Sunday, November 30, 2008

Teens & That Parental Chant: "It's Almost Over"

Before you leave for work I want to know what your plans are for the week. Make it a list of goals for the week. Get that list on my desk by 10:30.
I'm going to do the research paper that's due in my English class this week, I am going to write my TaeKwonDo paper.
Those are your plans for the week?
You know in the working world they'd expect about 40 hours and if you were in a public high school you would be expected to participate in school activities at least for 30 hours -at least I think that's an accurate number.
So those two papers are going to take 30 to 40 hours to do?
Please sit down and consider what your plans are for the week and write them down in a list. You have not been meeting some of the goals you set earlier this year and you need to get back on track. We're going to do that with a to-do list, one that we can put check marks on. Get that list on my desk by 10:30.
Where's that list?
I'm not going to write down a list.
I have decided my work for school is stupid, I don't like it and I am not going to do it.
(This from my 16 year old).
This is the work you and I determined together that you need to do to complete your high school work so you can apply to the college you want to go to. Why is it now stupid?
OK. It's not stupid it's boring.
Boring compared to what?
Everything else.
Like what?
Like my pod casts, my news forums, you know life.
OK. Here's a thought for you. Life becomes boring if your education falls behind your experiences. Education makes life more interesting because you can delve into your pod casts and news forums further with a better understanding of the nuances.
And here's another thought for you, if you're not happy about things, then it's your job to change things. There's a little thing Mahatma Gandhi used to say and that is “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
I don't like your little zingers.
What zinger?
The Gandhi thing.
Comes with education. Do the list.
I'm not writing down a to-do list.
OK. Fine. Adults make plans, children get things taken away. If you do not have a plan for the week committed to paper before you go to work, you are going to need to walk to work or ride your bike, you are not taking the car - and in case you haven't noticed it's about to snow.
It actually wasn't a bad list, especially after we added approximate hours for each task.

The power struggles you have with a gifted kid as a kid were always complex, but when you're dealing with a gifted teen, they are complex and have become downright tiring. I think in dealing with any teen there are many words that run through a parent's mind, sometimes the words are of the four letter variety type and other times they have some more syllables.

Sometimes I let the word narcissist run through my head. When we think of the word "narcissism" we tie that word to other words like "selfish", "self centered", "arrogant", "me-me-me".

According to the Urban Dictionary "Narcissistic people are not self centered there is a difference."

I don't know how accurate the Urban Dictionary is, but it is fun to read the stuff, however in the book: Misdiagnosis And Dual Diagnoses Of Gifted Children And Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, Depression, And Other Disorders by James T. Webb, (and others), they go into narcissism and many other "disorders" a parent may worry about, or at least let their mind wander to with a gifted kid. They can be so damn frustrating some days these brilliant ones. But as the title of the book suggests that the gifted are often misdiagnosed with a a whole slew of issues - even by their parents! I have read most of this book as I have had my concerns with the giftedness and... thing in the past but probably the best line of advice one can take away from the read of this book is a beautiful sentence in chapter 9, Relationships Issues for Gifted Children and Adults in the section entitled Parent/Child manipulation:
Though all children manipulate, gifted children are far more skilled at it than others. They are able to make their rationale for a forbidden behavior sound completely reasonable.
Yep. Especially as teens.

In getting back to the Gandhi thing, as a parent of an extremely "smart" kid, it is hard not to see the immense potential and the possibilities, especially as a parent close to the age of 50. With that vision, it is very frustrating and sometimes heart breaking when these kinds of kids intentionally go astray from the goals they say they want to achieve. We live in a me-culture that can be very distracting to any kid and imagine what the gifted kid sees. As a parent, it is important to remember that though these kids are very intelligent and it might seem they can be "left alone", they are still young adults who need parents to reel them in with things like organized to-do lists. I used to believe that teens were made in this way so that we're happy to have them go off to college and in my mind I keep telling myself it will be over soon (when my student goes to college), but a friend recently reminded me with the question - Do you really think that your role will be reduced when he goes off to college - in this world?

Pearls offered by the College Board:

Motivating the Unmotivated Student

Managing Procrastination

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Art of Judging Words - Voting on Homeschool Issues

by Amy Cortez, Editor Eclectic Telegraph

I am on a number of homeschool email lists and with a presidential election coming up you'd think they'd be buzzing with discussion of issues. They're not - not really. At least the ones I am on.

One of the lists run by one I consider to be the "Yoda" of homeschooling remarked:
In fact, with only a few short weeks until the Presidential election, I think the political discussion here is probably even slower than it should be, and I'm wondering where on earth homeschoolers ARE talking about the many issues and concerns...
I have been meaning to reply, but haven't been able to craft the right words.

On another list, and "all inclusive" statewide list, a spirited discussion regarding the legitimacy (and that's a big word if you research it) of the endorsements for the candidates running for the the State Board of Education (SBE) posted at a Christian Homeschooling PAC website. The endorsements came from a set of questions interviewers asked SBE Candidates. As list members we were invited to review the endorsements and we were also invited to use these "developed set of questions" were we to interview SBE Candidates.

Some of us on this particular list are not Christian as it is a statewide list, and sometimes in our responses we are perceived as attacking a whole group of people when we frame our responses from our point of reference.

I posted what I thought was a pretty mild commentary as a response to what I thought of the information posted at the PAC website. Generally when I go to one of these kinds of sites, I am totally bewildered at the assumptions that gets made about what a homeschooler looks like and it is really hard to use words that are not angry and "judging" in a response. But this site was like many others was dynamite in invoking those kinds of sentiments in me. To me, it wasn't the endorsements per se, it was the instrument used to get the endorsements that elicited my emotion. The 10 questions were designed to extract opinions and not knowledge of facts, and they certainly weren't directly related to homeschooling, though one could in a long reach twist them that way. These questions were also positioned as being designed to "sway the candidate to support home education".
If the candidate has no questionnaire results, or is not where you want them on the position of home education, you may use our developed set of questions and interview the candidate yourself; the goal would be to move the candidate to support home education.
They were not questions I would ask for sure, especially in my district regarding homeschool issues, especially in light of the fact that our State regulations are up for review by this board. In fact they were pretty benign questions as it came to homeschooling issues. Some were questions designed to extract answers one could use to make a morality judgment if they were so inclined. I commented on question numbers 8 & 9:
8. About Sex education in the public schools: How explicit should any curriculum content get?

A: Drill down: Should students be instructed on application of a condom?

9. How do you feel about Darwinian Evolution/Intelligent Design/Creationism?

Sway the candidate to support home education? What?

How were these questions, in particular, going to sway the candidates towards home education? Of all the words I could have written as a response, I chose the following:
I think, in reading the interviewers "developed set of questions", 8 & 9 are the most revealing in the "agenda" behind why the information is being collected. If we were voting in my district, I'd have a different set of questions to ask, and it wouldn't involve condoms on bananas.
And then I followed up with some mildly "judging" words of my own:
I recognize that a lot of work went into the XXX PAC site, I've developed many websites over the years, including a non-denominational statewide website for the state of Utah. I also try and keep political and religious affiliations in mind when I review information that's intended "for all". It's hard not to see the bias in the information at the XXX PAC site. It still astounds me that many assume because you're homeschooling your stand is "Right". Many of us who homeschool these days are well read, don't depend on "organizations" to keep us "informed" and are not religious or "Right".
It was actually that last sentence that I received many off list emails and one on list email all with the theme of thanking me for "succinctly summarizing thoughts" of homeschoolers "proudly educating our children for reasons other than religious".

But as the original request was for review of the endorsements, I went on to offer my opinion of endorsements. More judging words, from me:
As much as I don't want to say it. I think it's time that conservatives are out of public offices - all of them. They may protect our homeschooling freedoms to a point, but at some point, like now, there are bigger issues to grapple with. I don't think it matters what questions you ask, political animals all have their own agendas and I don't really think they will reveal it unless the interviewer matters in a bigger way than "just a vote" - these days.
To answer the question "Did I really mean that?" in a word. Yes. I think the conservative side of politics spends far too much energy on generating enemies and dictating their version of morality and I think it is chipping away at what democracy is in this country.

I must have really pushed some buttons with my response - or hit the nail on the head directly with my post. But I received a dilly of a response, one that illustrates just what this blog is intended to be about. Though there were several ideas present in my remarks that one could respond to I received the following remark as the first in a list of remarks:

Amy said: I think, in reading the interviewers "developed set of questions", 8 & 9 are the most revealing in the "agenda" behind why the information is being collected. If we were voting in my district, I'd have a different set of questions to ask, and it wouldn't involve condoms on bananas

List Response: While some of the interviewers asked these questions, others did not. There is quite a variety. Some people are interested in this topic - people on both sides of the issue and it does give some insight into the ideological persuasion of the individual. Let's face it, you revealed a lot about yourself in the snip above, Amy. I'm not judging you, I'm just saying it tells a lot about what's important to you and tells about how you might vote on certain issues. However, I don't see how it colors or slants the information in the interview about homeschooling or other forms of school choice.

Still trying to determine what I revealed by saying I wouldn't have asked about condom application - Perhaps that I must be one of those people who only votes for candidates who think demonstrating correct condom application is key to National economic prosperity and National security?

It was the "I'm not judging you" portion of the remark and the idea that this poster did not see how questions 8&9 "colors or slants the information in the interview about homeschooling issues" that spawned this Blog. The second item, I think is self explanatory - to a degree, but I'll ask it anyway - What does condom application have to do with homeschooling?

The remainder of the response directed at me was a barrage of what I thought were some pretty judging sentiments, most likely unbeknownst to the author as the words chosen basically made a morality judgment of me all under the pretense of not judging me.

To point out the idea that you think you are being judged to an individual pronouncing that they are not judging you is generally an unfruitful activity as a response, so instead, I turned to Google and the search phrase "judging words" and netted the perfect response to include in this blog instead:
Judging words show na'veté
9/29/08. Marina Yakhnis
The Times Delphic - Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa)

Our words and our intentions often exhibit a strange disconnect. Any given word frames what we mean even as we struggle to mold those words into an accurate representation of our thoughts. On Friday, both McCain and Obama revealed an entrenched "na'veté" about the nature of the world (to use McCain's words). It wasn't the substance of their arguments. It was the words they employed.


To lead America in this day and age and have meaningful relations with nations whose political systems differ from ours, America's next president has to understand that sometimes people are not their government. Obama's and McCain's failure to do so underscores a complete lack of understanding about how the world works. That's a bold statement for a 21-year-old Kansas bumpkin to be making. At the same time, neither Obama nor McCain have had the benefit of meeting my grandparents.
Awesome writing for a person embarking on her journey out into the world.

I did respond to the person who publicly labeled me as an inflexible "liberal" who thinks that only other liberals "who agree with YOU should have a voice" in government. I told this person that comment they reacted to, #8 was:
an irrelevant issue and a dumb question to ask a candidate.
Here's why. It has nothing to do with homeschooling regulations in our state. It is a judging question designed to illicit an answer where morality can be openly assessed. In my opinion, that is what has become so wrong with the way we vote. We judge our candidates by what we perceive their morality to be. Morality comes in a lot of flavors and as with religion, groups tend to label their version as the "correct" version for everyone.

Since I began voting in 1978, I have seen the political scene be reduced to a spectacle of pure emotion, morality judgments, glitz, glamor and did I mention corruption? I've seen the definition of patriotism changed to mean that a person must be wrapped in the flag AND religion to be a patriot. What happened to choosing those in public office based on ability, knowledge base and willingness to serve? Why are so many in in a place where they "have to choose between the lesser of two evils"? What happened to using some sort of straightforward logic to choose the best candidate? If you have ever read any Aristotle you recognize that the study of logic in ancient times was about learning to distinguish good from bad arguments, and in doing so become more effective in argument and oratory, with the hope of becoming a better person.

Another person on this same list posed this question:
If a homeschooler interviewed a professed homosexual candidate and they said they supported homeschoolers and would never support any further regulations, but supported sex education, how would you list them?
An awesome attempt to demonstrate that though there are several emotional issues here, as a homeschooler who supposedly would only be voting for a candidate who supports homeschooling, what would logic dictate?

So in getting back to Yoda, people aren't discussing issues on homeschool lists because I think we as a community have become too polarized. Those of us who homeschool for reasons other than religion are tired of being labled as "flaming" liberals or are tired of being of clumped into the category of religious zealots. Many of us are not either and find that though homeschooling has become mainstream, there are members of our community who continue to fail to recognize that just like mainstream America, homeschoolers come in many flavors with many very different frames of referenece.

As for this list I am on. Generally, I don't submit to political discussion unless I feel it is something is so extreme to my frame of reference as a homeschooler. And I have other places where there are "like minded" people: Secular Homeschoolers.

© 2005-2008. Amy Cortez. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not Back to School: A Dancer With Many Hats in a Thankless and Undervalued Job

by Amy Cortez, Editor Eclectic Telegraph

As a parent, sometimes we feel that in raising teens we have a thankless job. Often your teen is too busy to recognize all the things you do, all the support that is there for them. Just for them. They don't ever really look at all the hats you have to wear to all the groovy dances you attend on their behalf.

As a homeschooling parent, not only do you need to be a parent to a teen, and God knows there are the endless days you spend parenting a young adult, but you are also signed up to be the teacher and mentor to your young adult.

In the days before high school, homeschooling is an endless educational stream of books and Science experiments and trips to the museum and library. You have as many as three hats, parent, teacher, chauffeur. The dance is a well timed and methodical glide across the floor.

Once your student becomes a teen, studying to become a University student, the educational stream becomes a little more complex, the dance gets to look more like a tango. As you have encouraged, and as your student has learned to be independent as a student, he is now more than ever dependant on you, the adult, to be his guidance counselor. Another hat for the rack.

As a guidance counselor, it is your huge responsibility to learn how to play the college game so you student can reach his ultimate goal. The college game as it seems is a very complicated dance, one that has all the timing of ballroom dancing and Tango - combined.

"Freshman" year, you learn as a guidance counselor that transcripts are very important, and you develop a format. You begin to understand what the differences are between an "Honors" class, an AP Class, what International Baccalaureate is. You begin to look at what your student has done educationally thus far and you try to determine what it is they need to do to reach their
goals, that is if they have settled on goals at all. If you're lucky, your student will be right there in the trenches next to you determining all of these things as well...

By "Sophomore" year the two of you determine that PSAT is important and that your student might do OK, so you schedule that milestone. This is the year that you get to wear the parenting, chauffeuring, counseling hats a bunch (the teaching hat gets a rest, because at this age, teens know it all anyway). But also, just as you are getting used to wearing these hats - sometimes all at once, your new job kicks in as the Driver's Ed teacher. This hat looks sort of like your chauffeur hat, but it might be a different color and now you have yet a whole new set of dance steps to add to your already complicated dance ticket.

In some states the driving laws are quite complicated, like in our state of Ohio. Not only do you have to teach about vehicle operation, safe driving and traffic rules, you get to drive in the car with your student for 50 hours. This is a tall order for 2 parents to manage, a huge order, for a single parent. It's hard to switch hats wearing a straight jacket and it's really un-parent-like to wear any of the hats backwards, like your student does.

But even once you've got the driving under control, you then begin to realize that you won't have to be the chauffeur much longer and begin to think about retiring that hat. But as soon as that hat goes in the cedar chest, you schedule those first classes at the Community College and find out that they have their own dance steps as well, because often they require that your student "test" into their classes and you juggle between being the even tempered guidance counselor, and the parent encouraging the student to knock 'em dead. Both hats can't be on in this case. That's the rule.

So then Summer comes between the Sophomore and Junior year and your teen fills his schedule with volunteering and working, traveling to and from each gig in your car. Meanwhile, wearing at least four of your hats, you begin to realize that Junior year is the year of the tests. PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject tests, ACT. All important, each with it's own set of dance steps, so you begin to figure out how to blend ballroom, tango and flamenco steps into the grand dance of Junior year. You hope the year goes well and only imagine what new hats may come and which of your dance steps you'll need to fine tune Senior year.

But the funny thing about your grand dance
ticket and all the hats you wear, not one person outside your house realizes the lunatic you have become and that Flashdancing is now your specialty. But the thing is, you really don't care, because with all your hats and dance steps and endless lists of tasks, when the ones who really love you say "you're awesome", you forget that at one point you thought you were a dancer with many hats in a thankless and undervalued job.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Summer Pursuits: Year Round Homeschooling

by Amy Cortez, Editor Eclectic Telegraph

Summer. When I was a kid Summer meant watermelons and fireflies, lazy days with best friends. Summer now means a lot of research to find resources and materials for our next year homeschooling.

Summer also now means that I get a two week vacation while my student goes to study something totally brain-melting at Purdue University.

Year round homeschooling as a single mom with a high energy gifted kid can be rewarding and draining. Over the last several years, we have declared two weeks of summer our separate vacation time.

My student feeds his brain, I paint my toenails.

The Gifted Education Resource Institute (GERI) at Purdue University offers some Awesome opportunities for the gifted and talented student so motivated to continue schooling over the Summer months. For the teen, GERI offers residential programs where for the last three or four years my student has gone and has made friends from Argentina, Greece, Korea, Las Vegas, Michigan, Colorado. These friendships really seem to last and my student attributes that to the idea that these guys and gals are "like him". They also seem to enjoy classes that definitely don't send the brain on vacation.

The folks that are involved in this program really seem to know how to engage these kinds of students and each year has been a totally positive experience for my student. My student's goal this year was to rule out fields he doesn't want to go into - an admirable intention I thought:

Explore the rapidly-evolving science of genetics. Topics in this course will include genetic therapy, the debate over genetically-modified foods, ethics and issues in research, and career options in bioengineering and genetic science. Applications for healthcare, agriculture, and technology will be discussed and utilized for a final project.

Physical Chemistry
Come explore the world of physical chemistry including the kinetic theory of gases, statistical thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, atomic and molecular structure, ionic phases, and more. Plan on conducting many hands-on experiments to solve real world problems!

The student is paired with another as a roommate and they live for two weeks in the dorms at Purdue. Each year my student has had the opportunity to share a dorm room with a student from Korea. There are organized dances, expeditions to Chicago to the Science Museums, or to a water park. There are pick up soccer games every night from what I could tell.

Each student is responsible for getting to class on time and there are morning and afternoon classes. The day starts at 7AM and according to my student didn't end until well after "lights-out" at 11PM. The work was interesting and engaging and so was the conversation and companionship.

If you are interested in the summer residential program at Purdue:

Summer Residential Program
GERI Main Office 765-494-7243
Fax 765-496-2706
Beering hall, Room 5108A

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Gifted Kid and His Unfinished Projects

by Amy Cortez, Editor Eclectic Telegraph

It's Springtime. The weather is breaking. Summer is around the corner. Lazy days ahead - right?

If you're homeschooling a gifted kid, perhaps the lazy days have been around all winter.

The gifted student can be the most wonderful individual and the most frustrating individual all within the span of minutes. Why can't he just finish the dang project? Is it ADHD? Teen hormones? Dissect that unfinished project and you recognize that you're dealing with perfectionism. Again.

It seems I have surrounded myself with perfectionistic people, or am I the only one that can see projects through from start to finish?

Periodically I have to refresh my memory on what perfectionism looks like because it can turn the smoothest running homeschool into a horrific train wreck.

Back in November of 2006 I wrote about perfectionism. I researched and found some good stuff on how to deal with the evil beast called perfectionism, but here it is again in a big way, back in May 2008, morphed into a newer version of the evil beast stopping progress towards the end of our "school year". So I am off again on the trail of new tricks for the trade for mentoring a gifted student at home. To rework some ideas I have already made part of my bucket of tricks, I remember that with the perfectionist:

  1. There is a preoccupation with real or imagined judgments and expectations from people who matter to them, making the perfectionist his own worst critic.
  2. His self-worth is defined by a precisely defined sense of grand achievement. A larger than life picture of what ought to be.
My new and refined list of clues to why a project is not being completed:

The perfectionist ultimately will:
  1. Procrastinate and leave work unfinished because he fears the result won't be good enough, forgetting the idea that it's what a man can do along the way that matters; He will focus on mistakes, rather than on what he did well.

  2. Avoid trying new things for the fear of his definition of a a botched outcome.

  3. Set unrealistic and grandiose goals and then condemn himself when he doesn't achieve the goals and an end product pictured in the grand movie in his head.

  4. Not tolerate criticism and will find it very hard to laugh at himself, under certain circumstances.

  5. Approach projects with such an inflexibility that indicates he believes that there is only one way to do accomplish it and that he is the only one who can do the job the best. This causes him to ultimately underachieve because of his inability to complete projects that are turning out less than his definition of "perfect." Projects that are less than perfect do not deserve his time or talents.
We want our children to live up to their potential. But what is potential? In Physics we look at the concept of "potential" energy, and this idea can be applied here as well. Many will define "potential" as striving for the goal of excellence which often gets translated into a quest for perfection with the gifted student. Potential shouldn't be a quest for perfection. We need to encourage the definition of potential to be the the idea that one needs to explore and develop the fullness of their own talents & interests.

There's a big difference between wanting children to develop their potential and expecting them to be the best in everything they attempt. As a mentor to a gifted student we need to remember to encourage the expansion of imagination, to foster risk taking, and to maintain a joy in discovery in tasks. Once we're sure that this inner achievement is taking place, you'll find find that this becomes s far more important than being "perfect" and that unfinished project may even get done.

© 2005-2008. Amy Cortez. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Snowbound Snowbirds?

I received an email on an email list the other day that I thought would be fun to share:

Driven to Educate - A Field Trip Across America - Have you lost your mind?

Those of us stuck in the snowstorms in the Midwest today might get some sunny relief from these families who are homeschooling on the road.

Families Hittin' the Road

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Homeschoolers, Vote for McHilarBamaBee

Guest Writer: OldSage

I voted in the Ohio Primary the other day. I have to admit, all of the choices scare the hell out of me. But there is a little bit of each that would make one really good candidate.

Someone once said that getting homeschoolers to come together is like herding cats. They're right, but in this election, just to show our presence, I think we need to come together to vote for the candidate McHilarBamaBee.

Mc is for all the homeschoolers who need to vote for old white guys for president. As we know, old white guys like to go to war and they like to piss off the rest of the world by making the average American look like essence they portray. To understand how this might feel, imagine that you are homeschooling for purely academic reasons and people always assume you're a religious fanatic.

Hilar is for all the homeschoolers who prefer that the thinking be done for them. This one has it all worked out for so you won't have to do a thing because the village is there to help. Hand yourselves over to the village and they'll handle things.

Bama is for all the homeschoolers who embrace hope. Hope that the village won't take all of your money to level the playing field. Hope that maybe the village would quit thinking for us. Hope that the village will just leave us alone. Hope that we'll finally support the troops and bring them home. Hope that the world will see that we don't always need an old white guy at the helm. Hope that the world will see us as progressive because we voted for a black man instead of a white woman or an old white man.

Bee is for all the thrifty homeschoolers who like to keep their money. A 23% flat tax is about the best idea any of them have. When you get right down to it's a real deal. If you add up what gets taken as tax from you on your income (15%-35%), what gets taken from you in sales taxes, as high as 7% some places, what gets taken from you in property taxes , as high as 20% in some areas, 15% tax that gets taken from you on anything you might make in interest on savings, 15%-35% tax that gets taken from you on any capital gains you might manage to wangle, you're getting quite a deal with a 23% flat tax. Not to mention, the original income tax imposed on us was unconstitutional to begin with. But nothing short of another tea pary will remedy that.

The candidate McHilarBamaBee is the one for homeschoolers I am sure of it.

See you next time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another Good Resource for Homeschooling Families

When my student was in Elementary school and even into middle school we enjoyed using Joy Hakim's A History of US: (10-Volume set (A History of Us)) as a springboard to many adventures into our United States History studies. Today the Washington Post reports that another book is available in The "Story of Science" series by Joy Hakim:

Author Reinvents Science Textbooks as Lively Fun Narratives
by Valarie Strauss

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday January 28, 2008

The "Story of Science" series by Joy Hakim tells the history of science with wit, narrative depth and research, all vetted by specialists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The first book is "Aristotle Leads the Way," the second is "Newton at the Center" and the third is "Einstein Adds a New Dimension." The series, which has drawn acclaim, chronicles not only great discoveries but also the scientists who made them.

We can't wait to have a look at the newest one!