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In this issue of A Word from GHF, we address the oft-asked question of homeschooling and socialization. Our guest contributor takes a look at what to expect from asynchronous children as they reach their middle and high school years. And, our homeschooling success story is living proof that 2e kids can grow up to be successful in learning and life.
So, scroll down and read on to learn more about homeschooling, giftedness, asynchrony, and how they all add up to a fulfilled life.
Sarah J. Wilson
Yesterday I was out grocery shopping. My son began chatting with a neighbor at the check-out stand. Later, the neighbor told me how smart and polite my son was, and asked me how he was doing in school. I told her that we homeschool, and she seemed concerned that a "smart boy like him" would be deprived of needed socialization. I'm new to homeschooling, and now I'm worried. Am I doing my gifted child a disservice by keeping him at home?
Are you really keeping him at home? This conversation occurred at the grocery store, where his social skills and intelligence impressed your neighbor until she learned your educational choice. Did his behavior suddenly change, or might she have been blinded by her own preconceptions?
Most homeschoolers field questions about socialization at some point. Many people worry that children will be locked in a room with workbooks and nobody to speak with but Mom all day. In fact, we are frequently out—running to the store, the park, the library—and our children are participating in classes and activities with others around the community. While concerns regarding socialization are well-intended, they often reflect an assumption that social skills are best acquired in a traditional setting. Instead, we should ask ourselves if we are raising them to be good children, or raising them to become good adults. If, by “good adults,” we mean sought after by colleges and employers, involved in their communities, and more likely to vote (Evidence for Homeschooling: Constitutional Analysis in Light of Social Science Research), then homeschooling is an excellent way prepare them for adulthood.
In the traditional classroom, a child may learn to sit quietly, suppress boredom, and regurgitate information; but will she learn to think for herself, be respectful to others, use good judgment, and appreciate a depth of ideas? Teachers are limited in their resources, constrained in what they teach, and often the sole adult in charge of 20-30 children (New Survey Finds Schools Facing Growing Budget Cuts and the End of Stimulus Funding). Unfortunately, the social skills a gifted child might learn in the classroom will be those most likely to benefit the group, not the individual child. Often, they learn not to speak up with "annoying" questions or feel pressure to dumb themselves down in order to get with the program (Social Skills of Gifted Children). While there are often concerns that children must learn to fit in, the school environment in which they are expected to do so little resembles the many social and professional environments from which they can choose as adults. A homeschooled child, by contrast, often has myriad opportunities to extend his social repertoire in an adult-world environment.
We suggest that you pay little attention to questions from well-intentioned but ill-informed others and rely more heavily on your own observations of your child in diverse, real-world interactions. This will give you a better understanding of who your child is and what he needs to progress successfully toward his adulthood.
Please look for our Dear GHF column and send in your questions to DearGHF@giftedhomeschoolers.org.
Dear GHF is answered by Corin Barsily Goodwin, Executive Director of GHF, and Mika Gustavson, LMFT.
By Susan Baum, Ph.D., Marcy Dann, M.A., BCET,
Cynthia Novak, Ph.D., and Lesli Preuss, Ph.D.
The article in its entirety first appeared in the March, 2009, issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter (www.2eNewsletter.com), under the title The Mythology of Learning, Part 2: In Their Own Stream: Managing Dynamic Asynchrony.
Asynchrony and the 2e Middle School Years
The middle school years tend to be challenging for even the most typical of children, so imagine the challenge for a child who has two exceptionalities. Middle school—commonly the time when students make the transition from childhood to adolescence—involves maturing socially, emotionally, physically, and academically. For a child whose maturation is significantly asynchronous, these transitions often lead to poor or inappropriate responses. Take, for example, a child at this stage of development who’s asked to complete a report on meteors. Her teacher knows that she’s passionate about meteors and has a terrific fund of knowledge in this area. Yet, the student refuses to complete the paper, making up excuse after excuse about why the paper remains incomplete. Moreover, the teacher begins to hear the student saying things like, “This is such a stupid assignment.” Most likely, these responses are not due to outright defiance. Rather, we might see them as an indicator that the child has encountered an area of asynchrony. Yes, she has college-level knowledge of the topic; however, she struggles with the writing, planning, and organizing that the assignment requires. Her reaction, then, is to refuse to do the assignment.
This example draws attention to another area of asynchrony, emotional development. We might expect the student to be able to communicate her difficulties to her teacher. Yet, the child doesn’t have the social readiness or awareness to do this. Instead, she cries when confronted by the teacher and her parents, and stomps off to her room screaming that “no one understands.” In many cases, they don’t. Behavior of this sort is not usually stubbornness or defiance, as it might appear; rather, it’s a sign of the asynchrony in the 2e child.
Middle school often presents significant social challenges for the 2e child. Other students rarely understand why the child who always seems to know the answer in class doesn’t join in playground games and ignores or refuses social invitations. Moreover, when children respond in a “know-it-all way” or don’t seem to know when to quit talking about a topic, despite the listeners’ obvious boredom, they tend to drive other children away. These difficulties can lead to a child being teased or labeled as a “nerd.” Unfortunately, the anxious avoidance of and inappropriate response to social situations is often another reflection of the developmental asynchronies that 2e children face on a daily basis.
Asynchronous Behaviors in MiddleSchool
• Refusal to complete tasks
• Forgetting about the assignment
• Declaring assignment as “stupid”
• Refusal to elaborate on written as-signments
• Dislike of/refusal to participate in PE
• Crying at the slightest offense
• Inability to read nonverbal cues
• Drawn to computer-based games rather than other social events
Asynchrony and the 2e High School Years
How does asynchrony look in high school? Outside of knowing a great deal of information in certain content areas, 2e students are often immature in both familiar and unexpected situations. Most obviously, they tend to avoid tasks they fear will be difficult. They may shut down or withdraw from class activities when frustrated. They may resist starting tasks and procrastinate in completing them so that they miss deadlines. Avoidance may also be a sign of anxiety when a student is fearful that the product is less than perfect or that excellence will lead to heightened expectations on the part of parents or teachers.
Asynchronous behavior might account for 2e students who blame others rather than taking responsibility for their actions or who fail to regulate their thoughts, emotions, and actions. Writing may also be an area where asynchronous behavior appears. 2e students whose motor development lags behind their chronological age may write less than what they know for many different reasons, but it’s likely that they’re overloaded with the simultaneous demands of the writing task. For these students, the process of writing is slow, halting, and effortful because they lack automaticity, the ability to process information and complete a task effortlessly, accurately, and fluently.
Asynchronous Behaviors in High School
• Shutting down
• Slow rate of processing
• Minimal written response
• Lack of automaticity
• Lack of internal regulation
• Verbal excuses
• Dependence on external factors
Bridges Academy is college preparatory school, grades 5-12, that educates twice exceptional students—students who are gifted and highly gifted with learning differences. For more information on the Bridges Academy, please go to http://www.bridges.edu/.
I have always described my education as a mosaic of classes, self-directed learning, opportunities and luck. First, a brief curriculum vitae: my formal education included two years in a gifted program, five years of homeschooling, followed by a single grade skip into high school, and this is where things get interesting. I began high school as a normal freshman (well you know, all things considered), taking a few honors classes where available; I chose to participate in a dual-enrollment program (Running Start) and ultimately graduated in three years. At 16, I became a fully matriculated student at the University of Washington (Fall 2007) as a regular incoming freshman, living on campus and participating in residence life, including a brief flirtation with the Greek system and a developing love of the arts. On the 13th of June, I graduated from the University of Washington's Honors College with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and a minor in Architecture (emphasizing history over design). While my schooling experience has been incredible, homeschooling also provided my “real” education, so to speak.
As a homeschooler, and particularly as a student with multiple learning disabilities (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Central Auditory Processing Disorder), homeschooling was more than class- or text-based learning: it was a process of self-directed investigation, discovery, and realization. (I feel like I just described the path to Nirvana, and that’s not far from the truth.) Homeschooling prepared me both for college (and soon, graduate school), but also the ever-mysterious future of life and the workplace. In addition to providing me with fundamental life-skills such as managing my time, staying organized, working independently (and confidently), my time as a homeschooler allowed me to discover my passions—both in terms of academics (history, art, and architecture) and leisure (photography, writing, and cooking). Were it not for the many and varied experiences the flexibility of homeschooling allowed me (from youth theater to botany), and the skills acquired along the way, I know that my success in college would have been limited, and come at a much higher price.
As I have said, my future seems ever-mysterious, and to be quite candid, that is perfectly all right with me. I am taking off this coming year from academia, applying to graduate schools in the autumn (I am planning for a Masters in Education) and working in the meantime. This is not to say that I plan to jump into a 9-5 job just yet—not that this would be a bad thing!—but I am hoping to land an internship (or three) at local art museums, libraries, or universities. If possible, I also plan to audit a few classes in the coming year, keeping my toe in the academic world, so to speak.
July 2010 • Volume 1 • Issue 2