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.