A gifted individual is a quick and clever thinker, who is able to deal with complex matters. Autonomous, curious and passionate. A sensitive and emotionally rich person, living intensely. He or she enjoys being creative. -definition of giftedness written by the Netherlands Study on Giftedness in Adults

Monday, March 18, 2013

We Unschool (well sorta), What's Your SuperPower?

There's lots of talk about unschooling for gifted students, and definitely there is an aspect of unschooling that is ideal for this type of learner. Even with the teenlet, you can see it happen - when something clicks just in the right interest area, when he discovers something he wants to pursue more, when he jumps in and is trying to figure out the answer to a question - that is when unschooling is at its best.

Our version of homeschooling is definitely a hybrid. The teenlet isn't all that self-motivated, so we haven't gone fully unschooling, but he does love to learn and every so often will go off on a tangent that leaves us (his parents) standing agape, utterly startled at his passion. But mostly he just does the minimum amount of work with which he can get away.

There is something about unschooling that just seems so right for this kind of learner. Learning is organic for him - it just happens. If I didn't know better, I might think he was sleeping with textbooks under his pillow and gaining all that knowledge by osmosis. One day he doesn't know something and the next he does. He comes out with completely random and bizarre knowledge and I have no idea from where it came.

These moments remind me of the time, when he was a toddler not even 1-1/2 years old, on an airplane. The elementary-aged kid who was sitting in the seat in front of the then-toddler teenlet had turned around and was entertaining him with funny faces and talking to him. So, as any good parent would do when faced with not having to entertain their child for a few moments, I pulled out my book. I have no idea how it started, but pretty soon I was aware of this older kid saying,
        "so what comes after one?"
        "what comes after two?"
        "after three?"
...and so on all the way to seven.

I had no idea how he'd learned that. None. At all. He'd never watched Sesame Street. I hadn't been playing with flash cards or trying to teach him numbers. I wasn't even sure how he'd been exposed to the idea of numbers. Daddy is a numbers-guy, but I was pretty sure he hadn't started trying to teach him that either. We were both flabbergasted. (And yes, that's a very cool word that I really enjoyed typing right there.) Something in him had learnt that without anyone ever teaching it to him.

He did the same with algebra. In kindergarten. DH asked him to solve a simple, two-digit addition problem. The 5yo teenlet looked at him for a little while, then told him the answer. DH asked how he did it - and the teenlet explained how he had solved for x (without using those terms, of course) - something we'd never taught him. He figured it out on his own. And darn it if the kid isn't STILL doing algebra in his head even though we're far past the level that most people start using calculators to help them with the computations.

So, it's very tempting to let him unschool. He seems to learn more and better that way. But there is still a part of me that wants to be sure he's got most of his basic subjects covered, which won't happen if we let him loose completely. So, we are creating a hybrid system. He's got most of his academic requirements for high school completed, and only has bazillion or so elective credits to work on. So he continues to work on core math and science subjects, but with lots of freedom in his social studies and writing curricula, adding in other subjects of interest (like computer science) as he wants to learn them. And we find that, as he gains more freedom in his learning, he gains more confidence and more motivation as well.

Unschooling Blog Hop
(see the full list at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum)
CedarLife Academy
Chasing Hollyfield
Building Wingspan
Thea Sullivan
Buffalo Mama
Wenda Sheard
Sui Generis
Red, White and Grew
Laughing at Chaos


  1. Mine taught himself to read at 3. You are correct about flabbergasted. I almost rear-ended the can in front of me when he read Zoo on a sign and told me turn so we could go.

    Coursera is pretty fabulous. It is free college courses online. My son really likes one of the instructors from UC Berkley and likes to take all the biology courses he can from him. But they have subjects across the board.

    1. oops. I almost rear-ended the *car in front of me...not the can

    2. Ha... I have no idea when the teenlet learned to read. Similar story - we were driving down the street and he asked me why that sign said, "Schlotzky's Deli." This was after he'd kept telling me he couldn't read "cat." o.O

  2. Kerridwen - HSing mom of 6May 26, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Thank you for this blog. I just started researching giftedness (never heard the term 2e before!) which will make you laugh, since both DH and I are gifted, I was homeschooled 2nd-12th grades, and I suspect my always-homeschooled 5 children (#6 is due anytime now) are gifted. But since they have always been hs'd, they've never been tested for anything. They meet our expectations (as gifted parents) as to how kids would be!

    But we recently took our challenging eldest son (child #3) for an evaluation regarding his tantrums. He didn't come up as particularly gifted on the counselor's tests, but he is Stubborn-Boy (super-hero power?) and he had been refusing to learn to read and is easily bored with math. He's also never done timed tests and since his dad and one sister are Introverts, we have a family culture of taking time to respond to questions and think through answers. The evaluation just came back with a suggestion to see a neurologist regarding his slow processing speed and academic lags... and to see an OT about what looks like SPD. *That* one I can get behind!

    Ironically, the tantrums for which we sought help seem to be settling after we had a particularly bad one a few weeks ago. My son and I had a discussion that it is OK to get mad at people you love, just not to hit them. He had never understood that - he thought that once he got upset he was a bad person and what was the point in restraining anything further! (Talk about emotional immaturity coupled with the need to intellectually understand!) Now that he knows - it's been a different world! (It helps that he has also decided to read and we are working together to make math - which he is good at - less frustrating and tedious.)

    Thank you for a chance to talk about this!