Tag Archives: Learning

3 Reasons Homeschooling Kids With Overexcitabilities Can Stop Being Fun – And How to Fix It

Homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities

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.

homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities - luggage to go on vacation
We may be the only family that takes 2 guitars and an amp to CenterParcs

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!

Resources

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

How to make sure science gets done when you’re not using a curriculum

How we do maths without a curriculum

When every day is maths playtime

5 Days of Maths Playtime

5 Writing Games Your Kids Will Love

Books

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.

homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities

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.

The Unexpected Lessons I Learned When I Went Back to School for a Week

The Unexpected Lessons I Learned When I Went Back to School

When were you last a student in school? However much we enjoy learning, few adults spend much time in an actual classroom after we leave formal education.

So when our children tell us what’s happened to them in class, it’s difficult for even the most empathetic parent to put ourselves in their shoes and understand how our kids feel.

This month I got a reminder of what it’s like to be a student. My 12-year-old daughter was taking an intensive Spanish course and, as the rain had cruelly dashed my fantasies of lazing on the beach while Cordie got to grips with the indefinite preterite, I took the opportunity to work on my own Spanish.

My week back in the classroom gave me a fascinating first-person insight into a subject I wrote about here last week: How overexcitabilities can help you learn … and how they can hold children back in the classroom.

The class

My Spanish class only contained 5 students, but we had quite different abilities and needs.

Two were 18-year-old German au pairs, one of whom should have been in the level below.  There was 20-year-old Maria from the Netherlands spoke fluent Spanish with a strong Andaluz accent. She was in class to perfect her Spanish grammar and idioms, and spent most of her time on SnapChat. Next was sweet Dorota, a 21-year-old teacher from Poland. And finally there was me, an opinionated lawyer-turned-therapist-turned-homeschooling-mum, whose fluent Spanish spent 22 years going rusty before I began to brush it off again during our month in Spain last year.

Our teacher José was intelligent and creative, but had his work cut out to meet the needs of even such a small group of diverse students.

Not for the first time I wondered, how do teachers manage to serve the needs of 30 mixed-ability children?

And – something I found myself pondering over and over during my week’s course …

What’s it like to be a highly able child with asynchronous development and OEs in a classroom with 29 other children?

Classroom reflections

When the class topic wasn’t stimulating to me, my attention would wander. I’d discreetly doodle or make Anki flashcards, visit the bathroom or get ahead with my homework.

As an adult I was choosing to be in class. Our teacher was smart and resourceful, we were only 5 students, and the school day was just 4 hours long. I had a high degree of autonomy and plenty of experience in how to manage myself in under-stimulating situations.

I couldn’t help contrasting what it must be like for a child who’s bored in class day after day, who has no choice about being there, and who doesn’t know how to manage her intense feelings and under-utilised energy.

When the class topic was interesting to me – when our teacher talked about his Masters degree in ‘Spanglish’, for instance, or we were deconstructing a particularly interesting example of the imperfect subjunctive – I found myself talking nineteen to the dozen, eagerly releasing my pent-up intellectual energy. Then I’d catch sight of the glazed expressions on the faces of my fellow students and feel terrible for having dominated the conversation.

It sounds crazy now, and if I hadn’t written in my journal about it at the time I probably wouldn’t believe it, but even with all my knowledge about OEs, I had to make a huge effort not to internalise my feelings of shame and wrongness for being so different from my classmates.

On top of all that there was the homework, which sometimes I really didn’t feel like doing after four hours in class. Homework only took me about 45 minutes and of course I had the choice not to do it. I sympathised anew with the 12-year-olds who, after a long school day plus extra-curricular activities, are expected to spend 90 minutes each evening doing homework.

And when my classmates chewed gum, I didn’t let my stress levels to get too high before I politely explained that I have misophonia. I’ve never known people chew gum so quietly after that!😂  Schools may not allow children to eat in class, but young people with sensual OE are subject to all kinds of other sensory stimulation which impacts their baseline and  makes it difficult for them to focus.

How can we support intense and sensitive children in the classroom?

My daughter’s an extrovert who enjoys the homeschooling classes she chooses to go to,  but occasionally she finds a session frustrating or boring.

She knows there isn’t always time to dive deeply into subjects she’s curious about, and she understands that not everyone’s as intensely fascinated by the same things she is. Still, her OEs make her hyper-aware of her negative emotions, which she has to work hard to manage.

My Spanish experience gave me much more empathy for my children when they share these kind of reflections with me.

Here are some ideas that occurred to me during my week as a student about how we can support bright, intense and sensitive children in the classroom:

  • We can listen to our kids and not dismiss what they say as whining.
  • We can help them learn about themselves, including about OEs, high ability and asynchrony.
  • In particular, we can show children how their OEs can help them learn – by making them curious, creative and enthusiastic, for example.
  • We can reassure our children that just because they’re different from their classmates doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them.
  • We can take an interest when our children bring up issues that have been superficially addressed in the classroom but haven’t been explored as deeply as they’d like. By giving them the opportunity to discuss topics in this way we can ease our kids’ feelings of frustration and keep alive their intellectual curiosity and love of learning.
  • If we sense that a child is being given too much busywork, we can talk to teachers and suggest that the child is given more autonomy to choose her own projects.
  • We can reassure our children that later in life they’ll have the opportunity to make friends from a much more diverse group of peers, whether that’s at university or as they move through life pursuing their passions and interests.

* * *

When were you last a student?

Did you learn anything unexpected?

I’d love to hear from you, in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn FaceBook page.

Don’t forget to leave your email address in the ‘Follow By Email’  box at the bottom of the page if you’d like to receive my weekly posts about life in an overexcitable family straight to your inbox. 🙂 

How Overexcitabilities Can Help You Learn – And How They Can Hold Children Back in the Classroom

How Overexcitabilities Can Help Us Learn

Can the intensities and sensitivities that often come along with high ability help us to learn? Or do they get in the way of learning?

Earlier this year I co-wrote an article about overexcitabilities and education for a MENSA newsletter. My fellow author Simone de Hoogh* had lots of interesting insights about how each of the OEs might affect a child’s experience of classroom learning. You can read our article below.

Shortly after I wrote the piece, I had my own eye-opening experience of being back in the classroom, when I took a week’s intensive Spanish course. (Let’s just say I have renewed empathy when my children occasionally grumble about their classes.)

I’ve written about these first-hand insights in a separate post, which I’ll share next week.

How overexcitabilities can help you learn – and how they can hold children back in the classroom

Too many bright children aren’t recognised as gifted and talented because the overexcitabilities (OEs) that may come with their high intelligence prevent them from achieving in a school environment.  This is not only harmful for the young people concerned – it’s also a waste for society.

According to Kazimierz Dabrowski, the more OEs a person has, the greater their development potential and their drive to improve not only their own life but also the world around them.

Dabrowski viewed overexcitabilities as innate personality traits. He identified five  types of OE, each one of which can be a double-edged sword. When supported, OEs can contribute positively to a child’s ability to learn, but in the wrong learning environment these OEs can severely impact a child’s development.

People with overexcitabilities experience life differently from those who do not have the traits. They are often intense, hyper-sensitive and react strongly to stimuli that others don’t even notice. OEs can also bring above-average energy, pleasure, creativity, interests and empathy.

Here are some of the ways OEs can affect a child’s experience of learning:

Psychomotor OE

Psychomotor OE brings abundant energy, drive and zest for life. But when a person with this OE is stressed, their urge to express their psychomotor energy grows stronger.

Imagine what happens when a well-meaning teacher who doesn’t know about OEs (and often doesn’t realise how bright her pupil is) tries to keep a child from being ‘disruptive’ by occupying him with busywork.

As the child gets more stressed (because he finds the work boring), he finds it impossible to contain his energy and becomes more and more fidgety. Being required to keep still increases his stress levels further. He’s caught in a vicious circle.

Children with psychomotor OE can find themselves in a catch-22 situation: they can’t focus on under-stimulating work, which means they don’t achieve enough to be identified as gifted and therefore offered work more suitable to their level of intelligence.

Intellectual OE

Children with intellectual OE are deeply curious and can focus for extended periods on complex issues that interest them. However their deep thirst for knowledge can give rise to incessant questioning and an inability to accept ‘because I say so’ as an answer.

These young people also have a strong sense of justice and an inability to tolerate unfairness of any sort. In adult life this drive to understand and deep sense of justice will serve them well, but at school their tendency to argue and question authority can be seen as disrespectful and challenging.

Imaginational OE

Imaginational OE, meanwhile, can bring great creativity.  But in the classroom a creative child’s tendency to go off on tangents is not usually welcomed by a teacher who needs to get through the curriculum.

Children with imaginational OE are often seen as distracted and showing a lack of respect, which means they learn to repress rather than appreciate the creativity which could later be channelled towards new inventions and future solutions to world problems.

Sensual OE

Individuals with sensual OE are capable of deeply appreciating art, nature, music and other sensory experiences.

But their acute sensitivity to stimuli can make the noise, lights, smells and general hubbub of the average classroom unbearably overstimulating, rendering children with sensual OE incapable of doing their best work.

Emotional OE

Dabrowski saw emotional OE as one of the most powerful traits contributing to personal development. Children with this OE are often deeply empathic and sensitive to others’ needs.

But at school these young people’s strong emotional reactions and their need for depth in relationships can leave them vulnerable to bullying.

Children with emotional OE can also be deeply affected by news topics discussed at school, and may struggle with the mature themes in books they are assigned if their reading level is more advanced than their chronological age.

Similarly, they may struggle to contain and process their emotions after being shown films that may be age-appropriate but which affect them much more intensely than others.

Unfortunately many teachers aren’t aware of the social and emotional challenges OEs can bring, and even those who are informed struggle to accommodate the needs of these twice-exceptional learners within the confines of the school system.

* * *

This is a big topic which I know I’ve only touched on here. I’d love to hear from you and then maybe write in more depth about aspects of OEs and learning that you find interesting.

How do your children’s OEs affect their experience of learning?

How do you support them?

Do you have any other questions or comments about OEs and education?

 * * *

* Simone de Hoogh,  Parenting Consultant and ECHA Specialist in Gifted Education, was inspired by her experiences raising her two (now adult) children to set up PowerWood, the UK’s leading not-for-profit organisation committed to raising awareness and supporting the emotional wellbeing of families dealing with the intensity, hyper-sensitivity and super-reactivity (OEs) that often accompany high ability.

If you’d like support dealing with OEs, join me, Simone and other kindred spirits at the friendly PowerWood FaceBook group.

* * *

I hope you’ll come back next Monday to read about my week as a student. In that post I’ll be sharing a few ideas my time in the classroom gave me about how we can support our intense children’s learning. To be sure you don’t miss it, just leave your email address in the box below or above left and you’ll receive my weekly posts straight to your inbox. 🙂

 

Hat tip: Thank you to Devon Goodwin, editor of the British MENSA Education Special Interest Group newsletter for coming up with the title of this post!

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