Homeschooling the Twice-Exceptional Student – There Will Be Gaps and That’s OK

an-eclectic-academic-approach-to-a-high-school-course-of-study-1

This young man is incredibly creative. He makes movies, writes stories, animates, composes, records original songs, and works on other creative endeavors all day long. He is never idle, never bored. My son works from the moment he wakes up, which is usually before 7:00, and stays busy until around 10:00 at night when he finally tires out and heads to bed. Sleep usually comes an hour later when his mind finally calms down.

img_9128

Most days I am in awe of all he does. It really is amazing. But it is also incredibly frustrating, and at times, overwhelming and tiring to watch. Traditional school work falls to the way side often, and when he can settle long enough to work on academics, it usually doesn’t go the way I imagine. Math is an exercise in frustration, reading hurts his head, and handwriting practice is painful. Science can be fun, history is mostly boring, but analyzing literature is a favorite. He usually has the energy to concentrate on academics for no more than 2 to 3 hours a day, a few days a week.

This is what I am working with, and I can never forget it as I homeschool him. My son is not going to school in any sort of traditional matter, and I have to remind myself of that often. He is a twice-exceptional student, and things are different for twice-exceptional kids. Their paths look different from other students. Their days look different.

Parents who are homeschooling 2E children and teens need to remind themselves of this often otherwise they may end up feeling like they are failing their children. There will be areas where their student may be behind (for my son it is math) and other areas where they have no interest at all. There will be gaps along the way and as homeschool parents we have to learn to let these gaps go because there will be other areas where they are working so enthusiastically, so passionately, that they do not have time for it all.

I have to remind myself that what my son is doing is significant (even with the gaps) and that he will find his own way. His path may be different and atypical but it is also unique and meaningful. He is creative and productive and confident and happy. And in the end isn’t that all that matters?

————————————————————————–Are you homeschooling a twice-exceptional or gifted homeschooler? Are you looking for support? If so please join our new Facebook group for 2E homeschooling parents here and follow our Facebook page here. Thank you!

Modifying Curriculum for a Twice-Exceptional Child

FullSizeRender 14

This year I decided at the last minute to order Build Your Library Grade 8’s curriculum for my youngest son who is an identified 2E student. I knew before I purchased the curriculum that I would not be able to use it as it is written because of his unique learning style and because of his learning struggles, but that didn’t stop me from getting it. The Grade 8 core was so intriguing to me, something that I thought he would really enjoy, that I eagerly scooped it up as soon as it came out.

Build Your Library Grade 8 covers the history of science. Here is the description from the Build your Library Website

“It’s time for a whirlwind tour through world history, with a twist. This year, your child will be studying World History through the lens of science. Using Joy Hakim’s excellent Story of Science series, you will follow the trail of scientific thought and discovery from the ancient Sumerians through Modern day. You’ll conduct experiments from the minds of some of the greatest scientists in history and learn how those scientists changed the world with their ideas. The science covered this year is Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics.”

I thought for sure that my history phobic student would enjoy this study of history because it was different and unique. He wasn’t as enthusiastic about it as I was. I wasn’t deterred in my determination to make this work however, and this week we have started slowly working through the program. I thought I would share how I am modifying this for my student in hopes that it will help someone else out there.

First of all I want to address the fact that we are even using a curriculum. Many homeschoolers with twice-exceptional students allow their children to follow their own passions because it is easier than struggling to get the work done. I get that, and I do follow that train of thought to a degree. The boy definitely has more free time for his own passions than more traditionally schooled students. I do feel though that adding in some formal lessons helps us stay on track and keeps him from being bored which is something that we have been struggling with lately. Also having a curriculum makes it easier for me because I am not a planner at all. I need something to work off or I get lost very quickly.

So how do I go about making a curriculum a better fit my child?

  1. Cutting down the amount of material covered over the year – BYOL Grade 8 has a fully scheduled 5 days a week/36 weeks plan. There is no way he and I will be able to cover all that material. I have decided to split the curriculum up over two years, and for now, I am planning to go through week 14 or 15. This leaves weeks 16 through 36 for next year. By dividing this study I am taking a great deal of stress off of us to get it done, and I am allowing us to work through everything at a pace that will give him extra time to do the work and grasp the concepts.
  2. Dropping parts of the curriculum that will not work – Narration/copywork is out. A paper timeline is out. Vocabulary study is out. These activities just do not work for this boy, and there is no reason to waste time and inflict stress on either of us trying to get it done. If you know something doesn’t work for your child do not hesitate to drop it. There are many ways to learn a concept. The ones suggested in a curriculum are just that, a suggestion. Take it or leave it as needed.
  3. Adjusting ways of learning – Many of the books listed in BYL Grade 8 are available as audiobooks. We will most likely listen to these books as opposed to reading them. My son loves audiobooks, and he absorbs the material when he receives it this way. He will also be using his iPad to make a timeline. We found out last year that making a timeline on his iPad is easier for him and allows him to use his creativity. He loves looking for images on the internet for his timeline and spends a good deal of time doing it. I am also changing a few of the readers (not too many though because this core has some wonderful books scheduled) to match his taste and reading level. These are all easy adjustments to make but ones that go a long way in making for a successful year.
  4. Working through the study as partners – The best way to ensure a successful course of study is to commit to learning side-by-side. Although there are many areas where my son soars on his own, the academic study of history and science is not one of them. To keep him invested in the work I have to be invested. If I want him to make connections and to apply what he has learned I need to lead him to those discoveries. Together we will work through the labs, read/or listen to the books, watch the documentaries that are scheduled, and discuss, discuss, discuss.
  5. Be flexible – There are days when my son is just not able to concentrate. There are days when we are too busy with other activities. There are days when he is too focused on writing, animation, art, or game making. It is not always worth it to interrupt his deep concentration when he is involved in a project, nor is it easy to always get to our work when we are busy doing other things. The best thing I can do then is to be flexible. Allow for an off day now and then, plan to work longer or shorter sometimes, be willing to drop a book or activity that is not working. Flexibility is key to homeschooling 2E students.

A few other ideas to help your child succeed: BYL Grade 8 tells you what the main idea is each day. I use this to start our work everyday. Together we go over the key idea, so that he and I both know what we should be learning. The guide also schedules documentaries and hands-on activities which is great for a twice-exceptional kid. Some days we will watch only documentaries, some days we will only do hands-on activities. There are many different ways to learn, so never feel like you aren’t covering enough if you skip the more traditional book work. One last thing I do is try not to worry too much about his output. It really is enough for me to know he is absorbing and making new connections.

Hopefully these ideas will help someone out there. They could easily be applied to any curriculum or homeschool study you take on with your 2E student.

And for more information on BYL’s Grade 8 year please see this sample –  G8_History_of_Science_Sample_week.

2015-16 School Plans for the 2E Boy – A Work In Progress

drh

Self portrait 2015

I have always loved to spend the summer planning out our fall schedule. I would spend my days scouring the internet, looking at reviews, reading forums, and drooling over curriculum sites. It was always so much fun to try to get the perfect school year planned out.

Then my kids got older. The twins’ school is almost completely online, so there is not much for me to do there (although I am putting together a physics course for the coming year that has been a blast to plan). All that remains is my youngest who is a wildly creative, gifted student who is also twice exceptional. I have to take this into consideration when planning his school year.

logo1

I have a few subjects planned that I am almost positive they will work for the year. For language arts he will be using Brave Writer primarily. We have been working with Brave Writer for years now, and it is the one curriculum I can count on to work with my youngest. The lessons are short, creative, and often open-ended. He learns copywork, dictation, writing skills, grammar skills, and vocabulary all while reading great books and working on creative writing projects. For my son it works, and because not much else does, we will stay with it. I also love the Brave Writer lifestyle which is a nice benefit since I am sure the boy will be using it right through high school.

007309

For math I have a few plans as he needs to be able to switch between programs when he gets stuck in one. And he will get stuck, or more likely bored, with a few throughout the year. Right now the boy is working through Prodigy which is an online adventure game with plenty of math built in. The boy has been working through it for a few weeks now, and it does not seem that his interest is waning yet. I will let him stay with it as long as he wants, but I also have plans for when he burns out. Right now that includes the next level of MathWorks which we used last year somewhat successfully. I also have some generic math workbooks for him to use when we need a change.

History and science are a little more tricky to plan for. The boy is not very fond of history, and I have had trouble finding him a curriculum or class that interests him. In the past we seem to have had the most luck with learning history through movies or documentaries or with online sources. For the coming year I actually have nothing planned as of yet. I am scourging online sites, bookstores, videos, and reviews. I am just not seeing anything he will be able to work with. For now I am leaving this blank and am hoping that before we start up for the year I have something.

For science what I need is short, interesting, and interactive lessons on a topic he enjoys. He would like to study animals  or birds or astronomy. I would like him to work through a complete middle school course from beginning to end if possible. Unfortunately we have not found anything that meets all of our needs yet. Hopefully I will have some sort of plan before our year starts.

He will also be starting German next year in an online class. His siblings have had the same teacher for the last two years, and the boy had one short class with him last winter. The teacher is very funny and the work is fun and low-key. Perfect for a kid who is somewhat shy and unsure of online classes. It will be nice for him to have a first experience with a teacher he is familiar with.

image

One of the boy’s digital drawings. Drawing is a new passion of his.

Other subjects the boy will be working on next year include programming, animation, drawing, creative writing, voice acting, and composing. Most of this will be explored through self-study using online resources. For voice acting we are hoping to find a class in Los Angeles that would be fun for him. We may start back up with piano to help his composing skills.

In all honesty most of his time will probably be spent working on his passions, followed by his language arts and German. My goal is we will hit math everyday, although sometimes that is very hard for him. And I am hoping that we spend a couple days a week on science and history. We will see how it works out.

IMG_8212

If I have learned anything over the last few years it is never to expect any schedule to go smoothly with my 2E kid. I don’t mind though, actually I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A Glimpse into Schooling a 2E Kid – Italian Scooby Doo

IMG_0286 2

Some days are very hard when it comes to homeschooling a child who is twice-exceptional. There is the learning disability that makes quite a few things difficult. There is the anxiety that can get in the way. And then there is the high intelligence and passion that makes things so very interesting. It takes a good deal of patience and understanding to school a child like this. I feel I do a fairly good job of it because I have a so much experience homeschooling and because I had many of the same struggles when I was younger.

The youngest boy’s days look very different from the twins. They were/are fairly academic and hard workers, so their day reflects a more typical school day. The boy’s day reflects more of how an unschooler’s day might look and for him I think this works. It allows him time to follow his passions, and it is through his passions that he learns.

For instance, one of his passions for a very long time has been Scooby Doo. He loves the books, the tv show, the movies, and he knows everything about the history of Scooby Doo. Because of this passion he has been writing Scooby books for years (which he is soon going to publish online) and collecting Scooby Doo books. He has grown quite a collection, and some of his favorite books to collect are the Italian Scooby Doo books.

FullSizeRender-1

Unfortunately he never has a good way to translate the books, so he could read them all the way through. Last week though he found out that Itunes was carrying the Scooby Doo Italian books to buy for the iBooks app. From there he discovered an easy way to translate them all, and within a few hours, the boy had purchased several of the books and translated them all. Then he read them all, which was quite an experience for him.

He couldn’t believe how different they all were from the American Scooby Doo. Of course he realized that some of these differences could be put down to translation, but after reading several of the books, he could tell that was not the only reason for the difference. The topics were different (including one plot dealing with plastic surgery), the personalities of the characters were different (Fred comes off as mean), and there was cussing throughout the books. The boy got such a kick out of the differences and really enjoyed reading them all.

Of course being a very passionate kid, he was not yet done in his study of Italian Scooby Doo books. He was unhappy that all the books were not available yet on iTunes, so he has been researching how to write a letter to Itunes and to the Italian publisher, so he can let them know how he feels. And he has started to write his own Scooby Doo Italian book. This book is in the style of the Italian books and includes a slightly weird plot line, the different character traits, and the occasional cuss word. When he is done he is going to translate the whole thing into Italian, so that it truly is an Italian Scooby Doo book. I can’t wait to read it!