Homeschooling the Teen Years – Be Prepared for Changes

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Recently I was reflecting on my twins and their homeschooling journey, and as I was thinking about the last few years, I was somewhat surprised at how much they have changed. I thought about how at thirteen my son was the astronomy/math guy who spent hours studying these topics and spent his first big summer camp studying astronomy in the mountains of Arizona. I thought about my daughter who was in a school of the arts for classical voice and was spending hours a day practicing singing and was entering national voice competitions. I remember looking at these two and thinking about how great it was that they had already figured out their future and that they were on the right path for these futures.

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And then the twins started to grow up. They started dealing with puberty, hormones, and other issues which changed them. They began exploring different areas of interest (as all teens should) and began questioning who they are and what they want out of life. The twins began that long journey from young teenhood to adulthood (a journey they are still on) and everything that I thought was planned out and in stone changed. Their interests, passions, challenges, and strengths altered. Their college plans began to look different. Their future I envisioned suddenly started to become hard to imagine, and I realized that their future was not something we could predict or see.

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This hazy future, one that I cannot know, is not a bad thing. It is a joy to see the twins grow and change. It is exciting to think that their future is their own and it is an unknown. It is wonderful to know that they have been given time to explore their many interests through homeschool and that they can continue to grow and change for many years to come.

I write this post as a reminder to my future self (as I will be going through this same journey soon with my youngest son) and to other homeschooling parents. It is so easy for us to craft our child’s education to their interests and passions because we do homeschool. It is exciting to know that we are able to give our children opportunities that their peers may not have in traditional schools. The ability to be able to create their path and to be able to work on just one interest is a very attractive option but sometimes it does get in the way of a person’s growth. Remember this as you go through the teen years. Be flexible, allow your child to explore freely, and be supportive. They will get where they are going in the end even if the journey does not look the way we imagined.

A Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Education for Twice-Exceptional Students

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SEA: Secular, Eclectic, Academic – What does that mean and look like? How does this approach benefit students who have been identified as twice-exceptional?

Secular is obvious and I am not going to spend much time on this component. To say the least, the materials that one chooses are free from a religious worldview (to learn more  about why this is important please read Blair’s post here). This is especially important in regards to science materials that one chooses to use with one’s child.

Eclectic means that one draws on a wealth of materials and does not need to stick with just one curriculum provider or one form of homeschooling. Eclectic also allows for one to work with their student on their level in each subject and to try many different methods. It allows a parent to individualize an education plan for each child. This is a wonderful benefit for twice-exceptional students.

Academic is, much like secular, obvious, but worth noting. Having an academic standpoint means that one sees the value in intellectual endeavors. This is also a benefit to twice-exceptional homeschoolers.

So why is a SEA approach such a good match for 2E kids? There are many reasons for this, but before I list them I want to define what twice-exceptional is. I have talked about twice-exceptional students before here at SEA, but I wanted to to revisit the term for those who are not familiar with it. A twice-exceptional student is a student that has been identified as gifted and identified as having a disability or condition. To put it another way:

“This group of gifted children are exceptional both because of their strengths and because of their limitations. Coupled with high intelligence, these children also may have one or more learning disabilities, attention deficit, autism spectrum disorder, emotional or behavior problems, or other types of learning challenges. ”    

(From 2E Newsletter – http://www.2enewsletter.com/topic_2e_what_is.html)

Now, back to why a secular, eclectic, and academic approach is a wonderful one to take for this group of kids.

  1. Flexibility – This approach allows for flexibility, which is such a necessary part of any 2E program. Flexibility in the subjects studied, flexibility in the materials used, and flexibility in the methods used to teach.
  2. Ability to develop passions – Twice-exceptional students often struggle in one or more area and this struggle can sometimes make the student feel like a failure. By taking a SEA approach to their schooling, the parent has time to spend on the areas that their child excels at. The parent also sees the value in doing this, and working on areas that the student excels at allows a child to build up their confidence.
  3. Keep on a schedule – This is where the academic part comes into play. By keeping the focus on academics and on the continual growth of mastering various academic goals, the parent has to stay on a schedule, and schedules are great for 2E kids. For some the schedule may look loose  and for others it may be more strictly regulated. Either way, a schedule helps these kids, for they work better knowing what is expected from them each day.
  4. Work at their own level – Twice-exceptional students are all over the map academically. Being able to meet them at their level is wonderful for them and helps them succeed. Some students may be ready for algebra at 9 but struggle with writing a complete sentence. Others may be writing novels but struggle with basic math problems. Either way, by tailoring their education, you will be able to work to their strengths and help them with their weaknesses.
  5. Option to explore many topics – 2E students tend to have a variety of interests and passions and by choosing an eclectic path you become open to studying those passions. And by recognizing that there are many worthy subjects to study outside of the traditional subjects, you give the gift of exposure to your child. Through this exposure they may discover a passion they never knew they had.
  6. Option to use many different approaches – There are many different approaches to education in the homeschool world. Some parents follow a Charlotte Mason approach, some parents follow a Classical approach, some follow a traditional school approach, and some parents follow an unschooling approach. A wonderful benefit about choosing to be eclectic is that you can use multiple approaches for your student in the different areas you study, which is a good way to match ability, interest, and learning styles to your child.

So what does an eclectic, academic approach actually look like? To read the rest of the article please see the original post at SEA Homeschoolers.

Periscope

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Here at TADTown we have jumped onto the Periscope bandwagon. I see so much potential in this service for the homeschool community, and I want to be part of it.

So far we have only done one Periscope and it was a test more than anything, but I have begun planning some future broadcasts already. I am hoping to have one or two going live in the next week or so. One will feature my mother doing an art lesson with my youngest and will be worth a watch for anyone interested in art. The other one is still in the planning stages, but I will keep you informed.

If you aren’t familiar with Periscope it is a live video streaming app. You broadcast what you want and anyone can watch it and comment while you are broadcasting. I highly recommend you check out Julie Bogart’s (from Bravewriter) past scopes to see the potential in Periscope.

And if you would like to follow us our Periscope name is @TADTown (For some reason WordPress is making this a link. It is not a link just our name at Periscope). Our old videos will be available at Katch after they broadcast live. If any of my followers have a Periscope please let me know in the comments and I will follow you. Thanks!

The Norton Simon Museum – Pasadena, Ca

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The kids and I spent the some time recently at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. This is a wonderful, smaller museum that has many great works of art to see. It is also incredibly affordable for families as all children under 18 get in free every day. Adults pay $12.00 each, seniors are $9.00 each, and parking is free.

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The permanent collection at the museum includes an impressive collection of Impressionist pieces by such artists as Degas, Monet, and Renoir works of art that younger children will most likely recognize and enjoy seeing. There is also art work by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Picasso, and many others.

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When we visited there was two special exhibitions which we were excited to have the chance to see. The first was A Revolution of the Palette: The First Synthetic Blues and their Impact on French Artists and my youngest was especially taken with this exhibit because of his interest in color. Here is a short podcast on the exhibit for anyone interested in it.

The other temporary exhibit was Fragonard’s Enterprise: The Artist and the Literature of TravelJean-Honoré Fragonard  toured through Italy with his first patron and was tasked with making copies of the art work they visited. Fragonard did this through sketching, and these impressive sketches were on display. The twins were most interested in this exhibit and spent a good deal of time studying them all.

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Here is the podcast on this exhibit:

At the end of this exhibit the museum had a place where visitors could sit and sketch pieces of art. This was a great idea that my kids loved. The museum provided paper, pencils, and clipboards to work on. The kids spent a very long time working on their art. How nice it is to just sit, study a piece of work, and draw what you see. It was very calming and reminded me that we need to do this more often.

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When you finish sketching you can keep your work or hang it up for others to see. Autry decided to hang her’s up while the boys both wanted to keep theirs.

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After exploring inside the museum we went to the sculpture garden outside. Due to the heat we did not stay long. Hopefully we will get back soon to explore it some more as it was very beautiful. We also need to come back to view all the other art we missed including a very impressive asian art collection.

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So if you are in the Los Angeles area and you want to visit an affordable museum then I highly recommend the Norton Simon. It surpassed our expectations and was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

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High School Year 3

Amazingly these two great kids are juniors this year. I can hardly believe it.

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They have been back to school for a while now as they take classes online at Harari. Harari goes year round with their first quarter having started in June. In addition the twins are running an online book club this year over at SEA. They even made a video introducing the club for anyone who is interested.

Outside of Harari and book club the twins do not have a great deal of down time. When they do have free time they work on their own projects, mostly art, music, and making games. In addition they like to hang with friends (what teens don’t?) and are making plans, lots and lots of plans for their future. Basically they are just being teenagers which is great because honestly teens are so much fun!

Here are their school pictures for the year. They took a great deal of interest in their photos this year as opposed to all the other years we took school photos. The pictures came out great and really captured their personalities.

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I am looking forward to the future too. I can’t wait to see where it takes these two. At the same time I find myself feeling a little sad at how fast time passes, at how quickly the twins have grown up. It is a cliche but time really does pass by in the blink of the eye. These last two years will be gone before I know it. In the meantime I am going to sit back and enjoy watching these two make their final journey towards adulthood.

The Average Homeschooler

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Three average homeschoolers tackling a day of school at home.

I have had so many thoughts swirling around in my head lately and I have wanted to post about it for a while now,  though I needed some time to process what I was feeling and what I wanted to say. There is something going on in the homeschool world that is rubbing me the wrong way, and I know I am not the only one struggling with this. The problem is that there no longer seems to be a place in the homeschool community for the average homeschooler. Of course that shouldn’t really matter for we all homeschool alone, but what I am talking about is how homeschoolers portray themselves online.

When I first started homeschooling all those years ago I felt very welcomed and at home in the community. I was a young single mom with very limited funds, and I never felt like I would not be able to do this. Older, experienced moms encouraged me and helped me with homeschooling on a budget. It seemed very doable, and I felt I could meet all of my student’s academic needs very easily at home. If I was starting out today I am not sure I would feel the same.

There is a ton of pressure on all parents today, and this includes homeschooling parents. I believe that social media and the internet are partially to blame, but I also think some of the blame rests squarely on our shoulders. There is this strong drive today to be the best at what you do, to take things to a higher level, to provide your children with the most amazing experiences. It is hard as parents to filter out all of this, and it is hard to not compare ourselves with others. Unfortunately this is what happens, and because the majority of homeschoolers cannot do everything they see online, many are left feeling inadequate or they end up worrying about the fact that they, as parents, are not doing enough for their children.

I know how hard it is to resist these feelings as I have suffered from them too. In addition, I have heard from numerous homeschooling parents who have left various online support groups and in-person groups due to the enormous pressure they feel from the most vocal homeschooling parents. And it does seem that many of these vocal parents are the ones who have the ability to provide their children with wonderful opportunities that many other homeschooling parents cannot.

Of course there is nothing wrong with what these parents do. It is their prerogative to spend their time and money the way they want and to give their child and/or children the education they want. But there needs to be a balance on these forums and in these support groups. Instead of just being a place where a few voices are heard, we need it to be a place where everyone has a voice. Instead of always talking about what our own children are doing, we need to support all the children. I feel a responsibility to the new homeschooling parents, to the struggling homeschooling parents, to the isolated homeschooling parents to show them that it is possible to homeschool successfully with what you have.

I always felt like homeschooling evened the playing field in a way that schools couldn’t. It seemed when I first started that no matter your background, income, or race that you could homeschool your child and succeed. Today it feels like the homeschooling world is starting to pull away from that ideal and becoming more and more competitive. I suppose this was inevitable given the amazing growth that the homeschool world has seen, but I still hate to see it.

Take for example this article that was recently published in Boston Magazine. In it the author asked if homeschooling is “the new model for creating elite kids?” The article discusses one student who homeschooled and was accepted this year into Harvard. This is a great feat, and one that the parents can be proud of, but it also bothered me to no end. Maybe it was the fact that it seemed every homeschooler was sharing the article all over social media (as if to say “look my choice is valid, this kid got into Harvard!”) or maybe it was the fact that this look at homeschooling was a look at how wealthy parents homeschool, or maybe it was the fact that other articles that discuss homeschooling, such as this one, this one, or this one (just to name a few) are not shared or talked about nearly enough.

In hopes to balance out this phenomenon I am calling on all homeschool parents to share more, to support more, to ask questions more, to help more. I know I have sometimes struggled greatly over the years being a single mom on a very limited income with three children who all have some special needs. It has not been easy. I have to think over every decision I make long and hard before I make it due to these reasons. I have also had to make many sacrifices over the years. I would have loved to travel more with my children, I would have loved to have been able to have a tutor or mentor for each of them, I would have loved to have had more opportunities for them, and I would have loved to have had more individual time for them. But that has not always been possible and that is ok.

As my mom says, the children will all grow up. They will all find their way. In the meantime, for this short period that we can call them our own, could we be a little more kind to each other? Could we support each other and try not to be so competitive? Could we take some time each day to be thankful for what we do and have and remember not everyone has the same? Could we pause a moment before we post something online and think is this beneficial to anyone? Could we perhaps humble ourselves for the greater cause?