Book Review

Here is the first installment of my review of “Creative Home Schooling: A Resource Guide for Smart Families” by Lisa Rivero.

Introduction

Here, the author describes her home school experiences, and discussed the decision to home school.  She describes what is to me a now-familiar scenario to the parents of sensitive, gifted children: a child who enters school early, relates more easily to adults than to age peers, one who has already learned the planned curriculum, one who’s heightened sensitivity to the surrounding world sparks passionate outbursts of raw emotion, the labelling of such a child as being a trouble maker, disrespectful, or emotionally immature.  She describes the problems that arise when the school curriculum doesn’t fit the child’s intellectual abilities, doesn’t fuel the child’s curiosity, and thus thwarts the child’s desire to learn.

She shares her path to home schooling her son, from public school, to a private school for gifted learners, and finally, to home schooling.  Like many other parents of gifted children who are underserved by the public school system, she reflects on her own public school experience, complete with the “nagging feeling of being different but not knowing why,” the fantastical daydreaming and immersion in a world of fictional characters but having no one to share these dreams with, entering college with a lack of independent study skills despite graduating from high school as valedictorian.  She briefly discusses the thought process she and her husband went through to arrive at the decision to home school.  What strikes me here is their willingness to “get to know their son better” to determine how he learned best, what is interests were, and when he was apt to tolerate the stimulation that learning requires.  They paid particular attention to his emotional sensitivity.  And finally they arrived at a decision to tailor an education that focused on character traits that might be a detriment in a school setting, choosing to view those traits as strengths.

My favorite concept?  The idea of focusing on learning rather than teaching in their homeschool environment. 

In the end, the author created this book to provide home schooling families with the list of resources she wishes she had when her family began their homeschooling journey.

Next, the author brings up the “Pros and Cons of the Word ‘Gifted’, ‘Talented’, and ‘Smart.'”  This is a discussion I have had many times with many different people. 

Many parents of gifted children recognize the feeling of relief when meeting other parents who have been accused of “pushing” or “drilling” their children at home.  We ourselves have experienced that, a lifting of weight off the shoulders.  Th author embarks here on a discussion about whether it is politacally correct to use the word gifted to describe children of advanced ability, and of the tendency of parents and educators to insist that “all children are gifted.”  (DH and I heard this very statment from the principal of a local elementary school, in response to our description of our then 5-year old’s achievements.  We looked at each other, and silently crossed that school off of our list of possibilities.  Soon thereafter we crossed public school altogether off the list.)  There is always a level of discomfort when using the term gifted amongst friends and even family members, for the term itself can be misconstrued as “better, or “special.”  The author proposes other terms to replace gifted, but rejects most as too cumbersome, vague, poor substitues.  She settles on “gifted” to “describe learners who bring high levels of intensity, sensitivity and complexity to their learning.”  The author does take pains to note that any family whose children will benefit from individualized instruction will also benefit from reading her book.

(I want to digress here and say that I personally feel the word “gifted” is politically loaded.  All children do have their own gifts, and have their own passions, wants and needs that make them different from anyone else.  Trying  to find one word to adequately and accurately describe a group of people without pigeon-holing the members or upsetting someone is nearly impossible.  Right now “gifted” seems to be the word the public school system uses to describe high-ability learners, so I’ll stick with that too.

I’ll also say that homeschooling has made me aware that nobody really fits inside the box that represents school.  All children benefit from individual learning programs, we all benefit from immersing ourselves in our passions.  This holds true no matter what the “ability.”)

Well, I’ll apologize for any spelling or grammar errors, as well as for bad writing.  If I don’t post this now I never will.  I’ve tried 3 or 4 times to finish this and have always been interrupted by overwhelming fatigue or the pitter patter of little feet.