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Rocket-Fueled TAG Kids, Hungry Hobbits, Answering Nosy People

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, April 14, 2006

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 15   April 14, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035                     
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

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  Notes from Heather
  -- Homeschooling TAG Kids
  Helpful Tips
  -- Those 'Starving' Children
  Question of the Week
  -- Your Questions
  -- Your Answers
  Editor's Picks
  -- Geocaching Fun
  -- Subscriber Information
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I'm so excited!! I've just discovered I have gifted children!

Well, actually I didn't just go out and get them all IQ tested. And I
wouldn't say any of them are more than mildly academically gifted. But
I think I've turned a corner with how I view my boys and their multi-
faceted talents and gifts. And I'm seeing that each individual child
has needs similar to highly gifted children -- that is, a customized
education that centers around their gifts and talents; not a "cookie-
cutter" education. They need plenty of free time to explore interests
and, in many cases, unique resources such as hard-to-find books,
special classes, and individual mentoring.

A public school teacher friend recently loaned me a great book
titled "Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young
Minds" by Jan and Bob Davidson of the Davidson Institute for Talent
Development (http://www.geniusdenied.com). It's about how the
public schools fail to address the needs of gifted children. I highly
recommend this book if you suspect you have a gifted child and
you worry about meeting his/her educational needs.

Here is an excerpt from the back of the book:

"With all the talk of failing schools these days, we often forget that
schools can fail their brightest students, too. Gifted children forced
into a "one size fits all" approach to schooling find themselves
bored or frustrated, which can lead to underachievement, behavioral
problems, or depression. Without sufficient challenges and resources,
America's brightest minds languish, never reaching their full

I found it interesting that the Davidson Institute claims that at least
50% of the families they work with are homeschooling families!

Homeschooling really works for families with gifted children because
we have the time to work on customizing our children's curriculum,
including making the constant changes that are necessary as inter-
ests intensify and sometimes fade. We have the time required as
well as the LOVE interest in our children that makes us examine
them closely and often. We can see that spark of delight or hint of
boredom that helps us to mentally make a check mark beside certain
studies and activities... determining whether they will be encouraged,
repeated, or blacklisted. I think this is the main reason all our kids
benefit -- even those of only average IQ and even distinct learning dis-
abilities. Our "customized" kids excel far beyond what they might be
capable of if only provided an institutional "by the bell" education.

I'll never forget the day when my now almost-14-year-old son per-
formed in a small Fourth of July church program at age 8. I made a
note of how much emotion he put into the movements as they did
some simple choreography with flags to a patriotic song. That 3 minute
segment nearly brought me to tears! He had grace I hadn't seen before
in a child. He was also "painfully" shy -- as my husband once was. I
didn't dare introduce the idea of dance classes at that time in his
life, but I did make note that he seemed to be an entirely different
child while performing before an audience.

Three years later I recalled that performance and brought up the idea of
a dance class. He was then 11 years old and a little more outgoing...
but not much more! His eyes lit up with delight. I found a local modern
dance class where another boy his age would be enrolled... and that
was just enough to do it. He was hooked.

At his first recital he got to see the ballet dancers. No boys -- just
girls. It didn't matter! When he saw the beauty of the ballet, he knew
that was to be his passion in life. Providentially, one of the top
ballet schools in Michigan exhibited at a small, local homeschool
curriculum swap. The director was excited about Carman taking classes
and she agreed to evaluate him. She later told me she needed to find
out if it was really HIS desire to dance or if it was just mom's idea!

Carman loves performing. In a few weeks he and Alexis, a ballerina in
the company who is his age, will present a lovely classical pas de deux
from Act III of Don Quixote. And he really moves like Baryshnikov!!
I could watch him dance for hours. Okay, well I'm his mom. ;-)

The first year of his ballet training he had a young man from Russia to
mentor him. This was priceless. He continues to get special training
because he is a boy and his skills are growing quickly. The girls get
excellent training, too, but boys get special attention because America
has stigmatized ballet for boys. There are very few who show interest
and that is sad. You wonder how many potentially gifted males are
stigmatized out of ever trying dance. If we hadn't homeschooled, I'm
fairly sure Carman would be one of those statistics. He has some mild
learning disabilities academically, but he already has his life mapped
out. His current ambition is to dance for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, go
to gourmet cooking school... and build computers on the side! He
successfully created a new computer for our home from salvaged parts
this week.

There are many ways to find out if you have a gifted child. IQ testing
continues to be a consistent indicator for academic giftedness, however
you will have to keep a keen eye on your children for other types of

When you have determined your child's needs, you will not fail him/her
if you literally "throw" yourself into providing resources. Books,
internet time, music lessons, special mentors, camps, accelerated
classes... these are all places to start. Also -- find peers and non-
peers who share similar interests with your child.

Read good books about raising gifted children -- especially those that
are homeschooling friendly like "Genius Denied" and "Gifted Children
at Home", published by Maggie Hogan, my geography guru friend at
Bright Ideas Press -- http://brightideaspress.com/GCAH.htm

Another friend of mine, Kathi Kearney, is founder of the Hollingworth
Center for Gifted Education. She has this to say about homeschooling
gifted children:

"Homeschooling allows the ideal educational program for a highly gifted
child to unfold, by providing maximum flexibility in the spirit of the
best traditions and the strongest research bases we have in the field
of gifted education. This includes the use of acceleration, intense and
focused enrichment, flexible pacing, mentorships, internships, early
college, and summer programs."

If you are homeschooling an academically rocket-fueled child, you are
going to need some support! Online support is always at your

One email group I founded (with Maggie Hogan) is a Christian one:

If you need an inclusive group, try TAGMAX. Info for signing up is here:

Stuck in a rut with your creative sponge-child? Here are some
activities: http://www.qagtc.org.au/turnon.htm

And here is a good online article I found for further reading:



Do you have a comment, suggestion or question about homeschooling
a gifted and/or talented child?

Send YOUR ideas to: heather@familyclassroom.net



  [Here's your chance!  Send YOUR ideas along to

This week -- on our HomeschoolingBOYS.com email group -- a
question came up about hungry little boys who seem to want to be
eating continuously and how to handle this crazy phenomenon!

One mom had a very good suggestion. I thought it would make a
good "tip" to share with our newsletter readers who might have a
similar concern. Many moms wrote in say that she was not alone!

Boys especially seem to go through growth spurts at different
ages, but I'm sure parents of girls must experience a bit of this as
well. My boys joke a lot about being "hungry Hobbits" -- a refer-
ence from Tolkien's books where he writes about several meals a
day including "second breakfast, Elevensies, and tea time". I'm
sure most of us don't want our children to feel hungry all the time,
but stopping every hour or so to appease these strange appetites
can really "bite" into your daily plans. So... what to do?

Here's a winning tip for planning ahead for this phenomenon!

"I have a suggestion for you.... try fixing a "nibble" tray. I have a
serving tray that has 5 spots in it. Each morning I would fill it with
5 different things -- this takes planning but once you get a schedule
it works well. Rotate seasonal fruits and veggies... crackers, dill
pickles, cheese slices or cubes, etc.

One day I might put blueberries, deviled eggs, black olives, celery
with peanut butter and gold fish crackers... the next day might be
strawberries, carrot sticks, dill pickles spears, or cantaloupe cubes.
You could always fill one spot with a "dip" yogurt, ranch dressing,
guacamole, or whatever.

When someone's hungry, break it out of the fridge and serve.

If you put together a "schedule" and shop for it with your regular
shopping trips, you can easily pop it together early in the morning.
Then it is a no-brainer all day, plus you can control the nutritional
content." -- Joetta from the HomeschoolingBOYS.com email group


  Send YOUR ideas to:  HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

      Last Issue's Question

"I have a question for your homeschooling readers. I currently have
homeschooled my oldest daughter for 2 years now -- she's 7. She's well
ahead of where she would be if in public school (a whole class level
ahead, due to a late birthday, but I knew she was ready). Anyway, my
only dread of homeschooling has been people who act as though we're
breaking some huge law to be out in public during "normal" school
hours. I've noticed this at Wal-Mart, at Dairy Queen, etc. people seem
to question why a child isn't "in" school. I hate to feel like we have
to wait to do things till after public school gets out, but now and
then she'll have a Dr./Dentist appointment and we'll get lunch, run an
errand or go to the library etc. She's doing her work, I have it all
recorded, she's a good kid. I'm not sure how to handle "nosy" people
and neighbors. Any ideas? I especially don't understand the ones who
feel the need to give her pop quizzes and impromptu spelling bees...
but I could have leapt for joy when she spelled "eyelashes" for a lady
and then told her the life cycle of the peanut plant!!! :-) She reads
at any easy 3rd/ 4th grade level, knows double digit math, but I con-
stantly feel like we're both having to "prove" things to people. Do I
just need to get a backbone or chill? Do others feel this way? Thanks
for any help." -- Melanie

      Our Readers' Responses 

"When I was asked why the kids weren't in school during normal school
hours, I would freely admit to homeschooling.  I would sometimes add
how convenient it was b/c we could shop/dine at less busy times.  I
would also stress that for the most part we could finish the core
subjects in 2-3 hours (depending on the age of the child).  I always
tried to be positive and enthusiastic and never apologetic. There will
always be people who are critical and not receptive to the idea for
whatever reason and that's where the children's behavior and confidence
in themselves could be an example of reasons to homeschool -- for
example, looking adults in the eyes, enthusiasm about their latest
project.  Be quietly strong in your conviction."


"My two boys and I are often out during the day running errands, and we
often get asked, "Isn't there school today?"  I usually just say, "Oh,
they're in school.  They have their work in the van." I've been
surprised in the last few years how many people then tell me that it's
wonderful what I'm doing or share a story of someone they know who's
homeschooling.  Sometimes I tell that that's a vacation day for us,
that we don't follow the same schedule as the public school. It no
longer bothers me whether or not people like what I'm doing, but I've
been doing it for over 13 years.  It takes a while to feel confident
enough to not let other people's nosiness get to you.  For the time
being, I would come up with a polite response like mine, make sure your
children are polite when people speak to them, and try to relax. You're
doing what's best for your children, and I don't think we should have
to wait until school is out to run errands, as our kids can keep on
doing their work while we're driving or waiting for appointments."
-- Donna


"When people approach me in this way I simply say we are working on
'social skills' and they can help by talking to the kids as though they
are "real people". Most people laugh at this because the kids are "real"
and they are so outgoing that a need for "social skills" is a joke."
-- Dawna


"Substitute a few names, and you've painted a picture of me and my
daughter two years ago.  Change the age & grade, you have me and my
daughter now.  What I have learned is that there will always be "those
people" who question you and try to put you on the defensive.  These
days, when someone asks my daughter "is there a school holiday today?"
when they see her out with me, she tells them she is home schooled.
When they look at me, I just smile and tell them that yes, she is home
schooled and she has a terribly hard teacher.  If they press the issue,
then I will unload.  I unload by pointing out ALL the advantages of home
schooling (working at own pace; concentrating on specific subjects;
getting rid of the boring busy-work; etc) then I mention the flexibility
and stability (we are a military family).  When the dreaded
"socialization" question is asked, I point out numerous church
activities with children of many different ages she is involved in. I
also mention that the last time I checked, children got in trouble for
socializing at school (talking during class and such) and for that
matter, they were only around children their immediate age.

While home schooling is becoming more widespread, there always be
those who have a problem with it.  "Those people" will always try to
cause you to question your judgment and wisdom.  You have to develop a
thick skin towards them.  You will not be able to change their minds
with brief conversations.  If you genuinely feel threatened by these
people, please join an organization such as Home School Legal Defense
Association (hslda.org) who can assist you with legal messes "those
people" cause. You asked whether you "need to get a backbone or
chill?"  My suggestion is both.  Keep on keeping on." -- Nancy


"I simply tell them that if they don't want me to homeschool my child
then they need to go tell God and get Him to change His mind and then
let me know.  Because as long as it was God who told me to do it, I'll
just stick with that until told other wise - by Him. Even when I was
being screamed at by an indignant public school teacher who was in line
ahead of me at the store, this statement shut him up immediately. 
Or you can take a lighter approach and ask "If someone is going to screw
up my kids, don't you think it really ought to be me?"
But not to worry, there are just as many people who have asked if I
homeschool my 4 kids and when I said "Yes, why?"  they said "I can tell
because they are so well mannered and clever."  No kidding! 
If you ever have any doubt about whether you are doing the right thing,
go put your kid in a room full of public school kids. My daughter par-
ticipates as a 12 year old in the County "teen court" program which is
normally for high school level.  They have actual court cases where kids
have driven without D.L. or have been in fights at school, etc.  She's a
lawyer against (or for) these much older kids.  When you look around the
room you can pick out the homeschoolers.  There is "light" around them,
joy and excitement for life and interest. The public school kids look
sullen, jaded and have no joy in them.  They've done everything and life
is a bore. Even though they are on trial they are dressed slovenly and
slump disrespectfully in their chairs with either a glower or a smirk
on their faces.  
I took some Japanese soldiers we had befriended who didn't speak much
English to Teen court and they could pick out the three homeschoolers
out of a room of 30 kids. My daughter has had two of the county
attorneys (who stand in as judge for teen court) ask her to come work
for them only to be shocked and disappointed to find out that in spite
of the "well thought out" quality of her cross examination is only 12
and isn't old enough to go to work for them.
Never doubt that what you are doing is right."


"Hi there!  My daughter is 7 too and has been homeschooled 2 years.  I
have a daycare and we walk each day to pick up one boy from kindergarten
and stay after to play in the park. My daughter's getting quite tall
and stands out from the daycare children.  Frequently she's asked in
public what school she's going to and she says, "I'm homeschooled."
The time we spend at the park she is getting important physical
education. She is increasing her skills on the equipment there and we
play soccer and basketball and fly kites...  And we do her school in the
morning before we go out. It hasn't been a hassle for us as many
people homeschool in this area.  My encouragement is this -- to focus
on all the positives about homeschooling and see the irksome things as
water under the bridge, that do pass. People who do ask when she does
her school, I tell them, in the morning, and I say, that it does take
much less time then if she was in regular school with so many kids.  I
sometimes say, she is very self-motivated and continues her learning
throughout the day in many ways with her nose usually in a book!! I
make sure that our home is a rich resource of learning opportunities!!
And the beauty of homeschooling is you can tailor the schedule around
your own needs and go to appointments and whatnot when it's convenient.
It's wonderful!!  So be encouraged!!  There's so much to be glad
about!!" -- Sue


"I just answer the person and state that my son IS in school. He is
presently on a field trip learning life skills. That usually stops them
dead in their tracks. It's also not rude or disrespectful. If it doesn't
stop them I typically just ignore it from there. I would never
wait until after PS kids got out of school to get my errands done or
else they would typically take twice as long." -- Melissa in CT


"I usually, if the question arises, just out right tell them we home-
school and that is all I have had to say.  It seems that no one has
gotten that nosy except a cashier at Walmart and they didn't say
anything else after I said that.  We legally are not doing anything
wrong by having our children out during regular school hours because in
our state of PA (which has some of the strictest homeschool laws in the
US) as long as we are doing 180 days a year or I think it is 900 hrs.
we are doing our school time, any way we want to fit that in.  Of
course if you run into some really nosy people they may report you and
then you would have to prove you are doing all that.  In our area that
has not happened to my knowledge. If you feel you need to say more for
the real nosy ones who might turn you in tell them you homeschool and
are out on school business or a field trip, which you are if you are
doing anything related to your family (Dr or dentist or a trip to the
library is a field trip). Don't let the nosies get to you, your
daughter is doing great and you know it, just proudly say I homeschool
when she answers those pop quizzes with flying colors, say a prayer of
thanks and smile your biggest smile, don't worry about anything else!"
-- Sandy

     Answer our NEW Question 

"We've been homeschooling our 12-year old for a year now.  He suffers
from anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder not so much that
strangers would notice right away, but definitely enough to affect a
carefree family lifestyle for those around him.  Homeschooling has
definitely improved the "stress" situation to the point where we now
take three steps forward and two steps back, instead of not moving
forward in life at all.
My question is simple:  How do you "unschool" or "relaxed school" an
anxiety/OCD distressed child?  Having been in public school through
grade 6, our son prefers a structured "school-mimicking" situation, but
doesn't do any better with this stress-full style of learning at home
than he did at school.  As any of you that have experienced such
disorders will know, catering to the fears and stressors is the last
thing you should do.  That's why unschooling would be better for him,
and we feel he'd truly benefit from it, if we could only get it to work.
Your articles for "allowing a child to follow his natural learning
instincts" have inspired, but not helped me in the past because
unschooling requires a "natural curiosity" that our son just doesn't
display.  He has no hobbies that require his full attention or a long
term commitment, and if left to follow his own learning interests, he'd
never get anywhere.  He is too consumed by his thoughts to open his
mind to the world and see all the possibilities that lay before him, so
unstructured unschooling seems impossible for us.

Does anyone know how to inspire or encourage the unresponsive anxious
child to want to grasp onto knowledge on a continual basis?  I'd
appreciate any input!" -- Jamie in Western New York


Do you have help for this mom?

  Send your emails to:  HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


  Do you have a burning question that you can't ask just anyone?
  Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
  if our readers can help you out.


Spring Geography Fun!

In a previous issue I encouraged readers to write in with their favorite
fair weather spring activities. Here is one I forgot to put in the
newsletter, so I'll share it here.

"Our family was recently given a GPS (global positioning system) unit
-- it gives a reading of your location on the earth in degrees latitude
and longitude.  We heard of a wonderful outdoor hobby called
"geocaching" where a GPS unit can be very helpful, though not
absolutely necessary. By going to the website www.geocaching.com, you
can enter your zip code and find listings/directions/GPS readings of
all the available "caches" in your area (usually located in state parks
and the like).  Then you set out with your kids on a treasure hunt to
find the hidden "cache" following the clues given.  The cache is
usually a Tupperware type container containing a few small toys and a
logbook.  You sign the logbook, then the kids pick out a "reward" from
the box (which you're supposed to then replace with a small toy you've
brought along).  Our kids think it is great fun, and they're also
learning some geography and critical thinking skills along the way."
-- Sharon in PA

For more information on geography "treasure hunts" see:



Want to talk to other families who LOVE geography... and talk about
this topic with them?

Here's a great YahooGroup to join:


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  Here is the link to sign-up!



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Next - Differing Dispositions, Nibble Trays, Relaxed Homeschooling with Special Needs
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