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Spinning the "Socialization" Question

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Welcome to week 2 of a 10-day series sponsored by Prufrock Press and iHomeschool Network. 40 bloggers, more than 350 posts, and some great giveaways {including my newest book!} in the “Pin to Win” contest, all over the course of two weeks.

Wow! Day TEN is here. I can’t believe that this is the last post of the series. It’s been a lot of fun connecting with other parents who are in the trenches homeschooling their gifted kids throughout the last two weeks, and I appreciate the conversations. I hope we can keep some of it going in the weeks and months to come. As someone recently said to me, it can really be isolating – homeschooling in general – when you throw in a challenging child, it makes it even tougher to connect.

If you’re just joining me for the series, you may want to check back in from the beginning, when I talked about giftedness and kids with twice exceptionalities. I also shared why I think you should homeschool your gifted, unique, and asynchronous learners. And how following their interests, talents, and being really flexible when parenting and teaching gifted children can help you determine the best strategies and methods to use.

Today I want to talk a little about the “socialization question.” As homeschoolers, with any type of child, it’s still one of the most common questions asked – “How do you give your kids enough socialization?” {Or some variation of the same…} For a new homeschooler, or someone who doesn’t homeschool and has no experience with it, it’s a question that they’re truly worried about.

Once you’ve homeschooled for any length of time, you realize that the concern is groundless. In fact, you’ll sometimes wonder how you’ll ever find the time to sit still enough to get school done! For example, I’m writing this post after a very busy day. Molly practiced her reading and watched Leap Frog Phonics videos in the car, while Trevor did 2 math lessons on the computer when he first woke, and then completed his other work in the car, too. We started with a gymnastics class, then headed out to meet a friend to pick out pumpkins and get apples to make sauce this weekend, and finally took the hour and a half {from the orchard} drive out to visit with Brian’s dad.

The kids interacted with children of various ages in their homeschool gymnastics class, enjoyed a lively conversation with both our friend Mary and the lovely woman at the farm shop. While the girls played in the fallen leaves, Trevor followed the farmer on his tractor into the barn to chat about farm equipment. Finally, Trevor’s hanging out watching World War II DVDs with his grandpa tonight, and will be helping the “train guys” who come over to Grandpa’s every Friday morning to build model train in the basement and stay chatting until lunch.

In what other educational venue can a child spend the day with age peers, siblings, extended family, friends of all ages, and workers willing to mentor him briefly?

The socialization question can be damaging and/or hindering to any homeschooler, but especially to those parenting gifted children. Gifted children have different social and emotional needs than typical kids. Oftentimes, their strengths contribute to real {yet frustratingly difficult to deal with} problems.

 

A gifted child who:

  • is very inquisitive may ask embarrassing questions or be overly excessive in their interests.
  • learns or picks up information quickly might be impatient with others, rude, or rebel against routine.
  • likes to organize things or people often comes up with complicated, circular rules, and is seen as bossy.
  • has a large, advanced vocabulary may use words to manipulate people or situations.
  • has acquired a depth and breadth of knowledge advanced for his age might become easily bored by age-peers.
  • has intense concentration when he is interested in something of his own choosing {perseveration} will forget about chores, school, hygiene, etc. and will be stubborn and resistant when interrupted.
  • very empathetic or sensitive often is devastated by peer criticism or rejection. This can cause anxiety, depression, and other serious psychological issues.
  • has high energy, alertness, or eagerness {parents of gifted children often note that their kids sleep very little or have trouble “shutting down”} are seen as hyperactive.
  • is interested in many diverse subjects and hobbies often appear disorganized and become frustrated with the lack of time to pursue all their various interests.

 

Gifted kids:

  • struggle with asynchrony which can lead to intense emotional outbursts when their motor skills don’t match up to their creativity {i.e. they “see” in their mind what they want to create, but lack the motor skills to make it happen}.
  • foster resentment in peers, often losing friends, when they try to organize complex games and play.
  • are extremely self-critical, knowing the ideal they want to achieve, but experience a “falling short” because of their age or ability.
  • can be perfectionists that hold themselves back because they have an unrealistic view of what is actually achievable.
  • sometimes become underachievers because they seek to avoid the possible failures that they know are common when taking risks.
  • prompt discomfort in others, particularly adults, because they challenge roles, traditions, and expectations.
  • have a tough time finding peers and retreat into books or imaginative play.

 

So how do we find appropriate socialization opportunities for our gifted kids? The truth is that we need to think carefully about the emotional needs of our kids, and not just thrust them into traditional social situations just because we’re afraid they’ll “miss out” by not being in school. Sometimes gifted kids just struggle too much in traditional peer groups.

Trevor, for example, like many gifted kids I’ve worked with and known, has trouble playing and working well for long periods of time with kids his own age. There are a few exceptions, but usually the kids his age that he gets along with well have quirks of their own or are very similar to him. He does much better with older children or adults, with whom he can have in-depth conversations, or much younger kids that he can organize, mentor, and direct into play.

Continue with your efforts to get your child involved in homeschooling or interest-based groups, but don’t overlook non-traditional sources for socialization, too. Find your engineering son an adult mentor who can help him draw up blue prints, build scale models, and analyze a design’s viability. Get your daughter involved in service activities where she can work with older or younger people, sharing her skills and interests. Invite a friend over to teach your son how to knit. They’ll have wonderful one-on-one conversations with each other. Take advantage of skills in the family. My father-in-law loves American history, especially the wars, and Trevor adores him. They’re getting together a few times a month to watch old movies and documentaries and to talk about history. I’m honestly not sure who looks forward to it more.

Even more importantly, though, than finding these opportunities for your child, is finding support for yourself. Parenting intense, bright, and emotionally difficult children can be isolating. Friends and family don’t “get” your kids. Honestly, sometimes you don’t either and can’t blame them, but it’s hard to feel like you’re always apologizing.

Seek out parents who understand. They’ve been there. They have challenging kids of their own—kids whose challenges are completely our of the realm or “typical challenges.” The best support, obviously, is in person. Someone with whom you can escape periodically for coffee and commiseration. In the absence of local support, though, seek other parents out online. Blogs and Facebook communities, listservs, and websites all can help.

And know this, no matter your personal religious convictions, I’m praying for you. Each one of you who has read or reread a post in this series, shared it, or commented in some way has meant a lot to me as I seek out my own support in parenting and homeschooling a gifted kid. I’m praying for you. I know how hard it is not to put your tough kid on the bus or ask someone to take him or her for a few days so you can have a break. I’m praying for you.

Come back. Email. Comment. Facebook. Tweet. Reach out for support—together we can help our gifted children succeed.

Be blessed and enjoy your children,

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Also check out the 39 other fabulous bloggers who are participating in this 10-day Hopscotch sponsored by the iHomeschool Network and Prufrock Press.


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Colleen