What to do with a gifted writer?

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My youngest son is a writer. He has been a writer from the beginning. When he was three he would wander around not so much with a book in his hand, as the twins did, but with a pad of paper and a pencil. I have some of his earliest books that he wrote, cute little Mr. Men inspired books, that have a cover, a story, and illustrations. He was making these at four.

Since this time he has stayed with writing, never straying from it. It is his passion, and it is how he identifies himself. The youngest boy spends hours a day writing, and I try to give him the time and space for this. But I have struggled a little recently with trying to figure out how to cultivate this passion of his.

I have found that it is not as easy to find materials for an advanced writer as it would be for a student advanced in mathematics or the sciences. I think part of the reason for this is that there is not as much material out there especially for gifted writers and part of this is that it is hard for younger students to take advanced language art classes (where writing is usually lumped in) because the material may be inappropriate for younger students. The book choices in many of the high school classes I have looked at would be over a younger student’s head in many ways. The themes and meanings of these books are usually best understood when you are older and have more experience.

So what to do? How should I approach this boy and his passion? Up to now I have mostly been hands-off and let him lead the way. This has worked great, but I do feel he is at a point where he is ready to get to the next level in his writing, and I need to provide him with some resources to help him. I have spent some time these past few weeks looking at what was out there and have put together several resources for him this semester. I am hoping this will be enough for now.

1. Books and lectures about writing – I recently discovered that he enjoys listening to writers talk about writing. I just downloaded the audiobook of Writer to Writer by Gail Carson Levine and he loves it. Actually we have all been listening to it with him, and we are all enjoying it. It is full of some good advice and listening to another writer talk about the process has inspired him.

Because he is enjoying this book so much I decided to also get some lectures on writing from The Great Courses. These are obviously written for older writers, but I thought we would work our way through them slowly. He is at the same age as the twins were when they began enjoying many of these courses, so I am hoping he will too.

2. Online classes – I signed him up for a Brave Writer class last fall not really knowing what to expect. I wasn’t sure how the class (Just So Stories) would be set up, and I wasn’t sure that he would find the experience enjoyable and challenging. To my surprise he was very happy with it, and although it is a multi-age class for writers of all abilities, he found he fit in as well as everyone else. The boy ended the class writing a story in a genre he never would have if he hadn’t taken the class.

Because of this great experience I have signed him up for two writing classes this semester. One is with Bravewriter again and the other is through Gifted Homeschoolers Online. In this class the students will create a town through writing which is an interesting approach. The boy picked out this class himself, and he is very much looking forward to it.

3. Self-publishing – The boy has gotten to a point where he could benefit from getting his work out there. I am not sure how to approach this yet, but we have decided to start a writer’s blog for him where he can share not only some of his work but also his thoughts on writing. I am going to help him with this over the next few months and hopefully by March or April he will have a little blog of his own.

4. Reading biographical books about authors – I was pleasantly surprised last year by how much the boy delighted in reading several books I picked out about writers when they were young. The books most loved by him were Small Steps and The DreamerThis semester I am going to have him read some more. I haven’t compiled a booklist yet, as I am still researching. Hopefully in a few weeks I will have a list of books.

5. Audiobooks – He has a subscription to Audible, for he loves to listen to books almost as much as he loves to write them. Although he reads every day this was not enough for him. With an Audible subscription and with Overdrive from the library (a free service) he listens to several books a month. To me reading is tied into writing, so I am happy to support this love.

Updates and the youngest boy

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It has been quite a while since I have posted here. As most of you know we had a difficult summer, and I found it hard to come here and write. The good news is we found out that the eldest boy does not have a connective tissue disorder. We found out two weeks ago and have been getting our lives back on track ever since. It is amazing how a medical issue can take over everything so quickly, but I am happy to be back to our old life and routine.

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The twins are hard at work on their school year. We had a few changes from the original plan I posted earlier. One major change was that I enrolled the boy in a pre-calculus class as it was too hard a subject to work on independtly. The twins also switched their science from physics to chemistry as the physics curriculum was a bust, and they both realized they would rather work on chemistry this year. Besides these few changes everything seems to be working out great, and we are especially enjoying our British Literature course (I say we because I am reading the books along with them). The twins have read Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Canterbury Tales, and the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. They have also been writing a number of essays this year, and I am both amazed and thankful at how quickly they are getting through them now and how mature their writing has become.

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I realize that I never shared my year plan for the youngest boy. The reason behind this is that I don’t have a concrete plan for him. My approach to his schooling is very different to the twins because he is a very unique learner. He is a 2e kid, and because of this I have to approach his schooling in a very different way. Too much work or structure has him frustrated, too little also leads to frustration. Therefore I strive for a balance. He needs a good deal of time for his own projects, but he needs some formal curriculum and a schedule to keep him happy.

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Currently he is working on Scratch games and animations, writing books, and creating his own languages. I add to this by having him work on his basic math skills using this great little book from Rod and Staff, and I have him work on his language arts with Bravewriter. This year he is not only working through issues of the Arrow, but he is also taking some of their classes which we are both very happy with.

As far as science and math the boy primarily watches Brainpop movies and then works through some of their worksheets they have online. We add documentaries and books to this and call it a day. He is studying American history and astronomy right now, and these resources seem to work best for him.

wood mysterious howling

In addition to everything else the boy discovered that he actually likes audiobooks. He has been listening to them around the clock while he works on other projects. His favorite series so far this year has been The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, and now that he has finished that series we are looking for another one.

Hopefully I will be updating the blog more now that I have time. I actually missed being here, missed thinking about homeschooling, and missed reading other blogs. I am appreciative to have the time to be back here again.

Outdoor Sketching

Decca is studying Monet and Impressionism right now, so I decided to take him outside to do some sketching. Tru decided to tag along with us, and so I loaded the boys up with their paper and water-color pencils. I grabbed Kingsley (we can’t ever leave him behind), and off we went.

We walked for a while trying to find the perfect scene to sketch. Every time I suggested something one of the boys would object. Apparently my ideas, such as a grassy field or wildflowers, were not what they had in mind. They finally agreed to sketch this wonderful area (yes I am being sarcastic).

Apparently something about the rocks and dead grass attracted them to this. Not to be one to judge, especially if it is a creative difference of opinion, we stopped, and the boys began to sketch. I thought they would get bored with this fairly quickly, but to my surprise, they worked on their drawings for almost twenty minutes.

Sketching outdoors is a great way to spend a day. Decca, who usually has very little patience, enjoyed it the most. I am going to try to carve time into our days for sketching/drawing/painting  “en plein aire”.

It made for a great day.

Weekly Update

Decca modeling his lower metal. He also has metal on the roof of his mouth and on the inside of his cheeks. It is not fun!

We had a light week this week. There was not much done in the way of tangible work, but that does not matter, as we needed some days off. Decca got an expander and an herbst appliance placed in his mouth on Tuesday, and it caused so much discomfort. Although the pain is subsiding today, he still cannot eat. I am hoping he figures that out soon, or he will be drinking smoothies and shakes for the next 6 months to a year.

Since Decca was in so much pain this week, I kept the school light and fun. We played a few games in math from Kitchen Table Math. He had fun playing them, although they were a little easy.

In this game he would build up numbers and write them down.

In this game he and I would take turns drawing numbers to try and create the larger number.

He also completed a few Mom-made worksheets based on the lessons of Kitchen Table Math.

He still reverses many of his numbers. We are working on this, and it seems to be getting a little better.

We also finished Little House in the Big Woods, and Grandma helped him make a cabin for a final project. This was a time-consuming project, but it was worth it. He took so much pride in making it, and he has been playing with it everyday since. Although it started out as a cabin from Little House in the Big Woods, it quickly morphed into a playset for his Scooby Doo games.

Making his cabin with Grandma's help.

A monster hiding in the trees.

Scooby and Shaggy trying to solve the case.

Tru worked on all his normal studies: French, Pre Algebra, History, and Writing with Skill. We also got in another chemistry lesson. This week the kids studied thermometers and how temperature and molecules work in the thermometer. It was another great lesson from Middle School Chemistry.

Reading the temperature on the thermometer.

Filling out his lab worksheet.

We also played a fun game this week called I’ve Got a New Business. This turned out to be the best game. The kids, my mom, and I played it all day. I decided to make a little video of it, as it was so much fun.

And that is our week in review.

Update on my youngest son and selective mutism

Decca fishing in Louisiana.

I have written several posts about Decca’s struggle with selective mutism, and I wanted to post another update about the progress he has made this summer. This summer we spent three weeks on vacation visiting my family. We started our holiday in Louisiana visiting my younger brother. Decca has not spoken to my younger brother in years, and he didn’t during our whole trip.

Decca and Uncle Jimmy

He was clearly frustrated by this on the trip, and he tried to find ways to communicate with his Uncle. He invented Deccanesse (his term), and would speak this new language to my brother. He taught all of us some words in Deccanesse, and for the first time Decca was speaking to his uncle. It was wonderful and frustrating at the same time. I knew Decca wanted to speak to him normally, but he still was not able to.

Having snow balls with Uncle Jimmy in New Orleans

After spending a week with my brother we boarded a train and headed up to Indiana to visit more family. On the train I had a conversation with Decca about his mutism. I have had the same conversation with him numerous times. I told him that if he wanted to speak to anyone one in Indiana he could, and I assured him that no one would make a big deal out of it if he did. I also reminded him that everyone in the family had heard him speak before. I have told him all these things many times, but I wanted to make sure he remembered it all. I knew he wanted to speak to everyone, and I was just trying to reassure him that if he chose to, it would work out.

I will be honest in saying that although I hoped he would begin talking to my family, I did not have high hopes. Decca hasn’t spoken to many members of my extended family for over four years, and I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen. But it did, and it was an amazing thing to witness.

Decca talked to everyone from the moment we got there. The first person we saw was my dad, his Grandpa, and I don’t know what changed in Decca’s mind, but he went right up to him and started talking.

With some of my family in Indiana. Decca is completely at ease and happy to be with everyone.

Then my step-mom came out, and he started talking to her. I was beyond happy, but I didn’t want to say anything, as that would make him feel self-conscious. So we just went about our day, and Decca talked to everyone like it was the most normal thing in the world. Over the next two weeks we visited with many family members and old friends, and he talked to every single one of them. I was so happy for him and so proud of him.

With his siblings and two friends. Decca was able to interact with everyone, and he was able to have a good deal of fun because of it.

The day after we got back to California the kids had Apple Camp. I signed them up for this months ago and had forgotten it was right after we got home. I almost debated not going, as we were all tired, but the kids were looking forward to it, so we went.

Decca was enrolled in this last year, but he never talked to the teachers or the other students. He hardly opened his eyes last year, and he ended up sitting out most of the camp because it was just too much for him.

Happy at Apple Camp

I am excited to say that not only did Decca go to Apple camp, he participated, he talked to the other kids and to the two teachers, and he had fun. The first thing he asked me when it was all over was could he do it again next year. I honestly couldn’t believe it!

Decca has made so much progress this summer, but you might be wondering about Uncle Jimmy. Did he ever speak to him? I am happy to report that he did. After my brother heard Decca was talking to everyone else but him, he called me up. He couldn’t believe that he was the last person Decca wouldn’t talk to, so I put Decca on the phone to see what would happen. And guess what? Decca and his uncle had a conversation together. It was nothing important, but it brought tears to my eyes. It brought tears to my brother’s eyes too. It wasn’t the words spoken that was important, it was who was speaking them.

Decca at 4, shortly after he stopped speaking.

Happy Mutti’s Day

For the first time in four years, I had the pleasure of hearing my son wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, or as he says “Happy Mutti’s Day”.

This made me so happy, as did everything the kids did for me today.

In honor of Mother’s Day I am going to re-post an entry I made about Decca and his long journey with selective mutism. Enjoy!

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I have this wonderful son, and his name is Decca. Quite a unique name, but it fits him perfectly because in many ways he is unique. He loves music, the piano, making movies, doing math, and making people laugh.

He is defined by all these things. But he is also defined by many as the boy who does not talk. You see Decca has selective mutism, and he is so terrified by many situations that he deals with this anxiety by not talking.

His selective mutism was brought on by a very traumatic event. When he was four years old, I went away for a night, and even though I prepared him and family was with him, something happened. He woke up on the morning I was gone, and he couldn’t find me. He was scared and very frightened and, in his mind, he thought I had died. He stopped talking right then, and for six months he didn’t speak one word to anyone but the twins. My wonderful twins, who at seven, took on so much to help their little brother.

Needless to say, Decca was in therapy, mostly play therapy, for months, and it helped. He began talking to some family members and me, which made me so happy. But he couldn’t talk outside the home to anyone, not friends, not extended family members, and certainly not strangers.

Along with his selective mutism, Decca stopped calling people by their names. He could no longer say his friends names, he stopped calling my parents Grandma and Grampa, he no longer referred to his Uncles, and he stopped calling me mom. It broke my heart, and I am sure it broke his heart too.

I tried so many things and nothing worked. Decca had his own way of referring to people though. Grandma and Grampa became Old Man and Old Lady (and it didn’t bother them). Uncle Jesse became “my movie maker” because they make movies together, and I was known as “the one I love the most”. It was very sweet.

Recently though Decca has begun using names. Not the same names he used before, but new names. First my brother Jesse, who has a special bond with Decca, taught him to call him Tío Chuy. I didn’t think it would work, but it did, and I saw a joy in Decca that I had not seen is a long time.

He then started referring to Grandma as Babushka. We use to go to a park where we would always see this wonderful lady and her grandson. She was Russian and her grandson would call her Babushka. I always remembered that, and I often will use that word. Decca began to use it a few weeks ago, and Grandma is now Babushka.

Up until this week though, Decca still wasn’t calling me anything. Every name we tried sounded too much like mom (mater, ama, mere) and so he couldn’t use them. Then my step-dad told me that in German some people call their mothers mutti. I told Decca about this name, and he liked it. He was comfortable with it. And he uses it, all the time.

The first day he started calling me mutti, he must have said it over a hundred times. I think he was in as much pain as I was, and he really wanted to call me mom. For the last week I have heard “I love you mutti” so many times to which I always respond by telling him “I love you too Decca”.

And I do, so much.

And he loves me, his mutti.