Friday, February 14, 2014

Six Ways to Stay Motivated Un/Homeschooling With a 2e and Not Totally Lose It

How to Stay Motivated Un/Homeschooling with a 2e and Not Totally Lose It

1.  Cost-benefit analysis or reality check.  I do this nearly every day.  I remind myself the reasons why I'm un/homeschooling:  I've run out of alternative options.  I did not initially set out to un/homeschool my son.  I am un/homeschooling by default.  This is a least-worst case scenario situation.  My son's been in public schools and private schools.  That's it.

IF my son were in school (private or public), he would be considered an underachiever or lazy.  He is intrinsically motivated, not externally motivated by rewards and punishments.  He is a divergent, independent thinker.  He is a leader and definitely not a follower.  He doesn't think linearly or always follow directions.  He finds his own solutions and makes his own theories up.

With un/homeschooling, I can cater to his visual spatial strengths ( and concentrate on the positives.  He can be wildly creative.  He can break the mold and work in unconventional ways.  He can be beat to a different drum and not be penalized.  The fiery fluctuations in mood, sensory overloads, and restrictive diet are not going away but they can be managed more effectively or at least that's the goal.  I don't have to contend with the psychosomatic conditions (headaches, sleepless nights, depression) associated with an educational misfit either.

Schools, by their nature, are designed to shepherd students into schools of thought and into rote-based, sequential work.  They're designed to provide structure and order.  They're not designed for solitary thinkers or rebels.  They're not designed to deal with  flashes of more intuitive, irrational thought.  Except for perhaps some, schools are not designed with highly spatial, creative abilities in mind; they're designed for kids who think in words, not in images.  Moreover, emotionally sensitive and high strung kids are usually viewed as problems rather than assets at schools.

NOTE:  I'm not trying to beat up on schools or teachers.  I taught history as an adjunct instructor at a community college and state college as well as briefly at a public high school.  I'm just speaking from experience here and talking about the reality of public education in general.

2.  Define terms yourself.  How do you define your child?  Do you try to turn what's often seen as negative traits into positive traits?  If not, I would encourage you do so.  Help your child view themselves in positive terms with un/homeschooling.

With the vast majority of schools (either public or private), the child is expected to fit and adhere to the curriculum rather than the other way around.  Schools, policymakers, or a school committee make the decision on what books children read, what curriculum to use and follow, what the frameworks or objectives are for each subject in each grade, and how much and what types of technology are used in the classroom.  Choice?  Not much.  With un/homeschooling, it's the opposite situation.

The beauty about un/homeschooling with a 2e child is that you can create a curriculum (or free yourself from one) and environment that caters to them.  You have a lot of latitude.  If your child is a visual spatial learner, you are free to watch Ted Talk videos, for instance.  If your child balks with rote-based learning, you can switch to more project-based learning or go unschooling instead.  The world is your oyster.  So if halfway through the year, you find yourself in a grind:  Change course.  Take a break.  Try something else.  Don't bang your head.

What is the definition of gifted or un/homeschooling?  It's not as straightforward as you think.  Some people can get hung up on the differences or ranges within the un/homeschooling world.  To me, that's not important.  To me, what's important is taking care of my son to the best of my ability that I can.  That's my priority.  

3.  Define or redefine routine or plan.  I have basically been scheduling or planning my life, and thus my son's education, around various therapies and appointments.  That's one of the reasons why I laughed at the question of how to stay motivated with homeschooling: treating my son's special needs is partly my motivation.  It's a maternal drive thing.

Oh, yea, I have more academic plans and expectations of my son with un/homeschooling.  I do expect him to a read at least every day, maybe 15-30 minutes tops, on a mutually agreed upon book.  I don't think this is arduous or an unrealistic expectation.  Most days my son cooperates.  Some days he does not.  He's got other plans.

Do I wobble or panic about my son not cooperating with reading or doing more 'schoolwork'?  No.  I say to myself: eventually he will take responsibility for his own learning and become more self-directed.  Give him time.  Give yourself a break.  Don't bang your head.

4.  Think in terms of development and keep notes.  Every time I think I'm not doing enough or somehow failing my child with un/homeschooling him, I remind myself of the gains he's made since September.  I keep some track of what he reads and writes.  I keep some track of any educational videos or games he watches, for instance. I keep some track of what he's doing for English, math, science, history, art, and music for myself and the local school department.  I try to keep some track of this information in a wiki.  It helps to look back at these lists (or quick mental lists) when I'm feeling blue, feeling anxious, or incompetent.

Every time I have a panic attack on my son's social/emotional development with un/homeschooling, I run through the list - which the public schools tend to ignore.  My son's not suicidal.  He's not depressed.  He has some down days, but those don't stack up like chips anymore.  He doesn't have to deal with bullies at school.  He sleeps!  He's not waking up in the middle of the night either.  He doesn't have stomachaches or headaches.  He can take recess any time and go to the bathroom any time and without a permission slip.  He doesn't have to deal with fire drills or loud announcements.  Most importantly, he's usually happy.  He often skips or dances around the house if he's particularly happy.  And that's what really makes un/homeschooling worthwhile.  To see that utter joy and contentment that spills out of one tiny little body.  It's bliss.  Sorry, but screw the academics!  What's more important?

5.  Survey Technique.  Sometimes I do a quick stock take.  In other words, I ask myself are people going to judge my son based on whether he is un/homeschooled or whether he is a kind, caring, and compassionate person.  I remind myself that the latter should be the case (hopefully) and that who cares when he's twenty-five years old whether he's been un/homeschooled.  I also remind myself how many famous people have been un/homeschooled (or should have been!) - a laundry list here.

6.  Take care of yourself.  I have to take care of myself and be careful not to burn out or get overwhelmed or frustrated too much.  Exercise.  Journal.  Join a support group.  Meet other un/homeschoolers.  Take breaks.  Find creative outlets.  Find how to restore your inner peace and calmness.  Learn new things.  Explore.  Discover.  Dream.  Don't doubt yourself or your abilities.  Don't bang your head against a wall.  Forgive yourself for raising your voice or tearing your hair out. Remind yourself that you are human and make mistakes.  Protect your sanity!!!

This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum first blog hop of the year - Staying Motivated throughout the Homeschool Year
 (blog hop).


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How Breakfast With the Beatles Helps Restore My Sanity

How Breakfast With the Beatles Helps Restore My Sanity

Every Sunday, or nearly, we eat breakfast while listening to the radio program: Breakfast With the Beatles on Boston's 100.7 WZLX ( and it helps restore my sanity.  That may seem dumb, but it's not to me.  Each week I look forward to this show: the music and the fascinating tidbits of information that are imparted by the local deejay.

This may sound corny, but I feel like Breakfast With the Beatles enables me to metaphysically travel to another place, time, and space.  It's a radio program.  How many people today actually sit down in the house and listen to an hour-long radio program?  Well, we do.  And we do it every week.  What's more, I didn't grow up with the Beatles and neither did my husband.  We weren't even fans of the Beatles growing up.  

Breakfast With the Beatles takes me to a time when life wasn't so frenetic or at least didn't seem so.  It takes me back to images of my grandparents growing up during the Depression and listening to radio programs.  It takes me back to a time when there was less technology in people's daily lives.  It takes me back to England, my husband's homeland, and to Lancashire, my ancestral roots, and the irresistible Scouse accent.  It puts me in a different frame of mind, even if it's only temporary.  I can daydream.  I can pretend.  Or perhaps fool myself into thinking I'm 'normal' and part of a majority.

On Sunday morning, we don't try to hurry about or at least not for an hour or so.  We (ie. husband, son, and me) sit down and eat egg-banana pancakes (two eggs, one banana) or scrambled eggs and homemade sausages.  We try to eat leisurely.  We try to focus on the moment and the positive; not on the negative or what needs to be or to get done.  We forget about the specialists, the therapies, the various appointments, what our son is or is not doing or is supposed to be doing, and everything else that seems to consume our lives during the week.  We take a time out.  We just let it be.

February 9, 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Neither my husband or I watched the show then.  We weren't even born yet, though my husband's sister was.  An estimated 73 million Americans tuned in, the largest ever for a TV show at the time.

Today, we don't even have a television in our house.  We got rid of our television.  So it's not possible to watch such a program unless it's online.  Ok, so 98% of Americans still own and watch television (  I don't care if I'm in the 2%.  In fact, I relish it!!

Television is an old form of technology and a mass television audience, in time, will be a thing of the past.  Television may distribute ideas or information through visual means, but that content is often questionable.  Radio is, of course, an even older means of obtaining information, but that audio content is still governed by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission -, for the time being, and therefore there are limits on what can be transmitted.  This may make me sound prudish (which I'm not) until you think about the salty language that the Beatles often used, though usually avoided in press interviews.

My son will still grow up with radio and listening to rock and roll, but not with a television in his house.  Perhaps it's that metaphysical connection to the past and to an older, more simpler form of technology with radio which pulls me to a listening to Breakfast With the Beatles each Sunday morning.  Perhaps it's the fact that millions, if not billions, of people can relate to the Beatles or to the music and this is an easy way for kids like my son to make small talk and feel like being a 'normal' member of a larger society.  

Music has a way that crosses geographical or generational lines.  It has a way of tapping both sides of the brain and bringing emotions to the fore.  It's hard not to get sentimental when you sing "Good Night" and learn that John Lennon originally wrote the song as a lullaby for his 5-yr-old son Julian (who was also musically gifted) as his first marriage was falling apart.  Music has a way of capturing the heartstrings that words do not.  It has tremendous power over memory.  It had a way of reaching my grandmother when she had dementia in the nursing home.  My grandmother's ability to recall old Scottish tunes, which the family had never heard previously, and start singing them bridged an emotional gap.  That music enabled us to make an emotional connection with my grandmother and see beyond the dementia that no words could do.

Music by the Fab Four seems to go a few steps further than just crossing geographical and generational lines.  It is timeless.  The profound legacy of The Beatles cannot be underestimated.  Not only did they inspire and define a generation, they inspired many future generations as well.  Many musicians today can trace their musical interest and roots to the Beatles.

John Lennon, in particular, holds a special place in people's hearts and minds, including us.  Our son seems to embody him.  Lennon was twice exceptional:  being creatively gifted and having visual impairments like my son (though so far my son doesn't have the musical gifts).  Lennon was the 'lazy' one, an underachiever in school.  He was the rebellious one.   He had vision, intellect, angst, and eccentricity wrapped up in one.  He didn't want to keep practicing to be perfect like Paul McCartney did.  He wasn't meticulous, organized, or disciplined like McCartney either.  If he wasn't inspired or under pressure from producer George Martin, he often didn't bother to sit down to write a song.  But when he did, oh my, what creative masterpieces.

Of the four Beatles, Lennon was the leader and the one who wore his emotions on his sleeve.  He was the artist.  He was the one who did things to extremes.  I try not to dwell on his addictions, his wild side, or how his relationship with his first wife Cynthia Lennon and Julian soured after he married Yoko because it hurts.  The man had warts.  He drove people crazy.  Still, I can relate.  He seems, well, so human and not some mythical figure to me.  And frighteningly reminds me of my son's traits and tendencies.

How four creative, musically gifted lads of Liverpool formed one of the greatest bands in history is truly a story to tell and share.  If your child hears the details of the struggles of Fab Four's upbringing as individuals and then as an emerging band, perhaps your child will feel less alone.  There really are people who come from the Dingle (inner-city working class neighborhood in Liverpool where Ringo was raised) and council (government) housing who made it to the upper echelons of society and to the big time.  Out there, some place, some time, there have been others like them who forged ahead -- even when the chips were stacked against them and their future success and life was anything but inevitable, not by a long shot.  And maybe that's it about The Beatles: it's the story.  As Pete Seeger (who recently died) once said, "the key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known."