Tales of a Bunny and a Butterfly
One of my favorite things about teaching my children is how incredibly different they are from one another. Their interests, strengths, and challenges keep our days full of improvisation, problem-solving, and compromise. He's into board games; she wants imaginative play. He needs quiet time to stim in the sandbox to explore his internal world in private; she needs someone to enter her world with her to co-create it. Being the witness to their growing up and learning together is sometimes delightful, sometimes frustrating, and always keeps me on my toes.
Today I'm writing about two things related to homeschooling my children that fall decidedly (in my eyes) as issues unique to Educating Gifted Children. I'll tackle the topics related to my 2e son who dives deep into rabbit holes. Those rabbit holes aren't usually academic but I'll share what kind of academics have emerged from following him down the rabbit holes. I'll also talk about my butterfly - my daughter who samples a variety of topics but none of them deeply (or at least not as deep as her bunny brother might take them).
The way my son learns invites my daughter to peek down a hole she might otherwise have ignored (or not discovered). Her liberal approach to variety brings my son's attention to things he'd likely glance over if left to his own devices. This give-and-take is one of my favorite reasons to homeschool them together. They are better-educated because of one another.
There are pros and cons to learning like a bunny or learning like a butterfly, as well challenges to me as the homeschooling parent to accommodate my children. But there is one thing I can rely on that always encourages progress. And I'll share that nugget at the end.
Wouldn't it be great if your child was passionate about the things people associate with success? Well as amazing as I think my 2e son is, his passions do not necessarily translate into traditional understanding of education.
Take for example his interests. In his nine years of life he has been deeply passionate about these things:
- Working trucks
- Ninjago LEGO sets and Graphic Novels (and subsequently the shows)
- Magic: The Gathering
It is only by virtue of a) reading to him (or listening to audiobooks), and b) dragging him around with me on "field trips" that he has developed general knowledge for topics outside his passions.
The frustrating thing is that just because it has to do with Minecraft does not mean he'll buy into it. He will not take a History course set in Minecraft. Nor will he do a math workbook just because it has Minecraft on the cover. The same thing can be said of his other passions. He will not like an art or craft project just because it is related to snakes. He won't like a book just because it has a picture of a truck on it. So I've been faced with the task of watching things emerge.
You know what? They have.
Reading has emerged. Math has emerged. Writing has emerged. Coding has emerged.
He reads Minecraft guide books. He has learned to write emails to friends to share a success or ask for advice. He has learned multiplication, statistics, and reducing mathematical operations by memorizing and strategizing the ultimate deck to play Magic: The Gathering.
None of those things would count in a present-day school...or they certainly wouldn't count enough.
Sometimes I wonder if it is enough for me, too. I get caught up with conventional definition of education. I even recently asked him, "You've memorized over 1000 Magic cards including their details, costs to summon, damage, and everything else. When will you memorize your times tables?"
His reply? A chuckle. "Oh, please. Mama."
That was it. And I decided to let it lie. Just like he learned to read on his own time, he'll learn his times tables. It'll probably require some nudges from me but he'll get there.
"You've memorized over 1000 Magic cards including their details, costs to summon, damage, and everything else. When will you memorize your times tables?"
And it IS enough. It is enough because he is able to use the reasoning and communication skills necessary to navigate the world. It is enough because it his way. It is enough because we agree it is enough.
"Mama," whispered my seven year old. "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up."
"That's OK," I replied.
Tears in her eyes she said in earnest, "No. It is not OK. Mikey knows and you know and Papa knows but I don't know. How do I decide?"
It is the plight of a someone who learns like a butterfly - sampling topics here and there. She is seeking. She touches on things briefly before moving to the next glittering sparkle in the world.
She is searching for purpose and wanting to discover her passion the way her brother has...and parents of gifted children know that the heartache goes deep, the tears are real, the need to act with purpose and importance feels like a desperate longing.
I offered the best I had: "Do what you like to do and what you are good at. Everything else will follow."
She held her chin up. "I'll write." Then she ran away to play.
Now my job is to help her notice the things she likes to do (write, dramatic play, tell stories, play Prodigy, read) and encourage her to go a little deeper, do a little more. That way she'll find what she likes to do and what she's good at, and she will develop skills from within those interests. Just like her brother has.
"Do what you like to do and what you are good at. Everything else will follow."
If you see a spark...
When I read "The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives" I read something that really resonated with me: "If you see a spark in your kids, pour gasoline on it."
For my son, the bunny, when I pour gasoline on the things that spark his interest his passions give way to an educated life. Academics emerge in unexpected ways but it always emerges. So I have learned to trust that it will.
For my daughter, the butterfly, pouring gasoline might not be the best analogy. I think of it more as stoking embers. When she gently lands on something that piqued her curiosity, I encourage her to pause a little longer, spend a skosh more time with it. Thus, stoking embers to glow with a little more warmth...enough to comfort a butterfly's soft wings.
"If you see a spark in your kids, pour gasoline on it."
In both cases, it requires me to pay attention to them. To be present. To listen. To notice. To hunt down resources for them.
As we step into the new academic year, I'm excited about their sparks. Our schedule looks full of things they are interested in and I'll be curious to see what comes of it all. It is my hope that they enjoy themselves. I expect he'll find a new community around Magic: The Gathering and she'll dive deep into her creativity. And I'll get to witness it all!
Happy Not Back to School!
This blog featured the book:
“Instead of trusting kids with choices . . . many parents insist on micromanaging everything from homework to friendships. For these parents, Stixrud and Johnson have a simple message: Stop.” —NPR
“This humane, thoughtful book turns the latest brain science into valuable practical advice for parents.” —Paul Tough, New York Times bestselling author of How Children Succeed
A few years ago, Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson started noticing the same problem from different angles: Even high-performing kids were coming to them acutely stressed and lacking motivation. Many complained they had no control over their lives. Some stumbled in high school or hit college and unraveled. Bill is a clinical neuropsychologist who helps kids gripped by anxiety or struggling to learn. Ned is a motivational coach who runs an elite tutoring service. Together they discovered that the best antidote to stress is to give kids more of a sense of control over their lives. But this doesn't mean giving up your authority as a parent. In this groundbreaking book they reveal how you can actively help your child to sculpt a brain that is resilient, and ready to take on new challenges.
The Self-Driven Child offers a combination of cutting-edge brain science, the latest discoveries in behavioral therapy, and case studies drawn from the thousands of kids and teens Bill and Ned have helped over the years to teach you how to set your child on the real road to success. As parents, we can only drive our kids so far. At some point, they will have to take the wheel and map out their own path. But there is a lot you can do before then to help them tackle the road ahead with resilience and imagination.
No one should slave over worksheets so I wrote the guide for learning math from everyday life...because when the world is your classroom you are free to learn math that matters.
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This was written as part of the GHF Learners Theme for August 2019.
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