natter was a specific character out of a Minecraft video for Hallowe'en this year.  We went by Mimi's house for dinner yesterday, and when we arrived, she asked him, "So, who are you?"

In a style so reminiscent of me that it's almost as frightening as it was funny, he turned to her, gave her the "I'm so sorry you're so stupid" look, and said "I'm Natter." as though she had managed to forget his given name, and completely blank on who he was, rather than asking what his costume was to be.  It was certainly one of the more fabulous moments being parent to a child who... can be challenging most other times.

I'll point out that today? Totally one of those times. Sugar rush/crash all day, a smallboy who wants nothing to eat but candy, and trying to get anything done?  Hoo, boy.  It's not entirely a picnic, but it's our time, and I get to know him a little better each day.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Homeschooling A Gifted or "2E" Child

We have nothing official in our file cabinets to support a "gifted" label, much less a twice exceptional one.  All we have is our basic experience, and those "What Your X-Grader Should Know" books.  But, I took a huge swath of my time, and copied out our Mooselandia Local Primary Education Standards. I'm not done with all of them yet, having focused on Language Arts, Science, and Maths as a core for our Kindy year. Looking at our books, knowing that Mad Natter is working on grade 1 level at a minimum for all subjects but handwriting (which is K)... I figured it would be pretty much a grade 1 thing.  NOPE.  He's asynchronous as they come - his language arts are sitting pretty firmly in grade 1. But his maths? Grade 2. Science is grade 3.  I'm at a point where I don't need a score to comfortably say my son is gifted (I need a score in case he takes a head injury playing hockey).  He's a newly five year old boy working at grade three. Anyone who says otherwise is full of bologna.

Now... the other thing I've noticed. I don't have a diagnosis for this either, but... Mad Natter has a span of about two hours in the morning where he is able to focus on his work fairly consistently. As long as we get his school work done in that span, everything goes well.  But I know when time is nearly up.  That's when redirection starts.

Mad Natter loses the ability to focus on his work.  He'll go from engaged and interested, to completely unable to think through a problem in a span of five minutes. Worse, this will be a problem he could rattle off an answer to without thinking about ten minutes prior.  He was sick in the middle of September, and as he curled up on my lap for an all-too-rare snuggle (he'd much rather be crashing through the car being a train or a Transformer!), he said to me, "Mama, I like being sick a little. My mind moves slower when I'm sick, and I can think."  My poor little monkey, I know well what that is like.  For Mama, it's undiagnosed AD/HD.  For Daddy, it's diagnosed, but untreated, ADD. We know well your pain.  And this is why we're on the waitlist for services to have Mad Natter assessed, to see what we can do for him.

These two things combine to make homeschooling a little bit more challenging.  And for scale, an elephant weighs a little bit more than a postage stamp.  I've been ordering curriculum for two years now (this will be my third, coming up), and I've been ordering in two year groupings, just to be safe.  I bought, for example, RightStart Math. Levels A and B not this past spring, but the one before. Mad Natter is about halfway through B. I bought C back in March, and by the time we get to ordering next (again, in March-ish), Mad Natter will be at least into level C. I expect him to go through a level and a half each school year, and so far that's been on target for everything we've tried.  He did level A through our last school year (plus the first few lessons of B), and I don't think I actually taught him anything but names (e.g: the six-sided figure is called a "hexagon").  I'm finally starting this year to feel like I'm actually teaching things. We'll have to see how it goes, though.  I keep trying to stay one step ahead of him, so we're never running out of things mid-year.  Oddly, his focus troubles seem to be helping me in that regard. He can't focus for too long, so I never work on any one thing for longer than about twenty minutes, then we chuck it and move on.  This means he's actually going through things slower than he would be if he were able to focus on it - which makes the books last longer.  I appreciate that, but I wonder if it's not doing him more harm than good.

Homeschooling the gifted or twice exceptional learner is a lot like parenting the same child - they're just MORE. So you have the same worries and concerns and joys and fun days as the 'regular' homeschooling parent... they just tend to be more intense.  Hell, Mrs Warde over at Sceleratus Classical Academy has talked me off of many a ledge as Mad Natter keeps exceeding expectations and throwing me for loop after loop!  When he started reading at 3y2m. When I realized he probably ought to be entering third grade in the fall. When it occurred to me that he will probably finish an entire primary school education by the time he's eight.  It's lions, and tigers, and bears OH, MY!  The thing is... I have to do something extremely difficult for me to do. In order to homeschool him effectively, and not drive myself utterly insane doing it, I need to let go.  Take things as they come, and move forward a day at a time. No panicking. No fretting, no hand wringing.  All I can do is take it as it comes to me, keep pushing through, advocate for the services Mad Natter needs, and keep meeting his educational needs.  He's not the average child, he's MY child.  He's not following the average path, he's following HIS path. And really, aside from "get enough sleep" and "take care of yourself," there isn't anything I can do but hold on for the ride - it'll be wonderful, and undoubtedly intense - if I can just let go enough to enjoy it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


It is seriously a rough time around here.

We have signed Mad Natter up for pre-novice hockey.  This, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing!  A chance to learn a new set of physical skills, a structured opportunity to get out and get his energy out, a great time to go out and play with kids and interact with the world at large!  Fantastic!

The problem comes in when you take our regular week schedule into account. We don't run Monday to Friday like the rest of the general population - we run Thursdays to Sundays. Skeeve works four ten hour days, and on an odd schedule. So, we ran school Thursday to Sunday as well, with Tuesdays added on as phys ed - when we run around the city playing at parks, going swimming, having picnics, apple picking...  All the fun things that make being home worth it!  Anyway. Because hockey is set up for the vast majority of people - who are Monday to Friday people, practices are on Saturday and Sunday. And not even a time we can work around - practices are set up Saturday at 9, and Sunday at 8, so we can't get school in beforehand.

Now, given that Mad Natter is extremely easily distracted on the best of days... this means we're going to have some really hard times ahead. Have to rework the entire schedule, as we can't count on getting in a full day of school after hockey practice. Have you seen what the kids look like when they come off the ice?  First it's DED OF SKATING, then it's ZOMG WIRED!  Needless to say, neither condition is conducive to school.

And so, what do we do? We no longer have four full school days. If we skip Saturday and Sunday entirely, we have two school days. If we toss on weekend days, then can get one more day - the other two are Mom's Resting Day and parent meeting day.  That's up to three... so now the schedule is reset - we're having school days Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and having half days on Saturday and Sunday.  We'll have to see how it all shakes out, but worst case scenario, I'm back to schedule planning again in a week or two.

all graphics ganked from

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homeschool and You

This is a lot like a "The Care and Feeding of You" book, really.  The problem is that I have to laugh that this is something I'm posting about.  I am probably the worst possible person to ask, which might just make me the best - if only in a "what not to do" context.

I get grumpy. Quickly. I get irritable, too. And easily angered, tense, and I take on way too much.  But the thing is, I forget to take care of me.  I'm so busy taking care of everyone else that I don't get taken care of.  I got money for my birthday. Pre-Monkey, birthday money would have gone to new books, or maybe a new pair of Chucks, or even something silly and useless.  Now, I've spent some of it on antibiotics for a little boy's abscessed tooth, and the remainder will likely go to signing him up for pee-wee hockey.  Before I go on with more, the story is I don't take care of me. I'm trying, though.  I make sure that I get at least one day per week to sleep in - meaning, one day that I wake up on my own, without a young sir jumping on my head at 7:00 am.  Now that it's not innermost-circle-of-hell hot and humid here, I'm going to be starting up running again soon as well.  But time to sit and read? Time for a mani-pedi? Time to just do Care things that Care likes to do?  Not so much.  There's usually a span of time between 8:30 and 10:00 that is Monkey-free. That, though, is devoted to cleaning up Monkey Mess.  For while my monkey doesn't fling feces like his wild brethren, he flings a lot of toys. And food. And paper. And drinks, and LEGO. So there is very little of that hour and a half left for actual self care.  I'm usually pretty pleased if I can henna away grey hairs twice a year, or get a haircut once a quarter.  I really need to work on that, though.  Seriously. Thinking of all the things I do - and skip doing - kind of makes me tense up all on its own.

The more I think about this, the more I realize that there is something more at play here. While all parents need to recharge, and parents of exceptional children need more time, I'm beginning to wonder if parents of children with multiple exceptionalities need more time than that.  Parenting is not an easy prospect, no matter what age your child is, or how agreeable they are. Parenting children who are just "more" in every respect? I'm sure they're also more draining - after all, they're "more" everything else, so why not? But then add in any additional exceptionality, and it seems like even the magnified effects of an intense child is magnified again. In our house, it's almost like having two children in one - we have a nearly nine year old, asking questions about reproduction, the human body (inside, outside, and nude), and super excited to use his microscope... and also a two or three year old - unable to control his impulses, grabbing what is near, whether he should or not, running full tilt through the house, climbing into things he knows he shouldn't because he doesn't have the skills to stop and think he shouldn't...  And both children are in the body of a five year old. Every day is an adventure, for sure, but it's also trying and exhausting, and I really need to stop and think about what I need to do for me to recharge and be the best Mama I can be.

What I need:
Sleep. Oh, how I need sleep.  It's well-neigh impossible for me to function on little sleep.  I'm one of those folks who needs a minimum of 9 hours before they can function. I can get four and be fine, but four and a half? Nope, doomed until nine.
Water I really need to drink more water. I'm not particularly good at it, and it generally shows. Oddly, the more water I drink, the more calm I seem to have.  At least it's cheaper than wine?
Time Out. No, not the little kid kind. But I need time to myself to get things done, time to sit and read, or talk to other homeschooling parents.  Happily, #gtchat usually does this for me. The problem is that I've been traveling so much, I feel like I'm missing all the chats, and that does a lot of horrifying things to my mood.
Fun For me, fun is something as simple as Doctor Who, a new book, or even just going out to window shop.

The problem, though, is that I also need a better memory. I know I need these things, but I have a heck of a time remembering that I need them during my day-to-day life!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back to Not School!

In general, we're having a great week.  Monkey (now renamed The Mad Natter - to fit the theme, and because he'll soon be too old for "monkey") has been back to Not School since Thursday, and all has been going spectacularly well.  I actually remembered to plan for the fact that he has his best focus early in the morning this year.  That's made a world of difference.  We've been able to get our work done in under an hour, had time to play games, and then moved along before he lost his focus. I had no idea what time he lost it, either, because we were already done before things went crazy.

Today... was a different story.  Sundays we would ordinarily drive Skeeve to work if The Mad Natter was awake early enough.  He wasn't today, so Skeeve took the bus, and I rested a bit on the couch, waiting for The Mad Natter's appearance.  I didn't have long to wait, he came down the stairs stark naked and giggling about a lack of clothes in his room (yes, he goes through enough clothing in a day that I have to get laundry done every five days or he has absolutely nothing to wear).  So we dressed him out of the laundry basket in the living room, watched our week's episode of Magic School Bus (we've picked up free science lessons using MSB from HomeschoolBelle!!) - again - and got rolling.  Mad Natter wanted to do handwriting work, and since fine motor skills are his weak point, I'm all for letting him, despite having completed the week's handwriting (for reference: 2 pages on each of 2 days, 4p total) the day before.  More power to him, right? Anyhow, I set him up with his handwriting book, and he worked his way through S, J, T, I, A, the segment review AND the capital letter alphabet.  Seven pages - so nearly two weeks of handwriting work in about an hour this morning.  And that's when things started going to hell in a handbasket.

We started about 10 minutes later than usual today, due to it being a Sunday, and therefore a hectic morning. Mad Natter spent 25m watching MSB, then another 5 dawdling his way to the school table. He spent about 50m on handwriting. Then everything went crazy.  He was suddenly completely unable to focus, everything was interrupted by OOOH, SHINY! and he was completely incapable of adding 4+1.  Now, let's bear in mind that this child has been able to plus-one count up since he was three.  I could have understood 359+1, because it requires the regrouping of the ten, which is more of a challenge when you can't focus, but 4+1? We only made it through maths because it used the maths balance - which means it involves actually physically moving the weights to balance the equations. Spelling was equally easier, because I let him play with the balance while I asked beginning and ending sounds, and then separating sounds was done by moving tokens for each sound (thank goodness for All About Spelling!).  We completely dropped reading for the day, and the second half of our ant study was put off until after lunch - we had a read aloud, and then brainstorming, and letter writing.  I'm really glad for homeschool on that front - I was able to put things off until he was a little better able to focus.

Apparently, though, Mad Natter has about 90 minutes of focus in the mornings, and his focus is spotty for the rest of the day.  I'm really glad to have the freedom to have figured this out, and I'm hoping it will be something we can build on from here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


It seems we are perpetually reinventing the wheel here at our Crazy Castle in Mooselandia.  If it's not creating someone small's education from the ground up, it's his medical health.

See, Monkey exhibits nearly every sign of ADHD. Both inattentive and hyperactive - as well as most of the commonly corresponding traits children with ADHD often display. With his annual checkup, I brought this up as concerning to his pediatrician, as his reading lags behind his other skills - largely due to an inability to focus.  The pediatrician brushed us off with an admonishment that these types of concerns need to be addressed in a separate behavioral appointment - as if she had told us this before.  So, I nodded, told her I'd book the appointment, and she gave me a card for a website to go fill out a survey (the survey from the CDC wasn't good enough).  So, I took the card, we left the appointment, I booked the behavioral appointment for the following day, and we went home - me chasing Monkey, who was running top speed through the doctor's office as if he were on the playground, completely oblivious to me, the people around him, or what the rules of behavior might be in an office setting.  We went home and filled out the survey, which was emailed straight to the doctor, then we went about our day.  That evening, Monkey filled out the website's "Youth Self-Reporting" form, with things like "I want to focus on books and games, but I can't" and "I can't stop fidgeting" and "I often get up and leave my seat when I shouldn't."  These things indicate a problem to me, and one that is not inherently a simple fix.  But, I crossed my fingers, and we went to bed.

The next afternoon was the behavioral appointment. Skeeve came with us, so I could have him take Monkey for a walk if need be - I wasn't going to have Monkey sit in a room while I told a veritable stranger how difficult it is to parent him, and how we are rapidly reaching a point where we love him to bits, but none of us like each other very much right now.  That seemed needlessly cruel to me.  I'm very glad for this bit of forethought, in retrospect.  Because, quite honestly, the pediatrician had made up her mind about us from the first day she saw us. We came in with these same concerns, and she scolded us for letting Monkey ride her wheeled stool through the exam room while we waited.  She wasn't even there yet, and then she promptly proceeded to scold him as well.  Okay, weird, but whatever. She told us at that point that she believed he had an attachment disorder, and that we could take him to the child psychiatrist to have our concerns more thoroughly addressed, but really what we needed were parenting lessons.  Now, bear in mind, this was a child who, at the time, still nursed away boo-boos, slept 50% (or more!) of the time in our bed, and came running to us to share and talk about everything.  He had about as much attention disorder as he did naturally occurring blue hair.  The psychiatrist agreed on that front. Which was something, because he didn't do a very good job with anything else, determining from a 35 minute office visit talking to ME that Monkey was not at all gifted, nor did he have ADHD, he was a perfectly normal little boy. 

Anyhow, back to the behavioral appointment. Skeeve took Monkey for a walk, and I explained the situation to the doctor. The running - for an hour or more, continuously. The well below age level meltdowns over things like "holding hands in traffic."  The "talk his way out of anything, right down to insisting he'd kill anyone who tried to take him away from us."  The complete lack of focus.  Her diagnosis? "He seems perfectly fine in the office. The psychiatrist agrees with my assessment, and I suggest you look into parenting lessons."  Now, bear in mind, she's seen Monkey in her office, when he was well, for a grand total of 20 minutes. In the last year. To assess his behavior that day on having observed him for quite literally less than five minutes, while discounting everything I've told her - that was bad enough. But then to write off what we're experiencing as being due solely to poor parenting?  Excuse me?  Obviously this did not go over well, and an argument ensued, including mentioning that the day after we'd seen the psychiatrist, Monkey had come down ill - as in fever of 102*+, spent all day in a nest of blankets watching a movie and utterly miserable. She looked at me as if I'd implied the psychiatrist had poisoned my son. Apparently, one can now be a pediatrician without knowing that being ill will throw a child's behavior off for days - both before and after.  Anyway, as Skeeve brought Monkey back and entered into the melee, the doctor told me she never said Monkey had an attachment disorder (I, apparently, made that one up), and that while she would never intend to belittle my professional training as a teacher, "It's different when it's your own child."  Monkey's opinions carried exactly no weight. My opinions, Skeeve's opinions, none of it made a difference. Our experiences did not line up with her original assessment of poor parenting, so they were invalid.

Monkey's primary care has been moved to my own doctor, a lovely Family Doctor who listens to me, engages me in conversation, and is glad that I take an active role in my health care. I have also called the local children's mental health outreach (they have a 4-6 month waiting list for services), to start that process. My question, however, is why is this even necessary?!? Why on Earth would a doctor look at a family obviously in distress, with a strong genetic predisposition to attentional disorders, with an assessment on file stating that attentional disorders are very likely with this child... Why would a doctor look at all this and say "nope! You're just shitty parents, that's all!"  Why should I have to make all the calls, set up all the appointments, force my way into and through the system, just to have someone take a serious, genuine look at my son's troubles? Something is wrong here, and since we were all doing just fine from Monkey's birth until about age three, I suspect it's not our parenting. We had NO terrible twos! It was easy, everything was calm and nice, and we all got along, and everything was fine and fun. So, what, we lost the ability to parent the day he turned three? Somehow, I suspect not. But something went amiss, and we've spent the last two years trying every behavioral option we can, to no avail.  Why do we need to reinvent the wheel? Why should it be such a struggle to listen to a child and his parents about what is going on in that child's head? Why should ANY parent have to fight AGAINST their child's doctor to get the care that is in the child's best interest? 

It makes no sense. It's an embarrassment to the profession. And it happens far too often.

So if you're out there, and you feel like you're taking two steps back for every one forward, and you're fighting uphill for the things your child needs...  Know you're not alone. You're not the only one fighting this battle. It sucks that this seems to be common, but it kind of helps to know that it isn't just one person, one family.  There's more out there, going through the same battles. And if you can find those people, give them a shout. It's always nice to hear a friendly voice.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Homeschooling: Where and How I Began

Technically, it's "where and how to begin" but I'm so ludicrously new to this I can't tell you what anyone else does, just what I do.  Yes, I'm pedantic.  So shoot me.

Anyhow.  Technically, we started homeschooling last year for Junior Kindergarten, when Monkey turned four. His age peers were all heading off to JK, and Monkey stayed in preschool... while functioning much higher.  So we dinked along, we did really well for ourselves. We finished several books and started new ones, and it didn't occur to me to think it odd.  Then we moved forward to this year.  I order curricula in March, when we get tax returns in, and I plan what to do after that for social and extracurriculars.

For curricula, I essentially went around listening to everyone I could find who was homeschooling.  Every single person.  From Smrt Mama over at the McLearnins Academy for Smrt Learnins, through to Patchfire, and to my homeschooling mama-friends over at Contrary to Popular Parenting.  I looked at what everyone was doing. I took some input from The Well-Trained Mind as well.  I pulled together what looked like it covered everything, and would keep us solid in subjects for a good while.  We learned quickly that some things just won't work for everyone. I was kind of surprised by that, as being a schoolteacher by trade, I'm used to THIS BOOK FOR EVERYONE.  How could a good history book like Story of the World not work for us? Madness!  But, it didn't, and we're still kind of wobbling all over for the subject, working from a core of story-ish books, and moving out from there.

This year, before we begin school - which will probably be on Thursday, holy crap!! - I went through our local Mooselandia area standards for primary grades, figuring I'd get a handle on what I was doing.  Well, after finding the Mooselandia standards a nearly-unusable wreck (for my purposes, anyhow), I started "fixing" them.  I pulled them all off the website for K-3. I sorted them by subject, labeled them by grade, and stuck them together in a lovely spreadsheet for my own use.  That was kind of where my trouble began.

See, I took the standards, and I checked off which of them Monkey was able to meet.  I gave myself a panic attack - first at his abilities globally, and then again at the discrepancy between his maths and science and his reading.  So, quite naturally, I flipped out.  This lasted about a week.  Happily, it was still break-time.  So it didn't "cost" us anything. Now that I have my head back on straight, I'm getting things ready for the fall.  I picked a manipulative-based math program, and Monkey enjoys it. I started him a level below what I thought he could do because I know his fine motor skills aren't his top thing. Knowing this, I purchased two years of maths books last year, and another this year.  He blew through Right Start A in no time, and is about a third of the way through B.

Science, I took a lot of confusing time with. We ended up going with Thames and Kosmos Little Labs for the bulk of things, as it covers most science easily, without making it unnecessarily difficult or boring.  Monkey EATS UP science, though, so while I have enough labs for now... I've been watching another science book for when we're done with what we have. 

Many of the "softer" sciences I find we cover just in daily living. Social Studies is handled on a walk to the park, or the pharmacy!  Who are the people in your neighborhood, right?  As far as History proper, I'm finding storybooks to be the way to go...

I'm fairly sure this is boring. But, honestly, I write it to say that we got what we thought would be good. And some of it was perfect. Some of it was so awful we needed to stop, and some of it was so wonderful we're going through it far faster than I thought we would.  It ends up being a big guessing game.  You go with your gut, then make changes as you see how things work.  If you have a spectacular maths program you love, but your kid hates it?  Just drop it. That's all you can really do. Trying to force it is part of why we're not putting our kids in public school, right?  Just drop it, and try something new.  Beg, borrow, whatever you have to do to get a free trial if need be... Trust me. You'll all be happier if you just drop what isn't working.  And if something is working too well, and you're afraid you're going to finish it all in a week?  Great!  Go at whatever speed you want to, and replace as you can. You bought (likely) a year's worth of stuff, who cares if they go through it in a week? They still got the year's worth of learning out of it!

Yes. I, the panicking queen, am pretty much telling you to just roll with it.  There's not much else you can do, and please, I've had my panic attack already - allow it to have been yours as well.  ^_~

Honestly, that is really the hard part.  Everything comes with teacher's guides anymore, so all you have to do is open the book, and it's already got the lessons written out for you!  Actually presenting the material to the child is the easiest part of this whole gig.  Getting the kids to sit still for it, well, let me know if you have any good ideas, 'cause I'm flat out.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Common Core Furor.

I find myself in a very unusual place today.  It seems that recently a large number of people have come to the conclusion that the Common Core Curriculum Standards really stink. They're awful. Some of the comments include things like:

They know what they are doing to our kids and they are boring them to death in schools so more will drop out, lowering standards so certain people think they are getting smarter and making the cost of collage (sic) so high that only certain people can afford to go !

There are certain things in life worth getting pissed over. The intellectual loss of an entire generation is one of those things.

The simple fact is that children learn at different speeds on different subjects. Some administrator, who most likely spent little or no time actually being a teacher, buys into some program, with very little input for teachers. Why is it that for the past 2 months my child has not been instructed in any new material? 4 weeks for prepping/reviewing for a state mandated testing, so their scores are good, and now another 4 weeks of prepping/reviewing of math material for a placement test for her high school next year. That's a 5th of the school year not advancing academically, just going over what they know.

I, apparently, am not at all in anything resembling a charitable mood. My thoughts are very single focus, largely because this is something I have heard over and over and over again... however, whenever I've heard it before now, it has been met with one single response: "you can't expect special treatment for your child, no matter his need, that wouldn't be fair." However, now that the standards are being changed such that a large number of children in the US are facing the daily dilemma of the gifted child in public school, there is suddenly uproar. "What do you mean, my child has to spend months in school learning nothing?!? How is this right?"  Or "Our children will be bored! Why are we expected to let our children languish waiting for other children to catch up before they can move on?"  Pardon me while, in my thoroughly uncharitable mood, I raise an eyebrow and state plainly:

What a load of hypocrisy!

If I advocate for an appropriate education for my child, I am asking for special favors, and am placing my child above others, thinking that he is somehow better than other kids, and that he shouldn't be allowed to outpace the other children, as 1) they all even out in third grade, and 2) I'm just exaggerating his abilities to make myself look better anyway.  But, when the situation that many gifted children all over the world face daily suddenly looms large over their children, suddenly it is an outrage, and people should not stand for this!  What's all the more irritating is that not one single person complaining now will even think twice about once again relegating gifted children back to being bored, to being perpetually left behind and denied the education they deserve - because anyone who is on a trajectory faster than the average can just fend for themselves if they're so smart, completely missing the point that they were just arguing for the same exemptions for their children that they are systematically denying to mine, and to others like him.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I realize it's been ages.

I've been up to my eyeballs in the summertime things that need to be done. Between plotting new ideas for a parenting the gifted chat, managing swimming lessons, returning from our trip to Statsia, and trying to re-find our homeschool groove, I've been a wreck.

Right now, we're looking at DreamBox for math. It seems engaging enough, though a real review will be coming as time goes.  I'm also working on a knitting project, and trying to keep my medication from taking over my life.

Interestingly, the big thing I've learned in the last three weeks is that our family is not in any way cut out for the Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 3:00 schooling gig.  We've been getting up for swimming lessons (which start at nine) the last two weeks, and I feel the worst I've felt in a long time. None of us get enough sleep, we're all cranky, crabby and obnoxious by the end of any given day, and really, it just isn't for us.

And so, I leave, as it's the end of a day and cranky has set in, but leave behind the idea that perhaps "The Real World" isn't the best place for some of us, and maybe that's not entirely a bad thing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

So many options!

My lovely friend TheYoungerMrsWarde from Sceleratus Classical Academy asked me a question today - when Monkey is done with the lessons in Reading Eggs, what next?  We both did some poking around and are finding something mildly disturbing with the program: there IS no next. There is Reading Eggspress, which is supposed to be what's next, but Reading Eggs leaves off at emergent / beginning readers, and Eggspress picks up at basic chapter book readers. So what do you do in the middle?

I'm working on that now. Mrs Warde has a slight edge over the Mooselandia House, in that she has two boys, and where one goes, the other is soon to follow.  Monkey, however, has no such inspiration, and works much slower, as there is no competition - real or perceived - to drive him along.  I did some thinking. Right now, I am figuring to do our reading in a slightly different format, which is to sit down to-damn-gether and read books together (I read a page, he reads a page, etc) until his skills are boosted enough for Eggspress to take over. In the meantime, bumping up the quality of his bedtime stories, as well as playing audio books, seems to be a good start. It's something I think I'm going to be working on.  Monkey loves the idea of reading to learn, but he would much prefer someone else do the reading, as he "can't."

Today I also heard about Dragon Box. Again. I keep meaning to sign us up for it, as it's algebra in game format, but I worry - our math curriculum is such that Monkey isn't even trying subtraction yet. I don't want to set him up to fail.  Jen over at Laughing At Chaos, however, tells me this will be fun, even if Monkey can't subtract - her younger got into it before he could subtract well also.  So I'm figuring to give it a shot.

There are so many options available these days - it's just so hard to be the pioneer on them!  I'm glad I have other folks looking out for me, and for me to look out for as well. It may not truly take a village, but it certainly doesn't hurt one little bit to have a community!

Today's story:
Monkey has been obsessed with eggs recently. And hatching. And trying to figure out why, if human beings are formed from eggs, they do not also hatch. Today, however, he went one step further - if he grew inside me... where did I grow? And if I grew inside his grandmother, where did SHE grow?  It was a ton of fun watching the gears go around as he wrapped his head around the idea that everyone has a mother, and that not a single one of us hatched.  (And no, we neither are birthed from, nor pee through, our vulvas. Yes, this is the sort of conversation we have on a daily basis at our house.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Home Away From Home

Monkey and I have left Mooselandia and are on the road. We will be camping later this week, which should be fun, as long as Monkey's need to explore can be curbed to limits of safety.

All the same, we are now visiting family. And naturally, this means I run up against a slew of arguments that are the opposite side of "let him be a kid."  What I hear here (oh, homophones, how I love them) is that I need to put Monkey into school.  He must be around children his own age. I am doing him a disservice by not enrolling him in grade 1 in the coming fall. He will end up miserable, alone, depressed, friendless, and thoroughly lonely if I insist on keeping him to my apron strings.

A large part of this is everyone's sudden concern for Monkey's social skills. At least when people say "socializing" here, they mean socializing, and they don't confuse socialize and socialization. That's always nice. Anyway, the current proposal is that I should send Monkey to school from 9-3:30 M-F... and then actually teach him myself after school hours. So, Monkey should do the equivalent of double-shift for his education while all his newly made friends are out playing. Thus eliminating any bonuses to his making friends that school provides. However, I know Monkey. And I know what he's like when he's bored. I guarantee he will not sit quietly and do nothing while others are learning things he's known for years. He will run, jump, dance, play, shout, and generally be a kid.  This, however, is problematic in a classroom setting.

But, that's not enough. Because obviously, Monkey will be a leader! He already knows everything, he'll be the natural choice for the head of the pack. This is an antiquated idea from the era when being smart was a good thing. When we needed smart people so we could advance the space program and be the first to put a man on the moon. Nowadays? Now smart is only slightly less cool than head lice. Monkey would not be a leader. He would be ostracized. That's just how it works.

Now, if there was a chance of Monkey receiving an appropriate education in public school, I would consider sending him - and probably would be glad to do it. But as it stands, Monkey would be given no choice but to be placed in grade 1 (for clarity, Monkey is working, on average, at a grade 2 level right now.), and to languish with his age-mates until grade 4, when the district will do testing for specialized services.

But, waiting FIVE FULL YEARS for an appropriate education for my child is not acceptable. I am not choosing to homeschool my child because I want to keep him tied to me until I die. I have no interest in having my son for my best friend. None. I want him to have an appropriate education, and I want him to have it at his own pace. I don't care what I have to do to get this for him. I will make the necessary sacrifices for as long as I have to. Why? Because I am his mother - it is my job to make sacrifices to meet his needs. If my child needed special foods, not one soul would think twice of my making sacrifices to meet his needs, it's what parents DO. But Monkey has special intellectual needs, so now it's all about me, and how I must need to hold him too tightly, how I must be paranoid, how I must think he's a special snowflake... when all I want is what should be his by right: A free and appropriate public education. But, as that is not a possibility in a district that "doesn't believe in" acceleration, I have to make other arrangements. Free is no longer available, nor is public. So I can choose. He can get a free public education that meets none of his needs, or he can get a cost education at home that meets as many as possible. No brainer.

The secondary point, that nobody seems to realize they are making is that in meeting my child's needs, I'm deliberately ignoring his needs. Because I care about his mind, I'm going to be neglectful of his social needs. Of his want for friends, contemporaries, peers. While two days per week in preschool is considered sufficient, two days per week or martial arts plus skating lessons and the local homeschoolers co-op is not. Everyone insists that I am a wonderful parent, not realizing that their concern - his need for social interaction, and how it will not be met at home - is directly implying that I am not only incapable of ensuring this need is met, but also that I am deliberately choosing to ignore his needs... thus making me a terrible parent. When this is brought up, the argument is that I am taking things too personally (is there a more personal decision than how one raises their child?), and that I am reading too much into things.

I understand that everyone cares. But nobody else lives with this child, nobody else fully understands what he is capable of, and nobody else is as immersed in his life as I am. I care more about this child than anyone anywhere else ever will. Insinuating that I would choose not to meet his needs is highly offensive. And so, in order to preserve peace, I have to pretend I don't notice the bigger picture in the arguments, and I have to repeat the mantra "they argue because they care"... and try not to replace "argue" with "complain," or "belittle," or "drive me insane." And I have to let it roll off. If I don't, the hurt will eat me up, and I'll have no one. And that would be a worse travesty than almost anything else.  Anything except not meeting my child's needs.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Just Let Him Be a Kid!

"Just let him be a kid."

Astonishingly enough, this is one of the first things I hear from pretty much anyone when Monkey's activities are mentioned. I heard it all the time when he was a teeny toddler - he knew his letters, shapes and colors, and we were always on the lookout for things to do with him and for games for him to play. Then, just after his third birthday, Monkey asked me to teach him to read.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a big deal. Monkey already knew his letters and their sounds, so really, it was just a matter of putting them together. I turned out to our local homeschooling group to try to get some advice and see what and where I could start. I knew I wanted to homeschool, that was something I'd planned ages and ages ago. But suddenly, there it was: "Why don't you just let him be a kid?"

I shook it off. These were strangers, some of whom followed a very different philosophy than any I ascribed to. No big deal. I planned a course of study, I figured we'd just make it work on our own. After all, we weren't the first people to ever homeschool a kid. So, out we went. I found the resources, and we started learning to read. We spent a whopping 20 minutes four days a week working on reading. He was reading CVC words before Christmas, and reading them independently before the new year. I figured that we probably ought to start a full homeschool year at that point.

See, where we live, four year olds go into Junior Kindergarten. This past academic year, our local school moved to full day kindergarten. Monkey simply wasn't ready for this. There was absolutely no way he would thrive in a full day kindergarten setting. He wasn't able to sit still, keeping quiet was a non-starter, and trying to get him to sit in a desk would be like herding cats. So, in everyone's best interest, I started up a full kindergarten program for him. We did reading and math every day. Then, we also put in science, history, logic, and French, though we eventually pulled French in favor of Handwriting. Our school days were a whopping hour and a half long, and on Tuesdays we went to the local pool to go swimming. I was really pleased with it, and everything was going well.

Naturally, that's the time that people I know and love make casual comments. Most people I know live in areas where formal schooling doesn't start until the age of 5. So we were "early" by their standards, but out came the "Why not just let him be a kid?"

Why not just let him be a kid? The answer is very simple: he's not an ordinary kid. The problem, however, is more complex. If you say "I can't, he's dragging me along by the hair!" the first thing that happens is that people try to "decode" what you mean. Instead of taking it at face value, they assume you're hothousing your preschooler. If you prove that false, then they assume you're just outright lying - after all, everyone wants to have a smart kid, so that's probably all it is.

But they're wrong. These kids are just different from other kids. While other kids would be happy playing with magnetic letters and making play-doh cutouts, these kids want to spell with the letters. They want to read, write, they want to play with clocks, chemistry, and if you'll let them, they'll explain the water cycle after watching that one episode of The Magic School Bus - once. Letting them be kids means supporting them when they want to do something new - whether it's sitting around watching My Little Pony, reading, memorizing the periodic table, or building sand castles.

People are going to make a lot of bad assumptions about these kids. Whether it's that they're not actually gifted because they can't (insert task here), that they're older than they are (thus altering expectations), or even expectations about your parenting - that you're somehow forcing your child to learn things, keeping them from actually being a kid, damaging them somehow. Depressingly, all you can do is let it roll. People aren't going to understand. Your kid is one of the top 5% of the bell curve, so the other 95% of the population isn't going to have a clue what life is like for your child. Not a clue. They aren't going to understand that you don't have "the perfect child" and that parenting them must be so easy because they're so smart they must just be compliant as well. People are going to think a lot of really odd, even nasty, things about you, about your kid, and about how you all must live.

The bonus to all this, though, is that when you talk to people who really understand? People who are also raising gifted children, or who were once gifted children?  Those people will get it. They will listen, offer support, and give good advice. It can take some time to find those people, but once you do, hold onto them tightly - they're a lifeline, and they're people who will understand when you say "Good grief - my neighbor just asked me why I can't just let him be a kid!"

Until you find those people locally, though, there are a few places to look for support - people who understand that you are letting your kid be a kid, and they are the ones driving this insanity, not you!  Here are some of my favorite resources:

  • Texas Association for Gifted and Talented hosts #gtchat on Twitter every Friday night at 7ET/6CT. This is an informal gathering of parents, teachers, and other professionals who work with gifted kids.
  • Gifted Homeschoolers Forum hosts a yahoo group for parents homeschooling their gifted children.
  • Hoagies Gifted, Supporting Gifted Learners, and Gifted Homeschoolers Forum all have great Facebook pages, where I've met a number of great parents of gifted kids.
  • Coming soon from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum; a parent support group! An informal gathering of parents of gifted children, no matter the ages, that will provide a chance to talk, vent to, help, and generally support other parents of these intense children. This one's my baby, so forgive me if I gush a little.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Grief and the Young Gifted

Almost a year ago (a year in September, actually) I lost a friend of mine to a sudden heart attack. He was fine, felt a little off that morning but the doctor said he was okay, and then BAM. Gone. Because we're homeschoolers, and I'm the only SAHM I know, when I rushed out of Mooselandia for the funeral, Monkey came with me. We had a long talk on the way about Mr Dan's heart stopping working, and how no, he wasn't going to get better. We went straight from our house to the visitation, about a nine hour drive. When we got there, Monkey was confused. He looked around at the people, he looked at the pictures, and he watched his mama say goodbye to Mr Dan. He inspected everything, read the mood... and then burst into tears. He took the whole room with him.  He did it again the following day, when it was the two of us for the funeral. He wanted to give Mr Dan a flower, and keep a flower FROM Mr Dan, and give Mr Dan a flower from Aunt Kelli, and... Then he was really confused - they lowered the coffin into the cement box. He didn't understand - how was Mr Dan going to get out? So we had more talking on the way home, and he seemed to understand.
This morning, I found out that my uncle passed away last night.  He was feeling off, went to the doctor and was pronounced fine. He started vomiting, and had extreme vertigo, so he went to the hospital. He had a massive heart attack and died.  So I have to explain this to Monkey, as again we're running out the door at the drop of a hat for funerary services (very near literally - the burial is the day after tomorrow). I went ahead and started making preparations, and dealt as best as I could with my own grief (which, as usual, involved shouting, cut-short cursing, and extreme restraint from throwing things), then tried to explain to Monkey. He remembered Mr Dan, and told me he missed him, but Uncle T went to the hospital, and they make people better there.  The sweet little soul was trying his best to comfort me, knowing I was upset. So, I had to explain that sometimes the doctors and nurses can't help, and people die anyway. He looked at me and nodded, saying "like Mr Dan?" And I said, "yes, honey, like Mr Dan." He paused, then said "his heart stopped working? And they couldn't fix it?" I nodded, and he continued, "But, the rest of his body would be alive - they could get him a NEW heart." It was utter hell. Trying to explain to my sweet boy who is trying to rationalize any way he could why Mama's Uncle T couldn't be dead, while knowing his mama believed he was.

Monkey, as you may note, has an extremely good grasp of the human body. We went through the heart as a pump, and how if the pump breaks, oxygen can't make it to the cells, so the body dies. But Uncle T is out there. We don't know where, but he's not truly gone - we just can't see him in his body anymore. Monkey nodded, and after a minute turned red and said, "Mama, there's water in my eyes." So I held out my hands, and he came to me for a huge hug, and we cried together for a while.

He could feel this enormous grief for a man he didn't know well. He felt all this compassion for me. He had such an extraordinary grasp of what was happening, and what he felt he could do, but he wanted to fix it. He is determined that when he grows up, people's hearts won't stop working like that anymore.

Going into this parenting gig, I was not at all prepared for a four year old who could understand the nature of death, and then immediately come to a conclusion as to how to stop it. Who could care so much about everyone, even though he's barely older than a baby. This child surprises me at every turn - he is clever, bright, capable, thoughtful, kind, compassionate, sensitive and intense, and no matter what kinds of trouble that brings, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Near and Dear

This week's evening #gtchat was on a topic near and dear to my heart: Manifestations of Giftedness in Young Children.  You see, I have a huge problem. Left to my own devices, I arrive at the conclusion that Monkey - in fact, our whole family - is perfectly normal. Nothing unusual about any of us. The fact of the matter is that we are not normal. Not in any way, actually, but the point still remains. We all read before kindergarten, we all were adept with letters and numbers, we all learned to do things faster than our peers. But, without chats like last night's, I still default to thinking there is something "wrong" with Monkey, and not simply something unusual. 

You see, Monkey has had all the classic hallmarks of a gifted child, even from within hours of his birth. Hammie (his grandmother) commented that she was worried something was wrong - when she first held him, he looked right at her, as if he were taking her measure. I didn't know this wasn't something hours old infants usually do. He also said his first three words at 9mo, and then didn't speak again until he came out with full and complex sentences at about 14 months.  I thought the large delay meant troubles, not that he was parsing grammar.  He, at four, often tells people and things about how disappointed he is, or how excited, or how terrific something is, or wonderful, and even uses "I think you may be mistaken" on occasion. He loved letters from the moment we exposed him to them, and he learned his letter names before he was two, and their sounds only shortly thereafter. I'd loosely begun teaching him to read, but he didn't care. Just after his third birthday, he asked me to teach him to read. I think that was October of 11. He was reading CVC words by November, and was able to sound them out himself, and move on to much more complicated words by the time he was 3.5. Now, he's reading at an approximately 6yo level, and I still wonder if maybe I'm mistaken, and he's not really gifted, but that I've just given him too much credit all around. 

I'm not entirely sure what to do with myself. I know that a child working near-universally on a first grade+ level should be 6 and not 4. I know that a child working at a middle of 1st grade level should be nearing seven, and not five. But then I wonder if maybe I'm guessing wrong. I know where he is, and I know what he's doing, isn't that enough? But then the rest of the thoughts come crashing in. Of course it's not enough. It's a wonderful start, but these are things I need to know in order to make the best educational decisions for him. Then we factor in that Mooselandia schools are generally assessed to be more lazziez-faire in the early primary grades than American schools, and it occurs to me that he may be farther ahead of his peers than I thought. Which is, in and of itself, a useless thing to know. But knowing it in the context of knowing that our local school district "doesn't believe in" acceleration makes a huge difference. I can't put him into the regular public school. He is already functioning as if he were a second grader there. Worse, the district doesn't assess for giftedness until grade 4. So Monkey would go into senior kindergarten (K5) this fall... and know the entirety of the curricula planned for K-2. By the time he got to grade 2, he would likely already know the things planned for 3-5, and when they assessed him in grade 4, he would be operating at a grade seven-ish level... if I didn't lose him long before then due to sheer boredom. 

Looking to see if you have a gifted child isn't hard. It's not even hard to say "yep, my kid is gifted" (as long as your audience is receptive, which is a whole other ball of wax). What's hard is what that means. The implications of that realization. The impostor syndrome that inevitably pokes in to second guess everything. How you relate to family, friends, strangers - and how they suddenly think everything is bragging, whether you're simply proud of your child, or making a factual statement.  The signs are there, from as early as the day of birth. They aren't hard to see. It's accepting them, and what they mean, that is the challenge.

Do you think you may have a young gifted child on your hands? Here are some resources to take a look at and check it out:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Review!

So a friend of mine () over at Sceleratus Classical Academy recently posted a review of ABC Reading Eggs, and it occurred to me that I ought to do the same - we have similar boys, in that both her Early Bird and my Monkey are about the same age, and working at about the same level, but the boys have vastly different styles and needs, so it seemed appropriate.

Reading Eggs seems, on the surface, to be another entry in the field of "edutainment." The notion that this program fits the "educational elements added to make a game seem more valuable to parents" bill, however, is silly.  The format is simple: a lesson is presented, then games are played to reinforce that lesson. We have been using it not as a supplement, precisely, but as our primary means of reading instruction. 

The system is phonics based, which I love, but it has a component of whole word instruction, which Monkey loves. Monkey has an incredible sense of recall, which means his preference is for whole language instruction. My preference is for phonics, and I have little idea of how to teach whole language, so we have a bit of an impasse. Reading Eggs bridges this gap exceedingly well, which is why it is our primary format.

More about the program:

This is an Australian-based program, so most of the voice overs are accented to our Mooselandic ears. This also means that some slang is different - chips are fries, a clothespin is a clothes peg, a cabinet is a cupboard, and other British-seeming changes.  As we have several British friends, and are a mixed-nationality family ourselves, we already see American, Canadian, and British English on a daily basis. This makes the differences no big deal to us, and I often don't notice them - and neither does Monkey.

There are a large number of positives to this program, most of which will be covered below. However, I'll start here; at the Parent Dashboard.

The dashboard is parent friendly. I like that it not only gives me an average age-equivalent, but it also tells me the progress he's making - how many phonemes he knows, sight words, and what he's been doing lesson-wise. While it doesn't include the actual games - the "arcade" or edutainment section of the program - it gives me all the relevant educational data, which lets me keep track of his progress versus how I expect him to progress. It also gave me the option to test Monkey to see where to start him in the program, or to start him at the beginning. Much like theYoungerMrsWarde's Early Bird, Monkey went through the 15 question test easily, missing one question, and starting at the beginning of map 8 - lesson 71. The issue Monkey had with the test was simply his innate desire to click on everything in sight without waiting for the question to finish. So, I simply had him sit on my lap and point to his answers with a finger, and I did the clicking rather than him. Problem solved.

The Map:
The map is how the child goes from one lesson to the next.  All the completed lessons are in pink, the ones upcoming are in green. You can go back and redo any lesson you've already completed, but you must complete your current lesson to move on.  Each lesson 'hatches' a critter from an egg. All the critters are displayed on the map by the lesson that they came from.

Lesson Part 1:
This is the introduction to the lesson. In this group (lesson 94), the long /a/ and silent e combination are being introduced. The first piece of the lesson was to click on the ape, which was the gorilla with a 'p' on him. The gorilla jumps between the a and the e, and now we have ape. The program calls out a combination, and the c child clicks the corresponding letter(s) - so "let's make cape!" the child clicks on 'c', and the program responds, "yes, /c/ and /ape/ make cape!" If the child picks the wrong option, the two incorrect options disappear, and the program says "no, it's this one." and then waits for the child to click the correct answer. It is learning by repetition, and this particular lesson goes through ame, ape, ave, and ane.

Word Families:

Word Families is the second piece of this lesson. The child is given the final letters of the word, and has to choose which initial sound belongs with the picture. Now, in this go around, the letter 'd' is unused. The only issue I have with this game is that it doesn't ask for any accuracy. This hasn't been a problem for us, but it might be for others - the child can guess each box in turn and the only consequence is that it takes more time. 


Snowman, while also not requiring accuracy, does require some measure of it in order to progress. The point is to choose the appropriate word from the falling snowflakes and drag it to the snowman. If you choose a wrong word, nothing happens, but you cannot continue until you've chosen the right word enough times. In this case, the object is to choose pour, then icing, then cake. Once that's done, the child can move on to the next game.

This came requires some accuracy. If the child gets too many wrong, the game is over, and they have to start again. In this game, the child is to take the end of the word, and choose the lane that matches - so in the pictured example, the child needs to match 'rave' to 'ave' in order to succeed.  This is a more difficult game for Monkey, as he has a hard time listening for ending sounds. The reinforcement of this skill is a great thing.

Look, Listen, and Spell:
This game is another that needs some measure of accuracy, but not much. As seen, a picture is given, as is the alphabet. The task is for the child to correctly spell the word. They choose each letter in turn, and are rewarded for a correct choice with the green check mark. If they choose incorrectly, nothing happens, and they can't move to the next letter. This is helpful, as it reinforces the notion that the order of letters in words is important. Monkey is fairly good at this game, and while he doesn't love it, he is more than willing to continue to play in order to move ahead.

Dragon Fire:
Monkey really likes this game. He will go through almost anything else in order to play this game. The game is fairly simple. The dragon flies around, breathes fire, and when the fire dissipates, there is a word left behind. The game reads the word, then the child is to choose the cake that matches. If they choose correctly, a candle on the cake is lit. If not, they lose one of their five 'lives' and the game continues. These are words with difficult rules, compound words, or words that are otherwise seen as much more challenging for the kids, which leaves Monkey feeling like he's done something very difficult.

Bird Words:
 Bird words is fairly simple. The program reads the sentence aloud, then asks the child to read it (while highlighting each bird in turn) slowly, and then the birds descend and mix up. The child's task is to sort the words out and put the birds back on the wall in the correct order. If the wrong word is chosen, the bird flutters back to the grass. Monkey has done this many times, and enjoys it, even if he repeats the sentence back much faster than the program expects. He has also done as many as seven birds at a time, I'm not sure if any lessons have more birds than that.

 Pack the Shelves:
 This game is a new one for Monkey, he hasn't played it much before. The object is to pick out which word makes sense in the sentence. However, the sentence isn't read aloud - the three words at the bottom are, but the child has to read the sentence, then work out which word to put there. This is a significantly harder game, and I enjoy watching Monkey play it. He catches on quickly, and moves through the challenges easily, but at least he's paid enough attention to understand what he's doing and how to solve the problem.

Read Aloud:
 This, with the exception of the actual hatching animation, is Monkey's favorite part of the lessons. Reading Eggs uses storybooks to reinforce the reading lesson. At the end of the lesson, the book will be read aloud to the child, at the child's pace, unless the child turns the sound off.  Monkey particularly enjoys this, and is often glad to see it. He also is able to complete specific tasks based on the book, regardless of when it was last read, which I suspect has a good deal to do with his retention and favoring of whole words.

At the end of a group of ten lessons, the child takes a 15 question quiz on the previous ten lessons. If they get 12 or more right, they move on. If not, they are asked to replay the lessons and try again. The number of errors in the final quiz determines the "ribbon" the child gets for their quiz, and once the quiz is completed, not only does the child advance to the next map, but Reading Eggs sends an email to the parent letting them know what was covered, what the child's score was, and that they're ready to move on or need more practice.

All in all, while I can see why this wouldn't be a format a lot of people would use as their primary instruction, Monkey's recall and his solid base in phonics means that this is an ideal solution for him. He is able to sound out words, and he is able to use his whole word approach whenever he can, which makes reading not a chore for him - and since both The Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading and BOB Books were a chore, and Hooked on Phonics offered little to no interaction... This turned out to be a wonderful solution. We paid approximately $85 for the full year of the program, which was well worth it. If we had more than one child, however, using this might be outside of our budget.  End result, however, is that Monkey loves Reading Eggs, I appreciate that he's learning, and I don't have to hound him about it, and he really does learn. I would, and have, recommended it often.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Local Issues, and a Reminder

So, here in Mooselandia, where Monkey, Skeeve and I make our home, there is very little regulation around homeschooling. The basics are that anyone who may be expecting your child at their school or in their seats needs to be formally notified in writing, and you must actually educate your child.  There are, of course, subregulations around this, setting up what expectations are, and which agencies are to be part of which investigations and when. There are also several local groups dedicated to the protection and information of the homeschooling parent.  This past month, however, a homeschooling (or home-school, as she puts it) mother from another town in another county two and a half hours from here has decided this isn't good enough. She (and her nebulous board of directors, though they remain unnamed) aims, according to her website, to "We are safe-guarding the home-school industry by maintaining a desired level of quality; one way is by ensuring all home-school children in Ontario receive adequate instruction in reading, writing and mathematics with assistance from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)."  Now, on the surface, I would agree with this. All children deserve a decent education, no matter who is providing it. But the involvement of the EQAO, who also serves the public school system, which many people find to be failing recently, homeschoolers or otherwise, presents a problem. This continues on to focus on testing for homeschooled children in grades 3, 6, 9, and 10, and making it mandatory.  The issue with this is very simply that the testing is not mandatory for publicly schooled children, why would it be for homeschoolers?  The website then goes on to present specific curricula as "good" options, with no vetting or testimony attached, and the general feel of the site is that the designer or group is seeking to be an independent third party, intending to force significantly more regulation on homeschoolers in the province. Now, don't misunderstand me. I believe that all children deserve an education. I believe that all children should be taught art, science, physical education, math, reading, writing, English language arts... the list goes on. However, my insistence that only a specific kind of anything be taught takes away from the freedoms of other families to teach what they truly believe is imperative to their children's education and well-being. As I don't want anyone stepping on MY toes, or on those of my family, I'm not in the business of stepping on anyone else's.  This is, on the whole, a very bad idea. This reads as a set-up for requiring government/board approval of the curricula being used (which typically leads to a list set by the government, and nothing that isn't included on the list is considered acceptable),  in exchange for a tax break. This is not a trade I'm willing to make, despite the fact that our homeschool curricula costs are entirely out of pocket at this time, and one of our government sponsored program funding checks will be ceasing effective on Monkey's sixth birthday. So, it's not that we're wealthy, and don't care. These things could make a big difference, but I still don't feel it's worth the imposition.  

Once we get past that part, the attitude of the people behind the initiative comes into play. Many people have been stopping by their Facebook site looking to ask questions about what this entails, and how it would play out in the grand scheme of things, despite the vast majority being happy with how things are now. The general response from the page's administrators has been that people are being argumentative, questioning credentials, and are harassing the administrators. In truth, people who are passionate about their homeschooling are defending their right to teach their children without the government watching every single step of the way, and are rightfully leery about this brand new group on the scene. Matters are even less helped when the administrators are responding to questions by requesting personal telephone numbers to "enlighten" the questioners.  Yes, they used the term "enlighten" in their response, thus implying that anyone disagreeing with their stance is inherently uneducated, and requires their help to see the light, as it were.

This presents a secondary problem for our house. Monkey operates on several grade levels at once. Depending on the subject, he could be found working on level (handwriting and art), above level (logic, math, history), or significantly above level (reading, science).  If I were to have to classify him as one grade level, I would do it at the lowest - he would be starting Senior Kindergarten this fall, as his age dictates. However, if this were formalized, it would be entirely probable that the government required curriculum would then require he be instructed at Kindergarten across the board. As he's operating in grades 1-3 in his better subjects already (before the start of SK), this would be catastrophic at best for our house, and lead to our purchasing not only the government approved curricula, but also the curricula we would have purchased in the first place.  Further, there would still be no coverage for his exceptionalities, nor would we be able to have his testing done with qualified testers while still being entirely covered by the umbrella of the home/public school system. This is, inherently, a loss for our family, and for many others as well, regardless of the individual situations they find themselves in.

Thank you for 'listening' to my thinking this out, to my organizing my thoughts, and to my general discomfort around this entire idea. I know I can be extremely wordy, so if you made it this far, I applaud you!

Now, onto the reminder!

Announcing the 2013 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, June 14th - June 21st.
As the primary update-writer here at Homeschooling Hatters,  I am very excited to be participating in the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2013 from June 14th-21st.
This international blog tour is organized by parents who met on The Well Trained Mind Message boards.
We come from different parts of the world, different school choices, and different social and economic backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common. We know that parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. If you have ever woken up at 3 AM in the morning wondering What am I going to do with this child?” then this blog tour is for you!

From June 14th-21st the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today: 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Holy cow, a BLOG TOUR?!?

Announcing the 2013 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, June 14th - June 21st.
As the primary update-writer here at Homeschooling Hatters,  I am very excited to be participating in the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2013 from June 14th-21st.
This international blog tour is organized by parents who met on The Well Trained Mind Message boards.
We come from different parts of the world, different school choices, and different social and economic backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common. We know that parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. If you have ever woken up at 3 AM in the morning wondering What am I going to do with this child?” then this blog tour is for you!

From June 14th-21st the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today: 

There is still room for more contributions, so please email teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com if you are interested in joining the tour!