New Year: Jan 7: If not now, then when?

I enjoy inspirational messages.

Sometimes these messages arrive at the perfect time and it feels like the universe is speaking directly to me.

I receive a daily message from Neale Donald Walsh as well as a weekly question from Paul Clark. (Learn more about weekly question here).

Today the two messages coincided with such relevance to my life right now and for all families looking to live more consciously, connected and respectfully with their children.

Today, as I began to write this post, the stars aligned perfectly with the universe speaking to me loud and clear as Kenny Loggins, “Conviction of the Heart” played.

If not now, then when?”   

On this day of your life

Gina, I believe God wants you to know …

… that as you start the first full work week of the New

The point of your activities throughout the day is not to

make a living, but to make a life; not to ‘work’ but to

create joy. If you are doing what you are doing merely

to ‘pay the bills,’ you will have missed the major reason

for All Of Life.


The purpose of life is to know and express Who You

Are. If you do other than that during the days and times

of your life, you will have not used those days and times

in a way that profits your soul. It is soul profit we are

after here, not body profit.


This first week of the New Year is a good time to

contemplate that, yes?


If not me, than who?

Are we making a life or just a living?

I know I am working to pay the bills and I have enjoyed my work as an Occupational Therapist for the past 26 years, yet, my inner passion calls for more.

Life can be cyclical.

I found Occupational Therapy in a catalogue of careers in my high school guidance counselor’s office in 1986. I read the description and discovered a field I never knew existed an that fit with my interests of psychology, special needs and teaching.

In college, I envisioned my OT career would be working with socially and emotionally disturbed children. I had a summer job at Allentown State Hospital with the inpatient children’s program through the Occupational Therapy department and felt impassioned to help children with social and emotional issues.

In 1992, I completed my required internships, two 12 week “fieldworks” as required to complete my degree and before I could sit for the board exam. The second fieldwork was a Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Allentown, PA. I discovered adult rehab and in particular brain injury rehab and followed that interest. It was magical, all I loved about psychology and the brain combined and amazing progress seen working in acute physical rehab. The patients began in a coma and left walking and talking!

Flash forward, 26 years later, I have realized my intention to work with socially and emotionally challenge children did come to fruition, in raising my own children. I take that comment seriously and with true intention.

Now, in my blogs, I am using my skills as an Occupational Therapist is a new way, Writing about my experiences with mental health issues in myself and my family and reaching out to help others. And this includes my work in growing a new business with my husband, Don with Focused Healthy Families and Collaborative, Conscious and Respectful Parenting.

What are your dreams?

In order to help and support our children, we need to be an example of following our own interests and passions and living the life we choose and not the one we feel “we have to do, to pay the bills”

I will leave you with those thoughts and the words of Kenny Loggins…

Where are the dreams that we once had?
This is the time to bring them back.
What were the promises caught on the tips of our tongues?
Do we forget or forgive?
There’s a whole other life waiting to be lived when…
One day we’re brave enough
To talk with Conviction of the Heart.
And down your streets I’ve walked alone,
As if my feet were not my own
Such is the path I chose, doors I have opened and closed
I’m tired of living this life,
Fooling myself, believing we’re right, when…
I’ve never given love
With any Conviction of the Heart
One with the earth, with the sky
One with everything in life
I believe we’ll survive
If we only try…
How long must we wait to change
This world bound in chains that we live in
To know what it is to forgive,
And be forgiven?
It’s been too many years of taking now.
Isn’t it time to stop somehow?
Air that’s too angry to breathe, water our children can’t drink
You’ve heard it hundreds of times
You say your aware, believe, and you care, but…
Do you care enough
To talk with Conviction of the Heart?


New Year Inspiration: Jan 3, 2019

To begin the New Year, I am going to share an inspiring messages. This one is from a daily email from Conversations with God founder, Neale Donald Walsch.

Each weekday, I receive an email like this personalized with my name. I have been receiving these emails for more than 8 years and continue to appreciate the inspiration. Learn more here.

One of the first steps we must take as parents, as adults who want to empower the children in our lives, is to find our own true authentic selves. The best way to inspire a child to find and follow their passion, is for us to be an example as we find and follow our passion (s).

This gorgeous picture was taken by my oldest, Harrison. See more of his photos at his blog: Hiking with Harrison

On this day of your life

Gina, I believe God wants you to know …

… that happiness, that grand mistress of the ceremonies

in the dance of life, impels us through all its mazes and meandering,

but leads none of us by the same route.

Charles Caleb Colton said that, and he was right.  Therefore,

since there is no One Way to find happiness, why not

find it the way that appeals most to you?

Why not follow your passion —

even if others tell you that you are crazy for trying it?


Is someone telling you that now?

Don’t listen.  Don’t listen to that!

The voice of caution knows nothing of real joy.

What joy is there in doing what there was

no doubt you could do? Where’s the excitement in that?

Hey, try something that you could fail at. Now that’s living.


Love, your Friend …          

Neal Donald Walsch


You must be 16 years old to play billiards

No one under 16 is allowed in the lap swim lanes

Finish all your dinner before you can have dessert

Chess club is only for children ages 7 and up

Rules are everywhere and for children they can feel like arbitrary limits.

What magical thing happens when children turn 16 that they are now responsible to play billiards or to swim in the lap lanes?

Why can a 6 year old child not be in chess club?

What is wrong with eating 75% of your dinner and then having some dessert?

We are raised with rules and limits. All of us are.

Even if our parents are radical unschoolers and allow us freedom in the home, when we enter society, we are subject to the rules that various people have put into place.

Some rules are helpful.

Traffic rules

I believe traffic rules are important so we don’t all crash into each other all the time.

Usually a car accident involves someone not following the rules.

I have been in 2 car accidents in my life. not fun

Car accidents are not something that anyone needs to strive to experience.

Rules on the road make sense, to me.

I have heard people argue agains following traffic rules, like when it is the middle of the morning and no one is coming and the light is red.

I disagreed with this person. When death or serious injury is possible, rules are important.

Yet, so many other rules that society creates, are very arbitrary.

I will focus on age rules placed on children.

Imagine if we had these type of rules as adults.

My parents live in a 55+ community and so there are “Family swim times”.

So children, under the age of 18, can only swim in the pool during family swim times.

What if we went to a pool and it said:


Ages 0-18 swim from 9am to 11 am

Ages 19-29 Swim from 11am-1pm

Ages 30-54 swim from 1pm-3pm

Ages 55-70 swim from 3-5pm

Ages 71+ swim from 5-7pm

Seams crazy, right?

Why don’t they just be real with it…


Loud noisy people who are going to splash can swim from 9am-1pm

Quiet people who will be standing around in the pool with their sunglasses on their heads and not really swimming: Swim from 1pm-4pm

People who want to swim laps: Swim from 4-7pm

My favorite thing to do during adult swim time, is to swim with big kicks past the people standing around with their make up on and sunglasses on their heads.

A swimming pool is for swimming, getting wet. If you don’t want to get splashed, stay out of the pool.

Wow, that sounds rather crumungingly of me,

Crumugingly: like a grumpy old (or young) man (or woman), set in their ways and opinionated

I have raised my children in the homeschooling world where learning things at particular ages does not matter and where we have freedom to live our lives in our own way.

My youngest son wanted to learn to play chess at age 4, before he could read. So, I bought him a chess book with pictures and diagrams and he looked at the pictures and taught himself to play chess. When he was 5 1/2 our homeschool co-op started a chess club…

…for kids age 7 and up

He was not allowed to be in the chess club even though I agreed to be in there with him and be sure he was not disruptive. I knew he would not be and was more focused than yours average 7 year old. Yet, a young teen was leading the group and so they decided to keep the age limit restriction.

I don’t think this helped anyone. It put a barrier up for my son and set in motion the idea that just because he is “younger”, there are certain things he can not do.

This is the reason I never sent my oldest child to kindergarten. He was already reading when he was “the age for kindergarten”- have to be 5 before October 15 and with a Nov birthday, he would have been nearly 6 and was reading early chapter books at that point. He would have been bored in kindergarten, at least as far as learning to read. I saw this when he attended part time preschool at age 4. He was in the “3 year old class” because, he turned 4 in November. And in a class full of young boys, almost a year younger than him. He did things like turn the water faucet so the water ran off the counter and onto the floor. The teacher saw him as curious, seeing how “intelligent” he was because he was walking around the room reading words and her other boys would not even sit down and hold a crayon to draw.

Yes, he was curious, but also attention seeking and bored.

He was there for part time day care. We called it “preschool” because it feels better to say preschool than to say daycare.

I thought about getting him put in the 4 year old class that year, but realized he was not there for school but to be cared for while me and his dad were at work.

He made a good friend in the preschool class. One other boy spoke clearly and so my son could communicate with him. Unlike the other 3 year olds whose speech was not developed yet which made them difficult to understand. This is when I figured out why his other friends were usually girls. Girls tend to learn to speak earlier than boys, on average. Not always.

Deciding who can participate in what activity based on age seams so silly to me now.

I watch my youngest son who is 7 years younger than his sister and 11 years younger than his brother, participate in games with them and sure, they have an advantage, but he does a good job of keeping up and most importantly, he wants to be included in what they are doing. He is also the first one to learn to ride a bike. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Right now, he is at the table with his siblings and cousins who are 20, 17,16,15 and he is 9 years old. His uncle is playing the game as well.

They are playing “Pandemic”, a complicated game I have played maybe twice and partially understand. I was surprised to read the box state ages “8+”. I really expected it to be older than that. Jason did first play this game at 7 or 8, with some help, but I needed help the first time I played. I was glad to be surprised by the age recommendations. Jason has played many board games and car games at a younger age than “recommended”.

Age restrictions are everywhere for children

Age restrictions are common for those under the age of 21 and yet for those of us over 21, or maybe 25 (due to restrictions on renting cars), we hardly have a need to think about our age until we qualify for senior discounts.

Yes, there is age discrimination for older individuals and in particular for the elderly, I can write about that as well with my years of experience working in geriatrics.

It is like our society is saying it is idea to be age 25-40 and outside of that range, well then you are less than ideal. There are hurdles, many hurdles for those over 50 and 60 and many for those under 21, and even more under 18.

Do we want to accept this class typing that our society places on us?


Today I am sitting in the lobby of Teamworks while my 9 year old son enjoys Kids Camp. We attended this same camp 2 years ago and I remained in the class with him the entire time. He has come along way in two years.

He made a friend at camp this week. May seam normal to you if your children are “typical” but for Jason who has significant social anxiety, that is a big accomplishment. Of course the friend is 12 and a girl. Boys his age tend to be obnoxious (my word) or just too immature for him. He is mature in some ways and in his interactions with people and yet socially he has struggled for a long time.

Yet, the fact that he continues to make friends with kids older than himself, tells me that maybe it isn’t necessarily his social skills that suffer but those of typical kids his age. He has also had more female friends than male. Girls do tend to mature faster and have a generally calmer demeanor.


Jason has always had good attention for a given task. I believe his attention span is longer than average too. I remember when he was a toddler participating in Romp “N Roll, a gymnastics like program for babies, toddlers and young kids, the class has the kids jumping from one activity to another so quickly. He wanted to stick with one thing for a while. It was sad that the class had to be geared to kids with low attention span and could not accommodate a child who could focus on one area for a while. For a slow to warm up to people kid, having more time to get used to something has always been helpful. For him, the physical aspect of the activity was not the challenging part but participation in a room full of strangers.

I told his therapist that I did not feel he would benefit from being in a room full of children all born in the same year. She disagreed with me. It still baffles me. As adults, we never are put in this situation, forced to learn alongside people all born the same year. We do not work at jobs set up this way and even college allows for people of a variety of ages to be in the same classes.

Age discrimination

When will we realize as a society that children learn better in mixed age groups where the older children can mentor the younger ones and where children can learn to get along with kids of different ages. I believe it fosters tolerance and acceptance to grow up surrounded by children of a variety of ages. I have seen this in my local homeschool community. I have seen how siblings work together and get along well and don’t conform to the typical stereotype of same age school children who ostracized younger siblings and bully younger kids, think about the show Arthur. The children’s animated show based on the children’s book series. I am not hear to criticize the show, but to point out the stereotyping of siblings, creating a “norm” of siblings not getting along with each other and being at odds with each other most of the time, often due to age differences. Does this have to be our reality? I don’t think so.

Sure, my children fight like any siblings do and have their moments that try our patience as parents. Yet, I have also seen siblings stand up for each other and support each other in difficulty times and even siblings who enjoy hanging out together and are friends. Our society’s portrayal of our society creates much of the way we interact with each other. Something to think about….

I write this post to challenge the idea that those children who can sit still and listen and do what they are told, are the most socialized children.

I write this post to challenge our way of thinking about socialization and what it means to “become socialized”.

Socialized into what? …a way of living,…a way of thinking,…a way of acting?

Next time you start to judge a child from his behavior, I ask that you stop.

Stop and think about all the components that created this scenario, all the expectations others have placed on the child and the world in which the child is growing up and how this may impact the child’s personality.

Things I have learned from my children

I believe the children are our are future

Teach them well and let them lead the way

Show them all the beauty they possess inside

Give them a sense of pride to make it easier

Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be

I find beauty and truth in this song. I am familiar with Whitney Houston’s version yet my research found that it was written by Michael Masser and the late Linda Creed in 1976.

I believe the children are our future.

I also believe that I have learned far more from my children than I could ever teach them.

My children have reminded me of who I truly am.

Living alongside of them, I have found my way back to my true self.

It is a journey.

It is a process.

I know my children have helped me along my journey.

I believe our souls are connected.

On a spiritual level, we guide each other and have connections far beyond our current human condition.

I have learned many things from my children and I continue to learn more every day.

I have been a mother for more than 20 years and look forward to all I will continue to learn from my children throughout our current life time together.

Things I have learned from my children:

  • STOP, and slow down and pay attention to things around you
  • Reading together before bed is a good habit
  • Eat when you are hungry and sleep when you are tired
  • Hugs and kisses are good medicine
  • Laughter is the best medicine
  • Follow your passion
  • Be who you are and don’t apologize for it
  • Speak the truth, speak your truth
  • How we talk to people matters as much as what we say to them
  • Respect is a two-way street
  • If you love to dance, then dance as much as you can
  • Reading a great book is more fun when read along with a friend(s)
  • Satoshi Tajiri created Pokémon
  • Persistence is challenging to parents but is valued by employers
  • Hiking heals the soul
  • The view at the top of the mountain is worth climbing past the danger sign
  • The first time at the beach is the best time
  • Going to the beach is even more fun with children
  • Digging in the sand is calming and satisfying
  • Straws kill sea turtles
  • Don’t let people tell you that you can not hike 20 miles in one hike
  • If you love hiking, don’t allow people to convince you to be a swimmer or a biker
  • Learning to ride a bike is not required
  • School changes how you look at learning
  • Life experience is more meaningful than a college degree
  • Don’t waste your time trying to be something that you are not
  • Music speaks a multigenerational language
  • We can do anything we set our minds to
  • You can overcome severe anxiety and earn 2 gold medals in your first Tae Keon Do Tournament
  • You are more than your anxiety
  • You are more than your mental illness
  • You are more than any illness
  • You are not your illness
  • I have Bipolar Depression, I am NOT bipolar
  • People have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, they are NOT OCD
  • Mental illnesses are not adjectives
  • Being creative can be very messy
  • There is beauty is messy
  • Dogs love us unconditionally
  • Animals are people too
  • All lives matter
  • Climbing up the slide can be as much fun as going down the slide
  • There is always time for one more hug
  • Snuggle time is the best way to fall asleep and the best way to wake up
  • Relationships are more important than accomplishments
  • It is important to admit when you are wrong
  • Your biological age does not define who you are nor what you can do
  • Your biological gender does not define who you are or what you can do
  • Love is love
  • It is never too late
  • You are never too old
  • There is no set age to learn anything
  • We need to listen more and talk less
  • Our actions speak louder than our words
  • If we want to teach anything, than we need to be an example of what we want to teach
  • We teach what we most need to learn
  • Children are closer to God and often have far more wisdom than adults
  • Patience is the most important skill we need in parenting
  • We are energy
  • Our energy affects the people around us
  • We are creative beings
  • It does not matter how you hold your pencil
  • Not everyone draws a straight line first
  • You can learn to spell without any formal school and without spelling tests
  • You don’t need to go to school to learn to read and to write
  • If you force people to learn something, they might grow to hate it
  • If you allow people to learn what they are interested in, they will retain the information much longer than any required learning
  • Arielle is my daughter’s favorite Disney princess
  • Girls can like trucks and boys can like flowers
  • Children’s clothes are sadly gender stereotyping
  • Boys can be quiet, calm and focused and girls can be physical and tough
  • Children of the same gender, can be as different as children of different genders
  • Not all boys like to play with guns and wrestle with other boys
  • Some girls hate the color pink
  • Colors don’t have gender
  • The length of our hair does not define our gender but many people think that way
  • Theater and acting is a great way to learn many life skills
  • Theater brings people together
  • Theater thrives on diversity
  • Sometimes, life just sucks
  • Watching your father nearly die, can be as scary and frightening and troubling as having a parent who dies
  • When your guts tells you that your children will need support from a traumatic experience, listen to your gut
  • Trauma can be trapped inside of us for years and manifest different for different people
  • Being happy all the time is not realistic nor healthy
  • Being highly intelligent is as challenging in this world as having a lower than average IQ
  • Our children have knowledge and understanding far beyond their years
  • We are not born “blank slates”
  • Dogs are therapeutic
  • We can’t solve problems for our children
  • Our children are living their own lives
  • Patience is the most important skill we need as parents and in life
  • Take time for what is important
  • Decide what is important to you
  • Take a nap when your body is tired
  • You can make up your story as you go
  • You can change your mind about your favorite color
  • You can change your mind about many things
  • Walk barefoot sometimes
  • Go outside when it is snowing no matter what time of day it is
  • I love making snowmen
  • I am more committed to making a snowman than my children are
  • The best way to take care of my children, is to take care of myself
  • I am a better mother when I am writing and journaling
  • I am a better mother when I take time for myself, alone

I am more in touch with my true self now after being a mother for more than 20 years, then I have been in a long time. The last time I felt this in touch with myself, I was 11 or 12 years old.

Living life alongside my children and learning along with them, has been a large part of my journey back to myself.

I could write volumes on all I continue to learn from my children. I just need to remember to stop, listen, and pay attention to them.

Collaborative, Conscious, Respectful Parenting

CCR Parenting

Because I love music and well… I find the name catchy.

Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?

R.E.M. sings as I write, “everybody hurts, sometimes”, “when you feel like you’re alone”

I became a mother over 20 years ago. When I returned to work when my baby boy was 12 weeks old, I had a new mission, to find a way to work from home.

Somewhere along the journey, as I grew into motherhood with my child, I envisioned a Conscious Parenting website, I called it, “Mommy Daddy STOP” because my son loved road signs and I saw the symbolism with road signs and parenting and messages.

I have notebooks of material and ideas for that website and I even created the site at one point.

Mommy Daddy STOP: Consciously parenting our children, our parents and ourselves

In 2010, I began my blog, Gina’s Life Journey. And a few years later, Child-led Learning.

Here I am now in 2018 and Don and I have given our first Parenting Conversations talk. The conscious parenting website idea is alive and well again and growing into a business.

Why collaborative, conscious, respectful parenting?


I see a family as a team. A group of people living together and therefore need to function together. Parenting is a relationship and like any relationship there needs to be give and take, a sense of doing what works best for all.

Businesses spend time on team building, good business do. Families can also learn from team building exercises. We need to learn communication skills and we also need to have fun!


Over the past 20+ years as a parent, I have decided if I had to pick one word to define the most important part of parenting, that word is respect.

I vividly remember being out at a restaurant with my husband and oldest child who was maybe 2 1/2 at the time. We were in SC and had gone to eat, I believe after attending a Unity service in Columbia, SC, near my parents house. There was a stranger, a woman, who came over to us and told us that she liked how respectfully we were talking to our young child. Before she said that, I am not sure that it had occurred to me that the manner in which we talked to our child was “respectful”. That message, her compliment, became a gauge of something I always wanted to have in our parenting relationship.

I never used “baby talk” with my kids. I spoke to them. I described what I was doing, what I saw in the world as we walked, and I shared what I was thinking. I spoke to them like I would speak to another person. As a baby, I spoke to them like a person new to this world, “those are trees, and houses and look mailboxes and the mailboxes have numbers, there is a 1 and a 4 and an 8… ”

I took walks with my oldest child with him in the stroller and had this ongoing monologue with him about the things in our neighborhood. I described all the road signs, first the name, and then the color and shape. This is where his love of sings, in particular, STOP signs, originated. He found the bright red octagon fascinating and luckily our neighbors lived on the corner and we would walk to their driveway every day to visit the STOP sign. And then I made one for him to have inside, incase it rained or weather did not permit us to visit the stop sign outside.

STOP became a reminder to me as a parent, to stop and pay attention to the world and to my son. To STOP and slow down, to look, listen, feel and experience. To be in the moment with my child.

I write about collaborative, conscious, respectful parenting as a reminder to myself. It is a journey, one I am still traveling. Always working to improve my parenting and be a better version of myself to best help my children.

I close with these beautiful words by Colbie Caillat:


When you’re feeling low

And you just don’t know where to run to


If your heart’s been broke

And you feel like you’re all alone

If you need something to believe in

If you’re looking for a light to guide you home

Just look inside

You’re light a shining brighter than you know

You should know

I’m never gonna let you down

I’m always gonna build you up

And when you’re feeling lost

I will always find you love

I’m never gonna walk away

I’m always gonna have your back

And if nothing else you can always count on that

When you need me

I promise I will never let you down


I will make you laugh

If you ever feel like crying


I will hold you close

You won’t be alone anymore

If you need someone to believe in

If you’re reaching for a hand to guide you home

Just take my hand and I won’t let you go

I hope you know

I’m never gonna let you down

I’m always gonna build you up

And when you’re feeling lost

I will always find you love

I’m never gonna walk away

I’m always gonna have your back

And if nothing else you can always count on that

I’m never gonna let you down

I’m always gonna build you up

And when you’re feeling lost

I will always find you love

I’m never gonna walk away

I’m always gonna have your back

And if nothing else you can always count on that

When you need me

I promise I will never let you down

Ain’t never gonna let you down

If you need something to believe in

If you feel you’ve reached the end of the road

Don’t be afraid, I’ll always guide you home

You should know

I’m never gonna let you down

I’m always gonna build you up

And when you’re feeling lost

I will always find you love

I’m never gonna walk away

I’m always gonna have your back

And if nothing else you can always count on that

I’m never gonna let you down

I’m always gonna build you up

And when you’re feeling lost

I will always find you love

I’m never gonna walk away

I’m always gonna have your back

And if nothing else you can always count on that

When you need me

I promise I will never let you down

Ain’t never going let you down

Ain’t never going let you down

Twice Exceptional “2e” Diagnosis: academics, reading, and social anxiety, aka: challenging behavior

My children never went to school. Homeschooled from the time my oldest was school age and so we did not have labels like 2e in our home. Labels don’t typically matter when you are facilitating your children’s learning in a 1:1 environment. They can be helpful for understanding challenging behavior and to help understand how your child learns. Yet, labeling for the sake of labeling serves no purpose in the homeschool world.

I resisted labeling my daughter with “OCD” even though it was obvious that was what she was suffering from at age 8 with a sudden and sever onset. Later, I learned, that labeling it helped her to overcome it and helped us, her parents to get the help she needed for it. That was 8 years ago. She is not “free of the illness” yet she manages it well now. Yet, it still challenges her in many ways as she lives her life as a 16 year old.

My oldest son was easily identified as “gifted” when he was reading at age 4 and was “ahead of his peers academically”, something we observed because he went to a “parents morning out” church program for part time day care as a preschooler. Yet, my daughter learned to read later but by age 7 was reading as well as her brother was at the same age. I began to believe that all children are gifted, gifted in their own ways.

I still believe this is possible. All children are “gifted”.

I now also see how academic giftedness can manifest as a behavior challenge.

My older two have challenging personalities in that they are strong willed and exert a confidence that I never knew as a child. For the most part, we were able to function and they were able to develop friendships and thrive.

My daughter had severe challenges at age 8 with the sudden onset of severe OCD. Yet, she has friends who were there and who she was able to come back to when she got past the worst of the OCD. She returned to attending Girl Scouts and her friends were there for her and supportive.

My youngest child has had social challenges from as long as I can remember.

I wrote about this in my last post, Understanding Extreme Gifted Boy Behavior: reflections on a blog post.

Today I am going to delve deeper into this topic of twice exceptional and what this might look like.

Academic Challenges

I described an example of this in my last post, as I described my 5 year old son not being allowed to participate in Chess Club because he was not 7 years old. The beauty of homeschooling is you can allow your children to learn anything at any age. It doesn’t matter what first graders are learning in public school and if this is congruent with what your “”first grade” child is learning at home. I have friends who have followed a more traditional homeschool path with the explanation, “in the event that they need to return to school, then they would be able to fit in/ succeed”. I thought about this when my friends spoke of it years ago when my oldest child was elementary age. I asked myself, What if?

What if I die?

What if my husband dies and I have to work full time?

What if we both die?

It concerned me and yet I came to believe that if something that terrible happened, like the later, both my husband and I die, that my children needed to be together and that they would be ok, even if they had to go to school. I knew in other less drastic circumstances, that we could continue a homeschooling path even with one parent. It might not be easy, but what about parenting is easy?

As my children got older, I knew they could continue learning in this unschooling style because it is a way of life. It is more than an academic choice. We live and we learn. It doesn’t matter what else is happening in life, we continue to learn in this same fashion.

Hmmm…. I digress.

Asynchronous learning:

Defined as uneven development that is  out of sync with their peers and applied to academics refers to being at different “grade levels” for different academic subjects.

I embraced asynchronous learning early on, allowing my children to fully delve into a subject of interest and not worry so much if they were up to speed in other areas. When my oldest was little, I did purchase and check out of the library the series of books entitled, “What your first grader needs to know”. They have one for each grade. I read through them as a way of helping me realize my child was not “behind”. I used some material in the books at times to add to his learning. Overtime, I unschooled myself and stopped picking up the books. I stopped worrying.

Sure, I worry, even now I wonder if I am best servicing my children with our unschooling life. I am a mom, I worry!  Yet, I have embraced unschooling as I see my now 20 year old son thrive in the “real world” and even my 16 year old daughter who is already working at a job that she loves and is getting paid to pursue her passion.

And when I thought I had it all figured out, along came my third child.

Somehow he learned the alphabet and counting but I have no specific memories of when this happened. Sure, I did similar things that I had done with his older siblings like reading to him and living in a home surrounded by books and magazines and supplies and people who read and write and learn every day. I know he also learned being the youngest and surrounded by people much older than him. Seven years between him and his sister and eleven years younger than his brother. And his parents, much much older!

The basics were easy. He grew up surrounded by learning and going on field trips with his siblings and being dragged along to their activities, film club, ballet, Girl Scouts, both scouts, Science Olympiad, Lego Robotics, co-op classes….

He has much less interest in reading than his siblings. He enjoyed being read to, well, once he was about 4 or 5. before that he would not sit still long enough for anything of length. He enjoyed eating books as a teething baby. Books were everywhere. We read to him and allowed him to move around as we read and stopped when he moved onto something else. He was our one child who grasped phonics. My husband did most of this with him. He learned to sound things out. Still he wasn’t reading at age 5 and by 6 he could read but did not desire to read much. As I think about all of this, I am not sure at what age he did what. I can tell you many specifics with his older siblings, but with him, its all a blur. I know his interest in reading came much later than his siblings and only in the past 6 months or so has he really appeared to spontaneously choose reading as an activity.

Story time before bed has been a ritual with my kids for their entire life. This was no different for my youngest. We read to him and overtime, he read parts of pages or words, he enjoyed rhyming and Dr. Sues was something he liked reading. We did much more reading to him over his first 8 years then him reading. He was able to read well by age 7 or 8… third child, I am guessing at ages.

Yet, he did not actively choose to read much on his own.

He was four years old (that one I remember) when his sister began reading Harry Potter to him. We then proceeded to read to him each of the Harry Potter books, covering all 7 of them over the next two years. After reading a book, we enjoyed watching the movie. He was hooked. We finished the books and the movies and he moved on from his Harry Potter obsession.  He would thoroughly enjoy an interest and then move on.  This was also different than his siblings.  He would go so far when he moved on to say,
I don’t like Harry Potter anymore” and some interests went from love to hate.  This was a challenge socially in making connections with other kids.

Around age 8, he decided to read the books again. We began reading them to him and he quickly decided he wanted to read some too and somewhere early in that first book, he moved to wanting to read the entire book himself. And again as he read each book, we then watched the move after he finished. He has been reading book 7 for many months now and will take this book with him when we have to take his sibling somewhere or any road trip for even 30 minutes and will delve into the book and read. He turned 9 in January and now I have a kid who initiates reading on his own. He has a goal- to finish all 7 Harry Potter books, having now read them on his own. It was his idea. Not ours.

We have used no curriculum, no spelling words, no workbooks nor lessons in reading or writing. We do have workbooks in our home. We have engaged in things like “Which Way USA” puzzle books  along with some other puzzle books and workbooks as well as online resources like Khan Academy , mostly for math, yet using each of these resources randomly with no consistent plan nor path.

Our home is filled with books, workbooks, notebooks, pens, markers, pencils, all kinds of paper, folders, “school supplies”. He sees his mother writing regularly in a journal and on my blog and his father sharing pamphlets he has written for workshops and his mother editing them. His older brother has been attending community college for 4 years (from the time my youngest son was 5 years old). We all research on the internet, visit the library and read books, magazines and a variety of printed items in our day to day life. My youngest son has grown up in this environment. As have my older two children, but my younger two have had the advantage of seeing older siblings learning and reading. Example is the best teacher.

I recently responded to a Facebook post about 2e and gifted kids and I brought up this issue of challenging behavior in gifted kids.  I had a mom respond who I believe has a gifted by very young child ask the question, “I don’t see how behavior issues manifest in gifted kids?”

I responded first with all kids are different and the challenge often arises with the second diagnosis on top of being “gifted”. My son has grown up living in an adult world and thus his vocabulary has always been above his age level. He has been treated with respect and spoken to at his level in his home yet when he goes out into the world, other people often want talk to him like a typical “5 year old” or now, “9 year old”.  There is nothing typical about my son.

He has social anxiety and so strangers talking to him has been overwhelming.  And being in a room with more than a few people, has been overwhelming to him.  Take a room full of people, even a group of homeschool families, and then have someone speak to him like they might another child of his age and pow!  That is a recipe for explosive behavior!

He is highly excitable, meaning, external stimuli can overexcite or overwhelm him.  Sounds, smells, sights, people getting into his personal space bubble all have the potential for causing him stress.

Being gifted often means having a more sophisticated understanding of material and language than your age related peers and so being in an environment with age related peers can feel condescending and demeaning.  Think of the last time someone spoke to you about a subject you are an expert on, or at least any area you are experienced at and know quite well and someone has spoken to you like you are a newbie.  How did you feel?

Kids feel this all the time.  Children in general know and understand more than we often give them credit for and with a “gifted child” this effect is magnified.

An example of this…

When my oldest son was 4 years old we attended a local farmers market on Saturdays.  The people were friendly and one woman picked up a zucchini and asked my petite son, Do you know what color this is?  My 4 year old son handled people well and answered green and yet I imagined he was thinking, “what is wrong with you lady, don’t you know your colors”.  I thought to myself at the time, “lady, the kid can spell zucchini!”  For my oldest son, he handled these encounters well and moved on.  He does not have social anxiety.  He is an introvert but always has been social and enjoys talking to people which serves him well now at age 20, he is working in retail sales.  Yet, when he was younger, I could tell that he didn’t have respect for people that talked down to him and especially when people did not respect him.  I could tell, but I don’t think most people realized it. He learned how to handle it.

In contrast, my youngest child as a toddler…

When shopping in the grocery store when he was a toddler, a woman once reached across him siting in the grocery cart to access the freezer door and Jason screamed at the top of his lungs. She had entered his personal space bubble and for someone with sensory processing issues and social anxiety, this is a recipe for disaster,

He would frequently declare out loud, ‘I hate people.” It was cute when he was 2 and 3 but by age 6 he had not grown out of it like i had thought he would. It got worse at the age when my oldest son became interested in same age peers.

Looking back, I wish i had gotten him into Occupational Therapy much sooner. He was 6 by the time we did. Yes, his Occupational Therapist mom took 6 years to figure out that her son needed pediatric Occupational Therapy. I had to ask the pediatrician for the referral. The professions he went to had not directed us that way. All they saw was a kid with “behavior issues”.

The combination of sensory processing disorder, PTSD, social anxiety and OCD along with being gifted is a challenging combination. Someone they are all connected and interrelated. Yet, before getting help, as in him attending weekly OT sessions to address sensory issues as well as address coping strategies, self regulation, social anxiety, he probably could have been given many more labels, most like Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

My youngest child was born 7 years after his sister and 11 years after his brother. I always figures part of his social challenges were because he grew up in a grown up world surrounded by older kids. Maybe this is part of it, yet, now I see how his “giftedness”, his most likely high IQ, along with his other issues create a challenge. I remember having a discussion with his OCD therapist about our homeschooling choices and how I did not feel it was necessary for my son to get along with a group of 7 year old boys. Boys of that age can be annoying and my son did not usually get along with his same age peers, especially other boys. One of his first really good friends was a girl 2 years older than him. And later he became friends with 2 brothers who he participated in TKD with who are 3 and 5 years older than he is. My therapist felt that he would learn social skills being in a class type setting with same age peers. I argued that there is no need to learn to be in a room full of people born the same year as you, that is not real life and certainly does not happen as an adult.We agreed to disagree.

Now, 2 years later, along with continued OT and therapy for the OCD and medication. (For another post, when OCD gets bad- sometimes medication is needed to preserver your child;s self esteem and help him overcome a powerful mental illness. And believe me, medication was my LAST choice for my children. And only after changing diet, and using many supplements and other alternative modalities, which we still follow and use. Yet, medication was needed as well.

…and now 2 years later..

He is functioning better. He has a best friend who he met online and will be meeting in person for the first time later today. He achieved purple belt status in one year of TKD. He went to a TDK local tournament at age 7 and earned 2 gold metals, despite almost not being able to participate at all in the tournament due to the crowed school gymnasium. He is handled group situations with many people. He still gets overwhelmed and yet he can communicate better to me what he is feeling and we have strategies with how to handle it. We went on a homeschool hike several months ago with people he had never met before and by the end of the hike, with some guidance and my asking him, he went off and played tag with a group of kids about his age, mostly girls. I found myself standing in the park and having to look around to find him. This had NEVER happened in his prior 9 years of life! He was always glued to my side!

We are at an unschooling gathering this week. We attended one 2 years ago and my son did not make any friends. His OCD was flaring at the time and he spent many hours of the conference stuck in the bathroom. It was a stressful experience. He has made a lot of progress in 2 years. He is eager and excited and anxious this time. He is going to meet his best friend of 1 1/2 years for the first time in person and he wants to make new friends here but is overwhelmed at the thought of meeting new people, talking to new people.

We attended an informal meet up in someone room last night, arriving earlier than most which worked out good for both of my younger kids. IT began to get crowded, we were waiting for the gluten free pizza to arrive. My daughter wanted to meet people but she too is overwhelmed in groups when she knows no one and is not able to initiate conversation with strangers. They got to make a sign for our door the activity was claiming for both of them, each making their own cause the sign my 9 year old made was not the kind of sign my 16 year old wanted to make. I found a spot in the corner for my son to make his and found him food. It is always good when we are around other gluten free people! food helped and me helping him to locate himself to a quiet corner to create a sign, he enjoys crating things and i know that is calming for him. AFter an hour or two, he was going on the Baucom only without me and even ventured in to the adjutant room to enter the next balance by cause he wanted me to wave at him across the balconies! His sister sat in the. same chair at the same table the entire time we were there. I brought her food and she did not get up until we left.. My older son had stayed in our room until we told him food had arrived and then he met us there. I then sent the boys back to the room while my daughter and I waited to find gluten free pizza which we then brought back to our room. I had talked to a few people. My kids had not. Jason, my youngest did have some brief interactions with other kids and parents which as i write it is amazing that he is the one out of all 3 of my kids who interacted the most with other people!

We did it and then enjoyed being in our room by ourselves. There will be many activities this week where my kids will have more opportunities to meet other kids and be in a more specific environment of a shared interest. I will be there to help them make the connections. I already found two other boys about the age of my youngest son who also appeared to be very overwhelmed but the group setting last night- I will seek out to meet those moms this week! One was wearing a t-shirt with the Mae of my son’s favorite You-tuber.. I thought about introducing myself to the moms, yet I saw too how overwhelmed their boys were and opted to wait. We exchanged knowing glances.

I hope I can carve out more time this week to share more of our journey as it happens. Thank you to anyone who read this long meandering post to the end! I sure ventured off topic in many ways and yet it all applies to the challenges of 2e kids. I know i have one, and likely have 2 of them and possibly 3.

Love to hear others experiences and thoughts and comments!

Understanding Extreme Gifted Boy Behavior: reflections on a blog post

I read this amazing blog post recently:

And this was my response to it:

This is my youngest son!

Not literally but what she describes with this boy is how and why Jason reacts the way he does. He is a social justice advocate. I recently had great insight on how gifted behavior can manifest attending an OT conference. This was the understanding I was trying to get when I took him to a Psychologist when he was 6 and they failed us. Because he wouldn’t complete her tests. She made no effort to develop a therapeutic rapport with him. It wasn’t until he attended Occupational Therapy, that a professional took the time to develop a rapport with him in order to best help him. I have always known that I should NOT be diagnosing my own child, yet, I have been the most competent to do so. This is an important part of the puzzle. OCD, social anxiety, twice exceptional, highly gifted, and over excitable, highly sensitive.

Tom Petty sings as I write today,

“You don’t know how it feels to be me

My youngest child has had anxiety struggles from a very young age. I remember at age one, he was afraid of men and that included his older brothers friends, who were 12 years old and looked like men. It is hard for me to recall how many other issues he had in that first year of life…

When he was 2, his sister suffered a sudden onset of severe OCD with anger and personality change and outbursts and to be frank, just pure craziness. She was 8 years old and he was 2.

As someone who has studied child development, I realize the impact of this experience on his development. Things were so crazy that year and of course as her parents, our focus was on getting help for our daughter and yet we made many mistakes stumbling our way through helping our child with a sudden onset of mental illness. Sure looking back, she had signs the entire year before and even some small signs earlier, yet, by age 8, it exploded into a severe condition. A friend had suggested to me that it might be OCD early on, before it exploded, because she was over washing her hands for a long time. I thought to myself, “No, Abby doesn’t have OCD, she is my laid back, chill kid. Her older brother is the obsessive one who lines up his toys and keeps things in order and has to follow a rigid schedule. Not Abby!”

Boy, was I clueless about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!

And I have had mental health training and an entire semester and 12 week internship devoted to psychiatric disorders and mental illness.

This is why, I am a fierce advocate for OCD now and why I correct people when they share misinformation on OCD. I know there are many who suffer who are undiagnosed or wrongly diagnosed. And I know just how important it is to get help early on in the illness and not let it get to be a severe condition!

As I write, Tom Petty sings, “I won’t back down”.

I used to think, sure my kids are “gifted” but aren’t all kids gifted, each in a different way?

Then I went to an OT conference on Differentiating Sensory from behavior, and the speaker made this powerful statement,

Children at the high end of the IQ spectrum, are just as different from average kids as those at the low end of the IQ spectrum.


And she went on to describe challenges in working with gifted kids and gave an example from her clinic. The boy she described sounded so much like my son!

From her workshop booklet she describes:

Gifted Kids: issues that contribute to challenging behaviors:

  • Poor academic fit

  • Lack of appropriate peers

  • Obsessive interests, often not expected for age

  • Perfectionism

  • Strong will

  • Drive to question authority

  • Intense curiosity, asking questions

  • Need to share information, knowledge

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Intense emotions

  • Highly sensitive

I see these traits in all three of my children. Yet, my youngest son has had the most challenging behavior and social struggles (excluding his sister’s sudden onset of OCD and all that ensued from that for years ). His issues have been his entire life and made making friends a serious challenge for him and now I can understand why.

I have always seen his poor fit with his age related peers, his perfectionism, strong will, intense emotions and high sensitivity.

And of course, “poor academic fit”. Even as a home/unschooler from the day he was born, this has been a challenge. We participated in a homeschoool co-op when he was about 5. A young teen was facilitating a chess club for kids age 7 and up. It was the teens first time doing this type of thing. I contacted the parents to ask for permission to enroll my son ensuring them I would be right there with him the entire time for every class because my 5 year old son was very interested in chess and had taught himself the basics with an Usborne chess book full of pictures and diagrams. I bought him the book when he was four and not yet reading. The parents of the teen told me that had to talk to their son and would get back to me…

And their decision was “No”, because this is the first time he is doing this, they are keeping the age set at 7 and up

That was SO FRUSTRATING for me and for him!

It felt like my child was being discriminated against because of his age.. I had this 5 year old who I knew was as mature enough, if not more so than your average 7 year old, and already knew how to play chess even before he could read fluently and yet he was not allowed to enroll in this chess club. I did not raise a stink, appreciating that this teen was leading the class and they got to decide who was appropriate for it.

Yet, here I was with my child who really wanted to be in chess club and was not allowed to be because of his age.

Things went from tough to worse after that for my son. When he turned 6, and I imagined he would do better socially because his older brother had become social with peers at age 6, things got more challenging for him. Homeschool co-op changed from once a month to weekly and I thought that would help him have more consistency and to be more comfortable in groups. It only got worse for him.

My daughter had a terrible year when she was 8 and here was my younger child struggling greatly at age 6. At any age, as their parent, it breaks your heart and younger than his sister, mindblowingly heartbreaking. (because I could not think of a better word to describe it, I could say “monumentally” but even that does not fit. Words alone can not describe the experience.)

We now knew and understood what OCD was and how it manifested and yet, our son had different struggles than his sister. A good friend identified his struggles as “social anxiety” and from the moment she said that to me, I realized how true it was. My 6 year old son had social anxiety and OCD.

Now, I see that this is confounded by being highly gifted and all that entails. Or maybe being highly gifted was what it made it look like social anxiety. Yet, I see too clearly how he also has social anxiety. I know that can also be a manifestation of PTSD.

I don’t use the term PTSD lightly. I was so reluctant to say it for so long knowing how severe those with PTSD suffer and how often their PTDS is triggered by abuse and war and other catastrophic events. Yet, because of the age of my child, one year old, when his sister suffered a severe sudden onset of mental illness which included a dramatic personality change, this alone could be enough to cause PTSD. And then a year later, when he was two, his father suffered a massive heart attack with cardiac arrest in our home and spent 12 days in the hospital which meant his primary caregiver, me, his mother, was gone for 12 or more hours every day. From an attachment parenting perspective, this was traumatic for him. And one year after that, when he was three, his mother was in a car accident. Luckily, I did not have to spend a night in the hospital, only a few hours to get tiny glass cleaned out of my body and be checked over for more serious injuries. Yet, I was painfully sore and incapacitated physically for a while and I suffered emotionally for a long time. I believe it was a big trigger for me for my bipolar depression as was my husband’s heart attack.

So many factors affecting my son’s behavior.

Many factors have affected our entire family. I now believe my children and myself all have at least a mild form of PTSD. All four of us are now doing much better and yet, all four of take an antidepressant. The same medication seams to be helping all of us. Yet turning to medication was never my first choice. My daughter was 11 before we tried medication for her and it took time to see the effects of it helping and along with therapy, her personality came back. I saw how much it helped her overcome her OCD and knew it was important to not wait for my younger child to suffer to the point she did before trying medication, after many other natural treatments and diet adjustments and supplements did not help enough.

I digress…

This post is not about medication for anxiety. I can write more on that later.

I feel the need to defend myself whenever the issue of medication for my children comes up due to being active in natural health forums and have people send me angry and overly assertive messages asking “Why is your child on prozac?”

Let us return to the conversation of highly gifted and sensitive boys.

All of our children are unique.

They each have their own personality, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses.

We need to stop and pay attention to who they are and to look deeper to the why of their behavior.

We need to respect our children as much as we would respect our best friend in order to help them navigate in this world. I believe we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We are not of this world, yet we live in it.

Our true self, is not of this world. Our soul, our essence. Whatever you want to call it.

We are here in human form and experiencing life on earth as a human.

Being human has many challenges. Being human in the 21st century in the USA has it’s own set of special challenges.

We need to embrace emotions especially in our boys! We need to honor who they are and allow them to space to feel their feelings and help to give them the tools they need to handle feelings that can be overwhelming to them. Feelings that can lead to challenging behavior, challenging for us and challenging for them.

Love to hear any thoughts you have as well as your stories of your children. I will be writing more on this topic and it will be included in the talks my husband and I will be doing beginning next month. We are working together under the name, Focused Healthy Families to speak on Conscious, collaborative and respectful parenting.

The Top of the Mountain

Three years ago, when my youngest child was 6 years old, we hiked the turn back trail at Crowder’s Mountain State Park. We went with my then, 17 year old son and his friends. My older son and his friends went the Pinnacle Trail hike that goes to the top of the mountain, it is labeled as “strenuous”. I had not been exercising much and so we opted for the moderate hike on the turnback trail. When you get half way up the turn back trial, it connects to the Pinnacle Trail. When we got to that point, my 6 year old son wanted to keep going and hike to the top. I knew it was too much for me but that he could probably do it. I told him my goal was to work up to being able to hike up the Pinnacle trail to the top of the mountain with him.

We went on more moderate hikes over the years… my depression overtook me for a while and I did little exercise and only walks in parks.

We joined a homeschool hiking group and made it to a few hikes along with doing some other hiking with my kids. Many of the hikes with the homeschool group have been on days that I work or we have other commitments, so we have not made it to many.

I began thinking about returning to Crowders Mountain this year. Moving out of depression has brought me a new sense of life and energy over the past several months. I knew to do that strenuous hike, it needed to be in cool weather, spring, before it gets to hot here in NC. The weather has been all over the place lately and we have had much rain. I took on a new job recently which has left me extra busy with less time with my kids.

I decided to make a plan and share the event with the homeschool hiker group. I posted the idea first… not many respond to an “idea” and so I made the commitment on Monday, April 16 to hike on Friday April 20 and set it up as an event on the homeschool hikers group as well as another local group.

Several responded that it was too last minute notice for them… not likely unschoolers…. For me, that was what I could do. I never know my work hours until the week of and often shorter notice than that. The weather was forecast to be 65 degrees for the high and sunny with chilly morning air. The wether looked perfect for this hike!!!!

I got one maybe response. The night before, I realized the one group was holding another event the same day. I decided Friday morning to ask Jason if he wanted to do our hike or join the others for their park day event. He choose our hike.

I was glad he did. I had promised him we would do this hike and three years have passed since I made that promise.

I had set up for 11am start time for the hike, knowing I had an hour drive to get to the state park. With no one else signed up to join us, I pushed the time back. I had worked the prior 3 days and needed a slow morning day.

By the time we had lunch, snacks, water and all ready to go, it was 12:30 pm. It didn’t’ matter, we had no other commitments that day.

It took extra time to get to the right entrance to the park to get to the visitor center where we needed to be to begin our hike. We got our map and talked to the park office people and decided to start on the Pinnacle Trail to head up and then coming down we could take the Turnback trail to return. We had a plan!

I had forgotten my hiking stick at home, something I knew I needed. I realized it a few minutes after we left the house and I asked Jason, “Should I go back and get it or trust we can find a good stick when we get there?”

“Trust we can find a stick” he replied.

And so I trusted.

Jason found me a decent stick to use at the start of the trial. Off we went. It was 2pm.

We hiked and talked and I listened to some music to motivate me on the climb up. It was a rocky path and yet with my hiking boots and my stick, I was doing good.

We went a long way with no signs to tell us how far to go. It was 2.2 miles to the top and the sign had said “2 hours round trip”. I figured it might takes us a little longer to do the hike. We stopped as we needed, ate snacks and drank water. I drank a total of 4 bottles of water on the way up the mountain.

We came to the point where the TurnBAck trail heads back down the mountain and at that point it was 1.5 miles to the top. Tom Petty sang, ” I won’t back down” on my iPhone as we hiked.

It was difficult for a while and we grew tired yet we kept on.

We got to the “end of the trail”. We had done it! Jason said, “this is disappointing”.

There was no great view.

We had made it! We got to the end of the Pinnacle Trail.

I texted my older son, Harrison, who was at work but had wanted to join us today on this hike.

He was telling us to go up the giant rocks past the warning sign. What???

Jason and I were both very nervous about that.

He was serious. Jason wanted a better view. We had come this far already…

I sent him a picture of the rocks where we saw someone climb up. Surely, he couldn’t mean climbing up this rock?!?

This was the moment of truth…

I was impressed with myself for making it up this strenuous Pinnacle Trail and was satisfied with that. Yet, to get this far and not see the view from the top of the mountain…. Jason needed some encouraging,…

The warning sign… that alone would stop me.

I was grateful I had cell service at the top of the mountain and that Harrison was able to respond quickly to my texts even though he was at work.

Jason and I mustered the courage…

The first rock was the biggest hurdle. I helped Jason to climb it and then figured a way for me to get up while carrying my back pack. I figured I would want my back pack at the top to enjoy our raspberries and chocolate we had brought and to write in my journal. Harrison said “its not far”.

We were cautious at first. There was a steep drop off the side of the mountain only 10 feet away. Deep breaths, and some tapping and we got more comfortable with being on top of the mountain beyond the WARNING sign.

We got more comfortable and walked around scouting out a good place to sit and enjoy our snacks. We tried several different rocks.. and then we found our spot and we got to enjoy the raspberries and chocolate.

Jason and I overcame many fears and enjoyed ourselves at the top of the mountain. It was 4pm when we got to the top, 2 hours after starting out. It was almost 5 when I decided we needed to head back down. Jason didn’t want to leave. I had him bring his gratitude journal with him and was so grateful for that moment where we sat at the top of the mountain both writing in our journals.

I joked about a helicopter to take us down with Jason and then with Harrison. I was tired but feeling goo and so empowered. I was not really worried about the trip down. Somehow that inner voice in me knew that a helicopter down was really a good idea.

Next post will be entitled, “Coming Down the Mountain!”

9 Elephants in the (Class) Room: Post 5- Reflections on how real learning happens 

Will Richardson writes in his article, 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us

At a recent morning workshop for school leaders at a fairly small New England public school district, about an hour into a conversation focused on what they believed about how kids learn best, an assistant superintendent somewhat surprisingly said aloud what many in the room were no doubt feeling.

“When I really try to square what I believe about how kids learn and what we practice in our classrooms, it unsettles me,” she said. “And it frustrates me.”

As it should.

I have been reflecting and commenting on each of these 9 elephants as Will describes them.

Here’s is number 5, quoted from his article:

5. We know that grades, not learning, are the outcomes that students and parents are most interested in. On New Year’s Day of this year, high school sophomore Emily Mitchum published an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette where she wrote,

This system…has caused my generation to develop an unhealthy obsession over grades instead of learning, in my opinion. The harsh reality is that we really aren’t learning as much as we could be. We study because we have tests, and the day after the test we forget all of the information we studied.

Whenever I reference Emily’s post to school audiences, most heads nod in acknowledgement. And the same holds true for parent groups. Ask most parents what their child has actually learned as represented by that grade on the report card and you’ll get little if any response. (I’ve tried it.)

I read the above mentioned op-ed piece by Emily Mitchum.

She writes that “her generation” has “an unhealthy obsession over grades instead of learning”.

Emily post was published December 31, 2015. She is of the millennial generation. She was a sophomore in high school when she wrote it in fall of 2015. That makes her about 18 or 19 at the time of my writing now, about the age of my oldest child.

When I read Emily’s post, I nodded in agreement because I feel that my education in the 1980s had the same effect on me.

I graduated college in 1992 with a bachelor of science degree and could not pick up a book to read for fun for a long time. After 17 years of school, I was so done with reading! Emily’s generation is not the first generation to grow up in a school system where grades are more important than actual learning.

Do you remember what you learned in fifth grade?

Watch the show, “Are you smarter than a 5th grader” and you will quickly discover that most of us do not remember so much of what we learned in school.

Reflecting on my own education, I recall high school:

Work hard, study, get good grades

Get all As because you need As to get a scholarship

To go to college, to get into the college of your choice and have money to pay for it

I know my focus all through high school from 1984-1988 was getting good grades!

Generation X had this focus of all about the grades and not about the learning…

Study for the SATS because you need that to get into college

At least a 1200 on the SATS to get the best academic scholarship

I got 1140 or 1170 on my SATS, not quite as high as I needed for the better scholarships…

But my private, expensive college did give me a scholarship to attend, because I was a student that got good grades and scored well on the SATS.

And then when you have an academic scholarship…

You need to maintain a 3.5 GPA in order to keep your scholarship

The measly $3000 to pay for college that cost $12,0000 per year..

And the year I graduated it cost, $15,000 per year and yet my scholarship remained the same amount all 4 years

Loans, lots of loans to pay for the rest of it…

And while in college, I got induced into the Occupational Therapy Honor Scoiety, because I had a 3.5 or higher GPA…

More focus on maintaining the GPA

Only As and some Bs were allowed

Getting a C was devastating

I can recall each and every C I ever got though my 21 years of school…

Handwriting, Anatomy

Hmm… well, it has been 30 year since I graduated high-school.

I didn’t get many C.S. in those 21 years… mostly As

Nearly all As in math except 6th grade because I had a terrible math teacher

I got a B in 6th grade

I got Bs in physical education

I got a B in music in 7th or 8th grade because I couldn’t sing all on key

Seriously, part of my grade was whether or not I could sing on key

What kind of instruction did I receive to sing on key?

We sang lined in and he told the girl next to me to sing in my ear,

“Come on Menzo, you’re Italian, you should be able to sing on key!”

My middle school music teacher really said that to me out loud in front of the entire class

Middle school music class

Taught me to not sing in public

That music teacher taught me to be ashamed of my singing voice, because I couldn’t sing on key,

We got an A if we could sing all on key, a B for part on and part off, and a C if we were all off key

I think I got a B in singing

Probably the only girl in the class who couldn’t sing completely on key


Never thought about it that way before, but it’s true, he didn’t say anything like that to any of the boys

I digress….must be another blog in that experience


Report cards

Academic ranking

Grouped in classes according to our math and reading ability

Segregated based on our grades, our test scores

I think I have made my point

It has been more than the current generation who has had an unhealthy obsession with grades and test scores.

Even in college, which i did enjoy and had some wonderful amazing professors and I know I did some real learning in those 4 years, there was this obsession with grades.

And to be honest…

The real learning happens when I did my field work : internships working along side Occupational Therapists, hands on learning.

I learned far more in those 6 months of fieldworks experiences, thanI did in 4 years of college classes.

I learned more in all of the jobs I held…


Bussing tables and waitressing

Nursing assistant

Physical Therapy Aide

Activities worker assistant at Allentown State Hospital

Filing papers for my dad’s financial planning business…

I learned I did not want to file papers for a living and it kept me motivated to stay in college!

Retail work, Blockbuster video..

I learned the difference between half dollars and silver dollars and to pay attention when working at a cash register

And that my boss at Blockbuster video was awesome even when I told him that I took half dollars for payment for about $30 worth of video rentals and thought they were dollars and so my drawer was short about fifteen dollars.

I learned to count back change!

Everyone needs to learn to count back change.

Real learning happens in life all the time.

Real learning happens even when grades and tests are not involved.

Real learning is more likely to happen…

When grades and tests are NOT involved.