Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


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Thoughts On Turning 45

Yesterday was my 45th birthday.  The number “45” does not cause alarm until I think about the 5 short years until I turn 50.  And…THAT number seems ridiculous.   🙂

Like most people, I assume, the arrival of my yearly birthday prompts a slurry of reflective thoughts and winding questions of direction–Where have I been and where do I want to go?

Looking back, my previous life events took some very interesting turns (to say the least), which I honestly–always and continuously–view as gifts and opportunities to evolve.  Like the vinyl stickers on one of the walls in our classroom states, “If it does not challenge you, it does not change you.”

So, for the past few days, I found myself thinking a lot about my unusual path and the significant events I used to form myself into the woman I am today at age 45.

 

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Pic of me, riding in an Amish carriage, on April 26, 2018–my 45th birthday

 

I was raised in a patriarchal dominated home, where individuality, progressive thoughts, and conflicting opinions were not tolerated, often resulted in severe punishment, and significantly stifled free-thinking, creativity and uniqueness–a pit of suffocating quicksand that I would spend 25+ years clawing my way out of to find, uncover and explore my original identity on unbiased solid ground.

A surprise pregnancy at the age of 19 started the growth and evolution.

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The life-altering minute I became responsible for another human being created the defining moment I chose to forge my own, unique path.

As a single mom, I completed college with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Studio Art and added an all-level, K-12 teaching certificate.  Studying and learning did not come naturally.  My son, on the other hand, taught himself to read at age 3 and understood simple algebra by age 5.

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I raised my son alone, except for three, not-so-awesome years when I accidentally married a drug addict.  I wish I could write a paragraph to explain those years…oh the enormous mountain of red flags and stupidity I ignored!  It is utterly embarrassing and I am literally shaking my head as I type these words.  Excuse the acronym, but seriously, WTF?

Honestly, I *think* I married him because he formed such a strong bond with my son, who desperately desired a male role model in the absence of his father (whose visits were sporadic and yearly, at best)  I also divorced him because of my son– I REFUSED to subject him to an unstable and unhealthy environment.

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The wedding was March 11, 2000.  By August, I learned about a hidden addiction and immediately went into action, contacting family members, staging an intervention, begging, pleading, blah, blah, blah…  I filed for divorce on October 17, 2002, which was ultimately finalized on April 1, 2003.  Good times, ladies and gentlemen…good times…

During those explosive days, I became the Secondary Teacher of the Year for the entire school district–a title never before awarded to a fine arts teacher.  One guarantee in my public school classroom–individuality was encouraged and celebrated, as was free-thinking and original thought, interpretation and expression.

And that was that.  Bam.  I was a single mom again.  Artist.  Teacher of the year.

 

Eventually, I plan to write an entire post all about my epic love story, but for today, a quick summary will have to pacify you.  🙂

I met my amazing (and current, LOL) husband in 2nd grade.  We were seven years old.  We rode the same school bus and we enjoyed the same awesome teacher that year, 1980. (She had a carpeted bathtub in her classroom for a reading nook!  Seriously, how cool is  that?!?)

We were interested in each other from the very beginning and all through elementary school, but his family moved away at the end of 8th grade.

Our paths crossed uncountable times over the next 16+ years, which resulted in several missed opportunities, a cherished photograph of him holding my 6 week old son and ironically, an encounter with my drug-addicted-then-fiance.

Life is funny sometimes.

Long story short, we finally married on August 29, 2003.  Reminder:  Divorce freed me from a life of heartache and addiction-induced instability on April 1, 2003.  Yes, I am aware that is an alarmingly short amount of time between the end of one marriage and the beginning of a new marriage, but honestly I should have married this man 25 years ago.  I never questioned the time line.

 

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Our wedding day

 

I will share this fun, little tidbit that will certainly be mentioned in my longer love story post:  Ironically, our first daughter was born on April 1, 2004–exactly 1 year after my divorce was finalized.  Internally and quietly, I celebrate that day each year as another significant, life evolving-freedom-granting event–AND I usually get to eat cake and ice cream!  HELLO!  Who gets to celebrate an escape from a suffocating marriage like that every year!?!  ME!  Pretty awesome, right?  🙂

 

If you are familiar with my blog, you know all about my extraordinary family.  But, for the new comers, I will share a few details and will attach some links at the bottom of this rambling if you find yourself interested with nothing else to do today.  LOL

My children are profoundly gifted–All three of them, though my son was never professionally tested.  He began college level classes at the age of 15 through the public school, dual-credit system and he is a mathematical genius and forward-thinker.  My daughters began taking college classes at the local community college at age 10 and 12.

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One daughter is fluent in French, is a 2nd degree black belt and runs her own charity.  Her passions include human rights and marine biology.  Our other daughter is fluent in American Sign Language and has completed 25 college hours. (She is 12.)  She plans to become an OB/GYN for Deaf and hearing women.

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We started a homeschooling journey almost 7 years ago to accommodate the need for our daughters’ extreme academic accelerations.  My son was already in college by the time our family initiated this evolution.

Sometimes people ask me about the origin of all of this intelligence.  The short answer is I have no idea.  The funny answer is that it skipped a generation, mainly me. LOL.  My husband likes to take all of the credit, but I like to remind him that does not explain my son.  🙂

So…the truth–if I am 100% honest–obviously the mega-brain power originated with some deeply buried DNA trait, which resides dormant inside of MY genetic make up.

And here is where my 45th birthday becomes a swirling, inner reflection, self-evaluating event.

I am surrounded by brilliant people.

My dad was a very successful attorney.  My niece is about to earn her master’s degree and she is married to an attorney.  My son’s girlfriend is an attorney. (There seems to be  a trend here.)  My sister has a master’s degree in special education and my husband will graduate in June with his graduate degree–having earned his undergrad from West Point.  My brother-in-law is an orthopaedic surgeon.  My daughters are geniuses and my intelligent, mature son was progressive in his bravity to walk away from a suffocating corprotate job to seek happiness over wealth.

Seriously.

That’s a tough crowd to compare yourself to.

I can’t help but wonder, at the ripe age of 45,  if I somehow missed the academic boat–am I just some sort of super under-achiever?

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My thoughts keep going back and forth, an internal conversation I regularly have with myself, but my annual birthday tends to highlight the significance.

Could I be more?  Should I be more?  What really is “more”?

I don’t have regrets.  I really don’t.  Even the botched marriage taught me life lessons that allow me to be a better wife to my wonderful husband.  Do I wish I could have learned those lessons a different way?  Sure.  Do I wish I was raised in a different kind of household?  Yes.  If my surprise pregnancy never happened, would my life have taken a different path?  Maybe.  Probably.  I don’t know.

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It really doesn’t matter.  I would not change it.

All of these significant events created the Jen I present to the world each and every day.  I am the glue that holds my family together when my military husband deploys and the fierce momma-bear that fights an age discriminating college system for my girls.

When my adult son needs something, I am his person.  When my husband’s work pulls him away, he never, EVER wonders or worries about how I will handle things.  My daughters both know that I will do whatever it takes to help them succeed–THEIR definition of success, not my own.

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I constantly seek a better way.  A better path.  A better understanding.  A better acceptance.

An evolution into better.

I **think** that is what 45 looks like for me.

 

 

Want to read some more random writings about my unique family?

Read this!

And this.

And this.

And this.

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The Birth Of A Homeschool Guru

I wrote 3 very long (sorry!) and candid “flashback” postings last year, detailing the process of the beginning of my family’s unique journey. This week, I re-shared those honest posts and got a TON of traffic and feedback. Thank you everyone!

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Today, I looked through those entries and decided to tell the rest of the story.

So…here you go! Better grab some coffee and a muffin. (Or tea and some Milk Duds!)

This is going to take a minute.

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After my two daughters took the full scale IQ tests, we FINALLY knew the reasons for our extreme home-life. My girls NEEDED to learn.

NOW.

It isn’t like we never taught them stuff before. We ALWAYS read to our children. Offered workbooks in the summer, bought all of the “Little Einstein” videos and music CD’s, encouraged a “tinkering” mindset., limited time in front of the TV, etc. The problem was…the environment, the offerings, the access, the amount and the pace…It was just not enough…

As I mentioned before, over-excitabilities come with the gifted territory–even more pronounced and severe in the profoundly gifted individual. I have two of those living in my house and they experience our world in a way that is foreign and strange to me–and that will never EVER change.

How did I even start to bridge the obvious gap?

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I started where most desperate parents begin–looking and searching for the “right” academic fit for my kids (specifically my youngest daughter). The psychologist who administered the full scale IQ tests suggested a visit to an unique school in Houston–a school designed to accommodate the varying and accelerated needs of gifted children.

Wasting no time, I immediately made the appointment for a tour. My youngest daughter skipped her public school kindergarten to experience one day at the gifted school. That afternoon, the head of the gifted school pulled me into his office. Of course, I felt that all-to-familiar fear that my daughter’s behavior somehow tarnished her visit.

Nope. Wrong again, hyper-vigilant mom.

I am wrong a lot.

Let me tell you, it is SUPER difficult to be the dumbest person in your own home. And… I am not just saying that so everyone messages me and tells me that I am smart, too. Nope. It is a proven fact that I fall to the bottom of the intelligence totem pole in this family. I have the scores to prove it. LOL.

Anyway, the head of school proceeded to show me a few scores from other enrolled students. By this time in my journey, I only knew a few things about the gifted world. But, I DID know enough to understand our interaction and to deduce what he was trying to explain without making it too obvious. This “gifted” school could not help my daughter.

A super quickie tutorial:

Human intelligence exists on a bell curve–yep–just like the one you wished your college professor put into place for each exam.

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About 95% of the world’s population operates within the range of 70 to 130. 100 is considered an average IQ.

***Please understand that several intelligence tests only evaluate certain traits–and each test has a different score ceiling. For example, one test might not allow testers to achieve anything higher than 150. Another test might go as high as 200. So, the IQ number itself is not as important as the percentage. The percentage ceiling for any test is 99.9%. But, for simplicity, I am using this number scenario.

125 to 130 is the typical threshold for a public school gifted program. The average score accepted by Mensa is between 130 and 132–Again, it depends on which test was taken. A score in this range represents about 4% of our population and the same can be said of the opposite side of the bell curve–about 4% of our population falls beneath an IQ of 70.

As the bell curve travels further from the middle (or average), the percentages get smaller and smaller…until you reach the super far left or super far right. Once IQ range hits 145, the percentage is already hovering around .1% of the world’s population. That is a very small number of people.

My two daughters fall in that tiny .1% because they both scored in the 99.9% on a full-scale test.

So…when that man at the gifted school in Houston showed me the scores of other enrolled students, it was his not-so-obvious way to “tell” me that my daughter would not find her people at his school. She received an official acceptance into the establishment, but there were no “.1%-ers” there.

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I left his office and cried the super ugly cry in my car for about an hour.

And cried on and off again for several more days.

Here is where this post gets real people. Real and honest and hard to admit…

Like allllllllllll people, I tend to form opinions about topics that I have little to no actual or direct experience or knowledge. It is a not-so-popular thing to admit, but we ALL do it. **Everyone has an opinion about the military, but the percentage of soldiers and their families in the general population is actually quite small. Do you have an opinion about teen pregnancy??? How many of you have gone through that? Everyone has an opinion about divorce…but not everyone has suffered through the devastation of a cheating spouse.

Everyone has an opinion about everything. It is just the way the human brain works.

So, along those lines…I formed an opinion about homeschooling. I had VERY LITTLE personal experience with educational options outside of the public school system. My son attended a traditional school, K-12, and I was an art teacher for 7 years–all public school background. I saw students pulled from school by angry parents and then witnessed the same (and exhausted) parents return those students several months later–usually to the determent of that child.

I lectured friends about the downsides to homeschooling. (sorry Kim!) I made faces when homeschooling was mentioned in conversations. I was not a fan. Not a supporter. No way. Nopers. Just no.

Be careful what you joke about and be SUPER careful when you form opinions about topics you have no direct, personal experience…it will come back to bite you in the self-righteous butt.

I speak from experience.

Life sure is funny sometimes, right?

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Faced with no viable educational options for our youngest daughter, I started researching ‘homeschool’. (YIKES!) Watch me swallow this huge pill.

By the end of my daughter’s kindergarten year, I knew I was going to educate her at home. I contacted every homeschooling parent I knew (which was only 3 at that time!) and I asked a million silly questions–I didn’t know what I didn’t know, you know?!? 🙂

I bought books and read anything I could find on home education and parenting gifted individuals. I wanted to know about the various learning styles and differentiating curriculum. I poured over studies about academic acceleration and extreme academic acceleration–highlighting, underlining and dog-earing everything I found relevant.

If I was going to be solely responsible for educating my daughter, I wanted to do it right.

And, homeschooling offered the freedom for my daughter to pursue specialized interests–like American Sign Language and chemistry–when she was 6 years old.

My next mission was to find someone willing to teach her those things–because I knew NOTHING about those subjects. It did not take me long to realize that our “homeschool” would not take place at home. My daughter did not need ME to teach her–she needed me to become an expert researcher and fierce advocate for extreme acceleration.

My journey was just beginning.

I will write more soon, friends. 🙂

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If you missed it, read about my family in these flashback postings:

Flashback 1

Flashback 2

Flashback 3

Why do we homeschool? Read the top 5 reasons here!

5 surprises about my life with profoundly gifted children–read this.


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44 years and 1 day

Yesterday, I turned 44 years and one day old.  I wrote a blog post (read it here!) all about my birthday and what my actual day looked liked, but I woke up this morning with more to share.  So, what did 44 years and 1 day bring?

On Thursday, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. as a 44 year and 1 day old woman.  Constantly, for the last 24 years and 21 days, at least one person calls me “mom”, meaning I happily put my desires on the back burner…a deliberate, daily action for more than half my life.

So, I’m up at 6:30 a.m. to begin my day because Tuesdays and Thursdays are college days.  Not for me…I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 1997.  Tu/Th means college classes for my 11 and 13-year-old daughters.  Read 5 reasons why we homeschool here.

In true modern-life fashion, the first thing I reach for in the morning is my phone.  About 3 months ago, I finally started to flip my ringer off at night.  Since my son left for college in 2011, I worry about him constantly and always keep the phone on my nightstand, ringer on full-blast.  Now that the ringer is off at night, I check the phone first thing, just incase.  Full disclosure:  He graduated from college in 2015 and I still have my phone on vibrate (just incase).  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

I typically spend 10 ish minutes looking through Facebook, maybe Twitter, and seldomly Instagram.  Come on, I am 44.  Facebook is my jam.

A friend sent me a Facebook message asking about the mesh laundry baskets we use to protect, raise and house our monarch caterpillars.  I wanted to verbally describe the containers, but felt a picture would be better.  In my pj’s and clunky old-lady Vionic house-shoes (plantar fasciitis, remember?), I went to the garage to grab an empty habitat for an outdoor photo shoot.  I took the pic, put the basket back into the garage and stepped down onto the drive way.

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Well…I sort of “stepped down”.  The clunky house-shoe on my right foot slipped off as I stepped down from the garage doorway.  I twisted my ankle and fell directly on my rear, jarring my spine from my tailbone to my skull on the not-so-shock-absorbent concrete.  Of course, I used my left hand to brace myself, which in reality, only added to the list of injuries.  I laid on the driveway for a few minutes, accessing all damage, and laughing/crying at my old lady self…so thankful we live in the country, where neighbors are few and far between.

Besides my pride and ego, the other injuries are minor, mostly bruising and sore muscles.

Gingerly, I returned to the house, made oatmeal and negotiated two peace treaties between the conflicting ideals of my two daughters–at least I was not naked this time.  It’s a miracle.

On April 21, my family made the excruciating decision to help our beloved 13 year-old family dog cross the rainbow bridge.  A cloud of sadness and emptiness lingers over our house and hearts these days.  It has been tough on everyone.  For me, added misery stems from her absence in my daily routines.

Having a dog is like having another child.  Her needs always came before my own.  If she needed to go out and I needed to pee, I always took her first.  In fact, most mornings, I walked her outside before I barely opened my eyes and I always served her breakfast before I fed my children or myself.

As I was getting dressed, her absence overwhelmed me and I cried.  Cried in the shower, cried brushing my teeth, cried until it was time to leave for school.  I miss her.

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Part of my daily routine is calling my husband while I drive to the first college campus.  (My girls take classes at two different campuses this semester.) (And, since you might not know me personally, I use my car’s Bluetooth just to be safe.  I never speed and I never text while driving.)  I am a rule follower.

The phone call is a quick opportunity to check in with my man while my daughters are plugged in and watching a DVD in the car.  Movies create a much-needed quick escape for my girls from their very active brains.  What do they watch?  Well…let me just say, my daughters display an eclectic taste when it comes to films.  I am going to walk out to my car (slowly and carefully) and take a pic of the movies just for your viewing pleasure.  Here you go:

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Yes, all of these movies are currently in my car and yes, we spend a lot of money on DVD’s.  Someone should set up a GoFundMe account.

So, back to the chitty-chat with my husband.  He always asks about my morning first–even if I protest and ask about his day, he refuses to answer until I share my stuff.  I gave an overview of everyone’s morning emotions and a recap of my graceful, old lady fall and waited for his summation.

He starts by causally mentioning his name made the Colonel promotion list–a SUPER big deal.  We have waited AND waited AND waited for this amazing news.  As I am giddy with excitement and congratulations, I bounce in my driver’s seat (as much as humanly possible) and proceed to twerk my neck and back even more than the morning’s tumble on the concrete.  Damn this 44 year and 1 day old body.

Seriously, my husband is so humble.  Green Berets are called “The Quiet Professionals” for a reason.  He is a rock star, but he keeps it a secret.

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LOL.  I am just kidding.  That is not my husband.  This is a picture of my daughter at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I wanted to throw a little Disney love into this post.  Who needs more Disney in their life?  This girl.  Yes, me.  Duh.

THIS is my man, leaving for deployment in 2010.

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He is an amazing soldier and an amazing husband.

If I made the rank of Colonel, it would be the first thing I blurted out when I answered a call.  But, not my husband…he is always more concerned and interested in what I have going on in my world.  I am a lucky gal.

First college stop every Tuesday and Thursday is yoga class for my 11 year-old.  I am happy to report it is not an easy, blow-off course.  Though the focus is yoga and health, the professor spends a lot of time lecturing about yoga philosophy, morals, ethics, and practices.  My daughter continues to learn about Hindi culture, vegetarianism and historical traditions.

During yoga, my 13 year-old and I sit at tables outside of the classroom–she works on geometry, French or marine biology while I answer emails, make calls or write blog posts for you guys.  After yoga, my daughter changes into regular clothing and we drive to the next campus.

Yesterday, however, she realized she forgot her regular bra and reacted with a full, emotional meltdown in the women’s restroom.  Have you read about my life with profoundly gifted kids?  Click here.

I calmly suggested the sports bra was sufficient, but she shot that down pretty quick.  Next, I offered a switch–she could wear my bra and I would gladly wear the sports bra…anything to minimize her anxiety.  Apparently, the thought of wearing her mom’s bra was mortifying enough to make the wearing of the sports bra acceptable.  That is a parenting win, my friends.

We drove to the next college campus, where my 13 year-old takes Acting I and my 11 year-old attends two different ASL classes.  I create a home base–what I call our “nest”–and I sit there for the next 9 hours while my daughters come and go to the rest of their classes.  I read, watch entirely too many Netflix shows and I do research for this blog.  Yea Wi-Fi.

On campus, the Deaf and ASL interpreting college students were interacting with visiting Deaf junior high students.  One of the professors introduced my daughter and the students asked a lot of questions.  She confidently signed and communicated with several of the kids, which was exciting because these students were her age.  That NEVER happens.

One fascinating facet of Deaf culture is sign names.  A Deaf person MUST give the sign name to a hearing person.  Until a sign name is given, names are finger-spelled using the ASL alphabet.  My daughter has studied American Sign Language for 6 years and has waited 6 years, hoping someday to receive her sign name from a Deaf individual.

The sign name is an act of acceptance into the Deaf culture.

I was writing a blog post when my daughter RAN up to our nest, all out of breath, and almost cried as she told me that a Deaf student bestowed her a sign name.  It was the best day of her life!

Through happy tears, I watched my daughter walk into her Visual and Gestural Communications class with a sign name.  It was like she was a new person.

For Christmas, I gave my daughters tickets to see Alton Brown Live:  Eat Your Science.  When I purchased the tickets, we thought my husband would be in Qatar, so I only bought three.  Life is funny sometimes, right?  Plans change constantly around here.

So, we skipped my 11 year-old’s last class (Yes, she told the professor in advance.) and we met my husband for dinner before the show.  My husband loves Alton Brown and since he is not in Qatar, I gave him the chance to take our daughters on a date.  I REALLY wanted to go, but I was thrilled to give up my ticket for my awesome husband.

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Alton Brown is so cool, isn’t he?

After dinner, my husband took our daughters to see Alton Brown Live and I started the long drive home.  I made a last minute decision to visit my fabulous sister because Google Maps sent me right by her house.

I love spending quality time with my sister, my nephew and one of my nieces.  (The other one was out for the evening…bummer!)

They gave me some super awesome birthday presents, like this Haunted Mansion (my all-time favorite Disney ride!!!) plate.

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And, I got this adorable dress to wear during my next Walt Disney World vacation!

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I am sooooooo excited!!!

Last May, I was diagnosed with skin cancer.  Ugh.  Too many years using baby oil in the sun and too many trips to the tanning bed in my teens and 20’s…use sunscreen my friends.

Anyway, I had some fun basal cell carcinoma removed from my shoulder and the scar is YUCK-Y.  I call it “my third nipple”, which my husband hates, but I think it’s funny–it is a sick way of coping…

My 4 year old nephew (He is the love of my life!) told me to take off my jacket, revealing my shoulder because I was wearing a tank top underneath.  He immediately started asking questions about my scar and poking it with his finger.  He said it looked like gum and I could not stop laughing.

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I guess calling it “gum” is better than “my third nipple”.  lol.

This is my nephew.  I could look at his precious face all day long.

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It was dark by the time I arrived home and I immediately felt the absence of our Pepper Dog.  Last night marked the first time I was home alone without her.  The house was too quiet and too empty.  I could not stop thinking about her.

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I decided a melatonin made the best nighttime snack and I snuggled into bed, watching a few episodes of “Scrubs”.

At 11:30 p.m., my husband (a new Colonel) and daughters (one with a sign name) finally came through the door, exhausted from a long day of school and Alton Brown.

I feel asleep with sore muscles and tight joints from the morning’s fall, but I have this chunk of gum on my shoulder and it kind of makes me laugh.

Here’s to being 44 years and 1 day old.


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5 BIG Surprises About My Life With Profoundly Gifted Children

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5 THINGS THAT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU ABOUT MY LIFE WITH EXTRAORDINARY CHILDREN:

1.  We cry A LOT in this house.

A few years ago, the wind swirled the air like a crazy late September hurricane.  In the car-rider line at school, I opened the door to let my daughter out and her science review sheet flew into the oncoming traffic.  I tried to catch the flying paper, but the wind won…and it was quickly out of eyesight.  She knew the material–we studied every night for at least a week.  But, my oldest daughter possesses a strong attachment to THINGS.  To most EVERY thing.  She cares DEEPLY and she cries INTENSELY.  She cries for the homeless.  She cries for orphans.  She cries for shelter animals.  She cries when people cheat.  She cries when something breaks.  And yes…she cries for review sheets…for 25 minutes…sobbing…in the school parking lot…completely devastated.

We cry a lot.

My youngest daughter, LOVES Elvis Presley and of course, she understands that he died years ago.  However, after watching a 4 hour documentary that ended with footage of his casket, my daughter was inconsolable.  Hyperventilating.  Crying out in pure pain and sorrow.  That session lasted a few hours.

Did I mention we cry a lot in this house?

I can think of at least 213 overly emotional stories.  The day my husband sold his car.  The day my oldest daughter learned she was too young to get married.  The time she sobbed because she didn’t know about the permits needed to build an orphanage.  A dead butterfly on the driveway…

Moments like this happen every day.  Several times a day.

I cry, too.  My children require a SUPER MOM…there is NO down time and I worry about my inability to meet their unique needs.  I am ordinary.  I am tired.

This extreme parenting is sometimes just too overwhelming.

Please understand…our house is NOT a sad house.  My girls are just intense.  Emotionally intense.  They FEEL things and experience life on a plane of intensity unfamiliar to my ordinary emotions.  It’s just the way it is.

2.  We still nap.

A big shocker to most outsiders is that my 12 year old desperately needs a daily nap and my life semi-revolves around that schedule as if she was still 3 months old.  That child barely sleeps at night.  Her mind races and spins and dances and wreaks havoc all over this family.  A mid-day nap is an essential part of her survival and ability to function.  On the weekends and during summer vacation, BOTH girls take naps.  Active brains need rest.

3.  We are on a time limit.

With all her 5 senses, my youngest absorbs and filters up to 200% more information than the average person.  I assume my other daughter falls somewhere on that spectrum as well.  That’s a lot of stimuli.  If we are in a visually stimulating, academically engaging environment, time is ALWAYS ticking.  They can only take in so much before the migraines begin.  One daughter gets overwhelmed.  The other gets grouchy.  AND, they shut down.  Time to go home!

A challenging environment with crowds, loud noises, weird smells, or extreme temperatures causes severe anxiety.   I try to stay ahead of the meltdowns and some days, I successfully read the signals.  Other days, I fall victim to the chaos and suffer the consequences right along with my daughters.

4.  We are lonely.

My girls do not receive many birthday party invites.  There are no playdates.  No sleepovers.  No phone calls from friends.  And yes, my daughters still play.

At this moment in time, my daughters PREFER to play with each other.  I think they feel more at ease and can be themselves without feeling odd or weird or different.

I am lonely, too.  There are very few people I can honestly talk to without sounding boastful.  Negative judgements, strong opinions and criticisms come next.  Everyone gets a fraction, a small segment of the truth.  And, my social calendar belongs to my children.  Their needs come first.

5.  School and academics are NOT always easy.

It is an assumption (an incorrect one) that gifted children need very little to be successful in school.  Though my 12-year-old once powered through four years of math in 6 months and began her college career at age 10, she struggles to remember to capitalize the first letter of a sentence.  For real.

My 14-year-old won the public school (when she was 8) and homeschool spelling bee and read on a post college level at age 6, but failed the district reading benchmark test back in the day because her concrete mind can not process inferences or assumptions.  She DOES NOT understand sarcasm, joking or teasing.  She is a black and white thinker.  Right or wrong.  When it comes to reading comprehension, if the answer is not stated in the reading passage, she is utterly LOST.

This brings me to the evil lurking behind a profoundly gifted label:  It is called Asynchronous Development.  And, I HATE it.

Asynchrony is the state of not being synchronized.  (Who came up with THAT definition?)

Essentially, it presents itself as uneven development in gifted kids.  Hence, the need to homeschool. We constantly remind ourselves (and others) that just because my daughters are advanced academically, it DOES NOT mean they are years ahead socially or emotionally…and certainly not physically.  My youngest daughter is a 75 year old man trapped in a 12 year old girl’s body.

Asynchrony is confusing and frustrating and challenging.  Both girls suffer and excel at the hands of their asynchronous development.  It makes traditional schooling and most learning situations (and social interactions) very difficult.

So…

If given the opportunity, especially if presented on a particularly challenging day, I would probably change all of this…if I could. IF I could pick and choose WHICH aspects stayed and which ones disappeared, I would jump at the chance to lessen the burden for my daughters.  YES I WOULD–in a heartbeat!

BUT, the over excitabilities and asynchronous development are part of a package deal.  They all go hand-in-hand with the profoundly gifted diagnosis.  I don’t get to pick and choose…and neither do my girls.  It is part of who they are and my job is to teach them how to manage and cope with ALL aspects of their abilities.

We choose to embrace the positive AND the negative, for without one there is NO balance or appreciation for the other.

It IS what makes them extraordinary.

 

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How did I become a homeschooling momma?  Read this.


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The Top 5 Reasons Why We Chose To Homeschool

By now, I hope you have read my 3 flashback posts. This is going to be super confusing if you skipped those!

Click here to read part 1.

Click here to read part 2.

Click here to read part 3.

With my son away at college and armed with the new information about my two daughters, I started on a quest to find the best academic fit for my girls. I Googled and read and emailed and contacted and toured and applied and did so many things…

Nothing was the right fit.

Enter HOMESCHOOL!

I won’t bore you with all of my thoughts, but homeschooling became the obvious option for our family.

This new adventure began in the fall of 2012 for my youngest daughter and in the fall of 2013, my other daughter joined us at home, too.

Hundreds of reasons came clearly into view once we researched what homeschooling is all about and once we started on this homeschooling journey, a million more became evident.

Here are the 5 BIG reasons we love homeschooling our profoundly gifted daughters:

1. Freedom to do education our way

Probably one of the most popular reasons to homeschool is the freedom our country gives parents to educate their children in a way that fits each unique family.

Yes, homeschooling is illegal in some countries, like Germany, and each state in the United States has its own laws to govern home education.

For my family, this freedom allows my daughters to both be enrolled in college and still study spelling, history and writing at home. We have the freedom to learn 4 years of math in 6 months…and yes, that happened.

There isn’t a public or private school out there that can meet the asynchronous academic needs of my daughters, hence the need to homeschool in the first place.

We can educated as quickly or as slowly as needed.

And, we always educate for mastery, not completion.

Yes, my daughters are in college. They started taking classes when they were 10 and 12.

2. Freedom of expression

I get it. My kids are unusual. I have working eyeballs and mommy friends and an active Facebook account…I see the way kids dress and the activities they enjoy doing with their friends.

My 12 year old runs her own charity and wants to open an orphanage. She is a 2nd degree black belt, a master speller and is a reading machine. The 11 year old loves Johnny Cash, Elvis, bones, primitive tools, dissections, oddities, conjoined twins and sign language. She wants to be a gynecologist.

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Not typical.

Got it.

My girls can be themselves without people constantly telling them how “weird” they appear…though it still happens once in awhile, the negativity does not consume them on a daily basis and I think it gives them each a chance to be comfortable in their originality and confident enough to withstand the occasional teasing.

3. Freedom to live anywhere

A year after we started our homeschooling journey, I realized we could live anywhere. School district boundaries no longer decided where our home needed to be built.

We moved to 5.5 acres so our girls could run and play and dig and go on adventures and just be outside!

Nature tends to calm the anxiety and frustrations of our youngest daughter and it is a peaceful environment for all of us!

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4. Freedom to explore interests

My oldest daughter loves marine biology. My youngest daughter is passionate about American Sign Language. Neither one of those subjects are taught in traditional public or private schools.

Homeschooling gives my girls the freedom to explore, study, research and enjoy whatever interests they choose to pursue–for as long as they wish.

It also gives me the freedom to pick and choose knowledgeable teachers to teach those different subjects.

5. Freedom to travel and learn “in person”

Ok, let me just say this now–NO, we did not choose to homeschool because we can travel to Walt Disney World whenever we want (preferably when the crowd levels are low).

BUT, it is a delightful perk of homeschooling! LOL!

Now that my daughters are both taking college classes, our travel options are not as open as they once were…however, my girls prefer to learn “in person”.

What does “in person” mean?

Hands on projects, experiencing academics–not just reading from a textbook.

We visit so many museums, experience so many cool adventures and focus on experiencing the learning process. Just wait for those review posts to start popping up!

We never read about something in a textbook and take a test the next day.

My girls want to build and create and be active learners–and I love the challenge of discovering how to make that happen– homeschooling provides the option to do just that.

That is why I am obsessed with museums. Click here to read a review of our favorite museum in Oklahoma!

So, now you know all about my little family.

I hope my honestly didn’t cause all of you to run for the hills.


8 Comments

Flashback Posting Part 3

A few days ago, I came to the conclusion that some people might not know the history behind my family.  I think history is important.– Especially once I start blogging about museums and education adventures…you guys are going to wonder why all of that is so important to my family.

And, I was struggling…feeling disconnected from my blog…

My husband suggested I write about it all.  So, I am.

I wrote 2 other flashback postings to get you all caught up.  You should read #1 here and #2 here.  It will help.

Then I realized…I should have started at the VERY beginning.

Because, naturally, the best place to start is the beginning.  The ordinary beginning.  (Wishing this part was a little more exciting…sorry!)

I hope all of this background info isn’t too snoozer.

Born and raised in Texas…I am the oldest of three girls, mom and dad are still married, and I will be 45 in April.  YIKES!  As a family, we traveled to Disneyland and Walt Disney World so many times that no one kept count!  (FUN!) 

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That’s me on the left, my sister on the right.  (The matching shirt obsession seed was planted WAY back then!)

Pretty Ordinary.

I enjoyed public school in a small suburb of Houston and graduated from  high school in 1991.  Academic successes certainly did NOT fill my college applications.  I possessed leadership qualities, won a few art contests, led the dance drill team as the top officer.  Pretty ordinary stuff.

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NEVER been a math person.  Never really enjoyed reading…embarrassing to admit…I always picked up the Cliff Notes right before the book test.  I am super ordinary.

Study skills were a foreign concept until my senior year, when I joined a supportive study group and actually LEARNED how to study for a government test.  I greatly enjoyed the social aspects of high school and pushed the academic focus to the back burner, obviously.

Ready to start a new life and identity, I chose my college based on how far it was from home–without a campus visit or researching the majors offered.  I didn’t even know people visited colleges or that different degrees were attainable at different universities.

The first time I saw my college was the day I moved into my dorm.  Six days later, I met a guy and we started dating.  ORDINARY!  Two years after that, I was blessed with a surprise pregnancy and my son changed everything.

But, don’t assume anything…this is where MY real journey begins.

Four years later, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, a focus in Studio Art and a K-12, all-level teaching certification and became an art teacher.

 

VERY short version of my ordinary life.  🙂

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WAS an ordinary, single mom with a son and a career as an art teacher.

My son???  Well… he lined up his Matchbox cars by color and body design and the collection would stretch from his room to my bedroom in our tiny apartment.  He taught himself to read at age 3 and could understand simple algebra in Kindergarten.  He carried spiral notebooks full of handwritten math problems and would spend hours solving equations.

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He knew the bones of the human body, loved space and science.  He loved, loved, loved animals.  He was sensitive, thoughtful and compassionate.  He cried EVERY TIME we drove by a dead animal on the side of the road and he cared deeply about people in distress.  He liked super soft things…shirts, socks, and his special pillow.  He wore his cowboy boots everywhere…even to the pool.  And he was very funny and very clever.  My son was not ordinary and I supported him.

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He was my only priority.

I supplemented higher level academics at home because he asked for it and met with teachers all through his school career because I was his mom.  That was MY job.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I certainly NEVER even considered grade acceleration or testing.  I didn’t know that existed.

I was young.  I never lost sleep.

I was never overwhelmed with worry about the public school not meeting his needs.  I never obsessed about bullies.  I didn’t stress about his future. I never researched or read a book or joined a support group–never considered it.  I was just HIS mom and he was my world.   I thought my son was interesting, smart and well-adjusted.  (And, he is!)

Looking back, I believe his social skills and physical looks made his journey drama-free and enjoyable.  His over excitabilities are mild.   He is the lucky one.  My daughters certainly struggle more.

The boy IS smart…but he is also handsome.  And he is VERY athletic…football and rugby and anything else he can try!  And handsome.  And very social.  And handsome.  (Did I mention handsome?)  🙂

If I told you that he started taking college courses at age 15 or that he scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT (without studying or any prep!) or that he collects vintage video gaming systems, would you picture this guy?

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Probably not!  LOL!

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My son will be 25 in April.  (WOW!)  He graduated from high school with 48 college credit hours and a TON of academic successes filled his college applications…as well as his work experience, sports history and volunteer hours.

Four years later, he graduated from one of the top colleges in the nation.

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Well-rounded, adjusted, happy AND very intelligent.  He makes my heart so very happy.  My son is an independent, forward-thinking, witty, sensitive and thoughtful man, an animal lover with a passion for good food, craft beer and board games.  I love him fiercely.

 

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And, that precious, little boy prepared me for the next challenge in my journey.

Like I mentioned in my flashback posts (read #1 here) and (read #2 here), my first daughter was born when my son was 11 and my second daughter came along 18 months later.

So, if you want me to do the math for you (which is funny because I can’t do math), my son left for college just a few days before my youngest daughter started Kindergarten!  LOL!

It was a little nutty back then.

But, by the end of that school year, we finally learned that both of my daughters were profoundly gifted.  The kind of “gifted” that usually isn’t successful in public school gifted programs.

Disclaimer part:  Since some of my readers do not know me personally, I will just let all of you know that we believe ALL children have gifts.  “Gifted” is just the term used to describe people with extraordinary abilities.  I do not believe my children were “gifted” something extra because they are more special than other children.  I didn’t come up with the term “gifted”, so don’t shoot the messenger.

And, incase some of you are wondering, my son chose not to be professionally tested.

Click here to read 5 BIG surprises about my life with profoundly gifted kids.

Want to know why we chose to homeschool?  Click here.

 

 

 

 

 


8 Comments

Flashback Posting Part 2

Hello there, my friends!  Happy Monday to all of you!

I am super sorry for leaving you hanging with my last blog entry.  If you didn’t read it, please go back and read it here first because this one probably won’t make sense if you start here.

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On to my story…

I will admit, I assumed my youngest would have a challenging year in kindergarten.  I worried about her outbursts and her overwhelming fears and her crippling frustrations.  People on the outside assumed these behaviors are coming from a place of disrespect, poor parenting, a refusal to complete a task and total disobedience.  Heck, even I thought that at first.  So, like I said in the last post, I wrote a two page letter to the school, hoping to explain my baby to the outside world.

Thank goodness they read it.

Kindergarten was delightful for my daughter.  She made a few, select friends.  She LOVED her teacher and she even earned Citizen of the Month!  But, when I visited the classroom, I started to notice a few things.  The students’ work displayed on the wall all looked the same…except for my daughter’s work.

Her drawings, handwriting, worksheets, etc. looked like it had been completed by a third grader.  It was oddly noticeable…when I stood in the hall, looking at a display…out popped her work…and not just to MY mommy eyes because I’m all biased and fixated on my kid.

Everyone noticed.

It almost made me uncomfortable.  I paid attention to how the other children spoke, how they interacted with one another and how they played during center time.  There was a VERY obvious difference between the other kindergarten children and my daughter.

Our psychologist refused to diagnose her with any label before the end of that school year.  What a smart and insightful doctor…I am so thankful for her hesitation…

Because…my daughter’s kindergarten teacher saw something that I was too close to see.  (And she recommended my daughter for GT testing.)

Bogged down with concerns and worries, sleep deprivation and life-controlling melt downs, I saw nothing but the challenges…I was DROWNING in the challenges.  I owned a binder FULL of notes, medical reports and evaluations that focused on what was “wrong” with my baby.  My entire goal at this point in the journey was to find out WHY she was acting like an out-of-control banshee.  I knew once I had an answer, I could find a solution…a way to help her function and deal and adjust and live a happy life.

A particular moment in time burned a permanent memory into my mommy brain:  After one of her more severe break downs, I was rocking her back and forth in her bedroom.  She leaned out of my arms, looked right at me, and through her tears, asked in the most serious voice, “What is wrong with me?”  I can barely relive the thought without crying myself.  It broke my heart.  I immediately told her, “I don’t know.  But I promise that we will find out and I will help you get better.”

I meant it.

In the spring of 2012, paperwork from the elementary school came home explaining that the kindergarten teacher recommended my daughter for testing and her scores qualified for the Gifted and Talented program.

Ok.

Honesty moment:

My husband and I didn’t think much about it.  My brilliant son didn’t “qualify” for the program until the end of 5th grade so the testing process never really impressed me.  I put my daughter’s “acceptance letter” on my nightstand and barely thought about it.  Truth.

A few days later, my husband called from work asking about the scores.  Particularly, he wanted to know WHAT tests were administered.

I am about to tell you how an ordinary mom’s life changed.

Right here.

Get ready.

The letter was SO important to me (those are super sarcastic words, my friends) that I had to dig the paperwork out of a stack of other non-sense.  (EMBARRASSING to admit that!)

My husband and I sat in bed that night and Googled the name of the first test.  It was an IQ test.  We didn’t even know that.  My daughter’s score was well above the school’s admitting score.  Ok.  We didn’t even think much of that…

Until we Googled HER score.

We both sat there in disbelief.

When I typed in her IQ score, thousands of sites came up…and almost all of the information described our daughter.  Could this REALLY be what was causing all of my daughter’s challenges?!?

What????

I was a teacher in my previous life and I NEVER heard of this before!  I didn’t believe anything.

I was in complete denial.

So, what did I do?

I called the school and made an appointment with the GT specialist.

I honestly thought she would tell me the version of the IQ test given by the school wasn’t the same one I found on Google.  I thought she would tell me it was a mistake, or that she got the numbers mixed up.  I thought she would tell me it was no big deal.

But, she didn’t.

She told me kids like my daughter usually do not stay in public school and she handed me the contact information for a support group for families with profoundly gifted children.  She also suggested I find a professional psychologist to administer a different, full-scale IQ test.

In a daze, I got in my car…wondering what the hell just happened?!?!

Within a few weeks, I found myself in a different psychologist’s office. (Not our regular one, but a doctor with experience testing gifted children)

I sat, waiting for my daughter to be given a full-blown IQ test with all subtests.  We scheduled two testing days and blocked off about three hours for each day.  6 hours of testing.  It cost a small fortune (About 1/2 of my Disney savings)

Just after two hours on day ONE of testing, the psychologist came to the waiting room and said she needed to talk to me in her office.

My daughter was done testing.

At first, I totally had the mom fears…assuming my daughter refused to go no further…maybe she was tired or stressed or overworked…was there a fly in the room?!?

As I followed the doctor down the hall, I felt the familiar “embarrassment-over-my daughter’s-behavior” red face, cold sweat response start to creep up and cover my body.  I sat in a large, over-sized, comfy chair and faced the doctor to hear about my daughter’s refusal to complete the test.

The doctor said, “Your daughter is a delightful little girl.”

And, I just sat there…terrified that the next sentence would start with the word “But…”.

BUT…that word never came.  My daughter completed the test.  In two hours.  There was no need for a second day of testing.  The doctor asked me to give her a few minutes so she could do some preliminary calculating.  I sat there, still in complete denial.

My baby MUST have rushed through that test.  She was 6.5 years old.

And then the psychologist looked up from her paperwork and said a number.  My daughter’s IQ number.  My face was frozen.  The doctor told me that the test ceiling was 150.  (That is GREATLY important, as different IQ tests have different test ceilings, but I didn’t know that at this point in my journey.)

I did NOT feel ready to hear what she was saying.  I didn’t even really KNOW what she was saying.  My head was spinning.  Was I about to throw up?!?

My first thought was, “CRAP!  My husband should be here to hear this!”

THE day I received a diagnosis for what was “wrong” with our daughter…my husband should have been there.  (But, it was just the first day of testing!  Who knew?!?  Ugh!)

The psychologist spoke for several minutes…I didn’t even take notes or ask questions.  I was in complete shock.

EVERY score on EVERY subtest fell between the 98th-99.9th percentiles.  That means your daughter’s cognitive functions are in the very superior domain.  Her full-scale IQ is in the 99.9th percentile.  Your daughter is profoundly gifted.  Do you have other children?  They should be tested, too.”

As I sunk into that comfy chair in the psychologist’s office, all of the information sounded like a college-level symposium.  The doctor told me about several schooling options, as well as a private school for the highly gifted in Houston, Texas.  I made an appointment to come back and hear the full report…and bring my husband.  The life-changing meeting would be on my 39th birthday.

When we left the office, my daughter appeared more relaxed than normal.  I called my husband before I even started the car.

He didn’t answer.  (Does that ALWAYS happen to you or is it just me??)

Then, I realized I didn’t even write down her IQ score…or the subtest scores…or the name of the school in Houston.  UGH!  My mind was swirling.  What was wrong with me?!?

By May of 2012, we spent another small fortune (the other 1/2 of our Disney savings) to have our older daughter tested as well.  Her scores and subtests fell between the 84th and >99.9th percentiles.  We found out that her full-scale IQ is also in the profoundly gifted range.

Our girls are only 4 points apart, but their subtest scores are quite telling about the way their minds work and how they are wired differently.  Our youngest daughter’s scores label her “globally gifted”.  Our other daughter has a slower processing speed but scored off the chart, surpassing the test ceiling, in perceptual reasoning.  It explains A LOT.

So…this is how my ordinary life turned upside down.

And, this is also how my family became us.

Disclaimer info:

Though we don’t put ANY emphasis on IQ scores today, these tests did provide us with information that ultimately lead us down the right path.  No other books, doctors, websites or parenting suggestions gave us the information we actually needed.

The IQ tests and scores told us that my daughters (specifically my youngest) NEEDED to learn.

Learn quickly.  Learn A LOT.  Learn NOW.

Most profoundly gifted people have challenges which are called over excitabilities.  Without boring you with details, it has been suggested that profoundly gifted people take in about 200% more stimuli than the average human–that means more noise, more lights, more scents, more details, etc…and boy, does that explain my children.

The way my children experience the world is completely different than my experience–and that will not change.

I got to work immediately…I was going to find a way to reach my daughter.

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To read the next part, click here.

To read the top 5 reasons we homeschool, click here.

Click here to read why Disney is so important to my family.