When people hear that I homeschool they probably think a lot of things. Bypassing the negative judgments that occasionally reach me, I hear a lot of, “Wow, that must save a lot of time,” and “Oh, you must get to do a lot of in-depth study,” and “Wow, it’s no wonder your kids are so smart.” The latter comment especially deserves, and usually gets, an eye-roll. I just can’t help it.
If you’ve read the opening to this blog, you already know we never intended to homeschool. It wasn’t even in the stars. I got my house by working three jobs. While I did slow down when Pumpkin arrived, I never worked less than two. The unmitigated disaster of public kindergarten forced us into a situation where something drastic had to change. Even if Pumpkin hadn’t had the single worst kindergarten teacher in the world (this after we moved him from a different kindergarten where he wasn’t doing so well), the school evaluated him, found him way off their chart, and admitted to my husband that the best they could offer was to “keep him busy”. When you send your kid to school, you kind of expect him to learn things. This was not an option for Pumpkin. He was too immature to promote and too advanced to actually gain anything other than “socialization” from school.
Fast forward a few years and he’s doing fine. Thriving even. But… “Wow, that must save a lot of time.” NO. “You must get to do a lot of in depth study.” NO. “No wonder your kids are so smart.” Honey, they came that way. And yes, now it is “they” because there are two. Today, I have a ten-year-old that puts the hyper in ADHD. His attention is everywhere. Let me just try to start a normal lesson and I’m inundated with hundreds of oh-my-God mind-blowing questions. I’ve gotten to be a master at sneaking into the other room to google things. AND now I have a three-year-old with some crazy mad math skills. Dude, he knows his times tables and I didn’t teach them to him. While most kids scribble in those early years, I have two full years worth of paper after paper of letters — I mean A, B, C, D, etc. He’s been drawing letters on everything he could get his mits on since he was 18-months old. You know what phrase I hear the most out of my three-year-old? “Teach me, Mommy.” Honestly, between the two, it’s a wonder I haven’t gone bat-snot loony. Don’t ask what bat-snot is exactly, but I’d be happy to google it for you.
Gifted kids get bored easily. They tear through curriculum like it’s wrapping paper on Christmas morning. A new workbook will be greeted with enthusiasm usually reserved for chocolate chip cookies, and then, a week later, they’ve either finished the whole damn thing or decided they absolutely hate it. In Pumpkin’s case, it could be both. I’ve actually heard, “I decided to [read it/do it] all just to make it go away.” And heaven help me if there would happen to be a typo or misprint or inaccurate piece of information in a book. I’ll get a lecture.
We work with a charter because we’re always scraping the bottom of the budget for everything. This means unschooling really isn’t an option for me even though the charter claims to support it. It’s really too hard to turn free study into reports that meet the learning plan the E.S. built. It’s not her fault, she tries to keep this stuff loosely structured. But state rules crack down and, while some other kids are struggling to meet the math requirements, explaining that my kid is simultaneously studying six branches of science and seventeen forms of social studies caused too many raised brows. So, I let the kids pick what they want to study. This is not the same as, “What do you want to be for Halloween?” though those answers can be damned challenging too. This year’s science for my fifth grader is zoology, beginning with paleozoology. He is gifted. He could understand a college text book (assuming I could afford one) but college assignments are still a little above his attention span and books without colorful illustrations bore him. Oh, and did I mention he has to have crafts with every single subject? Needless to say I have become a master at writing curriculum. Such a master that my E.S. says the school should hire me. Great, we could use the money. Oh but, darn, I can barely find time to shower, let alone do that. Writing curriculum in a few minutes here and a few minutes there for my own kids will have to do. In the picture, note that this is about a third of the science stuff thrown into this year’s single subject.
Now, shall we speak for a moment about projects? Pumpkin loves projects. No, scratch that. He loves to start projects. He is not quite as adept as seeing them through, particularly if they take more than a couple of days. Now I don’t try to make projects long — he does that himself. Last year we studied California History and we made a mission model. This is a typical assignment with a pre-purchased model from Michaels. However, the pre-purchased model didn’t really have all the stuff it should have. In fact I have to tell you that one of the libraries we attend has displays of mission models made by school children. Not one of those equals a quarter of Pumpkin’s. What wasn’t provided in the package was added by him, made out of foam board. And then paint. And then silk plants, And then jar lids, hot glue and — well you get the point. This simple project didn’t balloon, it exploded. Like a big damn mushroom cloud. What the heck will I do when Ducky is ready for projects like that? Oh, and yes, the fountain looks like it has water — that’s hot glue.
Did you catch the part in the last paragraph where I mentioned “one of the libraries we attend”? Yeah. It used to be three. I put my foot down when a book got returned to the wrong library. The point is that my kids love books. LOVE. In fact, in my house, the absolute worst thing that can happen is to have story time/bedtime reading temporarily suspended. This packs the type of punishment punch that most children feel when the video games are taken away. Ground them from video games, they’ll be disappointed and sometimes briefly angry. Chances are the infraction will occur again the very next day. Ground them from story time and you get tears, apologies and “Oh, Mommy, I swear I’ll never, ever, ever do it again.” And a trip to the bookstore can be an expensive venture. My kids once spent three hours in Barnes and Noble and were terribly angry when I told them we absolutely had to go home. Part of this is my fault, I admit. I personally love books. They see me read every chance I get. Luckily, I read fast. I treat my books like gold and so they’ve been raised to think they are precious. But, I also read very well to them. Pumpkin can read to himself but still comes to story time because the multiple voices are just too enticing. They’ll laugh over voices I give to characters and sound effects I add. If I read to them at a book store, I’ll start with an audience of two and end with a dozen. I’ve been repeatedly asked to read at Head Start for that very reason. I squeeze it in when I can, but can’t find a lot of time.
The “school” hours I report for the charter, though, don’t actually comprise the majority of my day. The truth is they learn plenty of things we never mention because they are insanely curious. I used to listen to music in the car while I drive. Now, I mostly field questions. “Mommy, why are stop signs the only octagonal signs?” “Mommy, what color is a Rhode Island license plate?” “Mommy, how do you count to ten in Japanese?” “Mommy, does Azerbaijan have it’s own language?” “Mommy, does the twain whistle make two tones or one?” “Mommy, is da man-in-da moon out?” “Mommy, can I times twenties?” Yeah, the last three from the three-year-old. These kids think of things I never asked. And they have insights I never had when I was a kid, and I was a smart kid. Not quite like these two. When I explained the Doppler effect and tried to describe the waves, Pumpkin mentioned that dropping a stone in still water creates a circular wave that stretches wider as it moves into open water. Yeah, I would have noticed that at nine — not.
Homeschooling a gifted kids takes stamina and that doesn’t even address 2e issues. We have a lot of those too. And asynchronicities. And, and, and, and… but that just goes to show, I didn’t end up writing this after midnight because I procrastinated. That’s when there was a silent moment. Better get off to bed now. I’ll have a kid up in four hours. Did I mention one barely needs sleep? Fun, fun, fun.