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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Education Puzzle

Every step of the Teenlet's educational career has been fraught with roadblocks and detours. To say it's been frustrating would be like saying that losing a leg is inconvenient. It doesn't do justice to the experience.

From earliest years in preschool, when we had to decide whether to keep him back to help his maturity (we didn't, and it turns out it wouldn't have helped if we had), to changing schools every year until third grade, to fighting the school district for services, to the incessant "he's too young for..." that makes me want to poke my eyes out - we haven't had a single year that was simple, when we didn't feel like we were being blocked from accessing programs or services that could have helped him gain the skills he needs or the academic challenge to keep him engaged.

Now, at 14, the challenges haven't stopped. We no longer have the option of rapid acceleration of "regular" subjects. Up to this point, we've been letting him go - at his own pace, piecing together educational experiences from various places in order to create some semblance of a well-rounded education. But we can't do that any longer. He's topped out that which we can option for him. So again, we are piecing together and making our arguments that age shouldn't limit options - for him or anyone else.

I always thought that if I had the documentation to back up my claims, it would be enough. But so far, this isn't proving to be true. The SAT scores don't matter. The Coursera certificates "with distinction" don't matter. The current course load doesn't matter. Even the entrance exam, passed with flying colors, doesn't matter. All they see is the age.

All we want is to see our son keep learning, and loving it.

There are options, sure. Some of them might work for him, some definitely will not. If I wasn't concerned that complete mental laziness could set in, I would suggest he spend the next year doing Coursera courses that sound fun to him (read: science). But he does need to keep moving forward in his writing (which he hates), and math (which he's very good at, but he says he hates). Colleges like to see full math load for four years of high school, but I have no idea what that looks like for him since he's completing calculus in "8th grade." The community colleges around here tend to be a bit constrained by rules, and the school district hasn't proven to be much help in overcoming them. He's not yet ready for full college entrance.

But this is a child that rises to the occasion with consistency. He matures when he's forced to do so. He figures out how to get the work done when there is no other option. Taking this next step will be another occasion for rising to - but he has to be given the opportunity first.

It's my job to make sure that happens. Let's hope I'm up to it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Adolescence: A New World

Parenting an adolescent has a bad rap. For every parent who loves this stage of growing independence, raging hormones, and intense emotions, there are 10, maybe 100 or 1,000, who want to run and hide. Add to typical adolescence the challenges associated with gifted intensity and twice-exceptionality, and you have a dangerously challenging mix, right?

Contrary to how the rest of parenting has been for us, adolescence has been kind in our household. Yeah, we have some eye rolling and a little 'tude every so often, but overall the teenage years have so far proven to be more pleasant than any other stage we've been through as parents.

I'm sure there are multiple reasons for this, but I believe there are two main reasons why this stage is so much easier than earlier ones. First, we have been fighting the adolescent battles for many more years than he's been a teenager. Second, those raging hormones have fast-tracked the maturity that has been dragging behind - way behind - in earlier stages.

Let's take the teenage battles first. Teenagers are known for emotional outbursts that rival the "terrible twos," and frustrating parents by making irrational decisions. The Teenlet's special mix of high IQ, hair trigger emotions, over-excitabilities, and immaturity that has complicated every aspect of our lives, have given us a 14 year history of "doing the teens" already. We've fought many of the battles we've watched other parents of teens fight,  but we did it when our son was 5, 6, or 7, when the consequences of poor decisions were difficult, but not life-changing. He knows we are his parents, he knows we mean business, and though he has us pushing him towards independence almost more than he is yet striving for it, he knows that we are there supporting him but he will always have to face the consequences of his actions - good or bad. His decisions have become wiser, not perfect by a long shot, but he is learning responsibility and the freedom that comes with it.

Pair that growing wisdom with hormones that have shot his maturity through the proverbial roof (relatively), and it is fantastic to see this child, who has been wringing tears from my heart since he was in preschool,  flourishing in ways I sometimes thought if I would never see.

I used to dread these years, thinking I couldn't imagine things getting worse, but that's all I had heard about adolescence - how challenging it is for parents (it's no cakewalk for teens, either). And we may still have that coming. But for now, I love seeing him grow into manhood - becoming independent, passionate about his interests, accepting challenges and stepping up to meet them. I love seeing him stretch his executive skills to work out his own system of organization, and watching him take responsibility when it falls apart and he has to try again.

It is, indeed, a new world. But it is the same one, too.

This post is part of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop on Homeschooling & Parenting Gifted and 2e Kids