On The Other Side

I started this blog in January 2010. My sons were nine and thirteen, I’d just been through a divorce, and I was trying to recover from the trauma surrounding it. We’d been homeschooling for several years, and that constant kept the us mostly upright, but life was hard. I started blogging about life in general in 2008 (Finding My Ground), and, from what I can see, I didn’t have much to say about it at that point, so I initially focused on homeschooling. I guess that topic was more manageable. But that year, and the few after it, remain a blur.

Writing about homeschooling gave me another focus as well as a place to share my experiences educating gifted boys. A few years after starting my Finding My Ground blog, I started teaching Other People’s Children, a genre of children that delight and amaze me often because they are so familiar yet so their own selves, all while not being children I had to coax to bathe, woo to complete assignments, and exhort to clean up after themselves. It turns out that it’s far easier to teach Other People’s Children than it is to teach one’s own. It also pays better.

My sons, now 20 and 24, are grown and mostly flown. They’ve turned out decently (read: It was a rocky and scary road for many years, but we are all safe and connected now.) They are still gifted humans, but, in the adult world, it’s often drive, focus, and persistence that seem to matter most. Thankfully, they’ve mostly sorted that out as well. They are kind humans who care for others and do not tolerate discrimination or hate. They call or visit their parents on holidays, and they own their mistakes while understanding what went into their successes. And they are, mostly, happy. I couldn’t ask for more.

I’ve often wondered if attaching ourselves to the gifted child community has been worthwhile or not. Yes, it’s nice to feel like you’re in a special club of sorts, one that doesn’t blink when your four-year-old discusses the Roman Empire or side-eye you when they find out your nine-year-old is studying algebra. It’s helpful to know how to navigate the school scene with a child whose writing skills rudimentary while having a complex understanding of weather patterns and storm cells. For those with twice-exceptional kids (gifted with learning differences), contact with others in the 2e world is almost essential.

But there is another side of community and the gifted child: Competition feels fierce at times. Parents are delighted to “find their tribe” through gifted pages online and other communities, but message boards (which was all we had years back) and social medial threads can make a parent feel like they’re doing it wrong or even that their child isn’t really gifted. Reading about a second-grader who just finished writing their first novel can make you pretty anxious about your fourth-grader who is still struggling to craft more than a sentence or two. Add in the numerous (and often excellent) summer programs and beyond-school academic events, a child taking weekly piano lessons from not-a-concert-pianist and playing soccer in the not-travel-club may seem…disadvantaged.

I am, though, grateful for the community I’ve had for myself and for my sons. Perhaps the most significant gain for me was the friends that came along with homeschooling, and not just those who were homeschooling gifted kids. Homeschooling can be isolating and overwhelming. It feels like an endless buffet of educational options, all claiming to be The One. (Spoiler: There is no perfect book/class/lecture/group, but there are ones that work better for a particular child at a particular time in that child’s life.) So it’s people–often moms, but more dads as time goes on–who help you sort through those options. For me, these people who’d walked this road before me were my lifelines. They not only helped me pick a math book, but they also helped me find my way through the challenges of being both teacher and mom. They provided models of what homeschooling can be, models that fit their family at that particular time.

And they taught me that sometimes it’s best to step back and let your child learn from someone else or somewhere else. What I love about today’s homeschool world is how many “someone else’s” are in available. My sons’ “somewhere else’s” were informal classes started by homeschooling parents, lessons on how to build a computer from a neighbor, workshops on financial literacy, an owner of a tropical fish store, and walks in the woods guided by experts of those woods. My sons took classes online as well — some worked well, while others didn’t, but isn’t that just how life goes?

My sons learned from their real-life experiences as well: Both held jobs in high school (and I can’t urge homeschoolers enough to make work experience part of their child’s education). It broadened their worlds dramatically, more so, I’d dare to say, than a $3,000 two-week summer academic program at a prestigious institution. No, there’s nothing wrong with that expensive camp/academic experience, but remember that kids grow up to be adults that need to function in that adult world. To do that, they need to handle money that they’ve earned. They should have obligations beyond classes — being responsible to someone other than themselves and their parents is crucial.

So here I am, sitting on the other side of homeschooling. I have one son in college–a pre-med who pushes himself hard and likes it that way. I have another son sorting out what comes next, working until he figures it out. I’m proud of both of them, and while we’ve had our ugly moments (and months), we’ve moved to having adult relationships with one another, and I love that move. I’m the only one still homeschooling — or at least homeschooling other people’s children. I am continually amazed by these brilliant young minds and honored to be a part of their lives. I’ve enjoyed watching them grow, as they, too, find themselves on the other side of homeschooling as they launch into whatever comes next.

2 thoughts on “On The Other Side

  1. Just a note to say that, while I don’t know you, I followed your blog for years and you were very helpful during the years I homeschooled my gifted (and challenging) boys. We too are on the other side of homeschooling, with my oldest starting his junior year in college and my younger two doing well at our local high school, and I owe you a big thank you for your shared wisdom and curriculum reviews that helped guide us back in the day. Appreciate the update and glad you are all doing well!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your appreciation! It means so much to know that I’ve been useful. Congratulations! The other side is quiet and less chaotic, but I do miss science at home.

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