Homeschooling the Gifted Child: go with the flow of intense interests? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 08:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My daughter has these intense interests that she becomes obsessed with.  For example, this is year 2 going on an intense interest in all things Health related: Doctors, Dentists, Veterinarians, hospitals, labs, EVERYTHING.  I think is partly because I have had health problems lately but that is beside the point.

 

Anyways, I'm homeschooling her, she's 5 years old this month.  She missed the cutoff for K because of a late bday.  

 

I had a plan for homeschool this year that loosely followed TWTM timeline for history and science.  Except she is harldy interested in the history at ALL.  She will do the science glady, of which the first module is Animals (we don't get to the human body till spring).  

 

ALL she wants to do is health/human body stuff.  Should I just throw out my timeline and go with the flow?  She also does math (Miquon) and handwriting (HWOT) every school day.  She does Time4learning too (1st-2nd grade) (for Language Arts/math).  On T4L she has already completed through 2nd grade science so she is already out of that. I have Usborne Encyclopedia of Animals, a set of childrens encyclopedias that she loves to read (she reads by herself on a 3-4th grade level).  Yesterday at the library, after exhausting the childrens section on Health, she raided the adult section and brought home Barron's Essential Atlas of Anatomy, DK How the Body works, and a Emergency Preparedness and First Aid handbook complete with DVD that she wants to watch.. Ummmmmm........I'm not even sure it's appropriate for her, it would probably give her nightmares, I need to preview this first obviously. But these are examples of what I'm working with here.

 

Technically this year I don't even have to keep records for her homeschool because she is only turning 5 this school year, but I really wanted to get in the habit of doing school and keeping records for myself (because next year we are moving to a highly regulated state-Maryland, and I will HAVE to do it).  

 

So my question is how do I best meet her needs for homeschooling?  I do realize it's not necessary for a 5 year old to learn about ancient cultures yet (TWTM timeline). But I really wanted something to help me be organized this year and TWTM really fit that bill.  I like that for every year they have an outline of topics to be covered.  

 

She is all over the place so buying a box curriculum isn't going to work plus I've already purchased stuff for this school year and I'm not buying anything else.  

 

Edited: up till now we've mostly been unschooly and this year she and I both wanted to add more structure and lessons into our homeschool.  I liked how TWTM seemed to cover pretty much everything as far as history and science go in an organized manner.  How else will I know what to cover? life science first? or earth science?  recent history first? or ancient?  etc. etc. etc.

 

For the last 5 years that's what we did.  And I do realize we're talking about a 5 year old here, but she has intense needs for information (and some need for structure too, she's always telling me what "time" it is to do something-It's not time to eat yet, it's time to play, it's time to go to bed, it's time to get dressed). hence why I'm posting this in the gifted forum.  Letting her NOT do bookwork/reading/school work is OUT of the question.  She demands this stuff.  The other day for fun on a Sunday (non school day) she asked me to write out math problems for her and to quiz her about life cycles :)

 

ETA: from one of my posts:

 


I guess the crux of my problem is, is it really important to go with the gifted childs interests and along the same lines, does it do harm to do work that she doesn't enjoy at the expense of time she would rather spend playing doctor or reading health encyclopedias? 
 
I guess I'm also asking:  Is a child-led approach the best approach for homeschooling the gifted child?  Does it suit their brains better to go with their flow rather or is it better to 'train" , guide, and teach them? (as in a more structured TWTM fashion).
 

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#2 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 08:42 AM
 
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And before I get all kinds of "just let her do whatever she wants" unschooly advice.  Been  there, done that.  For the last 5 years that's what we did.  And I do realize we're talking about a 5 year old here, but she has intense needs for information (and some need for structure too, she's always telling me what "time" it is to do something-It's not time to eat yet, it's time to play, it's time to go to bed, it's time to get dressed). hence why I'm posting this in the gifted forum.  Letting her NOT do bookwork/reading/school work is OUT of the question.  She demands this stuff.  The other day for fun on a Sunday (non school day) she asked me to write out math problems for her and to quiz her about life cycles :)

 

 

 

 

There are plenty of ways to get structure and routine without following TWTM. Your daughter is clearly doing a good job seeking out learning opportunities and showing you want she wants. What concerns you about focusing more on her areas of interest?

 

It sounds like she's doing fine with some of the materials you've selected but she's not interested in history. Is the question would it be a problem to abandon history? If so, then no I don't think it is a big deal. We had the flip version of this age - a child who loved history and had absolutely no interest at all in science. It worked out just fine.

 

For what it is worth, what you are describing is very common for beginning homeschoolers. In my observation the parents who end up happiest and most successful with homeschooling are the ones who can be flexible enough to go a bit with the flow. What you may learn is that even if it is appealing to you it doesn't work well to plan a full year in advance. Some curriculum isn't going to work. Sometimes you are going to buy stuff that isn't a good fit. It really is part of the process. This is one reason why it is great to make use of free stuff from the library. If she only enjoys five pages of that big anatomy book and then decides to return it, that's no big deal.  www.bookcloseouts.com and paperbackswap.com can be really helpful ways to pick up low cost materials too.

 

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#3 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 08:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Roar.I guess my question is: how can I have a routine/plan/outline or some kind of structure while still letting her follow her interests?  I guess the other question was, is it ok to just not do history this year? And I know the answer is yes.  It's just that the timeline was what I was going to use as my only backbone for structure.  So if I throw the TWTM  out the window because she doesn't like history right now, then I will have nothing to "go by", if that makes any sense.  I will have no goals or plans for the year other than than finishing up the Miquon orange book and the HWOT book (of which she moving far ahead of schedule as it is).  

 

I guess the crux of my problem is, is it really important to go with the gifted childs interests and along the same lines, does it do harm to do work that she doesn't enjoy at the expense of the time she would rather spend playing doctor or reading health encyclopedias?  I'm sorry my words are so jumbled right now.....she is begging me at the moment to watch one of her doctor plays she is putting on so I guess I better go watch it! :)


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#4 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 09:18 AM
 
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I'm think structure can more be a routine and rhythm to the day. Such as, breakfast, walk the dogs, desk work if she enjoys it - handwriting, math, etc, cleaning together, free play or reading time, craft or project time, etc. We found this kind of structure helped us all feel productive and good. In this kind of structure she's getting plenty of your time and attention. If she finds books about the body that she likes you could easily plug that into this structure. We'll read a few pages from the anatomy book after lunch every day or something like that. You could also try out some projects that take a while to complet - that gives some structure and feeling of progression because you can work on things a little bit each day. For example, if you get butcher block paper she might enjoy tracing and outline of her body and then making construction paper versions of her internal organs. (or maybe that holds no appeal, for some reason at that age at our house anything that was big scale involving large paper or poster board was a thrill).

 

I totally get the appeal of TWTM kind of structure, I'm just not sure it is always a fit with where five year olds are at. I don't know that we can always identify or predict where a five year old will be in a few months. The way they learn may make internal sense to them but it doesn't necessarily appear linear from the outside and it might not easily be plugged into a timetable someone else created. It is in this way that personally I found I grew a lot from homeschooling because I had to do things in ways that weren't totally comfortable for me. For me it was helpful to think more broadly about my big goals - stuff like love of learning, independence, ability to ask questions and find the answers, etc.  Another thing to try might be keeping a learning journal where you just briefly jot down what you see her doing. Over the period of weeks or months you will be able to see the progression and feel more comfortable about knowing you've got stuff covered.

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#5 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 09:19 AM
 
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First, I believe if I'm reading correctly that you can apply for a 1-year exemption (from KG) in Maryland, so if your dd is still 4 you won't need to start reporting for two years. 

 

Next, I hear that you're not looking for unschooly "just let her do whatever she wants" advice, but then in the next breath you say that "whatever she wants" is the sort of structure you're trying to provide for her. I'm the mom of an 8-year-old who currently schedules into her day workbook-oriented time in math, science, history and geography, plus an hour of violin practicing, some hands-on science time and a readaloud session covering history of science. This is unschooling because we are doing exactly what she wants, according to a structure she has requested. 

 

I don't want to recommend or suggest something you're explicitly asking not to hear, but I will describe how we arrive at our path. I involve my children in creating their learning plans. By age 7 or 8 they're creating them fairly autonomously. At age 4 or 5 the process is more collaborative. We get together and talk about what they're interesting in learning. I write down all their ideas, and we talk a little about how their ideas might be put into practice -- what resources or activities might be available, what structure and parental support they might or might not want. After that brainstorming session I usually have some research to do: I need to go and poke around the internet, or ask throughout the community... for astronomy clubs, or pottery classes, or Canadian geography middle-schoolers' curriculum, or enrichment math programs at a pre-algebra level or whatever. A week or two later we get together again and go through all the options and choose things to start with, getting into details about scheduling (or not scheduling), goals, levels of commitment and such. And from there we have our basic Learning Plan which we then attempt to implement.

 

Every couple of months throughout the school year we get together (usually with muffins and tea) to revisit the plan. We talk about what is going well, what has not turned out as expected, what areas have been neglected, where to go next in areas that have been accomplished. Our plan isn't rigid: if my kid lost interest in astronomy after a couple of weeks and wants to do something else now, we're happy to write it out of the plan. But often if an area has been neglected we discover that the interest is still burning bright, and that we just need a re-galvanization of effort, or a new resource or approach, or a shift in priorities, to make it a productive area of learning again. 

 

This allows my children to have all the structure and curriculum they want, but without parental agendas or pre-fab curriculum pressuring them into working on things that are neither desired by them nor necessary at their particular ages and stages. It allows them to have ambitions and goals, but without being pressured by adults or curriculum expectations that turn out not to be appropriate for them.

 

Sorry if this is not helpful, but I thought I'd put it out there. It sounds like your dd has thrived in an unschooling environment thus far, and is simply asking for more bookwork and structure. Unschooling doesn't mean no bookwork and no structure: it means the child decides on the bookwork and structure ...and that's a path that works well for our family. 

 

Coincidentally I just posted my 8-year-old's learning plan on my blog last night, if you're interested. 

 

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#6 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 09:50 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marimara View Post

Technically this year I don't even have to keep records for her homeschool because she is only turning 5 this school year, but I really wanted to get in the habit of doing school and keeping records for myself (because next year we are moving to a highly regulated state-Maryland, and I will HAVE to do it).  


former homeschooler here -- we homeschooled in several different states and keeping records is a PITA. Don't start early. You'll just get burned out that much sooner! Give yourself a break on record keeping while you can!!!

 

Both my kids were happier with some structure rather than no structure, so I understand where you are coming from. I would go with the flow a bit about interest. My kids really needed a daily routine. It was more than they needed to eat at the same time, play at the same time, do "school" at the same time every day rather than they needed to follow someone's else list of what to learn.

 

(over the years, I've yet to meet a family IRL who've does TWTM consistently who practices GD. Some GD families use it as a jumping off point, but from what I've seen, few children are willing to follow that plan straight without being punished)

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#7 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 11:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all soooo much for your input.  I realize my intentions and questions aren't clearly stated and that's because well....they aren't even clear to me at this point!  I started this whole motherhood journey with an unschooling/gd/mdc flavor and that did work well until recently.  I've felt pressure from everywhere including my own child to provide her with more structure and work.  I also worry about gaps in education and all kinds of random things that I'm sure lots of hsers worry about to, I'm trying not to let it get in the way of what my dd needs.  

 

At this point all I really know is that public school can't provide for her needs, and we can't afford the type of private that might provide for her needs.  

 

I think in my quest for an outline/plan/routine/anything resembling organization and plan I swung to the opposite side of pendulum, from unschooly to TWTM.  I realize as I'm typing this how ridiculous it all is.

 

I think- that like one of you suggested, I just need to take this as a learning experience and chalk it up to being a newbie and having a young precocious child.

 

I do like the outline and plan of TWTM following history in a certain manner and revisiting those themes over the years.  I thought it'd be a great way to learn history, sine I myself hated history :shrug  I guess I can always revisit history next year or the year after that unless MD is going to require me to cover history next year.  I'm not moving there till the 2012 school year and she turns 6 after Sept. 1. 2012 (she's turning 5 this Sept).

 

I'm going to edit my original post to try to clarify a little.  I'm just all over the place,.....been a rough year for me.....in many ways, I wanted to get off on homeschooling on a great start, with a plan and all......

 

I think I will take a look at some other ways to add some structure and give her more bookwork without doing TWTM...I might look in to workboxes, that way when she wakes up there will be a box of stuff waiting for her and she'd really love that (she makes to do lists all the time for herself! lol ).  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#8 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 01:50 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roar View Post

I'm think structure can more be a routine and rhythm to the day. Such as, breakfast, walk the dogs, desk work if she enjoys it - handwriting, math, etc, cleaning together, free play or reading time, craft or project time, etc. .

Yes!
Roar, I also really appreciated your comment about growing from homeschooling. I'm being stretched everyday.

OP, my daughter developed a similar need for structure around 4. It has been confusing for me. To say we were "unschooly" to start with is a bit of an understatement. Whilst I do agree with Miranda that providing learning opportunities the child seeks out IS unschooling, I guess I haven't really internalised that yet as I find myself justifying (to myself) how x or y is still unschooling on a daily basis. Then again, I do have a tendency to over think things and I should get to my point...

The one thing DD and I have found most useful has been instituting a flexible but pretty mandatory Waldorf style "rhythm of the day" and of the week as well. If your daughter enjoys having a "time" for this and that, she would probably find this helpful too. We even went as far as too incorporate the colour of the day, dressing in that colour. We started on a whim as a friend lent a Waldorf homeschooling K book and I found the idea amusing. I was blown away by how much my daughter loved it. So we kept it. Other things we have kept are quiet time (she loves this also, the child who was done with naps at her 2cnd birthday) and everybody helps "clean up time" a few times a day. Other things we've tried and let go as they don't work for us. The Parenting Passageway blog has some helpful posts about why daily rhythms are calming for children.
[=][/]http://theparentingpassageway.com/?s=Rhythm&submit=Search

Since you said you don't want to hear "just go with her interest" I won't. But you know I want to ;p. Honestly, this is an area where it seems to me less really is less and more is more. DD was comletely and utterly science obsessed at the start of this year, it was really hard to meet her need for exploration in that subject. We kept doing more and more and also added a monthly "science club" at a local university, we will also add another one next week and it seems we've finally reached saturation point. She still adores science in all forms but she will also explore other things and in my unschooly way I attribute her ability to drag herself away from Magic School Bus because she wants to write a story about cats to her trusting that her need for science will be met.
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#9 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 01:54 PM
 
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Also wanted to say that I do understand where you are at. DD is quite asynchronous and a public and most private school classrooms would be awful for her. On bad days I feel quite stuck. I sorely wish I could just buy a box curriculum and be done with it but I can't.

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#10 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 03:34 PM
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by marimara View Post

 

I think in my quest for an outline/plan/routine/anything resembling organization and plan I swung to the opposite side of pendulum, from unschooly to TWTM.

 

That describes me perfectly. I, too, love the theory and rigour of the WTM approach, and I, too, have a child who "does not like history". We started homeschooling last spring when I took DS1 (8) out of school in crisis mode. So, I am still pretty new to this myself. DS1 and I butt heads hard if I try to "make him learn" too many things, so I am trying not to worry about "gaps in education" at this early stage.  I am trying more to focus on gaps in skills. Your daughter is so young and clearly motivated, I wouldn't worry about formal curriculum much at all. I would worry more about finding a routine that feels comfortable - then you can work out a system of documentation after you have found a routine. My DS1 isn't motivated to learn, to I feel like I need the comfort of a structured plan to keep him moving forward.

 

FWIW, this is what I am doing now.

 

 What I took from TWTM approach to history is the 4 chunks of history and the idea that the first time each child is introduced to each chunk is really to create familiarity and enthusiasm rather than depth of understanding. I reminded myself of the level of content that average children are exposed to material at DS1's age and decided not to push "intellectual-level history" on a child who wasn't interested. Instead, I would check out picture books and novels from the library that touched on the period of history I wanted to expose him to. I would then leave the picture books out without talking about them, which pretty much guaranteed that he would read them at some time that he got bored, and I would talk to him about why I thought he might enjoy the novel.  Then, as he was reading, or afterwards, I would often have some kind of "which part of that story was true?" discussion with him.

 

For curriculum, I have focused on the things that I think he really does need and also the things that he will discover he is missing if he does go back to school next year (which is when the gifted program starts and we are still debating whether to try it out at all).  DS1 has SPD and fine motor control issues, so we work therapeutic activities into the day and he has some learning challenges (including stealth dyslexia) that I am teaching him explicitly how to compensate for by using his strengths. I have formal curricula that I am using for math and writing (though I am modifying both quite heavily to work with his skills) and material I want to address in Science, Social Science, Art and Music - where I am nudging and strewing, but taking a more unschooly approach.

 

With regard to rhythm, we are quite structured. DS1 is comfortable with the basic schedule he had at school (work, break, work, lunch, work, break, work), so we follow that. His siblings are in school and he and I sit down to work when I have a fresh cup of coffee after dropping them off. We have certain things we do every day: math, writing/language arts, penmanship/fine motor practice, piano, and poetry memorization. When I sense that he is getting restless with the formal curriculum, I find an activity that "counts" as the daily activity so that we keep the routine, but change up the content.  An example would be playing math games rather than working in the textbook. All the other "content" that he is learning, we do in chunks that are like little units which last as long as he is interested.  For example, we just spent a week on medieval Japan and are now spending a week building a LEGO robot before doing some work on Vikings in preparation for a homeschool co-op meeting that is coming up. Those chunks usually happen in the afternoon, which is also when we run errands if I have errands that need to be run.  I like the structure because it keeps me from frittering away too many days, but it was DS1 would showed me he needs it.

 

With regard to record keeping, I am in a non-reporting jurisdiction, but I am keeping records for myself. These are so that I can keep track of the "unschooly" things we do and keep my rigour-needing brain satisfied. I have a curriculum list which is very general: books I expect to use for lab work, subject matters I want to touch on, curriculum I have chosen for writing and math. I then keep a journal in which I write a very brief note of what we do each day. Finally, I keep a daily subject matter checklist (http://donnayoung.org/forms/planners/checklist.htm). For now, I find that doing the checklist allows me to keep my "curriculum-worries" to a minimum because when I look at the checklist to see what we haven't done for a week or so, I don't see that I counted alphabetizing Pokemon cards as "language arts", I just see that we spent time on language arts that day. I don't know whether I will relax about the record keeping as we keep hsing, but for now this works for me.

 

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#11 of 13 Old 09-13-2011, 07:08 PM
 
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I like TWTM approach for history too - especially the timeline (repeating the sequence of time every 3 years).  But some of their resources are a little questionable.  Story of the World apparently has some major historical inaccuracies in it (I'm not a big history buff, but just reading the reviews on Amazon was an eye-opener for me.) 

 

We did a relaxed WTM-ish type thing for history last year, and it worked out wonderfully.  The kids loved doing history each day.  I read aloud to them from the Usborne internet linked History Encyclopedia, and did a project around what we had read.  We set up the spare room as a "history museum" and made a giant map on the floor, illustrating it and making exhibits for different locations.  We made Babylonian money, models of Egyptian temples, replicas of ancient games, etc.  The internet links on the Usborne book were pretty good generally.  I thought I didn't like history, but we had such a good time with the whole thing, I ended up reading more about the period myself.  Anyway, you can do WTM in a more relaxed way.  The child doesn't have to sit down for an hour latin lesson each day if she doesn't like it.     

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#12 of 13 Old 09-18-2011, 07:41 PM
 
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My six-year-old really enjoys hearing Jim Weiss read The Story of the World. You might try it that way, if you'd like to get an interest in history started without dragging her kicking and screaming through it. And although I am a history major, I haven't come across any major historical inaccuracies in Story of the World. Yes, the chapters are simplified and the stories are put into a narrative form, but that is for the comprehensibility of the children who are reading it, not any particular drive to bias or inaccuracy.

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#13 of 13 Old 09-24-2011, 12:08 AM
 
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We pulled my son at the pre-k year and he would've been in 2nd grade this year.  I would say we've come full circle, but I realize that the circle never ends. eyesroll.gif

 

We went from planned to unschooly to midway to child-driven to what I THOUGHT I learned about what he both needed and wanted to what he ACTUALLY needed and wanted and knowing that it may be different next year.

 

The best advice I can give is: it's one thing for you to like a curriculum or method, but it's a whole 'nother thing for that curriculum or method to work fo  r your child (or even better, be best for them).  I have found myself in the position of giving up ideas I loved because they simply weren't the best for my child and/or he wasn't doing well or happy.

 

We now have a Charlotte Mason approach to most subjects and are still a little more formal with math and science when he gets the bug.  He's enrolled in some coop courses that help him learn to take direction from other people (we're entering year two of this--and I don't mean to say that all kids need this, but my family needed it) and we do some social gatherings with a local homeschool group.

 

I. AM. HORRIBLE. with consistency, but that's what my son really needs; so I've built us a big-picture of routines.  Mornings are pretty much clockwork with dressing & feeding, and so are dinners; but the days change.  So I've made him a schedule of what goes on each day in a broad sense (ie: "Monday-field trip, Tuesday-service work/library, Wednesday-coop, Thursday-park/skate gathering, Friday-coop).  It works for us so far.  And outside of Monday (sometimes Tuesday) these are not all-day affairs.

 

But that's all I have for now.  You can find threads from me in this forum going back the last three years and laugh.  :)


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