The Great Travel Plan

IMG_9570

Getting some inspiration from a Rick Steve guidebook.

When I first started homeschooling I had a rough plan of what the teenage years would look like. It’s funny to think about that because when you are a young parent, and you think about the teenage years, you really have no idea what it is going to be like. I did however have one goal for the late teen years that I still have today and that is to travel with the kids extensively. I wanted them to experience the world and to build up some memories with them before they leave home.

I have tried to implement this plan numerous times over the past few years, but I haven’t been successful. There are many reasons for this, but the primary reason was that we needed to stay where we were for health reasons. This is something I did not plan for when my kids were young, but it was something that we had to deal with. Today though we are finally in a place where we can leave our area, pack up everything, and start transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle.

IMG_9555

We have started the overwhelming process of packing up our belongings.

What does this transition look like? First we are boxing up all our belongings and putting much of it in storage. This is a huge job and sometimes, as I am filling box after box, I do question whether this is the right choice. At the end of the day I always feel that it is and so I awake the next day and carry on with the filling of boxes. We are hoping to be done with this stage around the end of August, and then we will be moving out of our apartment and the city we have lived in for most of my children’s childhood.

Where are we going? Well we definitely need a place to live while we save up money and plan our adventures. Luckily for us that the grandparents live in a big house with lots of extra room. It works out nicely because we will have our own space separate from everyone else which is a must for everyone’s sanity. Also they live up in the mountains in a wonderfully peaceful setting which is good for us.

So what comes next? First off we have to save some money. Being a single parent family means we live on a very tight budget. Moving out of our apartment frees up a large chunk of money that we will now be able to save. Our end goal is getting to Europe and that is costly, so it is necessary to save up for a while. The kids also have online classes they are tied to, so we can’t just immediately go trouncing around the world.

In the meantime we are doing two things. We are planning many little trips to take. California and America are great places to explore, so we are going to do just that. Also the kids and I are planning our European trip which is fun and exciting. My youngest is very involved in this process due to the fact that he has more free time than the twins and because he has some anxiety about traveling. By giving him some of the planning responsibility I am hoping to ease his anxiety. It is also a great long-term homeschooling project. He will be learning about finances and creating a budget, how to make an itinerary, and how to research along with a host of other skills.

IMG_9556

The boy reading Paris for Kids in hopes of getting some ideas.

Our Great Travel Plan, as I like to call it, will take time. Time to save up money and time to plan properly. It is not something we thought to do on the spur of the moment, nor is it a plan that we are naively entering.  I have been thinking about doing this since the twins were babies, waiting for the right moment in our lives to implement it. It is exciting and scary, but I am so thankful that we have the kind of lifestyle that allows this. The kids are not tied to any school because we homeschool, and I have an opportunity to provide them with one last adventure as a family before they go off and begin their lives. This is the time, this is the moment. The Great Travel Plan has begun.

Summer Reading

51XTrMqjcvL

The youngest boy has been reading and listening to many books this summer, and a few have turned out to be much-loved. The summer started out with him on a Brixton Brothers kick. He read all four books, and then together we listened to three of them on audiobooks. Unfortunately the fourth one was never made into an audiobook much to the annoyance of the boy. The boy was also bothered about the fact that there were no more sequels, so he contacted the author, and the author was very nice and replied back to him. The boy often contacts authors, and I am so surprised at how many respond to him. It is great for my author-to-be.

51lN8VHFIFL

After reading the Brixton Brothers he listened to The Wolfstonecraft Detective Agency. I picked this one out, and he wasn’t sure he would like it. Thankfully he is willing to give anything a try, and he did enjoy this book. I don’t think he was as crazy about it as some of our other choices this summer, but he is waiting for the sequel to come out. That’s always a good sign.

51SxRgQvhOL

The Island of Dr. Libris was a quick, fun read. He didn’t talk about it too much, but he did like it and got through it in one day. He was a fan of Escape from Mr. Limoncello’s Libraryso I was hoping he would like this one too. It didn’t disappoint, but I don’t think it was as much loved as some of the others.

51g0ZsP039L

The boy loves to listen to a Doctor Who book every now and then. The Way Through the Woods is probably one of his favorites. He has actually listened to this twice which shows how much he liked it. Doctor Who books are probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but for my son they are a fun way to spend an afternoon.

51YSs0SyzhL

Both my son and I have been listening to The War That Saved My Life. This is a wonderful book that I would recommend to others especially for children 9 and up. It is about a young neglected girl with a clubfoot who is evacuated out of London during WW2. My son was a little reluctant to listen to it, but it has now become his favorite book of the summer. The audio version is especially wonderful because the narrator does such a great job.

Twice Exceptional Students and Homeschooling

FullSizeRender 23

Someone asked me the other day about home schooling a 2E kid. What does it look like, how do your days flow, what kind of work does your child do? I shared with them what homeschooling looks like at my house with my youngest, and I thought I would share here too for anyone wanting to learn more about homeschooling these very unique kids.

First off, let me say that this is only one view of homeschooling the twice exceptional. There are many other ways to do it, and what works for one family will not always work for another. Also children and teenagers who are identified as twice exceptional vary in so many ways and struggle with different disabilities that techniques and routines that I use may not work for other families. Having said that I will share what works for us. At our house the key to homeschooling a 2E kid is flexibility, compassion, following passions (whatever they may be), and having support.

Flexibility – Flexibility is key to a smooth homeschooling journey for a 2E student. You need to be flexible in your routine, flexible with your curriculum choices, and flexible with your approach. What works one year may not work the next. What is scheduled in a curriculum may not be the schedule you follow. What you have planned for the day may not be what you get done. If you start your journey with flexibility in mind then you are able to bend easier without getting frustrated and overwhelmed. Changing your expectations goes hand in hand with this. Don’t expect school to look like the perfect vision you have in your mind, don’t expect it to look like other homeschooler’s school, and don’t expect it to look like a sibling’s school. It will be different than others, different from day to day, different than what is planned. And that is ok, and it is normal when schooling a twice-exceptional student. In our homeschool we may go weeks with the same schedule, and then hit a brick wall and need to take a break and reassess. Flexibility is the key to getting through times like this.

Compassion – Being a twice exceptional student can be hard. Some subjects come so easy to them, while other subjects are a constant struggle in frustration. These students may be working on work that is many years ahead of them and then they may struggle with work that is many years below them. My student’s strengths lie in writing, art, animation, and game making. He struggles with math. It is painful for him (and me!) to work through a math lesson that we have covered many times before, but that he still struggles with.  Compassion is the key to dealing with this frustration, this struggle. And compassion should be shown not just to the student, but towards yourself.

FullSizeRender-1

Italian Scooby Doo books – One of my son’s passions that have lead to many interesting educational activities.

Passions – Twice exceptional children are going to have passions, and most of these kids will feel very strongly about what it is they love. I have found that discovering your student’s interests and supporting these pursuits should be an important part of your homeschool. While you may feel drawn to the idea of your homeschool reflecting a traditional school in the subjects you need to teach and the skills your student needs to learn, it would probably be helpful if you leave that idea behind. Instead balance the skills and subjects that you believe are essential to your child’s education with the areas your child wants to study. For 2E kids passions often lead to work that is very meaningful and spending time on these pursuits will be rewarding to both of you. Our days consist of an hour or so of essential school work that I want to get done, and the rest of the time is his own in which he works on what he feels is important. In our house that means writing for hours a day, working on animation projects, reading books of his choice. For other kids it means working on math for hours a day or on a specific science project. Passions will vary from student to student but having time for them will benefit them all.

Support – Homeschool a 2E kid is very rewarding, but it is also frustrating and demanding at times. Give yourself a pat on the back, on hard days allow yourself to put the work away and call it a day, and if you are ever feeling overwhelmed talk to friends, call on a relative, lean on a support group (whether in person or online). There will be days, weeks, or months were you struggle and you need some help. If you are really struggling don’t be afraid to see a professional whether it be your pediatrician, your neuropsych, or another person that can give you advice and/or a fresh perspective. Also if you think your child may have a learning disability please have them professionally assessed. Many times people in the homeschooling community can be weary of getting a professional opinion, but it really is helpful to have. Ask around the homeschool community if you want someone who is familiar with homeschooling and supports that choice, as it can make a difference. Either way, arm yourself with a support group for yourself and for your child.

Where to find help/support online –

The Well Trained Mind forums has a Learning Challenges board that is a great community of parents that support one another in regards to many issues facing 2E kids. I highly recommend starting there if you need some advice.

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum has a Twice-Exceptional section that is very helpful.

SEA Homeschoolers has many parents with 2E kids if you are looking for a general homeschooling support group.

Also I found a wonderful gifted/2E support group in my area with meetups and park days through Meetup. It was really great to meet families in person that struggled with some of the same issues, and it was wonderful to meet friends that understood my kids. I highly suggest looking for a group in your area, and if there is not one, consider starting your own.

Teen Book Club 2015-2016

image

The twins are running a book club over at SEA Homeschoolers. If you have a teen who would be interested in joining an asynchronous discussion with fellow homeschooled teens, please consider joining SEA. After joining your teen can sign up for the book club which is run through Google groups.

The book club will begin in September and run through May 2016. You can see the book choices here. The first book up will be Frankenstein, and the teens will begin discussing it in September.

Slow start, strong finish

This picture is from September 2009. It is one of the first pictures I ever uploaded onto TAD Town. It is a picture of my oldest working on his math which at the time was basic fractions. He was 10 years old and in fifth grade. In sixth grade he would complete pre-algebra, seventh algebra, eighth geometry, ninth algebra 2, and tenth pre-calculus. That is a good, strong math progression and yet in fifth he was just happily doing his fractions in chalk in our backyard.

Autry working in her sketchbook.

My daughter is working through several AP classes this year, and she is a very strong student especially in writing. We did not use a formal writing curriculum for years, and overall started very slow in this area. She would write what she wanted when she wanted. When she was younger this was mostly in the form of a journal entry or short stories that she would write. We worked on a few formal programs starting in seventh and eighth and completed Writing with Skill in ninth. By tenth she was writing numerous essays for her AP classes, and this year she is writing essays daily. She has become an extremely strong, creative, and capable writer who enjoys the process.

nature walk 043

My point with these two examples is to show that starting slow can work. I touched on this idea previously in this post, but I wanted to discuss it once more as I see more and more homeschooling parents scheduling massive amounts of work for their young children. It is my belief that this is not necessary at all, and in some ways I find it to be counterintuitive. If you have high goals for your child once they are in high school and college that does not mean you have to start worrying about those goals when they are elementary or middle school aged. This only creates stress for the parent and takes away from the joys of childhood and self discovery for the child.

1936840_106630620921_3327181_n

This is not to say that we did no formal schooling when they were younger because we did. What I am trying to convey is that one can be formal in their studies but do so in a very relaxed and informal way. Academics took no longer than two hours all through the elementary ages for my kids. Middle school became a little more intense, and the kids probably averaged about three hours a day on academics. We never did academics five days a week, and I always made sure they had plenty of free time to discover their own passions and to just be a kid. Whether they were playing outside for hours a day, listening to audiobooks for days on end, or messing around on their computer, the kids had plenty of free time to do what they wanted.

P1030840

Slow to start has been very successful for us. The twins now spend hours upon hours a day working because they want to. They have very specific goals that they want to attain, and they feel up to the challenge. They are not burned out from long school days and hours upon hours of school work from when they were younger. Nor have they missed out on any essential skills necessary for the work they do today. Instead they were able to learn these skills very quickly at an older age rather than trying to grasp them when they were younger and not prepared physically or emotionally.

Slow start, strong finish.

Somber Sixteen

I honestly cannot believe it, but these two adorable kids…

FullSizeRender 14

are nearly sixteen, and to celebrate they wanted a Somber Sixteen party. A very fitting idea for two very unique kids.

1795592_10153004189620922_3094731942161838103_n (1)

The twins were celebrating the death of their childhood. The attire was black and their friends and them acted very somber for the event (at least in the beginning, it was a party after all). I wasn’t too sure about the theme when they first pitched it to me, but it worked out great and they all had a wonderful time.

FullSizeRender 17

IMG_8682

10599240_10153006138925922_550917493208077299_n

Happy 16th birthday you two. I love you very much, and I am so happy with the young adults you are becoming. It may seem like your childhood is nearly over, but I for one am looking forward to your future. I can’t wait to see where it takes you!

1929338_96976830921_5622303_n

Before they were sixteen, they were not nearly as somber. 🙂