Search This Blog


Monday, September 15, 2014

Recognizing Imaginational Overexcitabilities in Our Homeschool

“You are fourth to fifth grade now, so you better act your grade. If you’re not mature enough to take it on, then we're going to have to go back to second grade work. OK?“

I was so pleased with myself that my son knew what the expectations were for this homeschool year. I had the curriculum lined up. I was ready for him to move on to higher learning. And I was convinced higher learning included maturity, self-control, and the end of pretend play while learning. No doodling, distraction, nor imagination overload while we homeschool.

Well, all this Homeschool Mama got was a few weeks of utter frustration. I was saying “no” and "stop doing that" all day long. Son and I were butting heads and our loving relationship was deteriorating. I became grumpier by the day. And he was highly negative and unmotivated. 

I contacted Jade Rivera, who works "with families and educators to discuss the characteristics of gifted children and develop strategies to best serve their educational needs and social-emotional development." We set up a private session immediately.

“So, it sounds like your son has imaginational OE.”

“What’s OE?” a very awkward moment for me since I’ve been working at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum for a few years. I really ought to know the acronym for overexcitabilities, but I never thought my son had any. 

"Do you allow play while he does school?"

“I did, yes. And now, sometimes... but why does he need accommodations or distractions from school work? He has to learn how to conduct himself appropriately. I mean, if he were at a real school, he'd need to sit quietly and do his work. Isn’t it a negative thing to give kids a crutch all the time?”

Without missing a beat, Jade responded “It is harmful to take away these accommodations because it’s like pulling the rug out from under them. They need these to function better in the real world.”

Oh $#|+!!!! I knew that! Then why did I become so focused on the results of this homeschool year and forget about the dignity of my child? I quickly researched imaginational overexcitabilities like a mad woman and found they described my kid to the T. 

So, this is what he enjoys: playing Keyboard as Superman, Spelling exercises as Doctor Who, Dress-Up History and Lone Ranger Math.

After saying "NO" to any dress-up this semester, today I said "YES". I even decided to join Doctor Who in the fun. I pretended to be his assistant, Amy Ponds, helping him save the world one Math problem at a time. He usually whines that he hates Math, but he got every problem correct, without dragging his feet and without my grumpy intervention. At bedtime, he said this was the BEST part of his day.

Giftedness: why does it matter? It matters because recognizing these qualities in your children will help you understand them better. You will be able to support their needs and interact with them in positive ways. Instead of being stunted and/or belittled for the need of extra accommodations, they will be able to grow exponentially.

Monday, September 01, 2014

For When I Forget Why We Love Homeschooling


I struggle because my son’s goal is to attend boarding school at some point. I want to make sure he has the credentials to be accepted, when and if he wants to go.  

I struggle because I have an A-type need-to-tick-things-off-my-list personality.

I struggle because for so many years, my son was leading our homeschooling. I still had Kindergarten materials for him when he was already a few grade levels ahead. Now that I’ve caught up and bought "quality" curriculum for his actual grade levels, he doesn’t seem interested in them.
from The Independent Kid


When I catch myself accusingly ask my son “Why can’t you do this?!?”

When I roll my eyes and shout, “Why are you SO slow?!?”

When I find myself frustrated and exasperated at my little drummer as I press his hands down on his desk to stop…

I need to STOP MYSELF. I need to scold myself “For goodness sakes, he’s only 7 years old!” and to remember to smell the roses. I want his homeschooling to be a success, but I also want him to love the process. I guess I’m not the Tiger Mama I thought I was afterall.

So, I've made a list for when I forget why we love homeschooling:
  1. I need to challenge my son just at his level, not above, nor below.
  2. Homeschooling means I can create an individualized education for him to suit his interests: he is not a boxed curriculum.
  3. My son loves learning, and I can and will support that pursuit.
  4. My relationship with my son is built on tender loving care, not needless criticism, stress or pressure.
  5. We have the freedom to enjoy quality time together EVERYDAY: cuddles, giggles, laughter, slow and unstructured time together.
  6. I have the power to create a positive homeschool environment for my son. That power needs to be used wisely before 7 years passes and it will be too late.
I'll be putting aside History of Us for now and we will be Traveling Through History with Doctor Who. Guess who's going to love doing school!

P.S. After Lesson One, I found my son's entry in his grateful journal:


Are You Ready to Join the Slow Education Movement?
Gifted Homeschoolers Forum
Why You Should Want Your Kid to Be a Slow Learner

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Racism: an Inevitable Conversation in any Mixed-Race Family

Racism is a difficult conversation, but one that I have discovered is inevitable in a mixed-race family living ANYWHERE.

My birth certificate has my race written down as BROWN. What race, seriously, would that be?

I don't know but I am darker than both my parents and my "brown" look caused me a few growing pains while growing up in Asia. My "white" grandmother once looked at me, smirked, and loudly agreed with my aunt that I was, "Qué fea!" (How ugly!) My "yellow" grandmother, on the other hand, never favored me because I didn't have the porcelain skin of a China Doll. My own mother noted I had the face and coloring of the native Filipinos in her old prints, a compliment coming from an art collector (I guess). Growing up in the Philippines and Hong Kong, the former with their colonial mentality and the latter with an abundance of "brown" domestic helpers, I guess I always felt a little insecure about my color and sometimes inferior to family and friends who were fairer. As I lived away from Asia though, my coloring really grew on me. I learned to love my skin and even prefer it now when it darkens in the summer.

I am now married to a "white" American and our son, although fairer than both of us, has Asian coloring. We live in Small Town, USA and most of our friends and people we interact with are White. Who says that children don't see colour? They are wrong. When he was two, my son asked me: "Am I White, Mama? Like Daddy? Why do I have to look like you, Mama?" His questions both shocked and hurt me a little but I understood where my son was coming from. He just wanted to fit in and, obviously, his Mama is not White.

I hope my son learns to disregard the color of other people's skin. I hope my son will be comfortable in his own skin sooner than I was. I hope he understands that what matters most is inside each and everyone of us. And at the end of each day, I look at my son with big black eyes just like mine and whisper: "You are beautiful just as you are."

Some links to share:
Mixed Nation - a Facebook page full of photos celebrating people of mixed races
Mixed Blood Exhibit - I'm proud to say that a cousin curated this show in China.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Top 10 Things to Do to Turn Your Child's Passion into Talent

People keep saying how talented my 7 year old son is. If they only knew how much that "talent" takes! I've heard the words "gifted" and "talented", and even "prodigy" too. These words genuinely embarrass me (especially the latter), and yet they make me proud at the same time because I know the amount of sweat and practice it takes for him to perform. I certainly don't think my son is a prodigy and I also don't think he is profoundly gifted or talented. Instead, my husband and I have helped him develop his passions into talents through lots and lots of work.

What are the 10 things you can do for your young child?

1.    Recognize your child's passion very early. What does your child love to do all the time? What does your child naturally do well?

      Our son used to wake me up with a drum roll on my head when he was a baby. Here he is drumming on his lunch box at 3 years old. This was natural for him to do and he did this ALL the time.

He also loved role playing and dress up since he started talking. Here are photos of him when he was 4 years old.

as the Mad Hatter
as Edward Scissorhands
Today, his passions are drumming and acting. Surprise, Surprise! 

2. Find ways to support your child's passion at home.

Provide tools and materials that make their passions more accessible.

for us, this meant instruments
Use play to instill more love for their passions. Here I am singing with my 6 year old as he plays the ukulele in a song that he wrote.

Study people in their fields of interest: watch videos and research notables.. My son loved his Notables projects, where he would dress up as his Notable and research all about them. Here are examples of his projects: Roy Rogers, Bruce Lee, Johnny Depp, and Dana Carvey.

3. Find ways to support your child's passions outside the home. 
Look for teachers, help your child access people in his/her fields of interest, go on field trips, look into joining organizations (theaters, museums, sports, academies, teams), attend summer camps, etc.
4. Realize that your child's passions may not be so convenient for you.

You'll have to sacrifice some ME time.
Bedtimes, nap times, errands, chores, work, and even holiday schedules may all change.

5. Keep your child healthy by protecting the quality of food, sleep, exercise, time outdoors and preserving your child's own down time.

preserve their time to just relax
This past week, my son had a few Drum and Science homeschool classes from 10-11am, Theater Summer Camp from 1:30-4:30pm and then rehearsals at night from 7:00-10:00pm for Peter Pan that opens in a week. It has been a very strenuous schedule. Hubby and I were both exhausted, but our son absolutely loved it.

"Mama. I can't wait for tonight's rehearsal!"

"Mama. I can't wait for tomorrow's class!"

He had the energy for it. 

6. Take time to advocate for your child so that the child remains challenged, engaged, and encouraged in his/her passion.

Change teachers if needed. When my son was 4, we changed from a "you-need-to-learn-how-to-count-notes" drum teacher to one who played "echo games" with him instead. Now that he is 7, we were able to put him in a Rock Band Class for 10 year olds and up.

Talk to teachers/coaches. This Summer, I asked my son's Drama teacher if he could participate in her Advanced Acting Camp for 10-16 year olds. I was a little worried when he came home with a script of Macbeth in his hands, but after camp was through, his teacher pulled me aside and said,  "Your son is only 7, but he was made for this class! He was fabulous!"

7. Stay informed of what your child is learning and doing in class/rehearsal/practice.

Is there homework? If not, what can your child do to prepare for next week's class?
Can your child review what he did in class? Is there anything to practice?

8. Instill in your child a good work ethic by helping him improve further at home. Ask: how can you get better? what else can we do to help you?

Take photos and/or videos of your child "doing" his/her work. Replay and discuss what he/she can do to make it better.

Write notes where appropriate, as reminders of what he needs to do.

My 7 year old's script with notes for Macbeth's Banquo.

My 7 year old's script with notes for Lady Macbeth's Doctor.
9. Celebrate your child's work - but be careful of too much praise.

Praise is difficult. There is and will always be room for improvement. What we prefer to do is praise his effort and praise how much he has grown in a period of time. That said, he does have a blog, YouTube and Facebook page where he can share his work with and get feedback from other people. He also gets a lot of feedback from his teachers. I have discovered that my job as his mother is to keep him grounded.

Here is my 7 year old at a University Drum Set Master Class:

10. Keep pushing boundaries and abilities.

The work never ends, because my son has a dream.

Let your child keep a goals journal to help them decide who they want to be and how they want to get there. My son writes about his short- and long-term goals in his journal. He also keeps a grateful journal, which provides a balance to his goals journal.

So, when people say my son is "talented", "gifted", or even "a prodigy", I want to tell them that I don't know if it is pure talent or just sheer sweat. What I do know is that we have supported my son's passions and helped him develop in those areas. I am also writing this post as I sit in the audience watching my son fly through the air as Michael Darling in his Peter Pan rehearsal. He has a big smile on his face. I know the sweat and practice are all worth it. He loves what he is doing.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What Worked for My Asynchronous First Grader: Project-Based Homeschooling

Type A as I am, I love my to-do lists and schedules. I initially thought Project-Based Homeschooling would drive me nuts. But, it didn't. I thought my creative son would just play all day. But, he didn't. In fact, what I thought would be the downfall of this homeschool method (my type A personality) actually benefitted my son because I made sure he had the tools and the time everyday to "DO" his projects, whatever they were.

PROJECT-BASED HOMESCHOOLING allowed my son to explore his passions this year. Child-led projects meant hours and hours of self-imposed focus and concentration. He learned to just "be", while I learned to trust his "work". Type A me also learned how EASY it is to count his different projects as "school".

ORIGAMI (Arts and Crafts)

Our son has a chest full of Origami Star Wars characters and vehicles.

Origami Star Wars
He also created other Origami characters too.

Cardboarding is a lot of fun (especially a boy with box cutters)!

Cardboard Wall E
His Own Typewriter

DRUMS (Entrepreneurship/Music/Performing Arts)

Our son loves the drums. He practices everyday and dreams of being in a real band some day. He has a Goals Journal, wherein he writes his short- and long-term goals. He even decided to put some of his Drum Jams on YouTube and started his own Musician/Band Facebook Page and Twitter Account. There's no stopping The Independent Kid! And, yes, this is a big part of his "schooling"!


"Mama, how can you make homemade firecrackers?"

Someone told me I was crazy to allow my son to do this experiment, but I thought it was a GREAT question. My son enjoyed EVERY MINUTE of his research (he used the Chemistry Textbook from Real Science 4 Kids and YouTube). The experiment was a hit too! Take a look: 

FILM (Arts and Crafts/Computer Science/Film/Performing Arts/Technology)

We found a homeschool friend who also wanted to learn how to film. This Horror Comedy Short was created in a couple of months. We gave them a $10 budget and a 5 minute time frame. They created the story, planned it out with a storyboard, wrote the script, acted in it, and edited it.


Of course, they had to edit the bloopers too:

INDEPENDENT READING (Language Arts/Performing Arts)

Although we do literature units together, my son chooses and reads whatever he likes from Comic Books to Chapter Books too (within reason). I don't keep track of the Comic Books, but I do know he has read over 150 Chapter Books this past year. He also started creating Video Book Reviews under the name of Super Book Boy.



He begged for a microscope and his love for it has not waned. He uses it weekly. His Science notebook has been filled with the names of the slides, drawings of the slides, and thoughts on what each slide looks like.


My Independent Kid has done FIVE of these research and presentations in the past few years. It's a hit with the kids who join in the fun too. More information here: Notables at Noon.

This year, my son chose Roy Rogers and Dana Carvey.

THEATRE (Performing Arts)

This year, our son was the Pirate Ghost and Charlie in the Headless Horseman and Noah in Oliver. This Summer, he auditioned and got the part of Michael Darling in Peter Pan. He'll get to FLY on stage! Guess who's excited?

WRITING (Language Arts)

Finally, our son decided to start blogging. He also wrote three humorous workbooks.

Can you tell my son LOVES his projects?!?

How about Maths, Spelling, Grammar, Vocabulary and Copywork did you say? Don't worry, we have that covered. We love our (secular) Charlotte Mason homeschool style too! But it is because of Project-Based Homeschooling that my son's education isn't just about doing "school". Project-Based Homeschooling has made my first grader's lifework REAL.