When I saw the subject of today’s GHF blog hop, ‘When homeschooling your gifted child becomes a drag – Your top tips’, my first reaction was, ’A drag? Homeschooling’s never a drag – I love homeschooling!’
Does that mean I’m some kind of saint with infinite patience who jumped at the chance to put my career on hold while I teach my kids arithmetic and grammar?
Ha ha. I think not.
No. For me,
Homeschooling’s like flying a plane – a constant exercise in course-correction.
About 2% of the time we’re smoothly headed towards our destination (happy, educated kids). The other 98% of the time I’m looking at where we’re at and thinking how I can change things to get us back on track.
When homeschooling starts becoming a drag, it’s usually for one of three reasons: anxiety, boredom, or a clash in learning styles.
1. ‘He’s not learning enough!’
Every homeschooling mum worries that she’s failing her kids in some way.
And when you’re a rainforest-minded mum of highly able children, this anxiety sometimes goes into overdrive.
Our kids’ education is our job, and just as with any project we undertake, we want to do it to the best of our ability. How do we know we’re doing a job well? We see results.
But how do you measure results when you’re homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities? This tendency to measure our self-worth in this way can put intense pressure on our kids and on us.
When we hear about someone else’s son reading 500 books in a year and our 9-year-old can barely read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, we feel like a failure.
We see a friend’s daughter crocheting hats for her own Etsy shop, and we wonder why our kids aren’t crafting entrepreneurs.
When someone on a forum mentions that her 8 year old is studying trigonometry, we despair that our 10-year-old will ever master long multiplication.
Tips for getting over homeschooling anxiety
1. Remember: we can’t measure learning by physical output. Our kids aren’t machines. They’re living, breathing young people, busy forming neural pathways they’ll use to contribute to the world in their own unique ways.
2. Trust that your child is learning everything he needs to right now. We can’t force learning to happen. If we try, our efforts are bound to backfire. Our job is to offer our children the opportunity to learn.
3. Don’t compare your child to others. Focus on his strengths. So what if your dysgraphic 11-year-old’s handwriting is worse than his 6-year-old cousin’s? Focus on his fantastic maths. All-rounders are overrated.
4. Don’t let any subject become a battlefield. Put it on hold it for a while or encourage your child to do the minimum he can tolerate. If he feels the need to learn it later, he will.
I know one mum who gave up teaching her 11-year-old daughter maths because the arguments over it were ruining their relationship. Four years later her daughter decided she wanted to pass maths GCSE (the exams English schoolchildren sit at 16). After a few months’ intense study, she passed the exam comfortably.
5. My biggest tip for soothing anxiety about your child’s learning is to have your own interests. Take up an instrument, learn a language or craft, or write a blog – anything you have more direct control over than your child’s learning.
Don’t equate your success as a human being with your child’s academic progress.
2. ‘This is so BORING!’
Gifted and 2e kids often have a high need for stimulation and a low boredom threshold. And if they’re anything like my kids, they won’t hold back from telling you when something isn’t working for them.
Tips for keeping homeschooling interesting
1. Ditch the curriculum. My kids’ need for variety is one reason we’ve never followed a curriculum. Fortunately I love researching fun new ways for my kids to learn. (See resources below for links to my homeschooling posts on how we learn maths and science without curricula.)
2. Take regular time off. Our term time routine is based around my daughter’s activities, but we never do the same thing for more than a few weeks at a time. This is partly because I plan regular breaks during school terms, especially in winter.
Last week, for instance, we spent four days at a forest holiday village. We spent our days sliding down rapids and traversing treetop courses. Our evenings were spent sitting around the log fire playing cards or watching movies together.
And in March we’re headed to Spain where my daughter’s doing an intensive Spanish course and my son and I will absorb the Spanish sunshine and culture.
Before we go away I sometimes feel anxious about my kids missing out on academic work. But when we get back relaxed and energised, I know it was worth it. Plus, of course, they’ve learned heaps while we’re away.
Even if you can’t go on vacation, you can still benefit from this tip by declaring a games, projects, cooking, literature, art & craft, or nature week – whatever appeals to your family.
3. Be sure to include plenty of variety and fun as part of your regular routine. Our favourite way of doing this is by playing writing games (usually over tea and cake) and doing plenty of hands-on activities.
4. Allow time for tangents. Another reason we don’t follow curricula is my kids’ tendency to go off on tangents. No curriculum means no pressure to get through a bunch of material. This leaves plenty of time for the kind of learning that’s going to stick with my children long after the books are closed – the kind that follows from their own curiosity and imagination.
3. ‘Why can’t he just keep still and focus? It’s driving me mad!’
‘Straight after lunch he sat down at the table and worked quietly until he’d finished’… said no parent of a kid with psychomotor OE ever.
So why did it take me so long to realise that I was the one who was going to have to change?
Even six years into homeschooling, I still occasionally find myself on autopilot putting maths books on the table. Then I remember that maths happens on the floor, where my son has space to jump, roll and tickle the dogs as he works.
Tip for dealing with different learning styles
I have just one tip here, but it’s an important one:
Be willing to adapt your learning style, rather than expecting your child to do things your way.
Life’s just so much easier when we accept our kids’ quirks and stop trying to make them fit our mould.
I still struggle to concentrate when my son’s fidgeting around me, but things have been much more peaceful since I accepted that it’s even more difficult for him to focus when he’s still, than it is for me to concentrate when he’s fidgeting.
Lately we’ve been negotiating over lighting. On a dark winter’s afternoon, I can’t read without having the lights on, while my son finds overhead lights overstimulating. I may have to invest in a head torch!
My extroverted daughter, meanwhile, needs to verbalise every maths problem she tackles. I can’t hear myself think when someone else is talking, let alone follow their reasoning. This is especially true when they’re following a different mental process from mine. I’ve learned to nod quietly along until she reaches a conclusion, then together we write out what she did in a way that my visual learning style can follow.
Of course we want our children to be able to sit still and concentrate by the time they reach adulthood. But right now they’re using so much energy learning to manage their OEs, sitting still and keeping quiet is too much to ask.
So let’s grant them the grace that homeschooling affords, and let them get there in their own asynchronous way.
What are your best tips for homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities when it becomes a drag?
I’d love to hear from you!
Posts from my homeschooling blog
What do you have to show for your child’s learning? (and what to do if you think they’re not ‘producing’ enough)
25 hands-on science experiments we’ve done, with full instructions and photos
Free to Learn (Peter Gray)
Let’s Play Math (Denise Gaskins)
Living With Intensity (Daniels, Piechowski et al)
Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults (James T Webb et al)
Loads more tips!
To read what other homeschooling mums do when homeschooling becomes a drag, visit these great GHF bloggers.
Do your children have overexcitabilities? I’d love you to join me on my journey learning how to bring out the best in our awesome sensitive and intense kiddoes. Just write your email address in the box below to receive my weekly posts direct to your inbox. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.