January brings a lot of welcome habits: decluttering, organizing, and mid-year homeschool evaluations.
Our family enjoys this time of year, but mid-year evaluations have not worked well for us. If I waited until January to evaluate and tweak our homeschool, it would take me until June. Meanwhile, my son would lose his mind from sheer boredom and lack of challenge.
When you homeschool a child who may go through three years of material each school year, you have to change your mindset. Instead of evaluating and tweaking a couple of times a year, you have to do it more often. Constantly, even. How do you do that without losing your mind? After 14 years of doing this, I’ve got some tips for you!
Keep a Flexible Mindset
Often, we fall into the mindset that there is only one valid way to educate our children. This is not because it’s true, but because it’s what we know and see. We might believe that a specific schedule or the scope and sequence in the teacher’s manual is the one true path to take. Honestly, though, this just isn’t true.
That schedule which we all know and pretend to love, the scope and sequence that was carefully designed. They are simply tools. They are there to give you a baseline to work from so that you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel.
If they happen to work for you, fantastic! That is one less thing that you have to focus on.
For most families of gifted and twice-exceptional children though, these curriculums simply don’t work. They were not written with our children in mind.
Let Your Child Set the Pace
As the child of two teachers, I thought homeschooling would be easy. I knew how lesson plans and classroom schedules worked, and if I could help tutor a classroom of 20+ 8-year-olds, surely I could handle planning and teaching my own child.
I quickly learned that homeschooling is completely different from teaching or tutoring in a classroom. I also learned that homeschooling an atypical child requires a completely different set of “rules.” No matter how often I tried to plan ahead, my son worked on his own schedule. Eventually, I learned to let him do so.
Gifted and 2E children have their own way of doing things, and it often is not a way that makes sense to the rest of us. It is, however, the way that makes the most sense to them. When you are educating and parenting a gifted or 2E child, you really don’t have to motivate your child to learn. They will do that all by themselves. It is your job to guide them, to be their sounding board, and to keep them supplied with challenging, satisfying materials.
In this case, tailoring a gifted child’s education often does not mean planning a detailed schedule that will be followed to the tee. Rather, it means having a lot of things available for your child to dig into and the patience to deal with their intensity and constant change.
Instead of trying to control your child’s education, you get to go along for the ride. And instead of setting the pace, you are there to make small adjustments as they are needed.
Think of it like driving a race car: you can’t make huge, sudden adjustments because the car is going too fast. Rather, you make constant small adjustments, keeping the car moving along its path.
Keep Communication Open
Something that I came to realize is that I cannot do this on my own. My son has an amazing mind, but it is one that works very differently than mine. If I am going to guide him and educate him, I need to keep a solid line of communication open with him.
For me, this meant admitting, early on, that I am not perfect. I am not the “all-knowing mommy.” If I give him something that does not make sense to him, it’s not on purpose. It’s because I honestly thought it would work. If it doesn’t, for any reason, I need him to be willing to tell me that. In order for this to happen, he needs to know that I’m not going to take it personally. Both of us have to be willing to open up and help each other.
This is a system that we set in place when my son was about 8 years old, and it is one that has served us well for over a decade. Even in college, he will come to me to discuss assignments and systems that don’t make sense to him so that I can help him find ways to navigate them.
How have you handled evaluations and tweaks in your homeschool? Have you found a system that works, or are you still looking? Share with us today what is working for you or where you need help in finding resources.