Author Archives: Sallie

Children Who Don't Fit Grade Level Parameters

Children Who Don’t Fit Grade Level Parameters

Children Who Don't Fit Grade Level Parameters

We’ve homeschooled Caroline from the beginning. Although we’ve wavered a bit here and there, we’ve remained committed to homeschooling, believing it is the best option for her for a number of reasons.

Because we homeschool, there have been certain issues we haven’t had to deal with. For example, Caroline has a late September birthday which means she would have made the cutoff for kindergarten, but she would have been one of the youngest kids in her class. An additional five or six months of development can be huge when a child is five or six. We’ve seen that first-hand with friends who have a daughter who is four months older than Caroline. When the girls were younger, I could definitely see my friend’s daughter was further along developmentally. Caroline was reading before kindergarten, but I’m not sure she would have been ready in other ways. Because we homeschool, we never had to make a decision about when to start kindergarten based on outside expectations. We simply started her when she was five and did what was developmentally appropriate for her.

Like many gifted kids, Caroline is asynchronous in her development. She is miles ahead of her age cohort in some areas and what would be termed “below grade level” in other areas. This really doesn’t concern me because I’ve seen firsthand that when the light goes on in a certain area, the mastery is rapid.  This has been true of walking, potty training, reading, etc. When she’s ready, she’s ready. It’s like flipping a switch.

Even in our homeschool co-op, the classes are multi-grades in the early elementary classes so she’s been in classes that were K-2 as youngest through oldest over the course of three years. At church, her different activities were mixed grade so they worked as well.

And then came grade specific Sunday School at the new church. Yikes.

There is a reason they call it Sunday School, I guess. This class was school. Reading, discussion and writing. Lots of sitting and listening.

So not how Caroline learns best.

And the areas they emphasized were some of the areas where Caroline does not currently excel.

So this was our first experience of bumping up (hard) against the assumption that a third grader must be able to do A, B and C because this is what third graders do. Suffice it to say it was not a pleasant experience.

In trying to process with her what happened, I reminded Caroline of a time a couple of years ago at co-op when she was taking a class about America. The students made three dimensional Washington Monuments. Caroline was one of the youngest children in the class. She whipped hers together in no time because she is fantastic at that kind of thing. Her teacher was impressed and even spoke with us about it. She also asked Caroline to help some of the other kids who were really struggling, a number of who were older than Caroline. I reminded Caroline of this and the fact that no one is good at everything and learns at different speeds. I reminded her that a few of those older kids might have even been a bit embarrassed that a younger student was helping them. I think our conversation helped her think through the church situation even though it was still very disappointing.

I don’t have any big words of advice or some great summary of how to handle situations like this. I’m simply sharing it as an example of how homeschooling choices seem so natural and make so much sense to us in the world of our homeschool and yet we are reminded at times of how counter-cultural some of those most basic choices really are when compared to traditional schooling.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Relationship Homeschooling and Your Differently-Wired Child

Relationship Homeschooling and Your Differently-Wired Child

Relationship Homeschooling and Your Differently-Wired Child

When I started blogging in 2005, a woman named Karen with a blog named from the prairie left a comment on my blog which was then called Two Talent Living. I’m not certain how we initially connected, but I’m guessing it was through a website neither one of us would recommend now! LOL!

Over the past nine years I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this online friendship as we’ve shared our blogging experiences, followed stories together, and encouraged each other that we weren’t going crazy thinking a certain way about different topics. It is amazing to me that someone I’ve never had the opportunity to meet in real life and have only corresponded with and spoken with on the phone could have been used in such profound ways to bless me and encourage me in the faith.

The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling

Karen (now blogging at that mom) released her first book The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling: when the one anothers come home last spring and it is well worth your time if you are a parent whether you homeschool or not. While Karen writes a great deal about homeschooling in the book, it is at its heart a book about the parent-child relationship with a strong emphasis on the Scriptures.

I was fortunate to be in an ongoing dialogue with Karen during the years she was formulating the ideas for her book and then writing it. Why? Because I truly believe it saved me a lot of heartache in my own parenting journey. Karen often spoke about the fact that our children are not our adversaries and it was a message I needed to hear. Too often parenting experts (especially in certain Christian circles) present children as adversaries who need to be dominated and defeated. This is just so wrong.

Our Children are Not Our Adversaries

Caroline is not my adversary. She is my child, my sister in Christ, and I hope (as Brenda often says) that I’m raising my own best friend of the future. The mix of my own strong introversion and Caroline’s spiritedness would make it easy for me to slip into feeling like Caroline is my adversary. But that is not the case. Nor is it the case for anyone who has a differently-wired child. These children require a lot of parenting skill, energy and time. There is no doubt about it. But they are not our adversaries or someone to be conquered.

Karen’s emphasis in the book on the one another verses in the Bible I think will also help parents reflect on their parenting approach and perhaps keep them from making big mistakes with their own children.

Be forewarned. Karen is a strong proponent of homeschooling in the book. And the book is full of Scripture. If either of those ideas bother you, the book may not be for you. But if you are looking for encouragement to love your children in practical ways instead of a list of rules, I truly think you will enjoy this book.

If you would like to enter a giveaway for one of three copies of the book, please go here. This is a guest post Karen wrote about her son with Asperger’s and I put the giveaway at the end of the post.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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5 Tips for Homeschooling a Gifted Child

5 Tips for Homeschooling a Gifted Child

5 Tips for Homeschooling a Gifted Child

Today’s guest post in the 31 Days of Learning Differently is from Andrea Townsley of The Townsley Times.

It can be a challenge to stay one step ahead of the gifted child. Things can get more complicated when they are spirited, sensitive or don’t deal well with transitions. Homeschooling these children can be a huge blessing as we can tailor their education to accommodate their pace, skill level and learning needs. But it is not without its challenges, for them and for us as parents.

Get Creative with Curricula

A lot of parents get hung up on which curriculum to use and when a child is gifted, it can be even harder to figure out what’s best for their needs. There are so many options to choose from, but you do not need to choose a one-size-fits-all curriculum that comes in a nice tidy box. You can mix and match from curricula for each subject to ensure you are working at the child’s level for individual topics, but you can go a step further and supplement with hands-on activities at home, participating in local study groups or co-ops, checking out any and all cultural sites in your area or taking some classes at a nearby community college. (There are usually non-credit options if your child is not ready for credit-based courses.)

For the younger crowd, some great options include printables for tracing and coloring, basic science experiments, an interactive calendar and weather center, watching history or science videos on YouTube or Netflix and, of course, plenty of arts and crafts.

Mixing things up can help the spirited crowd stay interested and focused on the material without getting bored and acting out.

Keep It Moving

Gifted children don’t move at the same pace as their peers. They tend to learn quicker – we already know this. But also consider the fact that they can get frustrated more easily because they are necessarily using more challenging material. Thankfully, they develop coping mechanisms that allow them to learn through the frustration. They retain the material better perhaps because of this frustration (as opposed to in spite of it), whereas other children might shut down in the same situation.

That said, it’s important to recognize the limits of the gifted child. Watch your child carefully to learn the signs that show when he or she is hitting a proverbial wall, and keep things moving along. To aid in transitioning more easily, find a natural stopping point and then change subjects or take a break. You can come back to the topic later or another day.

Do What’s Right for Your Child and Nevermind the Naysayers

Perhaps you have started formal schooling with a young child, a time at which most parents insist that learning through play is the only type of appropriate education. Only you know your child’s limits and only you know what your child is capable of. The gifted and talented tend to amaze even themselves, so if you believe your child is ready for more advanced types of instruction, go ahead and give it a shot. What other people have to say about it doesn’t really matter. How you react to these people can affect your attitude during teaching hours, so it’s really important to let it go.

Remember Your Sense of Humor

As with all things in life, being able to laugh at your own mistakes and not take things too seriously can really help when the going gets tough. Showing this to our children is especially important when they are qualitatively different from the general population. These kids have some quirks, and homeschooling will inevitably bring them out. You must show them how to embrace their differences and, in order to do so, you have to embrace it also. Cut your kid some slack, and yourself, too.

Give It to God

When problems crop up, prayer is always helpful. Pray for guidance and discernment, patience, and assistance in understanding your child. It is difficult to be a parent, but raising a child who is gifted, spirited, sensitive or in some way differently wired is as much of a challenge as it is a joy. Trusting in God to provide for your family’s needs can help get you through each day.

Andrea Townsley of The Townsley Times is a Christian homeschooling mom of two, one of whom is a gifted, spirited and highly-sensitive three-year old.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Words of Encouragement for Parents

Words of Encouragement for Parents

Words of Encouragement for Parents

It is comforting to know that the God who guides us sees tomorrow more clearly than we see yesterday.
Unknown

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.
C. H. Spurgeon

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)

God doesn’t always smooth the path, but sometimes he puts springs in the wagon.
Marshall Lucas

Guilt is concerned with the past. Worry is concerned about the future. Contentment enjoys the present.
Unknown

God is looking for those with whom He can do the impossible– what a pity that we plan only the things that we can do by ourselves.
A.W.Tozer

True faith is never found alone; it is accompanied by expectation.
C. S. Lewis

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Resources about Differently-Wired Children

Resources for Parents of Differently-Wired Children

Resources for Parents of Differently-Wired Children

Today I would like to highlight some different resources available in case you aren’t aware of them. There is lots and lots of good reading available in these places.

My Related Pages

Raising a Highly-Sensitive and Spirited Child

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling a Right-Brained Child

Raising a High Need Infant, Baby, Toddler & Child

My Pinterest Boards

Right Brained Learning

Sallie Borrink Learning (This is where I put pins to all my posts for those who are visually oriented!)

All of my Pinterest boards

Relaxed Homeschooling Series

I did a series on how we do relaxed homeschooling: Relaxed Homeschooling in the Early Elementary Years – A How To Series

My Sallie Borrink Learning Facebook Page

If you don’t follow my learning page on Facebook, please check it out. I share many links there that I don’t on my website.

Free Ebook for Subscribers

I’ve put together a very encouraging and helpful ebook for subscribers called 7 Tips for Overwhelmed Parents: Effectively Parenting Your Differently-Wired Child. You can customize your subscription to only get the posts in the areas that interest you most.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Identifying and Understanding the Red Zone with Your Spirited Child

Identifying and Understanding the Red Zone with Your Spirited Child

Identifying and Understanding the Red Zone with Your Spirited Child

I asked David to look through my tickler list of topic ideas for this 31 Days of Learning Differently series and tell me what he thought I was missing. He immediately suggested writing about the red zone. This was a really important topic for us as the parents of a spirited child and I’m glad he suggested it.

The idea of the red zone comes from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic. It is basically a term for when a child is overwhelmed by out-of-control emotions. How the child acts while in the red zone varies from child to child. It could be a tantrum, sobbing, etc. However it manifests itself, it is a time of intense, overwhelming emotions. For spirited kids who are more, the red zone is a big deal.

The challenging part for the parent is how to respond when their child is in the red zone.

We did it all wrong for awhile. But once we figured out the appropriate strategies to utilize for our individual child, we made huge strides as a family. We learned how to avoid our child’s common red zone triggers which is half the battle. And we learned what she needed from us when it did happen.

What Happens in the Red Zone

My natural inclination when my child is upset is to hold her and talk. Talk about what is wrong, talk about how to fix it, and talk it to conclusion. I’m a talking problem-solver.

That is SO not what my child needed.

When a child is in the red zone, she can’t focus on what you are saying. Talking on and on is like pouring gasoline on wildfire. Every child is different, but some strategies that can work include redirecting and distracting. Both can be very effective depending on the age of the child, how far she is in the red zone, and the coping skills she’s learned to that point.

I personally think it is important to allow the child to get the emotions out. Shushing her or telling her to stop on command (or, God forbid, spanking her) is not going to help. She has to learn how to recognize and handle the overwhelming emotions so she can eventually learn to calm herself. She also needs to know that it is okay to have strong emotions. It is okay to feel deeply and intensely. She has to learn that the only thing that makes it a problem is if she acts out in inappropriate ways while she is upset.

Getting Outside of the Red Zone

The most important thing to realize is this: You cannot deal with the issues of the red zone until the child is well out of the red zone. And getting out of the red zone takes time.

Think about how long it takes an adult to calm down after something upsetting happens. Your adrenaline is rushing, your heart is pounding, and you are flooded with emotions. The same thing happens to the spirited child, but in an even bigger way. There is no way a child recovers from something like that in a few minutes.

And yet we as parents often want to deal with a situation and move on. We’re busy people with a lot on our plate.  Sorry, folks. You cannot rush your child out of the red zone. It simply doesn’t happen with a spirited child.

You can only talk about what happened and how to deal with it after she calms down. This might be HOURS later. It might be wise to even wait to the NEXT DAY if feelings are too raw. If you try to rush it, it will backfire. Nothing is going to be accomplished by trying to talk about it too soon.

The good news is that spirited children and their parents can develop positive ways to deal with the red zone. It might not be perfect every time, but it can certainly improve. If you are raising a spirited child and aren’t sure how to deal with the red zone, I highly recommend Kurcinka’s book mentioned above. Not only will you better understand the issues of the red zone, but you will also gain a much greater understanding of and appreciation for your wonderful spirited child.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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We’re at the mid-point!

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We’re half way through the 31 Days of Learning Differently. At this point, I’d like to invite you to let me know if there is something you are hoping to see in this series, but it hasn’t shown up yet. I have a general plan for the rest of the month, but also want to find out if there are topics people are looking for. I can’t promise I will write about everything that might be suggested, but I will see what I can do.

Feel free to leave a comment here or email me at sallie @ sallie borrink dot com (broken up for spam purposes). :-)

 

6 Reasons Why We Changed Our Mind and Stopped Spanking

6 Reasons Why We Changed Our Mind and Stopped Spanking

6 Reasons Why We Changed Our Mind and Stopped Spanking

We spanked Caroline less than a half a dozen times before she was three, but I never felt right about it. David and I were convicted that we should not continue to spank her. I’m going to share six reasons why we changed our mind and stopped spanking.

DISCLAIMER: I realize good people who love their children disagree about this topic. I realize that specifically some Christians reading this are going to disagree with me. That is fine. I am sharing our family’s experience and our convictions. I am not a parenting expert either. I am a mom still in process. I would not presume to tell you what to do with your child. I am simply offering my perspective with the hope that sharing our thought process regarding this topic might help other parents struggling with this decision.

Please also note I am sharing this in the context of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series. There is a reason why I am sharing it now when we are discussing parenting and learning issues each day.

So the six reasons…

The Bible does not require spanking.

I could write an entire post or series of posts on just this one reason. I’m not going to do that today. I will link to some reading at the end that people might find helpful if they want to read theological explanations and expositions on why some Bible-believing Christians believe spanking is not required by the Bible.

What it boils down to for us is the fact that while Caroline is our child, she is also our (presumed) sister in Christ. I can read a great deal in the Bible (especially the New Testament) that talks about how we are to treat one another that is very clear. I find very little in the Bible that seems to teach the merits of spanking, let alone that it is required. The preponderance of evidence goes clearly away from spanking when one looks at the entirety of Scriptures.

Our child never hit us until we hit her.

Caroline never hit us until we spanked her. This, to me, was profound. When we hit her, she hit us. And then of course we turned around and sternly admonished her it was wrong to hit and she could not hit us. The message we were communicating to Caroline was we can hit you but you can’t hit us. That makes absolutely no sense in any way.

I know there are people who will say that spanking isn’t hitting, but I respectfully disagree. We now have a very strong no hitting rule in our family. We also have a very strong rule that no means no. When someone says no, we all respect that immediately. (The same thing when someone says stop.) In these ways we believe we are preparing her for adulthood and hopefully instilling in her a very strong sense of personal power, especially as she will relate to men.

Spanking provoked anger in our child.

There may be some children who can be spanked and not be provoked to anger. But I am firmly convinced that spanking does provoke some (or many) children to anger. The Bible tells us we are not to provoke our children.

The challenging thing is if a parent starts spanking early as is recommended by experts, she probably doesn’t yet have a firm grip on her child’s temperament. She can’t clearly tell if her  child is one who will roll with the spanking to no (apparent) harm or if she has a child who is deeply wounded by the spanking. If a child falls into the group that is provoked to anger by spanking, how much damage is done before the parents figure it out?

(And, no, I do not believe that if a child becomes angry then we need to beat the anger out of her until she is broken and completely submits her will to us. No. Just no.)

Spanking provoked fear and distrust in our child.

This is the reason that saddens me the most and the one that makes me wish I could go back and do it over. Spanking Caroline clearly provoked fear and distrust toward us, especially me. She may have been small, but it took a very long time for her to move past this after we stopped spanking. It sickens me physically to think about it. We only spanked her a few times and that was all it took.

Again, spanking some children is going to be disastrous based on their temperament. I truly believe that. Now that she is eight and I have a better understanding of who she is and how she is wired, I can clearly see why spanking would be so devastating to her and completely ineffective.

We considered how adults receive consequences.

When adults make mistakes, they are not physically punished. They might lose their job, suffer financial loss or lose a friend, but they are not subjected to spanking or hitting in order to make them learn from their mistake. They suffer the natural consequences of their actions. Furthermore, hitting an adult is battery or assault. Hitting an animal is cruelty. Both can result in jail time. Yet somehow hitting a child is different.

As adults we learn from the consequences of our actions. We believe it should be the same with a child. Is this tricky when the child is younger and doesn’t have fully developed reasoning skills? Yes. Is it more work? Yes. Does it require more of the parent? Yes. Is it sometimes harder to measure the results in the short term? Yes. Does it work? Yes.

Spanking isn’t necessary.

The bottom line is that spanking isn’t necessary. There are many other ways to disciple and discipline our child that do not require hitting her or inflicting physical pain. Yes, they often take much more effort and work. But I am so thankful we realized that spanking is not necessary for our child in our home.

If you would like to read more about not spanking from a biblical and scholarly approach, I suggest starting with the free ebook you can download right now: Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me – Christians and the Spanking Controversy by Samuel Martin. There are many articles online as well including this secular one I just saw: Spanking the gray matter out of our kids. We also had a lengthy discussion in the comments of this post that I wrote about spanking: Highly-sensitive children, shy children, spanking and Voddie Bauchum.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Raising and Embracing Your Spirited Child

Raising and Embracing Your Spirited Child

Raising and Embracing Your Spirited Child

According to the book Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic, spirited children are those who are more. All children have these characteristics in varying degrees, but spirited children have them in a major way. This includes our Caroline.

People who know me in real life would probably describe me in terms such as reserved, thoughtful, and introverted. I am inclined toward classic clothing, Baroque music, and quietly reading a book in my orderly home where everything is in its place before bed.

People who know Caroline in real life would probably describe her as spirited, imaginative, creative, intense, and exuberant. She is inclined toward cheetah prints clothes, hot pink tennis shoes, music with a strong beat, and creating imaginative scenarios for her stuffed animals and dolls including strewing craft materials everywhere throughout her room. Somehow, in some way, I produced a child who is organizationally challenged and I cannot figure it out since I come from a long line of women who organize as naturally as breathing.

So as you can imagine, having a spirited child has been a challenge for me.

Persistence in the Spirited Child

Caroline fits all of the spirited descriptions to varying degrees. Of the five she is by far persistent more than any of the others. I mean persistent like I’ve never experienced in a small child even as an infant. So I’m going to focus on that one aspect here even though there is much I could write about some of the other traits as well.

What do I mean by persistent? From the book:

Living with the “raw gem” of a persistent child is not easy. To tell these kids no, to thwart their efforts, is to risk their wrath. Even as infants they are incredibly determined and strong. They push where other kids don’t push. They demand more than other kids demand. And they never give up. It is nearly impossible to ignore them or distract them. In every situation they meet us head-on, ready to do battle.

Persistence is the temperamental trait that plays a major role in power struggles. Spirited kids need, want, and seek power. But we can learn to choose our battles wisely. We don’t have to fight every day. By recognizing our children’s drive and goal orientation, we can teach them to channel their persistence appropriately–to use it as an asset rather than a weapon. We can be a problem-solving family where persistence and commitment to one’s goals is celebrated, and the ability to work with others is a honed skill.

I am not joking when I say that Caroline was persistent in the womb. During a long stretch in the third trimester if I even attempted to lay in bed on my left side she would kick relentlessly. I never won. She would kick so long and so persistently that I would turn. I didn’t have any way of knowing if she was uncomfortable or what. But she clearly made her wishes known and did not relent in any way.

The Art of Negotiating for Win-Win

One of the keys bits we put together was that we were going to have to think win-win and get used to negotiating with this child. I mean as a three or four year old she could have worn out and negotiated Donald Trump under the table. So we set out to figure out how to deal with the fact that we had this little person in our family who we discerned was honestly not trying to be disrespectful or manipulative, but just had at a very early age a very clear sense of who she was and what she was about.

Thinking Theologically about Persistence

Part of the struggle for us was sorting through our own theological expectations. We were surrounded by people who believed in first time obedience, spanking, parenting with authority, etc. We quickly figured out that this approach to parenting would be disastrous to our family. But we also wanted to make choices that were in line with the Scriptures and so had to spend some time thinking and praying through these issues (which is really another post!).

Once we understood that we could effectively parent Caroline from a biblical perspective that did not require spanking and lording over her with our position of authority, we were able to begin to try to mend the relationship with her that had been somewhat challenged because of the expectations we brought to the situation.

We also recognized that God had created her this way for a purpose. We believe that we are stewards of her life until she can take control of it for herself. If God created her as this incredibly persistent person, then He must have purposes for it. Our job is to help her understand how to channel that persistence in ways that are an asset both to herself and to those around her. Knowing her persistence will serve her well as an adult gives purpose to the sometimes hard work we’ve had to do and has helped us embrace this aspect of her spiritedness.

Do we always do it perfectly? No. We still struggle with it at times. But as we’ve worked through some significant issues already with Caroline (such as Halloween), we can see that it has strengthened our relationship with her and that she trusts us to listen and be fair as much as possible.

This is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Parenting, Personality and Learning Differences

Parenting, Personality and Learning Differences

Parenting, Personality and Learning Differences

Today’s guest post in the 31 Days of Learning Differently series is by Brenda from Schooling a Monkey.

When my daughter, Monkey, was a baby, I had a lot of expectations for her. She would be obedient, she would never throw fits, and I would not allow her to whine. She would be peaceful, calm, and sweet.

Aside from my normal parenting naivete, and the expectation adjustments that occur when you become a parent, Monkey did not respond to situations like most kids. Things I expected her to grow out of at certain ages simply didn’t happen.

When we found out she had ADHD tendencies, her behaviors made more sense, but I still felt like it was my parenting that had caused those differences.

Parenting or Personality?

When it is your child who is the one disrupting Sunday school, fidgeting during classes, and getting worked up because another child didn’t throw a ball to her, you start to get “those” looks from other parents.

The looks that seem to say, “Why don’t you discipline your child?” and “Your child is spoiled and if you implemented proper parenting techniques, your child would be a better person.”

Over time, I found myself doubting myself and starting to believe maybe I was bad at being a parent. Why couldn’t I create calm, reasonable children like other parents?

Maybe if I tried positive parenting/more spankings/different foods/making her sleep more/whatever other “helpful” advice I received from other parents, I could change my daughter’s personality.

But no matter what I tried, Monkey remained herself. Over time, I began to look more closely at her, and I realized that her “flaws” aren’t flaws at all, but rather simple differences that make her a unique and beautiful person.

Would Monkey rather stand on her head while reciting spelling words? Absolutely.

Does that mean she is a bad child or I am a bad parent? Absolutely not.

Learning Differences and Homeschooling

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that we are free to learn in our own way. I can allow Monkey to do school the way she learns best (which is usually upside down) and she will not be scolded, medicated, or held back because of it.

I found when I refused to see her personality and learning differences as handicaps, I was able to be a better parent to her. Differences that had frustrated me before I was now able to embrace and use as a tool to help Monkey learn in a more effective way and become a stronger person. I was also less frustrated and stressed and more confident in my parenting and teaching ability.

Learning difficulties are hard on both children and parents in the wrong setting, but in the right setting with the right confidence in your child, learning difficulties can become your biggest asset because they force you to think creatively about education.

Maybe one day all children will be learning multiplication facts while standing on their heads.

Brenda is a writer and homeschooling mom to two girls, Monkey (8) and Bo (2). She blogs about her adventures homeschooling a child with learning differences, crafts, green living, and fun at Schooling a Monkey. Keep up with the fun on Facebook or Twitter!

This post is from my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Experienced Parents of Differently-Wired Kids Share Their Insight

Experienced Parents of Differently-Wired Kids Share Their Insights

Experienced Parents of Differently-Wired Kids Share Their Insight

We’re about half way through this series and I hope you are finding it helpful and informative. Now I would like to ask you to share some of your knowledge!

What insights or tips do you have for other parents with differently-wired children? It can  be anything for any kind of differently-wired child.

Did you ever have an aha moment that made parenting easier?

Did you read a book that opened your eyes?

Do you have a piece of advice a professional gave you that made it all click for your family?

What about an answered prayer that made all the difference in the world?

I hope you will please leave a comment and share a word of insight and/or encouragement with the other parents who are reading here. Remember that there are always people not as far along on their journeys as you are and they can benefit from what you have learned. :-)

Thank you!

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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When People Call Your Differently-Wired Child Your Idol

When People Call Your Differently-Wired Child Your Idol

When People Call Your Differently-Wired Child Your Idol

To say that the first six months of Caroline’s life were completely overwhelming for us would not be an overstatement. There were many reasons for it, but chief among them were the incredible sleep deprivation (she woke up to feed two or three times during the night no matter what we did) and her strong, demanding personality. (See some of the Dr. Sears stories on my high-need baby page if you need more info on this.)

We were completely exhausted, running on fumes. Looking back now I think I was probably depressed. We felt very alone for a variety of reasons.

In the midst of all this, something came up at church (where we were fairly new). It had to do with the fact that we didn’t put Caroline in the nursery during the first several months. She was bottle fed and she was born at the end of September. Our pediatrician advised us to keep her out of the nursery during the cold and flu season since she was so young and was on formula. And so we did. We kept her in the service with us because it was best for her (but, honestly, not us). She almost never slept during the service and wanted to be held which meant we got little to nothing out of the service. But we were convinced it was the right thing to do for her well-being and we’d make the same choice again.

Anyway, a respected older woman in the church took it upon herself to inform me that people were offended that we weren’t putting Caroline in the nursery and that we were making an idol of her.

(Insert numb disbelief here)

I’m not sure why I’m telling this story tonight. I’m sure I’ve told it before on my blog. I just feel compelled to share this so apparently someone out there needs to read it.

You know, when you have a child who is wired differently you just have to make choices that other people aren’t going to understand. Someone might not come right out and call your child your idol, but there are plenty of ways they will communicate something similar.

I would think I would have gotten used to it by now, but I haven’t. Something similar happened recently when I was trying to explain some of the choices we’ve made for Caroline. It’s hard to explain the simple yet complex life we live in a few sentences. And then the deafening quiet from the other person with no words of support… I don’t know. It still cuts, but what can you do?

They don’t understand.

You really can’t explain it to them.

You pray, you make the best choice, and you leave the results to the Lord.

He gave me this particular child to raise, the answer to years and years of prayer. No one knows her as well as I do whether she eight weeks, eight months or eight years.

She’s not my idol, but she is my responsibility.

I’m thankful I can tell the difference even if others from the outside looking in can’t.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Living Simply with a Differently-Wired Child

Living Simply with a Differently-Wired Child

Living Simply with a Differently-Wired Child

When I started blogging in 2005, my focus was primarily faith and living simply. As my life changed, my blogging changed as well. Although I don’t blog about living simply as frequently as I did in the past, it is still something I think about pretty much every day.

Meshing my desire for a simpler life with having a differently-wired child has led to lots of reflection, adjustments and, frankly, desperate prayers over the years. With every stage of Caroline’s growth and development we’ve had to rethink some of our choices. In some cases, we’ve had to make choices that were the exact opposite of what we had previously done to simplify our lives because what worked for us as a couple did not work with the addition of a child.

Here are some simple living choices we’ve made in order to accommodate life with a differently-wired child.

Adjust Our Schedule

This morning I had to go out early for blood work. It was still dark when we left home and the sun was just freshly up as we were coming home. It made me realize how much I missed being up and around early in the day. David and I were early risers when it was the two of us. We tried to get as much done as possible before noon.

Caroline, on the other hand, is a night owl. She is up until 10:00 p.m. every night. We’ve tried everything to try to reset her clock and it doesn’t work. I’m not going to lie. This is not what I would choose. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a child who goes to bed at 8:00 every night. We’ve had it happen a couple of times when she’s been sick and fallen asleep earlier and it’s just… mind-boggling.

When it became obvious that Caroline was a night-owl, David and I made the choice to adjust our schedule. We now get up later and stay up later. We also tend to homeschool in the afternoon. Again, it isn’t what I would choose, but this is what we need to do so we do it.

Stay Home

The first few years with Caroline we rarely went anywhere we didn’t have to because maintaining our routine was so critical to keeping life on an even keel in our home. Negotiating additional major transitions throughout the day was never worth it so we kept things pretty normal day after day, week after week, month after month. Gone were cozy nights out at the bookstore. We never went out in the evening. Gone was running errands at the drop of a hat. We didn’t go out when it would involved missing nap-times.

As Caroline got a little older, we were out and about more but we were still very much homebodies at heart. When she was a baby I was sure Caroline had to be an extravert because she never wanted to be alone, wanted to be held and carried around all the time, etc. Now that I know her better, I can see she has a strongly introverted side. And as we’ve recently discovered in a profound way, none of us deal well with a lack of margin. All of this leads to the need to stay home, make things fairly predictable, and take care of our introverted selves because there is nothing simple about living on overload.

Adjusting Expectations

Nothing will complicate your life quicker than having expectations that are completely out of line with who your child is wired to be. Insisting that a child be something she isn’t is a recipe for disaster on several levels. We invested a lot of time studying our child and looking for the information that would help us parent her most effectively.

We discovered numerous times that we were not doing what was best with her spiritedness. Once we began to put changes into place, our lives simplified a great deal. That isn’t to say it was always easy to make those changes. It wasn’t always easy. But as we applied those changes over time, life simplified greatly. We knew how to effectively parent our individual child which brought more peace to everyone.

 

This is part of the 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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The Gift of Aspergers

The Gift of Aspergers

The Gift of Aspergers

Today’s next post in the 31 Days of Learning Differently series is by Karen Campbell of thatmom. She is also the author of The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home. We are giving away three copies so don’t forget to enter at the end of the post!

Our son, Will, turned 26 a couple of months ago. Our fifth born, he devours history, enjoys all kinds of music, and remembers random details better than anyone I know. He likes to tinker with electronic equipment, loves Mexican food, and has a great sense of humor. He also has a brain that is wired in such a way that he can discern the subtle differences between communism and socialism, but cannot make change for a dollar!

When Will was a little boy, my husband would often say he felt like the man with the yellow hat in the Curious George books….Will was curious! He had boundless energy, asked “why” to everything, and did shenanigans that none of our other children ever even thought of doing. We had to put bolt locks at the top of all the doors to outside so he wouldn’t escape. If we weren’t watching him at the playground, he would climb to the top of the largest slide and stand up hollering, “Look, no hands.”   Once, when we thought he was playing nicely in his room, he was actually lighting a camping lantern, setting our home on fire.

karen and will

During those early years, we really didn’t have any labels for what was going on with Will. We just continued to observe him and use the teaching methods that worked best for him. When he was eventually able to read, it opened up all sorts of doors for learning and he loved to research, first pouring over our growing personal library of real books and then online. If he had a particular interest, we used that to teach him other necessary skills.

But some of his personal frustrations continued to baffle us. Solutions from others ran the gamut, from those who handed us To Train Up A Child because they thought he needed firm, corporal punishment to those who recommended medications. Once we even heard a “counselor” at a Bill Gothard conference say that visitors from foreign countries can carry demons on personal items they might bring into your home, causing me to consider whether or not visiting missionaries might have been the cause of demons possessing my sweet little boy! This tells you how desperate we felt!

It wasn’t until I watched a few episodes of Parenthood on television at the recommendation of my daughter that I began to understand Will.  On this show, one of the children, Max, has Asperger’s and I was amazed at so many similarities to Will.  In one story line, Max is distressed when he comes back to middle school at the end of the summer to discover that the candy vending machines have been removed. He sees this as a terrible personal injustice and one that came without warning. In a piece of masterful scriptwriting, his response continues for several episodes while the viewers’ irritation and frustration with Max grows. It was exactly what we saw and really continue to see with Will many times. It put me on a search for dealing specifically with children and young adults on the Asperger spectrum, which has resulted in so much more understanding and real tools for bringing peace to our home.

In looking back over our journey with a son with special needs, I have come to terms with several things.

I think one of the most important things I have learned is that it is OK to be frustrated, OK to not have all the answers, and OK to admit both! It continually brings me to the foot of the cross where I pour out those frustrations and sadness and even guilt that is always part of the equation. I am not perfect and do not always respond the way I should, but I have learned the power of asking our son for forgiveness, of showing him how much he is loved, both in word and deed, and how to make him feel safe always.

People can be really unkind. I have struggled in bad situations more times than I would like to remember, adults typically being much worse than children. One time a mother told me how frightened other parents were of my son because he was “different” and felt he was a threat. No specifics, just a “feeling they had.”  Another time an elder had come to church without his family because they were all home sick. Will waited patiently while the man talked to everyone else who came up to speak with him, giving Will irritated looks the whole time. Will finally said, “I am so sorry your family is sick today. I will pray for them this week.”  The man looked a bit chagrined and then turned and walked away. Years later that same elder dealt harshly with a number of families in the church and I was not surprised. I have learned to measure the character of people by how they treat Will and I am never wrong. I have recognized that I am my son’s greatest advocate and that is more important than trying to fix those who are ignorant and mean.

God is sovereign in all things, including the past, present, and future of my son. I will never know how his brain came to be the way it is! Was it before birth? Did it happen during a rough delivery? Was it the result of a bad reaction to vaccinations? I do not know, but I do know that the Lord has plans for him, and really for all of us, that are for good and not for evil. I can already see how God has used it all for His glory and anticipate the same in years to come. I have come to terms with the not knowing and have grieved over the what-if’s and the might-have-beens. Will’s special needs have changed me, have changed all of us who love him, for the good!

Homeschooling has been a Godsend for a special needs child.  I cannot even imagine what life could have been like for Will if we had placed him in our local public school system. Because we have followed his needs and learning curves, he has been able to grow and learn without being compared to other children. He has been in a safe environment where the whole family loves him and is committed to him.  As he continues to learn at home, we all are learning about life, about subjects that interest him, about Asperger’s, and about the world around us from a viewpoint not everyone shares.

One afternoon, my husband shared a story with me about a man he used to work with. When his son was born with special needs, the man and his wife were devastated and didn’t know how they could ever cope with this boy in their home. Then the man said that in his later years, facing retirement with a middle-aged son, he and his wife couldn’t imagine how they ever could have lived without him! This is exactly how we feel and thank God every single day, even on the really difficult days, for the honor of being Will’s parents!

Karen Campbell is a graduate of Judson University with a B.S. in Human Relations and Secondary Education. She and her husband, Clay, have been married for 39 years and live in Illinois where they spent 28 years homeschooling 6 children and now enjoy their 14 grandchildren! She is the author of The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home and her articles have been published in Searching Together, Midwest Christian Outreach Journal, Breakpoint, Crosswalk, and on the Home Educating Family Blog. She is also a regular contributor to Home Educating Family Magazine. Karen is actively involved in Toastmaster’s International where she won 1st place in the District Humorous Speaking competition with the story of a homeschooling mom who mummified a chicken! She blogs and podcasts mom encouragement at www.thatmom.com.

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This post is part of the 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Christmas Around the World and December BUNDLE – Literacy and Math Activities, Fun Fact Cards and KWL

December-and-Christmas-ATW-Bundle-Covers-090114

Here’s a bundle of three fun and practical products for the month of December! Each product can be purchased separately, but you will save time and money by purchasing them together.

This bundle includes the following. Click on any link below to see more details and thumbnails of each product.

December Literacy and Math Pack

Christmas Around the World Fun Fact Cards

Christmas Around the World KWL

Christmas Around the World and December BUNDLE
Christmas Around the World and December BUNDLE
Christmas Around the World and December BUNDLE - Literacy and Math Activities, Fun Fact Cards, and KWL
Price: $7.00