Category Archives: Gifted Heart and Soul

Just a (Stark) Reminder

I know when the span of daylight gets noticeably shorter and the days still seem longer I will not remember this, so for the historical record:

Right now my girls are upstairs marching around to Star Wars music, each of them playing several characters in one of their several complicated role-playing games.

This morning they were reading, the 12yo her physics text and William Blake poetry, the 8yo one of her new history books. I think she’s read 5 short books since the box arrived yesterday — two of them while cuddled up in the hammock with me while I re-read Game of Thrones, trying to remember what happened when the series started so long ago, before half the main characters died.

As the Star Wars theme repeats itself, I can’t help but think, hurray for not-back-to-school. Yay for us that this didn’t end this week and won’t end after Labor Day.

I won’t always feel like this, I know, so I have to document and remember. Winter is coming.

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Gotta Trust

Being a trusting parent can be hard. In general I go along with the old-school style of parenting: be tough, you can do it, chin up, no whining! In general, I’m in favor of getting a thicker skin and enduring a little discomfort for the sake of growth or even just for the sake of the family unit. (“There are 4 people in this family, and all of our needs are equally important . . . “)

But sometimes I forget that my kids are sometimes right about their limits (sometimes). Especially Victoria, who seems to have the self-awareness of an ancient Tibetan guru.

We were at the American Girl store yesterday, and she kept sitting down, not wanting to walk around with her friend. I was frustrated — we had invited this friend to a tea and then each girl had an amount of money to spend on a small item or service. Victoria chose a hairstyle that cost her entire holdings, and the friend chose to get her doll’s ears pierced (!), which left her a little money left to buy something else. Victoria would not shop with her, though, and instead sat quietly as I prodded her to get up and go with her friend (which was, to some extent, necessary for safety reasons — I couldn’t set either one of them loose in the mall store).

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Finally she confessed to me that she didn’t want to walk around because she knew she would see something else she wanted and then she would feel bad. Me, I found that absurd and thought for sure that she could manage those feelings because she’d be enjoying looking around.

Well sure enough, after I forced her to keep going she soon became completely unreasonable about a dress she wanted. Soon she was crying on a bench, so jealous of her friend for having a little money left over to buy a goofy little bag, so sure that buying the dress would make her the happiest girl in the world and that no one else could want the dress as much as she. Had the friend not been there, I might have lost it and dragged her out of there fuming, but as it was I had to stay calm. The friend seemed to take it in stride — young children get that other young children cry for no apparent reason.

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Well, she did recover eventually and made a point of telling me that she felt a lot better. I was still not happy with her behavior, but was glad that she had managed to pull herself out of her drama tailspin largely on her own.

Later I recalled what she had said when she didn’t want to shop — she knew she would feel bad. And she was right. And she had a plan for how to deal with it. And I told her, “pish tosh, what do you know?” A nice lesson for the fall, when we bring our more formal learning activities back.

In any case, she was so dang cute it was easy to forgive her, and myself. 🙂

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How it is to be 11

— You are growing. When you go out for breakfast eat a massive plate of bacon, eggs, and hash browns. Leave no evidence behind.

— Play sweetly with your adorable baby and toddler cousins, who openly worship you. Psychologically torment your younger sister, who secretly worships you when she isn’t wishing you would join another family.

— Create song lyric generator, mad libs game, and fortune teller using your mad Python programming skills.

— Think happily about the new Taylor Swift album coming out in October.

— Beg for a Facebook account.

— Discover that your toes and elbows are much farther away from the rest of your body than you thought.

— Engage joyfully in roughhousing with younger boys.

— Sob powerfully on the way home from the playdate. Say for the first time, “Boys are stupid jerks!” Now that you are 11, your mom can let you in on a secret: “Yes, honey, boys are often stupid jerks.”

— Graduating to the medium-size Starbucks vanilla bean cooler makes everything better, even the sad truth that boys are jerks.

— Say to your mom casually, “I’ve been thinking about Schrodinger’s Cat.”

— Continue smiling the huge, open smile that’s been yours since you first opened your eyes.

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A Different Kind of Learner

Today at dinner Victoria and I discussed the delicious fresh, organic lemonade I got at a great price today, 2 for $5.

After I mentioned that we had a second jug waiting for us in the fridge, Victoria said, “So we have a gallon all together.”

I was impressed — I don’t recall discussing volume measures with her, and half-gallon wasn’t printed on the container, so I asked her, “How did you figure that out?”

Victoria: “I used math.” (Duh!)

Me: “Oh, so how big is one container?”

Victoria: “I don’t know. A skinny jug is a pint, but this isn’t a pint. So maybe . . .” (trails off)

Me: “Well how did you know that two make a gallon?”

Victoria: “I read something in a book.”

And that’s all I know. Did she visually combine the two jugs to approximate a milk gallon jug? Did she read the 2 quarts (or 64 oz.) and add that up to a gallon but assume that I could not be asking her such an elementary question?

She’ll never tell.

What does she know? How does she know it? She holds these things close to her, secret agent-like.

We’re going to do some educational assessments this year with Victoria, which may or may not tell us something useful about our child. What I know already is that she is our little engineer, and the tiny guru, and the 7 year old going on 27 — not just to us, but to Sunday School teachers, cashiers, hairdressers, and friends. I know that if she tells me where to find something, 99.8% of the time she is dead on. And when she tells me what she likes about her different friends, she has a depth of understanding that blows my mind.

I don’t think any of that will be on the Woodcock Johnson or the WIAT-II, and I don’t think they take answers that start, “Well, maybe . . . ” Is she smart, or gifted? Probably. But what stands out more strongly is that she really is a different kind of learner, and she’s not giving up the keys to her mind to me or anyone else.

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Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Learning Styles, Why Homeschool?

Slowly Rounding the Corner

. . . or not.

I don’t know. I know that I feel like I’m trying to wake up after sleeping in too long, and too late. Except that there is never a too late.

Right?

There is a Kris Delmhorst version of this Rumi poem that I love. It is so like me — too silly, too serious, too many instruments playing at once, a little rough around the edges. I love it when a song seems to mirror you, not just in words but more importantly in sounds.

These words aren’t all in the poem, but I’m trying to remember them in the mornings, especially the third line:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

So I ignore the call of my office and go do something else. Anything else. As yet, I don’t know what I want to do, but I’ve made space for it all the same.

We are also all working on presence. For whatever reason, the girls seem to have a huge need to have me right there, as often as possible, or they lose their way. It’s as if we’re all a little unmoored and adrift, and somehow — well, obviously — it falls to me to bring us back. And you may say, well of course you are, you’re the mother. To which I can only say, having a responsibility hardly qualifies me to fulfill it.

But I do. It’s my new project.

We do yoga together, Victoria and I knit together, and I sit next to Violet at times when my presence seems totally unnecessary but is apparently essential.

I’ve also picked up a new book, Acedia and Me, by Kathleen Norris, whom — rightly or wrongly — I often identify with strongly. No need to read a lot into my choice of books — I’ve had this one on the list for years and finally noticed it at the bookstore. It’s the kind of book I used to read all the time and then, suddenly, stopped.

Now I’m starting again.

Lots of starting planned around here.

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Happy Camper

Arggghhh! I can’t even start this post!

This is me: 100 different thoughts going in 100 different directions, which all adds up to

paralysis.

You would think this would make me a compassionate mother to a child who acts exactly the same way. I am flattered by the way you overestimate me. 🙂

Neither mother nor oldest child is comfortable right now — both of us seem at an uncomfortable ebb in our passions, restless without something to wrestle with. I am always looking for signs of light and life to carry me through to the next day.

Today it was this:

Violet went on an overnight field trip at a local outpost of Concordia Language Villages. She had a great time, though when I asked her if she learned anything she bluntly said no — the other campers were almost all total beginners. When I asked her if she enjoyed speaking Chinese, she said she mostly spoke Chinese with the counselors. She said she was really looking forward to her regular 2-week camp, when she can be with more Chinese speakers.

She thoroughly enjoyed the other kids anyway. Another girl rode home with us — as a side note, she told us about how her attention span had shortened in school, because after the first few sentences from the teacher she would tune out, as everything afterwards was repetition. She wasn’t very happy about it. Anyway . . .

During the hour-long ride, the girls discovered that they both loved Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and spent most of the trip quoting the book together and laughing hysterically. For so many reasons it was an absolute joy to listen to. Violet also shared her new love of the Beatles — “I only really like the Revolver album; all the best songs are on that one” — and played some of her dad’s music for her friend as well.

Awake, alive, alert, present, open, joyful — it’s so hard to be all of those things all at once, at any age, at any time, with anyone. In this house of intensity, red zones, anxiety — not to mention hormones! — I don’t get to see them together as often as I’d like.

But when I do it’s like a little peek behind the veil, or a flash of the lighthouse beacon in the fog: “Ah, there it is. That’s where we’re headed. Stay the course.”

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Creating Space

Several years ago, when we moved from an apartment to a house, we had an extra dishwasher. It was a good dishwasher — better than the one that came installed in the house — but it was a freestanding dishwasher and we had no use for it.

I tried and tried to sell it, but I could get no takers. Finally, I listed it on freecycle — which was new to me then — and a very grateful person came and carried it away to a cousin who had lots of baby bottles to wash or something. Finally, no portable dishwasher in the dining room.

Later that day we were driving through the neighborhood when I saw a yard sale. Someone was selling two very cool chairs that would fit perfectly in our living room, where we had a definite furniture shortage. I was pleased — move something out, and suddenly there’s space for something better to come in.

We had a similar experience this week. We agonized and argued, but finally determined that Violet won’t take science at our co-op anymore. It’s in part a financial decision, but partly an acknowledgment that the class served more of a social purpose than an academic one. We have much cheaper ways of meeting our social needs.

Still, I want her to be studying science regularly, so I knew I would have to come up with some alternative by next fall. Lo and behold, one possibility has presented itself to me already — one that will be much better academically, and one that she is extremely excited about. I don’t know if it will work out, but I’m so pleased. We made a space, and something better came along.

To cap it off, we found some Teaching Company biology DVDs that I had purchased used and then forgotten about during the busy fall and winter — just what she needs to shore up her biology foundation before doing a new science activity. Yay! We settled in to watch the first one, and in the first few minutes she was saying, “I’m not sure I’m gonna like this . . . ” Soon afterwards, however, the professor was explaining various theories of how organic matter could have arisen in a totally inorganic environment, and she was talking back to the screen and saying “Yeah, that’s good question,” and “That’s so cool!”

And what really warmed my heart was that my little preteen girl was wearing a cape and sitting a giant box she called her boat throughout the video, sharing a bag of Cheerios with Victoria, who had packed the provisions for their sailing journey in her own laundry basket/vessel. Sweet!

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