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Dear GHF Members:
We at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum have wanted to put together a newsletter for a long time, so we're understandably excited about this new project! This is our opportunity to better communicate with our members, and to let you know what is happening in the dual and sometimes overlapping worlds of giftedness and homeschooling. With this newsletter, we will provide you with the latest research on everything to do with parenting and educating our unique children, including articles by GHF board and staff, links to new research, and columns that explain more about what other organizations offer gifted homeschooling families. We'll include insights from parents and professionals based on their own experiences, and we welcome ideas and suggestions to help make this good for all of us.
For me, starting a newsletter has an additional meaning: it says that we have grown big enough and organized enough to be able to provide this service. GHF is all-volunteer, and we run it in between educating our own children, working at outside jobs, and otherwise trying to live our lives. Our story began a little over five years ago, when a bunch of parents went looking for support and found that the gifted organizations at the time wanted nothing to do with homeschooling, and the homeschool organizations didn't believe in the “g” word. We had trouble finding schools that met our children's needs, or we felt uncomfortable with our local homeschool groups because our children were just so different—and not always welcome. The suggestion was made that we start a group for families like ours, and over the years we have discovered that we're not just “a few families”; there are lots of us, and our numbers continue to grow!
I'm really proud of the work our small number has done to create a place for support, information, advocacy, and community. The GHF team is absolutely awesome—hard-working, creative, smart, and just plain ol' fun. I want to give some really major kudos to the entire GHF team and especially to Sarah Wilson, the wonderful human being who has taken on the role of Newsletter Editor and helped make this happen.
Love you all,
DEAR GHF: What is the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, anyway, and what does it offer?
—WONDERING IN WASHINGTON
DEAR WONDERING: Besides the thriving online community for which it is best known, GHF also engages in advocacy, outreach, and education. GHF digs up the latest information pertaining to learning, education, child development and parenting, as it relates to where giftedness and homeschooling intersect. GHF shares it with their members and with the greater community, as well as using it to raise awareness among professionals who work with gifted children and families.
Many misconceptions exist about what giftedness is and how homeschooling can work for gifted children, and we look forward to chatting with you about these questions in upcoming issues. Please look for our Dear GHF column and send in your questions at [email protected].
Dear GHF is answered by Corin Barsily Goodwin, Executive Director of GHF, and Mika Gustavson, LMFT.
To Mensa or not to Mensa? That is the question I am asked most often. Followed by, what are the benefits for kids who join Mensa? Isn’t it wrong to label kids?
One of the first benefits of joining Mensa is: You are unlikely to be the smartest person in the room. Your fellow Mensans can follow your conversation, even when it veers from cartoons to astrophysics and back. We even get your jokes:
Zack: What do you call a fish with three eyes?
Zack: Fi-i-ish. What do you call a fish with three F’s?
Zack: Nope. A school dropout.
(From FRED: The Magazine for Young Mensans, 1(1):p. 5)
Mensa’s program for gifted young people is divided into three parts: national programs, local programs, and parent support programs.
Our national programs include a full time, kid-focused strand at our Annual Gathering. Mensa kids participate in our award-winning Kids Trek program, where they see speakers and demonstrations, and participate in field trips and other stimulating activities that enrich their experience. Kids are also welcomed to attend any conference sessions that strike their fancy, as well as join in our round-the-clock board games tournaments, talent shows, trivia contests, and general merrymaking.
The rest of the year kids can participate in activities through their local group. Young Mensans are Mensans with “full privileges,” which means they are welcome at nearly every activity in their local group (except for cocktail hour, for obvious reasons). FRED: The Magazine for Young Mensans is our quarterly humor and information magazine written by kids, for kids. Aimed at ages six to about 14, any Mensa family may receive it, and any Mensa family member is eligible to contribute. Local groups also provide college scholarships to Mensans and non-Mensans.
Mensaforkids.org has educational computer games for kids through 4th grade, as well as free downloadable lesson plans for K-12. Our parent support group, Bright Kids, has 700 members ready to offer “been there, done that” advice for dealing with the pleasures and problems of growing up with giftedness. Bright Kids members discuss schooling- and homeschooling-related issues.
Is it wrong to label kids?
For many, “gifted” is an unnecessary label, unless you’re dealing with the schools. At Mensa, we recognize this, and welcome the families of Mensa members into the gifted youth program. You don’t need to have your child tested for membership, unless you want to, although we do accept scores from more than 200 different IQ tests. Kids of members are welcomed at Kids Trek and Teen SIG. They can receive and contribute to FRED, and participate in the monthly Family Games Day put on by local groups. They may also benefit from having the Mensa name on their college and job applications.
Mensa and the homeschooled gifted child
So what benefits does Mensa offer to the homeschooled gifted child? Lots! Our purpose is to bring together like-minded individuals to be silly and serious. You can rebuild a library’s collection, earn a scholarship, attend a Colloquium, judge new board games, play team trivia, and sing karaoke as a Mensa member. Best of all, you can be comfortable in your own skin amid a group of hundreds of strangers, who won’t be strangers for long.
_Lessa Scherrer is Chair of the Gifted Youth Committee at American Mensa. Her experiences raising and then homeschooling her three gifted sons is what drove her to Mensa in the first place.__
Rooting barehanded through a bucket of squid is probably not how most people would define “success”; neither is dancing about your bedroom at midnight like an idiot. But if I told you that at the ripe old age of sixteen, I go to college full-time (and yes, one of my classes is a dance class!) and volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, “success” might a little more apt.
My name is Kimberly Taylor; I am sixteen years old. I’ve been homeschooled since I was nine, and finished about six months ago to start taking classes at a community college. Before being homeschooled, I attended a regular public elementary school, where I tested as gifted. When I was due to enter fourth grade, my family decided to switch to homeschooling.
Before you ask, no, we didn’t stay locked up in the house all day. No, we didn’t run ignorant through the streets. Yes, we made friends; and yes, we learned plenty and then some. One of the first things that my parents did (after ordering textbooks) was find a local homeschool park day, and we branched out from there. The first year that we “home-schooled” we were barely home —we spent most of the day running around to all sorts of classes and homeschool programs, from tennis to science to choir.
At fourteen, I found myself handing in an application to become a volunteer guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. After the initial interview and training, I went straight to work. Now, I spend Friday mornings with my hands immersed in freezing water, where I am probably pointing out a sea star’s mouth and explaining that said starfish barfs its stomach out when it eats.
The homeschooling went on quite well for six years. At that point was when I decided that college might be the next step. So, in September 2009, I was off. College is not nearly as scary as I had been told and is actually rather enjoyable most of the time.
Interestingly, I’ve noticed a gap between my peers and myself. For one, I’m more likely to step up to the plate when others won’t regardless of what that plate is: decision-making, leadership, actually doing the work, et cetera. I also have no problem communicating with others, no matter their age. I attribute it all to my homeschooling.
Honestly, I doubt I would’ve turned out quite this “successful,” in common or personal terms, if I had fumbled through the routine of public schooling. Homeschooling allowed me more freedom to develop and pursue my interests, and didn’t try to compartmentalize or squash my development the way that public schooling would have. Who knows where I’ll go from here?
With that, I bid you farewell, adios, au revoir, bless bless, and many wishes that your journeys—no matter what they are or how you take them—turn out for the better, and end up as much a “success” (however you define it ) as mine did.
Now that you’ve read the inaugural issue of A Word from GHF, we would love to hear from you!
Please send your comments, questions, or insights to [email protected]. Maybe your letter will end up in our next issue!
Speaking of our next issue, look for it in July 2010.
Until then, enjoy the journey!
Sarah J. Wilson
April 2010 • Volume 1 • Issue 1