Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hawaiian Punch, Junk Food, and a (Holiday) Food Plan

Hawaiian Punch, Junk Food, and a (Holiday) Food Plan

The holidays:  a time when Michael Pollan's simple advice "Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants " seems to go out the window.  Beets, cabbage, and other root vegetables are staple foods for countless peasants around the world.  Yet on a global scale, a treat or something sweet is usually presented during the holidays.  Special cookies, cakes, candy, and other dishes are often made.

Until fairly recently, these special treats were not available year round.  Until fairly recently, sugar was not ubiquitous.  And until fairly recently, processed foods, artificial food dyes and colorings, artificial and refined sweeteners were not so widespread either.  Today, it's the wild west with foods.

For many parents of 2e children with allergies, food sensitivities, or on restrictive diets, the holidays are somewhat of a nightmare.  For many, however, the food issues are year-round.  During the holidays, they just become magnified about 100 times, it seems.   The sights and smells can be hard to resist.  Food quickly becomes associated with fun but isn't when your child can't eat certain food or when you've become a member of the food police or healthy food advocate.

Every holiday event seems to have tons of junk food, sweets, and other unhealthy items (cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc.).  What can a 2e parent do?  

1.  Acknowledgement.  'Food' features strongly in holiday celebrations.  Though we may disagree on what you or I may constitute as 'food', it's pretty much a given that many people feel compelled to bring a 'food' item to a holiday event or gathering.

2.  Document.  One British family did an experiment.  They created a food diary and logged their kids' daily sugar intake for a week.  The parents were horrified.  It turns out the kids were eating 70 teaspoons of sugar a day!  Worse, much of the sugar intake was consumed at public (state) school.  And such sugar was not presented as one-off treats either.

3.  Don't forget about drinks.  Visit Whole Foods or many other supermarkets during the holidays.  Eggnog and other holiday drinks are often freely available.  Many schools, libraries, and other organizations serve Hawaiian Punch or other 'kid-friendly' drinks during the holidays too.  Yet these drinks are usually contain artificial food dyes or colorings as well as sugar.  Robert Lustig, NPR, and other organizations have written about the hidden sugars and substances in juices.

4.  Plan ahead.

Option A.  Don't attend or try to avoid holiday celebrations.  Elimination works, but isn't always doable or realistic.

Option B.  Eat before any holiday celebration.  That way the temptation to eat is gone or reduced.  This is sometimes works.  For many kids, they see others eating colorful creations and they are desperate to join them regardless.

Option C.  Bring an alternative holiday celebration.  Your child wants to attend a holiday celebration that will have brownies, for instance, but your child can't or isn't supposed to eat brownies.  Your child, however, can (discretely) bring homemade brownies.  You found a recipe for chocolate avocado cookies which look like the real McCoy and your child can and, more importantly, does eat them.

Option D.  Let things go and let your child eat whatever at a holiday celebration.  This is like the hope and pray that no harm will come.  Again, this may work or might not work - at all.  IF your child has a severe allergy, then the harsh reality is that can't always control what others bring and your ability to protect your child from any harm comes first, period.

Option E.  Something I haven't covered?  Maybe an exit strategy when things go south at a holiday event?

5.  Allow your child to have a role and devise a solution.  Let's say you've got a child on the GAPS (gut and psychology syndrome) diet.  You can could be a food enforcer.  Or you could ask the child to help play a larger role in their food decisions and choices.  Let your son look at Pinterest for recipes.  Let them pick out recipe.  Let them find something to eat that they will like and eat.  Let them be part of the solution, if possible.

6.  Talk about the social and emotion feelings.  Everyone likes to feel included, but 'food' can be a thorny issue today and for many of us.  Some kids have a physical reaction to food and that's no fun.  Some kids have a behavioral/neurological reaction to food and that's no fun either.  Many people don't genuinely understand why a child can't just have a little bit of candy or a little bit of Hawaiian Punch to feel part of a group.  Not many parents want to be a pariah over food either.

Not surprisingly, parents and kids often feel the peer pressure with food.  It doesn't make you feel good when others can supposedly guzzle Sunny Delight, for instance, or pop gingerbread cookies into their mouths without any ramifications, it seems.  Yes, it's not fair.  Yes, it seems out of your control.  Yes, it seems like you have faulty or defective genes when others do not.  And yes, it's not an easy path.

I 'get' it.  My husband has Crohn's and yes, recent research has pointed the figure at the Neanderthal gene for causing it.  Moreover three years ago, our 2e son was put on a restrictive diet by a neurofeedback provider - a sort of GAPS/Wahls/Paleo/Feinstein (no grains, dairy, corn, soy, processed food, refined sugars and limits on fruit, yada yada).   Initially, it was a nightmare and daily juggling act.  Yes, food can be a daily grind.  It's not like trying to skip rope which you can avoid on a daily level.

With peer pressure and food, brainstorm the alternatives and options available.  Sometimes you can easily substitute.  Other times creativity is necessary.

7.  Positive reinforcement for healthy food choices and decisions.  Praise the child for taking the time and effort to select a recipe.  Praise the child for taking an active role and making a decision.  

8.  Become a healthy food role model.  Practice what you preach.  Read the labels and find out what the ingredients are.  When a neurofeedback provider put my son on the restrictive diet, I went through my refrigerator and cupboards and either donated food to charity or chucked it out (note: we didn't have a compost bin then!).  I set aside most of my cookbooks.  I googled and googled and googled for recipes.  Now I find recipes on Pinterest instead.  I found healthy substitutions.  In many cases, however, I had to flip our meals and ways of thinking and eating.  But my husband and I both made the conscious decision to become food role models for our 2e son.

9.  Become a healthy food advocate.  When the public library served Hawaiian punch (and junk food) at a children's library event, my 2e son spoke to the children's librarian and suggested that perhaps they could offer something healthier.  Raisins are often served now; previously they had served oreo cookies.

10.  Enjoy the holidays - or at least try to enjoy the holidays.

This is part of the Gifted Homeschooling Forum's blog hop Parenting OEs, 2Es, and Everything in Between  For more of GHF's blog hops, see

Friday, November 28, 2014

Ten Ways on How to Avoid the Buy, Buy, Buy...

Ten Ways on How to Avoid the Buy, Buy, Buy...

Today is Black Friday (Nov. 28, 2014 - the day after Thanksgiving in the US).  It's also notorious for the herd mentality buy, buy, buy day where people are trampled on for latest televisions, computers, and toys.  To me, it's depressing.  

This morning, a BBC article, 'Black Friday': Police Called to Supermarket Crowds, was a bleak read for me.  This day and concept has now spread to the UK (where my husband is from, where I have lived, and my in-laws still live).

So how best to avoid this unfettered materialism run amok??  How to avoid that herd mentality?  How to avoid the emotional tugs of needing the latest and greatest?  

Since the spring/summer, I have been doing much research and reading about zero waste and refining my purge and resistance techniques.  I think I've come up with some ideas.  

1.  Avoid as much media advertisement as possible.  This is easier said than done.  Even in dentist or doctor waiting rooms, there's usually magazines, such as People or Family Fun, with pages chockfull of holiday ads. 

2.  If possible, limit or ban television.  We've been television-free for a little over a year now.  We don't regret it for a second.  My son watches videos online and can successfully avoid being a captive advertiser's victim.  

3.  AVOID shopping malls and big-box retail shops as much as humanly possible (preferably at all times, not just the holidays).  If you actually need to buy some socks for your child/ren, then try to shop when you're pressed for time in one retail store, such as Target, and not subject yourself to impulse buying.  Browse in a library NOT with retail therapy.

4.  Consider shopping at charity, thrift or consignment stores instead of hitting the mall.  If you shop at a charity or thrift store, it's often a double win situation where you and the charity benefits.  You help others and the environment when you shop at charity and thrift stores, as well as your wallet.

5.  Donate to charity.  Clean out the cupboards.  Remove the 'junk' from your home.  Simplify your home and lifestyle.  You'll feel refreshed and invigorated when you do.

6.  Read, listen, or watch about the Zero Waste movement.  Embrace the motto:  refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot.  

7.  Read, listen, or watch The Story of Stuff or about Garbage-ology.  Let's face it.  We all have mounds of stuff in our home.

8.  Visit a museum or attend a cultural event instead of giving a gift.  The Nutcracker Ballet is a popular cultural event during the holidays around my neck of the woods.

9.  Make a gift or create something homemade.  DIY lip balms, lotions, teas, cough drops or anything else.  My grandmother and great-grandmother would knit entire designer Barbie doll collection clothes and accessories for the holidays as well as mittens, hats, scarves, and sweaters.  

10.  Pinterest!!!  Best site for crafts, DIY, hobbies, and anything else.  No one said you had to come up with a flurry of brilliant recipes or ideas for fairy houses.  With Pinterest, however, there are plenty of people who do and then post for others.  So if you are tapped out of ideas or hard pressed for what to do with old sweaters, turn to Pinterest.  You can search under a subject/s (ie. DIY) or for a specific item like no-bake pumpkin cups.   You can also follow someone's board.  You'd be amazed how many cleaver people and cleaver ideas are posted there.  And your wallet will be amazed too. 

This post was written as part of Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop series. Follow Hoagies Gifted on Facebook and join the conversation on how to keep holiday focus on what matters to us. Hop to the next blog in this blog hop clicking on the button below

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kaleidoscope Eyes and the Quantum 2E Revolutions

Kaleidoscope Eyes and the Quantum 2E Revolutions

During the last nine, ten years, it has been dizzying and exhilarating, both for the Gifted Homeschool Forum (GHF) and for me personally with my 2e son.  Since my son was born nine years ago and GHF was founded ten years ago, there have been many quantum leaps.  The sheer volume and variety of educational, technological, and social networking opportunities have been nothing short of astounding.   The changes for 2e children in particular have been nothing short of breathtaking.

Nine, ten years ago, Yahoo support groups were available when GHF was founded and a year later when my son was born.  Fortunately, I found a couple of Yahoo support groups to help me with my son's special needs shortly after he was born.  I needed help and support and I needed it immediately too.  Time has not on my side.  I knew that there had to be at least one other person in the country who had to find specialists, therapists, and treatments.  So I googled.  I then began a search and a very long journey.  And what a journey that it has been.

I cannot begin to tell you how much those Yahoo support groups meant for me personally or ultimately meant for my son.  To find and hear from another mother with a baby in my shoes at the time was priceless.  Since then, I've continued to be a member of one of the Yahoo support groups and offer my support and guidance to others.  I know the emotional pain and journey that many mothers face.  Without that Yahoo support group I would never have found out that there were indeed other mothers like me with a wide range of conflicted emotions and who were struggling to cope and make heads and tails of the situation.  I would never have found the courage to seek or have gotten the help that my son needed.  I would never have found that ONE doctor in the country who doesn't dismiss what mothers like me know and have to say.  I would never have found half the confidence or knowledge in making some of the tough decisions which we made.  A revolution had certainly begun, I thought.

With a Yahoo support group, I had educated myself on my son's special needs from other mothers and became a kind of expert and authority over time by default.  Before my son was born, I had never heard of my son's special needs.  I had no preparation for it.  I had no medical training and I hadn't even taken a science course since high school some 30+ years ago.  Yet here I was:  a new (but older) mother in New York City fielding advice from other mothers across the country (and world) via the internet on how best to treat and manage my son's special needs and find the proverbial needle in the haystack in terms of professionals, therapies, and treatments.  It was simply incredible.

As I had become pregnant with my son in February 2005 (and GHF was was a few months old), YouTube was being founded and another revolution would soon ensue in four to five years when millions of videos and content became downloaded overnight.  Of course, little did I know or even hazard to guess when YouTube came out in February 2005 that I'd have a movie clip of my four-year-old son trying to strum a guitar while watching a YouTube video clip of Luciano Pavarotti and Eric Clapton singing a duet of the song, Holy Mother; the video clip was a recording of the duo which they had performed at a benefit concert in 1996.

With that YouTube video clip (and soon countless others to follow), I witnessed a more accessible, personalized type of learning for my son at home with the internet.  Since my son was born with special needs and was in speech therapy at the time in January 2010, the video clip of Pavarotti and Clapton reached my son in ways that speech therapy could never do.  Music bridged the gap and seemed to work miracles.  My son watched Pavarotti and Clapton intently.  He studied the music, the lyrics, their faces, their body language, their overall demeanor (not to dismiss Clapton's guitar playing!), and everything else it seemed.

At that point in January 2010, my son was four and in a special needs pre-kindergarten program in New York City.  He was not identified as gifted, though he was considered 'bright.'  I had had to enroll him in a special needs pre-kindergarten program after nearly going to court with the New York City Board of Education over his physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Privately, he was receiving vision therapy and feeding therapy (and that's a whole other discussion for another time).

Within a year of my son watching that Pavarotti and Clapton YouTube video clip, though, I had an epiphany.  By then, my son was five years old; we had moved (back) to Massachusetts; we had withdrawn my son from a special needs pre-kindergarten program in a public school and placed him in a private gifted school.  We felt and had 'evidence' of our son being gifted.  We had decided that he needed much more than a special needs pre-kindergarten program could or would ever be able to provide.  At the private gifted school, however, where we had found a slot for my son, the curriculum seemed stuck and suddenly seemed dated to me within a sort time.  The math curriculum consisted of workbooks and rote math facts and drills.  It wasn't too different from the math curriculum that I had experienced as a child over 35+ years ago.

At home my son had been intently watching video clips from PBS's Cyberchase and picking up far more advanced mathematical terms and concepts than what was being covered in the private gifted school.  I knew then that life had fundamentally changed and my son would be part of a groundbreaking generation.  Although Sesame Street was televised soon after I was born and millions had viewed man's first step on the moon, the ability to travel virtually and metaphysically across time and space with digital technology seemed to come at warp speed and was unlike any previous generation had ever experienced as little ones.  Even more staggering, my son's generation's is able to digitally connect with others and not be solely passive recipients to technology.

Today, my 2e son is being un/homeschooled and the educational opportunities seem endless.  Ten years ago, there was no iPod, no iPhone, no iPad, no Facebook, no Minecraft, no Khan, no Ted-Ed or TEDx, no edX, and no World Science U, of course: no nothing it seems now in hindsight! Though my son is an avid, voracious reader, his learning is not restricted to the printed word or a textbook or a set curriculum.  If he likes, he can take a GHF course, watch a BBC documentary, or find out how to make volcanoes with Pinterest.  If he wants to learn how to speak Icelandic or about the history of indigenous Torres Strait Islanders, he can.  He can learn at his own pace and rate.  He can follow his interests.  His learning has become more three-dimensional.  It's more personal and individualized.  At the moment, such learning would be impossible in a public or private school in our neck of the woods.

Such learning also would not have been so easy or effortless ten years ago or without GHF's help. Before I could even to contemplate un/homeschooling my son, I had to google again and find support groups.  I had to hear from other parents, especially mothers, that I wasn't totally crazy.  I needed to hear from another mother that: 1) I could un/homeschool my son and not totally lose my mind and 2) potentially address the special needs more effectively and efficiently by un/homeschooling and didn't necessarily need an army of therapists or teachers/tutors either.

Since I started un/homeschooling three years ago, I've been educating myself on giftedness with GHF's help and have become skilled at my son's giftedness too.  I've found other 2e mothers and gained an amazing amount of knowledge and insight from them.  I've had the comfort of knowing that GHF is there and that there have been others who have been through a similar journey or more like journeys.  I can spot the traits of giftedness and know the many struggles that mothers often face: the identification journey, the public/private school journey, and the social/emotional journey.

If I ever get stuck with finding educational opportunities, needing support, or finding a child like my son, GHF is there.  If I need a grain-free food recipe suggestion, a therapy tip, or a DIY craft or bar of soap, GHF connects me with Pinterest and numerous resources.  If I need to find a professional to consult, GHF provides a social network or a list or a contact.  If I ever need to link a parent's face to their words, GHF's Facebook page is there.  In this respect, GHF is actually improving my life and no doubt the lives of many other people as well.  It's really an exciting time to un/homeschool and be a part of GHF.  Viva la quantum 2e revolutions!

This is part of the Gifted Homeschooling Forum's Tenth Year Anniversary and blog hop Finding Your  For more of GHF's blog hops, see

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Strong Willed Child, Limit Testing, and Why Giftedness Matters

The Strong Willed Child, Limit Testing, and Why Giftedness Matters?

When most people hear the word gifted, they often think in terms of academic achievement and high scores on standardized tests or the externally motivated, high achiever, perfectionist.  They don't usually think in terms of the strong willed child or the limit testing that gifted or 2e kids can do.

Not every child who is gifted is strong willed and not every strong willed child is gifted.  However, being strong willed (aka stubborn) is a characteristic of being gifted or 2e.  I'd say it's more a marker than any standardized test.  And, let's face it.  How many strong willed kids are never identified as being gifted or 2e because they, well, don't cooperate, aren't willing to please others, or score high enough on standardized academic achievement tests to be identified as gifted or 2e???   Probably many.  And that's a travesty because these kids have so very much to offer once you figure out what makes them tick and can see the strong willed for what it is:  a gift (one, not always cherished by parents admittedly).

Who are these kids and how do you know you have one?  Why does this combination of being strong willed, limit testing, and giftedness matter so much?  Well, for one, these kids are challenging and are often labelled as __(fill in the blank here with your favorite term or mis/diagnosis) by parents, siblings, schools, doctors, specialists, therapists, and other professionals.  To put it mildly, they're not exactly a barrel of laughs to live with.  The outbursts or tornado explosives can be daily and equivalent to a gale force five.  Handle with care and the warning 'detonative material' would not go amiss.  In a word, these kids are:   INTENSE.

The carrot and stick approach doesn't work here.  Rewards and punishments don't really either.  Forget the behavior chart or much of anything in terms of what works with more compliant children.  The strong willed child may indeed do algebra at home within nanoseconds and without any prompting or input from you, but be the same child who refuses to cooperate with being tested and pretends to barely add or subtract with their fingers with a standardized test.  You don't know if you should laugh, scream, kill the kid, or do all or nothing in the end.

The strong willed child may tell a teacher that they don't need them or anyone else to learn because they simply can do it on their own accord.  They beat to a different drum.  They're intrinsically motivated.  Standard methods of motivating a child do not apply here.  If they're not invested or see the benefits in cleaning their room or brushing their teeth, then they're not motivated to do anything.

Most significantly, the word no does not mean much to these kids.  The word no could mean yes or maybe to them.  It could be misinterpreted with your voice and demeanor.  To them, if you didn't spell out the bottom, repercussions, or consequences then you could say no numerous times to these kids but nothing sinks in or matters.

These kids often learn by doing and/or natural consequences.  Firm limits and action are often better rather than words.  Say what you mean, mean what you say and carry through with action.

And then, there's the questioning.  These kids seem to question everything.  They question your authority and every adult they encounter.  And numerous times per day, every day, every week, every month, every year.  There can be no end to their questioning of authority, of rules.  The police.  Yes, even the police, they question their authority.  Who put them in charge anyway and who made up these stinking rules?  And who would be in their right mind to agree or submit to them?

Put simply, these kids are often regarded as the defiant, rebellious, resistant, noncompliant, nonconformist, oppositional ones.  They do not represent the 90% of kids in public schools who want to please the teacher and comply with what is being asked.  And yet, ask many public school teachers who they would rather have: a complaint, cooperative, bright, high achieving, perfectionist child or a noncompliant, uncooperative, bright, under achieving child.  Many times, they'll say the later because they can see the spark, the potential.

The real differences though, I think, with a gifted child who is strong willed (and this depends on the level of giftedness, of course, and any other factors or special needs), are the levels of persistence, intensity, and amplitude with their behavior.  Nonetheless, these kids are born leaders and original thinkers and not simply followers.  With time, these kids may be more amenable and receptive to being a temporarily, or at least tolerate it, but it's not in their nature, or nurture, to follow.

Some of the greatest minds and talented people were strong willed children once.  And somehow, they lived and survived.  That's not to say it was easy or wasn't World War III at times at home or with un/homeschooling for you.  Can you imagine being the parent/s of Steve Jobs?

There are many books and websites that cover strong willed children.  Pick up one of the latest books, Setting Limits with your Strong-Willed Child by Robert MacKenzie, at your local public library and grin at the references to limit testing being described as data collecting and researching like I did.  If nothing else, you'll see that being strong willed is actually normal and that your child may be within the range of normal too.

This is part of the Gifted Homeschooling Forum's Blog Hop on Why Giftedness Matters?

Friday, July 4, 2014

What Can Gifted Homeschooling Forum's Groups Do For You?

What Can Gifted Homeschooling Forum's Group Do For You?

About a month ago, Gifted Homeschooling Forum (GHF) came out with groups. Members are able to join.  That's the best darn deal you'll ever find for $24.  Money well worth spent and to a good cause to boot.

Here's some reasons why you should support GHF and try out their groups:

1.  You live in a city and/or state where giftedness isn't mandated.  It can be very challenging to near impossible to find other gifted or 2e kids or parents if you live in such a state, unless your child attends a private school.  Even then, it can be difficult to meet other gifted or 2e kids or parents because everyone seems so busy today.  If you're un/homeschooling, you may find a few gifted or 2e kids around but perhaps you still don't feel your needs or your child's needs are being met?  Then what?  I say that's when you turn to a Gifted Homeschooling Forum group.

2.  You live in a rural or remote area in the US.  Again, this is another very challenging situation where you may face great difficulty finding another gifted or 2e kid/parent.  GHF has groups based on regions for the US.  I live in MA, but have found others who are un/homeschooling with gifted and/or 2e kids in New England.

3.  You live outside the US with a gifted or 2e child.  GHF supports a worldwide audience.  There are groups for all corners of the world.  A GHF group can really help families who live temporarily overseas or permanently reside outside the US.  

4.  You've got a profoundly gifted (pg) child or 2e/pg child.  These kids are, well, rare.  In some places, you're able to find one or two or more around.  In other places, you don't.  Then, your pg or 2e/pg child may be a mathy or a budding astronomer, but it might be impossible to find anyone remotely interested in these topics or subjects like your child is or to the depth and breadth of them.  This is when you scream HELP and join a GHF group.

5.  You've got an early college student or potentially one.  Some states may be more welcoming than others to navigate with early college kids.  On the other hand, it's nice to feel you're not alone in this situation.  There's always someone here who knows the ropes and how to go through the hoops and process with an early college student.  The GHF early college group can help ease your anxieties and give guidance and/or support.

6.  What about the elephant in the room?  Those social-emotional challenges we deal with EVERYDAY.  Let's face it.  Raising a gifted or 2e child isn't always easy.  There are days when you desperately need to connect to that one person who really understands and 'gets' it.  Everyone needs a shoulder to cry on. 

6.  What if you're un/homeschooling a gifted or 2e child who's into sports or you've got curriculum questions or have a gifted or 2e child who's in the awkward middle childhood stage?  There are GHF support groups for you.

8.  What if you don't see any GHF groups that meet your needs?  Easy.  Create one!  Initially, there wasn't a group for the MA/RI or southern New England region.  I created one.  

So why would you join one of these groups and not just post something on Facebook or through the Yahoo Group page?  
a) PRIVACY.   You can send a private message to someone in a group.  Yes, you could do this with Facebook or Yahoo, but these GHF groups are more specific to a region, subject, or topic.  So they're more targeted.   They're perhaps more precise and relevant to your search.
b) They're more manageable and easier to use.
c) They're fun!!!

This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum blog hop Gifted Parenting (

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ditch the Worksheets, Become a Picasso, a Kindergartener, and a Gifted@play!

Ditch the Worksheets, Become a Picasso, a Kindergartener and a Gifted@Play!

A huge outpouring of research and literature has been coming out on the importance of play and how it is essential to creativity, the arts and science, one's well being, and so forth.  From Richard Louv's ( work on children playing in the woods and getting back in touch with nature to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's ( older (but seminal) work on flow and creativity much ink has been spilled.  Yet even years ago, there were gifted trailblazers like Elizabeth Palmer Peabody who believed in the importance of play in the 19th century and based their life's work on it (my blog post for open source -

ps.  in case you're not familiar with her, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was the sister-in-law of author Nathaniel Hawthorne and educator Horace Mann who often overshadowed her.  She was a gifted child and adult who became an author, bookseller, publisher, educator, a Transcendentalist, and a friend to the Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Alcott family.

Few things make my blood boil than seeing Elizabeth Palmer Peabody's original mission and concept of kindergarten go up in flames with standardized testing and worksheeting children to death.  Today, she must be rolling over in her grave.  Her whole life's calling of bringing Friedrich Frobel's ( original concept of kindergarten (or children's garden) seem gone.  Both Frobel and Peabody advocated that: 1) humans are creative beings and 2) play is the engine of real learning.  Both ideals seem naive and redundant with standardized testing.  And yet, Frobel and Peabody believed that play was not idle behavior but served biological purposes: to discover how things work and to help create meaning from their experiences.  

This might be shocking but Elizabeth Palmer Peabody ( believed that each child should receive an education appropriate to their innate capabilities.  She believed in the intuitive nature of knowledge and that such knowledge had to be drawn out rather than imposed on children.  These were radical ideas in the 19th and some would continue to find them as radical ideas today.

What is particularly striking when you compare Frobel and Peabody's work on education (as well as the research and literature on the importance to play) and today's emphasis on standardized testing is how far they differ.  Standardized tests are convergent; so are IQ tests.  These involve solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer.  Worksheets and the drill-and-kill approach are examples of convergent thinking.  For divergent thinking, by contrast, think Picasso, The Muppets or old school Sesame Street, the movie Hotel Transylvania, the Captain Underpants or Horrible Histories series, work by Richard Scarry or Roald Dahl - the 'way out there' stuff.

Then again, you might just read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1996) (  Though it's a bit dated, Csikszentmihalyi conducted a large-scale study on 91 creative individuals who became eminent in their fields including some Nobel Prize winners.  Ravi Shankar, Madeleine L'Engle, Freeman Dyson, Linus Pauling, Jonas Salk, Benjamin Spock, and many others were included in the study.  Many such creative individuals are now dead but they were true innovators and/or highly influential in their domain.

Csikszentmihalyi pioneered the field of creativity and flow and what he found is especially relevant for gifted parents and kids: 

1.  All creative individuals remained childlike for life.  The sense of wonder, the sense of play stayed.  The feeling of awe stayed too.  The intense curiosity never went away, even if one was 90 years old.  Please gifted parents, keep this point in mind!!!

2.  The parents of Ravi Shankar and others did not push their children to study.  The child's spontaneous interest led to the involvement.  IF the parents had pushed or been more directive, it's very likely that the child's interest would have flagged and then evaporated.
3.  Interestingly, school had very little effect.  Many in the study had no memory of a special relationship with a teacher.  Many, too, were not identified as being gifted in school and/or as children.
4.  There is no single way to teach a domain or a subject.  Instead, there are numerous ways to learn.  Intrinsic motivation and rewards were/are key to learning.
5.  New ideas, new discoveries, new ways of thinking, new patterns, new relationships come from mind wandering and doing what you love.  Filling out a worksheet isn't normally something a child loves, but is often busyness and not conducive to creativity.

Csikszentmihalyi looked at creativity across the life span and with gifted kids in his Davidson article ( which parents might consider reading too.

More recently, Sir Ken Robinson ( supports some of Csikszentmihalyi's ideas on creativity and goes further by saying schools are killing creativity.  He champions a radical rethink on educational systems across the globe to help nurture creativity in the digital age.   He doesn't believe we should keep the status quo or continue worksheeting children to death.  Instead, he values letting a child play, be curious and creative, make discoveries, and find their passion and calling in life.

When we think about becoming a Picasso, a Leonardo da Vinci or a gifted@play, we might consider that to be a creative genius you often have to be at the crossroads of the arts and the sciences.  Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination and fantasy with a dose of reality.  You need the openness, passion, and rebelliousness of a mad artist or a Picasso and the playfulness, innocence, energy, and humbleness of a kindergartener.  And you don't need just one idea, you need many.  As Leonardo da Vinci's drawings and work remind us:  the sciences and the arts were not mutually exclusive to Renaissance humanists.  Leonardo's artistic work was as impressive and innovative as his studies in science and engineering.  Today, everyone seems to be leaping on the role and impact of science but neglect the role and impact of the arts in the process.

And yet what drives creative people like Leonardo da Vinci or Robert Ballard to the bottom of the ocean for the RMS Titanic, is curiosity and a burning desire to know.  They are truth seekers.  They want to know.  They want to find the answers to their questions.

Famed paleoanthropologist Maeve Leakey summed it best, "exploration is an obsession.  The more I discover, the more I want to know."  In 1999 Leakey made discovery in Lake Turkana, Kenya that completely changed the understanding of early human ancestry.  With her field and lab work, Maeve Leakey earned an international reputation in paleoanthropology, long a male-dominated speciality.  From an early age, she had been fascinated by animal life, collected insects, and explored tidal pools with the encouragement of her father.  She had planned to study marine zoology, but the 1960s there were no jobs open to women.  Instead, her curiosity was piqued by advertisement in The Times of London by renowned paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey looking for a young zoology graduate to work near him.  She was soon off to East Africa.  How her life would be so different if she didn't stay a kindergartener at heart.

Parents of gifted kids, please take heed.

This is a blog post for Hoagie's Gifted@Play blog hop.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Stickiness of the G-Word and the (2e) School Dance

The Stickiness of the G-Word and the (2e) School Dance

I don't know if you've ever dealt with the stickiness of the g-word and the (2e) school dance, but I have recently and it reminded me why it can be so awkward, difficult, and uncomfortable with a 2e child.  It's that moment when you tend to avert your eyes and want to disappear.

What am I exactly talking about here?  When I meet other parents at a playground or elsewhere, the discussion usually involves identifying our children and their current educational status: what school (public or private) they attend (or un/homeschool in our case).  Within minutes, there's often a discussion on the school, teachers, curriculum, and so on and how the child's current educational status is panning out.  I usually am on the receiving end of such discussions since I un/homeschool now and, as a result, have considerable flexibility and leeway with my son's education.

Usually, most parents (at least where I live) avoid using the G-word.  In fact, Massachusetts is one of two states that does not recognize giftedness.  There is no state mandate.  There is zero state funding for giftedness.  So the G-word is automatically a sticky word since the state doesn't acknowledge it and therefore doesn't set any definition, standards, or guidelines on it.

Only a handful of public schools in Massachusetts acknowledge the G-word.  Brookline Public Schools, for instance, concedes that there are gifted children, but they do not formally identify students as "gifted and talented" for placement in a separate program as it's considered part of the regular Brookline curriculum.  In Framingham, there is a classroom integration and pull-out enrichment program, but it very likely doesn't address all levels of giftedness or twice exceptional (2e) students well.  More significantly, however, in order for a child to enter such program, they usually have to qualify for one.

Though other states acknowledge the G-Word, they usually make their own definition, standards, and guidelines for students to meet.  On this point, Scott Barry Kaufman wrote an excellent article on who is currently identified as gifted in United States (

Standardized tests and IQ, unfortunately, remain supreme in identifying giftedness.  When we were living in New York City, the gifted and talented test included the OLSAT and Bracken Readiness tests.
Truth be told, before we moved (back) to MA and we were living in New York City, my son took the gifted and talented test at age 4 and did not qualify for the program.  He was a special needs student then in an integrated pre-kindergarten student at a publicly funded school.  The gifted and talented test was free and, at that point, I was heading to arbitration with the NYC Board of Education concerning my son's future educational placement for kindergarten.  I had a hunch (ok, really more than a hunch) that he was a special needs child who was gifted or twice exceptional (2e) and it was going to be a serious challenge to find an appropriate school for him.  We'd looked at special needs schools, such as Churchill, Gillen Brewer, and others but it looked bleak and this was partly why we moved back to Massachusetts: for our son's education, though we didn't bargain on it involving the G-word at the time.

When we moved back to Massachusetts from New York City shortly after the gifted and talented test, my son was a special needs student in a pre-kindergarten program in a public school and was not identified as a gifted or as being twice exceptional.  As a special needs student, our son was tested at grade level on cognitive tests by the public school.  The public school wanted to keep our son in the special needs for another year of pre-kindergarten because as I mentioned most children with late birthdays are redshirted and because he was exhibiting ADHD-like and PDD-like symptoms.  But we had signs at home that our son needed a gifted education.

 In Massachusetts, private schools have largely shoulder the gifted population; Hoagies' Gifted page is a great resource to find such schools (  With my son, we were very fortunate that my parents paid for him to attend two of the schools listed here.  But we were less fortunate that neither school could accommodate my son and herein lies more stickiness with the G-word.

We actually did not know how gifted our son was until we had placed him in the first private gifted school listed on Hoagies' Gifted page for the remainder of pre-kindergarten.  Many parents don't know how gifted their child is until they are put in such an environmental setting (private gifted school or equivalent) and presented with a 'gifted education.'  You just don't always know how a child, especially a young child, is going to respond or react.  Five-year-olds can be unpredictable!  Needless to say, we were quite surprised when the first private gifted school informed us that they could not longer accommodate our son because he accelerated too quickly.  Great.

What's not widely acknowledge within the gifted world, or general population at large, is that there is no effective one-size-fits-all mode of education.  First, only a miniscule scattering of schools across the country can address the needs of extreme giftedness or twice exceptional kids like my son (  And second, (private or public) schools, by their nature, are designed to met a hypothetical average based on a neurotypical developing child for each grade and subject.  My son was at a loss on both counts.

Schools are not based on outliers.  On a large scale, such as with the public school system, it's inefficient and perhaps impossible to create curricula tailored to meet the individual needs of each student.  On a small scale, it's perhaps possible to create curricula but then there are other variables that are often forgotten in the mix which a gifted or twice exceptional parent has to contend with: what the curricula actually entails, the way the curricula is presented (ie. linear and sequential?), the special needs, the other students, and on and on.  So many of these variables are not in a parent or child's control.  Public or private schools may work great if your child matches the school's curriculum or is willing to tolerate it, but it's less than satisfactory if your child comes home from school with stomachaches, headaches, depression, or other complaints of psychosomatic symptoms each day.

Worse, our current educational system and focus on standardized tests does little to nothing to foster passion, creativity, or what interests children as Scott Barry Kaufman and others have said (  And yet, what children learn best is what interests them, what they want and need to know at a particular point and time.  Gifted, twice exceptional or not.  But that's not how most schools operate.  Though public and private curricula varies, there's still usually a developmental sequence of skills that's adhered -- addition and subtraction precede multiplication and division, for instance.  There's still usually a teacher who leads or directs the instruction of educational material on what they students should learn.  And while many private gifted schools are willing to accelerate a child ahead a couple of grades or more, they're less willing to accelerate a child five grades or more across every subject or even delve far and wide in a particular 'esoteric' subject as a child may like.

What's a gifted or 2e parent to do?  Well, if you live in MA, you might try the public or private schools before un/homeschooling or you might just cut the chase.

Here it is!  The long-awaited logo for the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop for May 2014!

cid:CB0A429C-BF57-4632-92E5-EA77310A681AThis blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”).  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Steps for dealing with anxiety, feelings/emotions, and your 2e child

This is part of part of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum third blog hop of the year - Promoting Health and Wellness in the Gifted/2E Child


Disclaimer: I am a parent of a 2e son; I don't have a medical or psychology degree or anything remotely connected to it unless a history or library degree counts.  However, I have dealt with anxiety on my own and lately with my 8-yr-old 2e son.  I was also raised by parents were emotionally challenged and never entirely understood.  My 2e father and sister are on the Autism Spectrum and, as a result, still have a very difficult time expressing their feelings and emotions to me or anyone.  So I say: ignore addressing emotions to your peril.

A lot of this blog covers dialogues, interactions, ways to talk to and listen to your children.  If you're familiar with the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk then you'll get it. If you're not familiar with the book and need some guidance, then you might pick up a copy at your local library or elsewhere.

1.  Anxiety.  The first step is the hardest and wouldn't classify as the simple part, I think.  You, dear parent, have to come to grips with your own anxiety and perfectionism.  You have to deal with your own dirty laundry and garbage, which most people consciously want to avoid!  There's cognitive behavioral therapy.  There are books, such as David Burns's The Feeling Good Handbook ( or Edmund Bourne's The Anxiety & Phobia Handbook (

We live in anxious times.  There are tiger parents, helicopter parents, and so forth who seem to circle like anxiety vultures and usually only too eager to impart unwelcomed comments, suggestions, and advice.  Then, there's the lackluster (or toilet) economy.  It's feast or famine with jobs, it seems.  Some pay but require ungodly hours and devotion.  Others, well, don't pay.  Medical benefits are great if they're included with employment, but it's a frigging nightmare if you've got none or close to none with any you may have.  Generally speaking, the 'traditional' route to improving one's socioeconomic standards (ie. hard work and high achievement in a high performing, test happy school) is no longer a guarantee of future employment or material success.  What's an anxious parent to do, but worry?

a)  Anxiety/wellness - symptoms, sleep, diet, and exercise - I'm not forgetting!!!  I'll just leave that for another blog/s or for someone else at the moment.  There's enough here.

2.  Identify feelings.  If you accept the reality that we live in anxious times, how does that make you feel?  Glad, mad, or sad?  IF your child has a meltdown, does it make you feel glad, mad, or sad?  Or how does a meltdown make your child feel - glad, mad, sad, or bad?  Today, there are plenty of prompts, books and ways to help your 2e child identify their feelings.  Help your child.  A smiley face is a visual example of happiness or being glad :).  A red piece of paper may indicate a child is mad!

3.  Validate feelings.  Yes, I can blow my top when my son has a meltdown.  Put a check in the mad column.  When my son has a meltdown, he doesn't make him feel too good about himself either.  Put a check in the sad and bad columns for him.  Let's think about this for a minute.  A meltdown doesn't make you feel good.  I don't like getting mad.  I don't like seeing my son get sad or feel bad about himself.  Still, it happens.  And a child needs to know that these feelings are normal to have.  They're going to come and go.   Today there are cards, games, songs, and numerous ways for kids to validate their feelings if they're having trouble articulating or expressing them.

4.  Share/express feelings.  Try putting your feelings into words, drawings, or music.  For a younger child or one is struggles verbally, even a simple gesture such as thumbs up or down can go a long way to help a child share how they're feeling.  Or perhaps a particular song captures the words and feelings for a child that they're unable to articulate.  IF a particular song seems to work, try to found why.  The point here is to identify your feelings, validate them, and then consciously express them to yourself and/or others as possible.  Easier said than done.  Most of us don't really want to connect to our inner feelings and thoughts.  And you get forget about feeling like you're getting naked and revealing your innermost being.  Yet we expect kids to do this without some help and not wobble.  

a) If you've got a persistent case or feel the potential for one, you might find a chart for dysfunctional thoughts or decide to make a daily record of them.


5.  Too negative feelings + too negative thoughts = (doo doo).  Too much (doo doo) and well, we know the results.  You do NOT feel good about yourself.  You feel like doo doo.  Too much of that and you'll topple and spin out of control.  I don't think anyone likes feeling out of control.  The trick here is recognizing how to avert that toppling and point where you're about to go over the edge.  A two-year-old isn't capable of doing that and it's debatable how many eight-year-olds like my 2e son are either.  Let's get real here.  Many adults struggle with this too.

a) Scale.  A good way to tackle the onslaught of negative feelings and/or overreactions is to have a 5-point or 10-point rating system.  If you spill milk on the kitchen table, that may be a one or a .5.  Yes, I don't like spilling my dairy-free milk or cleaning up the mess either, but it's really minor in the grand scale of things and doesn't warrant a 5 response (though a child may feel like it does).  

Here, it's worth bearing in mind that many actions and decisions in life are reversible.  Most things are not etched in stone.  Even when things are etched in stone or irreversible, such as death, we can learn to cope with it as best we can.

b) IF a child's emotional needs are not being met and you're concerned about depression, don't hesitate to consult or see a professional.  Everyone has the blues and down days but too much negative feelings and thoughts can veer into depression and be a real cause for concern with 2e kids.  Children who are unable to express their feelings may externalize them with emotional eating, for example, when they're depressed or self-mutilation.  Marianne Kuzujanakis has a great SENG article about this topic and I'm very grateful to her for it because I was able to identify psychosomatic symptoms with my son when he was in a private gifted school and his needs were not being met.  I'm now un/homeschooling and the psychosomatic symptoms have disappeared.

SENG article - (

6. Reframe the distorted negative thoughts.  Instead of the negative what ifs and catastrophizing, it's a case of I'll learn how; I can do it; I'll do my best.  Counter the negative self thoughts with positive ones.

7.  Good feelings + good thoughts = calmness.  Of course, we, as adults, know that lemons can be made into lemonade.  We can turn a negative feeling or thought into a positive or see a bright side.  Many 2e children, however, struggle with this because their imaginations can run wild and they can dreamt up every unlikely possibility it seems.  

8.  Calmness.  If you're calm, you're less anxious.  As adults, we usually know how to calm ourselves down.  We take a walk, go for a run, ride a bike, rake, or do some physical exercise. We might bake, draw, squeeze a ball, or do something with our hands.  We might listen to music so we keep the peace in our heads.  We might watch a video or go into our bedroom/bathroom and close the door so we don't have to (physically) look at our child for a few minutes.  We might self-talk to ourselves.  We might do some heavy breathing for a few minutes.  We might lie down somewhere and close our eyes.  

A child doesn't necessarily know these calming tricks or is aware of them.  Or they just haven't reached the self-help and social/emotional milestones and developments.  Other times, it's harder due to exceptionalities.  So, with some 2e kids (and my son has been one of them), they can quickly wind themselves up but have no idea how to unwind themselves or how to stay on a more even emotional keel.  

A 2e child can be INTENSE.  Some 2e kids are super sensitive, emotional, overexcitable, and lack those internal switches or wiring to keep themselves calm.  I know.  I do know from experience.  Weighted blankets, Epsom bath salts, fidgety toys, trampolines, and many other do-dads I'll call them can help to calm 2e kids.  Keep experimenting until your child finds their inner peace and calm.  Sensory integration disorder books can provide guidance on helping to calm a child.  Occupational therapists who have training and experience with 2e kids or sensory integration can help too.  My son was born with severe sensory processing disorder and spent five years in occupational therapy, including three years in a sensory gym.  

As difficult as it is at times, try to view these emotional sensitivities and overexcitabilites as assets rather than as (negative) deficits.  I know, I can see the eye rolling now.  But let's put this in perspective.

Can we name any adults who are emotional sensitive and overexcitable and yet have done wonderful things in life?  I'll start (in no particular order here): Roald Dahl, Dav Pilkey (author of Captain Underpants), chef Gordon Ramsay, Steven Spielberg, Elton John, John Lennon - for the boys; Jane Goodall, Mary Leakey (paleoanthropologist), chef Rachel Ray, Grace Lin (writer), Tina Fey (humorist), Geena Davis (actress) - for the girls.  I'm sure you can come up with a list too.

Half the battle here with a 2e child is getting them to recognize their feelings and when they're getting anxious.
This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum third blog hop of the year - Promoting Health and Wellness in the Gifted/2E Child  (blog hop).