Rediscovering True Learning

So this week was different, good, troubling and beautiful. As we were painting the twins room the house was a jumble – I don’t do well in a jumble! The children each have their work box and they continued with their maths and language arts, we still took time to read together, eat together, sing and pray together. But I was not in a place to sit and “teach.” As I was wandering around the house trying to sort through the muddle, the kids were pretty much left to themselves.  Yes I did sit with Reid for an hour to train him in using a timer to keep focused on his whatever activity he had at hand, I did try sound out a few words with the little ones and every night I set out some interesting games, puzzles or activities for the children to do the next day. Other than that they were pretty much left to themselves.

Generally by the time I am up and busy with making breakfast they are already in the work room, doing their box of work, building puzzles, drawing, building websites, practicing typing on the computer, playing an educational
computer game, doing Rosetta Stone French, cutting, sticking, tracing or building Lego. Without me interfering, all this dynamic, organic activity was happening around me. Wow!

At breakfast we read the Bible, stories and poems. We talk about these, recite Bible verses and sing.  In the shambles I asked God to help me to show more of Him personally to my children. We then happened to read a story about prayer and we spoke about hearing God and praying to him. We spoke about how God really hears when we pray. Very soon the clouds covered the sun and as we sat shivering we naturally asked God to please let the sun shine through the clouds again – and make the other clouds scoot around the sun. And He did. Something else to talk about dinner tonight, God heard us when we prayed, and He himself revealed himself to my children. Wow!

We had to deal with our son being bullied – as Sunday school – he was pushed against the wall, kicked and hit. How to we forgive? How do work through this emotionally? The child came to our house to apologise after which the two of them they spent the next hour skidding down our bank on boxes. “Mom, they must come and play again!” Wow!Gracie doesn’t like to listen to stories or learn from anything 2D. She does however love granny’s Boggle. This week I found a kids boggle – where they have picture cards with the word written and the child just needs to match the picture and letters. I just left I the new game lying around and sure enough in no time Gracie pounced on it and brought it to me. We spent a short time together looking at the cards, building words and seeing how it all worked. Since then she’s spent hours with the lettered dice twisting, turning, matching, sounding. That afternoon she spent ages turning a soup packet round and round saying, “Sooooop, sooop,” whilst looking for the word she was sure must be there. Never having sounded words before her encounter with kids boggle… Wow!

Music lessons are always a highlight in our week and the children come home glowing and inspired from the Musikgarten’s gentle and yet incredibly mature approach. Dancing, Science Club, Drama Club and Soccer have filled our home and afternoons. Friends visiting till late, Little Pilgrim’s Progress and David Attenborough’s movies keep us all company in the evening. Bindi, the Jungle Girl and Steve Irwin have inspired many a game and the “doctor’s box” has been used greatly to save all sorts of animals (usually dried branches) from near death. The imagination, creativity and passion inspired by these activities, friends, movies and books have left me in awe. Wow!

Today’s breakfast was unusually long – we had a lot we wanted to read, we found ourselves discussing the holy spirit and the power of Elisha within us and that Jesus is a king.  We sang a lot of songs. The children left the table ready to embrace the day. Reid, my child who never wants to do any “school work”, dashed off with the timer to do his desk work. Raine started to teach Rose’s 16 year old friend a Richard Clayderman’s piano piece he’s been working on. The boys then set up their puppet show that they had wanted me to film for them. For months they have been writing the script, making characters and developing the props. While they set this up the girls decided they needed to make crowns for a princess party they are going to tomorrow. Interesting that Summer broke the toy crown I bought her, she spend days trying to convince me to give her Gracie’s crown and finally today she woke up and announced that they needed to make crowns. Quite a thought process for a four year old to work through.  We filmed the boys and realised they needed to ask dad for his microphone as their voices are lost behind the screen. Something we’ll work on this weekend. We made birthday cards for their cousin’s birthday. Inside which they either wrote their own message or traced what I had written.I realised that every child does in fact want to write! Rose’s on half term, she should be studying but spent the morning sitting in the sun – “just thinking.” 

The twins helped our house cleaner to tidy their bedroom, they picked flowers and arranged them beautifully. They saved a locust from the dog and made a little house for it. They found a worm living inside a tiny stick “house” and stood in awe as it popped it’s head in and out. We made butterflies from crepe paper, zip lock bags and pipe cleaners.Lunch time found everyone gathering in the kitchen cutting home made bread, spreading jam, cutting avo and mashing bananas. A CD was brought in and we all found ourselves scattered upon the shelf, chairs and floor listening to the Adventures in Odyssey. I look around at five content, relaxed, glowing children. Five happy souls all busy enjoying a lunch they had made either for themselves or that was made by a sibling and my heart want to shout from a mountain top… WOW!

As I sit and type the boys are playing soccer on the trampoline interjected by multiple trips to Google to research different players, teams, countries, outfits, national anthems and flags. Rose chats away to friends whilst doing an Afrikaans project (multi-tasking seems to be a 15 year olds gifting, especially when it comes to friends and projects), Gracie is asleep and Summer is making a shop – with all our fruit and vegetables.  As Gracie emerged from her sleep she joins in Summer’s game.

The boys tire of jumping – yummy they want to make chocolate brownies.  Rose moves on from the computer and soon I find we are all gravitating toward our 4 year olds’ shop buying apples and bananas for afternoon tea and vegetables for supper. I sit and just watch, listen and try to learn from these amazing little creatures. At the end of this week void of a curriculum and structure but filled with new adventures, deep friendships – with God, people, subjects and books, creations, sums, plays, making movies, maps, writing books, puzzles and locusts, I find myself asking did any learning really take place? And all I hear resounding within the deepest corners of my heart, mind and soul is, “Wow! And I get to be a part of this! Wow, wow wow!”

Creativity Takes Time

English: Keyskills Centre toy piano model BG01...

Da, dum, dum – Da, dum, dum – Da, dum, dum, dum, dum, Da, Da – dum, dum, Da – aaaah I feel my brain  being  slaughtered by my 9 year old at the piano. Try, try, try – getting it right… error – oops and so we start Waltzing Matilda again and again and again…. Hour after hour, day after day. On occasion I can let it play, other times I walk away, sometimes I encourage “outside time”, and often I declare “silence!” to the furthest corner of the property!

When however I’m in a quieter frame of mind I know that this is all part of the creative and educational process. By choosing the same piece and working it out himself and playing it over and over he’s not only learning to play Waltzing Matilda but he’s  learning about music, sound, the piano itself, composition, endurance and so many other skills but mostly he’s expanding his ability to create. No, he’s not creating his own new piece but he’s looking at a well structured piece of music, breaking it down and, although he doesn’t realise it, he’s learning from this how music works and how to place different sounds together to create beautiful pieces of music.

We teach children to never copy and yet how did all the great masters learn their skill? They were apprentices to other great artist, composers or writers. Unfortunately our children don’t always have direct access to masters but the internet does provide us with a wealth of excellence from which we can work.

I recently watched a You Tube video entitled Deadlines where children were asked to reproduce a creative artwork using a clock face as the centre of the picture. They were only given 10 seconds in which to complete the task. In this time they all managed to draw the clock face only. However, when they were given 10 minutes they produced some great pictures. The concept being that “creativity takes time.” This very simple video had a powerful effect on the way I see human activity. When I see children “wasting time” on “fiddling around” on instruments, drawing endlessly, kicking the ball back and forth, back and forth. This is often not simply messing around but instead brain connections, thought processes and creative understanding are being established through these seemingly pointless and repetitive activities.

First day of school. Little girl with a blue c...

As parents we so often focus on the end product, on excellence from the start and our child progressing forward. However these are times that they need to be able to simply be. To simply make mistakes – some of which are intentional to understand why that doesn’t work or fit together. In order for them to be truly creative we need to allow them the space and time to work things out for themselves. We also need to realise that as humans creativity is often not about the end product but about the process. So as we head into the New Year and our children are tempted to spend every minute after school engaged in a constructive, organised sport or activity we need to step up and say enough. It’s up to us to ensure our children have time to fiddle on the piano, scribble hundreds of cars or to pick flowers and arrange them on the table for dinner.

As I sat and listened to my son play some beautiful Christmas carols, and watched him beam with pride at what he’d figured out, I knew every off note and my head banging moments were so worth it!

Giftedness is Very Real

There I said it! My Son is gifted!

Unlike Autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome or Dyslexia, Giftedness is something we don’t talk about. It’s something we dare not utter a word about because when we do we are shouted down for boasting and being proud. (As we see the author of “I Hate Hearing About Your Gifted Child” just did.) Thank you Laughing at Chaos , AwayFromTheOven and LifeWithinIntensity for your inspiring blog replies. They made me ralise it’s time for me to be bold enough to let others to hear from us too.

I am not sure why people feel so judged and threatened by gifted children when in fact that’s just who they are. They function differently from the rest of us and see and hear the world from an entirely different perspective. Why is different so intimidating and somehow wrong?
It’s how you think, how you perceive and how you breath. Being gifted isn’t something you can turn on and off, it isn’t something you can work hard at and become, it isn’t being talented or skilled in an area such as sport or music. Instead it’s just who you are.

Gifted children are not at the top of the class, they often the “plebs” who’ve been misdiagnosed with ADHD and are sitting on Ritalin. They are often the trouble makers and those just skimming through each grade. These are not children to be threatened by instead they are an endangered species that we need to save. These children are able to offer so much and yet we are pushing them aside, discriminating against them and drugging them. So many resources are available for Learners with Special Needs – who battle through the system and yet there are none available for my learner with special needs.

He began reading at 22 months, when he was 5 he was reading encyclopedias. I called a school to enroll him in grade 1. I asked what they would do with him while the others learned to read their response, “He’ll just need to suck it up and wait for the others to catch up.”

So we homeschool – by choice – well yes… Until I hit a real wobbly last year and wanted to send them all to school. Again a phone call. “I have a 9 year doing grade 7 maths and high school reading and language.

Can we enroll him next year?” Reply: “Well, he’ll need to go into grade 4 and we’d try extend him but he’ll need to do grade 4.” Imagine! That’s like telling a 3rd year varsity student that they need to go back and start varsity over again. So yes we love homeschooling but it’s no longer only by choice, we are kind of out of options.

When saying my day is tough other homeschoolers have turned around and said, “but at least your child reads what do you have to complain about?” Well my gifted child is reading – but he reads anything and everything he lays his eyes on. That includes billboards, newspapers and the Bible. Maybe that sounds like a dream, but is it? When your child is 5 and having sleepless nights because of world hunger or trying to understand death and eternity at 3 years of age. How do you explain to a 6 year old about government taxes and the economy crashing when he wants to know about why the government is repossessing houses? The best yet is trying to explain God’s judgment, justice and grace to a 5 year old.

How about seeing the world only as black or white. Everything is either good or bad. There is no grey. Everything has to be justified and fair. The rules, every rule needs to be kept. The world is so loud and bright and the sensory overload can be so great that melt downs are apart of ones reality. One who needs to move to think. The pressure of thinking one needs to be perfect and not being able to sleep at night as their mind is so alive. So the list continues.

The intensity so great that Mom and Dad fall into bed exhausted every night. And they say siblings are usually not far behind each other. As our little ones are growing they may not fall into the profoundly gifted category, like their brother, but they too are following close behind. Can you imagine to intensity of these little people trying to all help me make supper, tell me about their day or work on an art project? No it’s not horrid just very noisy, opinions flying, conversations heated and everything being analysed. Nothing can just be “because it just is.” But why?


Looking at just a few of the gifted “symptoms” mentioned above would it make everyone feel better if I say my son has a “syndrome.” May I mention that besides doing grade 7 maths, he’s just finishing writing his first novel at 9 and that he’s busy building a birding website, he plays the violin beautifully, he writes wonderful poetry and he is the most amazing big brother. Or am I only allowed to dwell on his “syndrome symptoms?” We have been blessed with an amazing little boy who is tender hearted and loves with his whole heart – another symptom I suppose: Gifted children either do something completely or not at all.

For 9 years I have kept quiet but I can’t let others tear down something so beautiful and pure as the gifted child – without which there’d be no Mozart, theory of relativity or Starry Night. Just as I see every human as a unique creation by God and rejoice in who they are, don’t see our gifted children as a threat, simply see them for the beautiful people they are and celebrate that you too may one day benefit from what they have to offer this world.

So just aswe need to raise our voices to save the rain forests so we need to raise our voices to save the Gifted Child who is just like everyone else – just wants to be accepted and loved for who they are. Instead of trying to box them and feel threatened by something new just try to understand the gifted child and you maybe pleasantly surprised with what you find!

Pearl Buck sums giftedness in the most beautiful way….

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: 

A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. 

To him… 

a touch is a blow, 

a sound is a noise, 

a misfortune is a tragedy, 

a friend is a lover, a joy is an ecstasy, 

a lover is a god, 

and failure is death. 

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – – – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”


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Nature Walk in Botanical Gardens

Our weather here in South Africa has been amazingly HOT about 40 Deg C (104 deg F). With effect that we haven’t ventured out the house much-except to the swimming pool! So today I decided no matter what the heat was we were going on a nature walk in our botanical gardens.

When we pack for a nature walk food is a must, but so is our nature bag. In our nature bag each child (and mom) has a drawing book, we have pencil crayons and crayons as well as other stationary, tweezers, magnifying glass, zip lock packets and such.

So even though we were wilting ……..we put on our cheerful faces and headed out.

 

One of the highlights is to ring the old ship bell that stands at the entrance to the avenue of Plane Trees.

While reading all about the bell’s past adventures….

Then as in all families with little people nothing goes well till the tummies are full. So we found a fantastic picnic spot! Please note the new lunch boxes – they have changed my life! Instead of one box for all – everyone has their own packed lunch what a pleasure 🙂

Then special times of bonding together. I love how close the children are and that even though the age gaps are big they still love to hang out together.

Everyone took turns swinging each other around in circles

Whilst chasing a lizard up a tree – some investigated whilst others clambered up an old vine entangled around the tree.


Little people learned how to use a magnifying glass.

We were chased by geese.

While some terrapins came to say hello….We took some time to draw what we saw.

We went for a nature walk and besides seeing some interesting birds Maiden #1 managed to just miss been splatted on by a hadeda.

As we strolled along we stopped to look at some bugs and interesting plants.

We listened and laughed and ran and crept. We took time to day dream and just be.

No we didn’t do maths, or language arts, we didn’t write a report or carry clipboards. But we learned SO much. We learned to stop and take time to just enjoy being together in nature. We learned to just stop and be still. We learned that goslings can make us shriek with delight while terrapins held us awestruck. The Hammerkop’s cry kept us captivated while while mysterious paths keep us intrigued.

“Mommy, is God as big as those trees?”

“Bigger.”

“Wow” stands in silent awe and then: “What a huge God we’ve got”

A day well spent I’d say!

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