Monday, June 30, 2014

Architecture School: Day 1

Last summer we did Space School; or at least tried to until my pregnancy with Lady Bug got to be too much and we had to stop. I asked the boys if they wanted to finish it this year and sadly their enthusiasm had waned. So this summer it's Architecture School!
We call him "Builder Boy'' for a reason!

Builder Boy has been talking about becoming a builder for almost four years now. So this summer I decided was a good time to start building the basic skills and knowledge to further that aim. I have been very intentional to tell him multiple times that if he ever decides he wants to do something else with his life that is perfectly fine; that he is not stuck with a choice he made young. So far he continutes to be interested and as time spent on this skill set is not wasted, even if he eventually chooses another profession, I am happy to devote some time and resources to it. Early Bird is happy to be included, even though it is not his ambition.

Our main resources for this summer will be the free to download book Architecture: It's Elementary! generously put out by the American Institute of Architects and Michigan/Michigan Architecture Foundation. Our first two weeks we will also be using 123 I Can Build! which I got for $6 on I have purchased other books in the series before and I like them very much for beginners like my kids. Or myself.

Architecture: It's Elementary! has lessons for grades Kindergarten through 5th Grade. We will be starting at the K level and go through until it becomes too much for Builder Boy. At the Kindergarten level there are actually a lot of vocabulary words that are new to all of us, so it's a good place to start, even if that's not Builder Boy's grade level. Because it is still relatively easy, we did both lesson one and part of lesson two today. (For lovers of the Oxford Comma, be warned: they do not use it. At all.)

Builder Boy's Finds
Level K, Lesson 1 is a review of basic shapes; square, rectangle, triangle, circle, and semi-circle. We did a quick review, defining the shapes, then I had them go around the toy room and find those shapes. We were flexible and generous in the shape finding, as not all elements of architecture in real life are perfect shapes, either.

Early Bird's Finds
They also looked at the provided pictures that I printed out from the book and identified basic shapes in the structures shown.

We skipped tracing and drawing and cutting out the shapes for today.

Level K, Lesson 2 we did not do all of today. But I did have Builder Boy replicate the street scape pictured in the lesson with his blocks. Taking a two dimensional picture and translating it into a three dimensional object is a skill that will prove very necessary if he is to be a builder, so I thought this would be good practice. He did a very good job, and I appreciated how intentional about scale he tried to be. Here's a picture of his results:

After that we moved outside for the first project in 123 I Can Build! The project served to emphasize the need for a strong foundation and to show how strong cylinders are. We used rubber cement to glue a large, heavy rock onto cut toilet paper rolls. On top of the rock we built a city using air dry clay. (I couldn't find our play-dough!) Tomorrow when it is all dry we will paint it. Or rock was very rounded on top, so we could only make two small buildings each. Builder Boy and I made rectangular prism and cylinder buildings, and Early Bird made a dome and a triangle "tent" looking thing.

As an added bonus for Christians, this rock foundation project is a great time to sing the Foolish Man/Wise Man song and talk about Jesus as a strong foundations on Whom we build our lives on. The boys talked about this and came to the conclusion that Jesus is also like concrete, since modern homes are usually build on a strong concrete foundation.

This weekend we also went to Home Depot for some basic supplies for Builder Boy to learn how to hammer a nail. We've been putting out feelers in our church, looking for a retired carpenter who would be willing to pass on skills to a youngster (hopefully for free.) So far we haven't found a teacher, but I promised Builder Boy this would be the summer he learned how to hammer two pieces of wood together, so went to the store. I purchased a small tool box, a small hammer, some nails that an employee recommended, and a 2x4 that they cut down for us (first 2 cuts free!) Home Depot offers free kid classes the first Saturday of every month, 9 am to noon. Builder Boy is very much looking forward to doing that on the 5th with Principal Daddy.

We already had some scrap particle board, so we had Builder Boy learn to set and hammer a nail into that first to get the hang of it. Then he tried hammering a nail into a 2x4 and he learned that that is much harder! I hope I am am teaching him correctly, and am not instilling bad habits that he will have to break once he has a proper teacher. I've made a Kid Carpentry board on Pinterest for ideas for learning and projects he could do. If anyone knows of a good YouTube video or other website with good, extremely basic instructions, I'd love to hear about it!

If you have a young child who is interested in building structures, but isn't quite ready for hammering real nails and wood, then check out my post on how to make a PVC Pipe Building Kit.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

How a Gifted Childhood Prepared Me for Gifted Parenting

I'm a fan of Building Wing Span and in January she posted a blog post entitled "Being Gifted in no way prepares you for Parenting Gifted kids." I was quite surprised by this because I had found the exact opposite to be true for me. Now, re-reading the post it seems that the author was maybe having a bad day. Plus, she has more kids than I do, and her kids have extra gifted attributes that mine do not have. This post is not intended to be a slam on the author. Merely, that post inspired this post.

I admit: I was a weird kid. Even if I hadn't dealt with issues that young kids shouldn't have to, I still would have been a weird kid. I also wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. One of the things I would do as a child would watch my grandmother or other parents I came across in life. I would see things that they did that I or other kids responded to well, and filed those away. I would also look at things that did not work (using fractions to extend the time a kid has when you're counting to a number to get them to do something? Please; no kid respects that.) and decided that I would never do those things. (Tempered, of course, by later teen and adult reading about childhood development.)

I also have quite a lot of memories from my childhood and teenager-hood that I have analyzed. Those years still feel very recent, and those memories are still fresh. Looking back, I have been able to learn a lot from them for what I want for my own children. Especially as I see so much of myself in them at times. 

Being a weird child, I never fit in well with my same age peers. My best friend for the first part of my childhood was almost two years older than me (thank you, Kim, for accepting me even though I was younger!) I found myself drawn to adults for conversation and and social interaction. Sadly, most adults I encountered were not interested in being engaged by a child. Those rare adults that I encountered that did, I treasured. The lady who listened to my interest in becoming a horticulturist and developing a green rose (in elementary school) that showed me a collage level biology text and introduced me to the fun things I later found out were called "Punnett Squares." I remember you, Ma'am. The great uncle who let me enthusiastically show him my small coin collection, and then sent me some "Japanese Invasion Money" and told me the stories of his travels. Those encounters were treasures in my childhood. And because of that, now that I am an adult I strive to be that for every child I encounter who seems like they need that. Not every child does. But there are some who need to be listened to and treated seriously by an adult. I encourage everyone who reads this that when they find those children, those young people, to give them your full attention and some of your time. Because it is a gift to them that they will treasure all of their life.

I lived most of my life with my grandparents. My father's parents for ages 5-12 and then 14-18, and my mother's parents from 12-14. They did their best, and I am grateful for what they did. But they were not prepared to deal with gifted intensities and overexcitabilities. And questions. I don't know if I really asked that many questions, but boy did I get the impression from my grandmother that my burning questions were a complete nuisance and bother to her. Granted, this was in the days before Google. And I suppose it might have been embarrassing for her not to know the answers. But the attitude I perceived in her eventually made me shut down and stop asking. I didn't stop wanting to know. But neither was I taught how to find the answers to my questions. It was an extremely frustrating time for me. Coupled with going through puberty and some other factors and it was also one of my darkest times. Having my own children now, I am delighted when they come up with a question I don't know the answer to. We search and find out together. We follow rabbit trails, watch other suggested YouTube videos, we explore, and we learn. And even if the question is asked at an inconvenient time or has to be put off for a while, I try to never make them feel like they were wrong to ask. That their question is unwanted. If Early Bird wants me to "ask Google Translate" what the Spanish word for "room" is, then we do it. If Builder Boy wants to talk about and figure out how to make domino contraptions by watching videos, we do it. It may not always be the most interesting thing in the world to me, but it is for them; and I hope I never make them feel like such a bother for asking that they stop asking me.

In 4th grade at my elementary school, students were allowed to join band. The great thing about it was they took beginners who had never played before and taught them. Looking back, I'm really unclear how that was feasible. I just know that's how it worked. I wanted to play flute. I REALLY wanted to play flute. I told my grandmother I wanted to play flute. I got a clarinet. Because "everyone else" plays flutes and I should do something different. And my great aunt was able to hand me down a clarinet. So I played the clarinet. And I would look at the flutists longingly, but never said another word about it. Until I moved in the middle of 6th grade to live with my mother's parents. At that school, band did not start until 6th grade, but everyone was required to play. So I was stuck in a classroom filled with beginners who didn't even want to be there. A room full of clarinets and only one flute player. I was able to rent a flute from the school district and taught myself to play and caught up with the class in time to play in the end of year concert. I loved it and as long as I was playing flute, I didn't touch the clarinet. But the school year ended, the flute went away. I moved on to a private school, now out of practice with my clarinet, and haven't played either instrument since. My clarinet was given away to another cousin by my great aunt who was annoyed that I was no longer using it. I shared that to say: please respect your child's passion choices. Don't substitute. This was not the only time a passion I had was taken away and was given something else and expected to just accept that. I'm not trying to say you should give your child everything they want. Most people can't afford that, and if you're open about that it would help a lot. But don't give them something else and expect them to be excited about it. Like ending figure skating lessons and expecting a bicycle to be an adequate replacement. (Okay, clearly I'm still a bit bitter about that one. The reason I was given was that they didn't like taking the time to take me to my once a week lesson.)

I think one of the most frustrating things for me growing up was that the strong emotions and frustrations I dealt with felt dismissed and ignored by my grandparents. Which just made me even more frustrated. I had an incident recently with Early Bird when I was impatient and frustrated myself and demanded a quick, yes or no answer. He didn't say anything so I made a decision. He was very upset because he was still thinking about it and hadn't gotten to reply yet (even though he eventually decided to go with the option I had chosen.) I'll never forget the picture of him, tears streaming down his face, saying "you didn't understand me!" Man that hit home. I scooped him up in my arms and I told him that I was very sorry for not understanding. I did explain that I could not read his mind and see that he had been thinking, and that him asking for a minute to think next time would be helpful. But I completely did understand that frustration and I validated it. Even though my children's emotions are sometimes fleeting, or illogical, or situationally inappropriate, those feelings are very much real and important to them at the time they are feeling them. And while those emotions might fade, they are going to remember how I treated those feelings, and how my treatment of them made them feel. A few months ago I read an article (wish I could find it again!) written to therapists/counselors on how to work with gifted patients and their overexcitabilities. One of their pieces of advice was to validate their patient's feelings; even/especially the emotional overexcitability ones. I didn't get that for myself; I am trying most definitely to do that for my children.

I consider the feelings and thoughts I had as a child to be valid and something I can learn from. I consider my children's feelings and thoughts to be valid. That viewpoint and those memories have helped me empathize with my children and, I think, have diffused some situations faster than they might have had I not empathized.

I love hearing about other people's childhood experiences and thinking about how I can learn from them. (I was a weird child; I guess I never grew out of being weird.) If you would like to share what you've learned from your own childhood, I would love to hear it! Please feel free to comment.


This is my contribution for the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2014. I had a wonderful time reading the contributions last year and the year before, and I'm looking forward to this year's.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2014!

Welcome to the 2014 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour!
Parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. That’s why for the third year in row, parents from The Well Trained Mind Message boards have created a blog tour to share wisdom, joy, tribulations and advice.
Starting Sunday, June 22nd the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:
On June 22nd Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with “How a Gifted Childhood Prepared Me for Gifted Parenting”.
On June 23d At Home in the North Woods will share “Great Expectations, four ideas for dealing with perfectionism.”
On June 24th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about “Following the Passions of the Gifted Child.”
On June 25th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature a guest post.
On June 26th Homeschooling Hatters will discuss “Twice Exceptionality, when just one exception isn’t enough!”
On June 27th Teaching My Baby to Read will write about “Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget.”
A difficult thing to understand about children with high IQs is that just because they are gifted, it doesn’t mean they are easy to teach or parent. In fact, often times the opposite is true.

This blog tour is written by people who understand what you’re going through. We are sending encouragement your way! So the next time you wake up at 3 AM worrying about your child, at least you’ll know that you aren’t alone.
Thanks for being with us on this journey!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Homeschooling with Depression

I've seen the question posed before on homeschooling forums: is it possible to homeschool when you're dealing with depression? I do, and here's how.

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