By Deborah Simon.
You know those professional driver courses…the ones where you can slalom and drive on two wheels and generally do things that require a helmet and harness? Raise your hand if you wanted to take one. Go ahead, raise the hand, no one’s looking but me, and my arm is waving wildly already, so you’re in good company.
Now, WHY do we want to take that course? Pleasure? YES! Taking your life into your own hands has a bit of an adrenaline rush, doesn’t it? Especially when they make you sign away just about every right you have before you can touch the steering wheel. Honestly, I’ve seen mortgage paperwork whose stack was thinner.
Mastery? YES! It’s not like we NEED a refresher course in operating a motor vehicle, regardless of what the nice officer who pulls us over suggests. But there is something to be said about knowing something beyond just the basics (can you see the nice officer nodding vigorously in agreement?). Learning WHY you turn into a spin makes it a whole lot more likely that you’ll do it when the time comes.
Status? YES! It would be a whole lot easier to teach our kids how to drive if we feel more confident in what we know and can show them that we really ARE qualified. You know teenagers, always questioning authority’s right to be authority. Well, mine started doing that when they were five, so maybe it’s not just teenagers.
Next question is, when’s the last time you did something JUST FOR YOU? Something you ENJOYED? Something that invested in YOU? Yes, besides the candlelit, aromatherapy bubble bath that you snuck in between the kids’ night terrors last night.
I know how hard it is. I’ve used all the excuses. We have some tough kids to raise! Lots of smart people out there have been telling parents to stop ignoring themselves and, essentially, get a life. Thing is, those smart people don’t really tend to be in the trenches, do they? Don’t really understand the mental power it takes to just survive and raise these kids every day. It’s been said that to really understand someone you have to walk in their shoes. While my shoes are not quite yours (size 7W here, what about you?), I can say that I’ve experienced a lot of the same issues, and there really is something to the whole get-a-life thing.
So I asked myself one day, what would I do for pleasure, mastery, and status? Me, an insanely busy, teacher-turned-homeschooler-of-totally-draining-highly-gifted/2e-kids with two other full-time jobs to take up my time? And then I admitted it to myself — school.
Pleasure, check! No, really. I like school (yes, I’m a little weird, always have been, so just expect it).
Mastery, check! I know how to teach. Did it for years in just about every grade. Taught in schools with guards and bars on the windows (okay, maybe not BARS, but there was a locked gate), “open” classrooms (remember those?), and AP classrooms. But teacher-training was much more hands-on, in-the-trenches stuff than understandable theory, at least mine was. Not to mention the fact that, as a gifted adult, I’d sure like to know some of the behind-the-scenes information to prove to my therapist that I’m really NOT crazy.
Status, check! I’ve never been one of those people who needed letters after my name for the letters’ sake, and I’m still not, but sometimes I just want to show that I really DO know something about education to all those raised eyebrows when homeschooling comes up, you know? And I still do some advocating for parents in the local districts, so the letters can be a foot in the door in that case.
If you ended up at the same conclusion I did, you’re not alone. I can’t tell you how many homeschooling parents with gifted kids have wondered aloud about the same pastime. The buts were way too loud, though, for many to actually go any further with that particular investment in themselves. School costs money, time, energy, resources….and excesses of those valuable things don’t just float around.
I’m here to tell you, though, that you CAN do it. And it’s not really all that hard. Here’s the play-by-play:
1. The Decision
See the paragraph above about “If you ended up at the same conclusion I did….” This is probably the most time-consuming step (which is why I spent the first half of this article talking about it…and because I like to hear myself talk).
2. The Choice
First, know your options. In-person or online? Are you the kind of student who simply must have peers around or see your professor face-to-face? Are you that midnight hermit sitting in front of a computer screen? Personally, I don’t live in a place where commuting to and from a brick-and-mortar university is feasible. I didn’t really have much of a choice. So, online it was!
Second, what program? This one is a little more involved and the variables are limited by the answer to option #1. There are only so many programs offered at the local university. But, since I chose online, there were more things to choose from. That made it harder. Yes, harder. I’m not a university provost. How do I know what I want to study? Don’t they just hand out catalogues with all that listed?
Go back to your decision — why are you doing this? For me, that was advocacy, homeschool, gifted kids, and gifted adults. What I wanted in a program were courses that focused on things that would help ME. Then I parsed through the options and narrowed them down. Again, harder than you think! There are these buzzwords educational institutions use:
· Differentiating – This is what you do when its time to fix lunch and one kid wants grilled cheese and one kid wants pizza (visit a restaurant, of course!)
· Quantitative – 1, 2, 4, 5…(wait, that’s not right)
· Qualitative – The difference between a clean kitchen and one where the dishes obscure the doorway
· Survey – The way you examine the house when your mother (versus your mother-in-law) is on her way over for a visit
· Socioeconomic – where you were born and how much the IRS gets from you on April 15
Those are just a few. I recommend a good dictionary.
3. The Prioritization
Here’s where you pull out and dust off that investment concept. No more hiding in the dark (the REAL reason for that candlelit bath was so the kids didn’t know you were there, admit it!). Whether it’s an agreement with your significant other, a babysitter, or a carefully researched day-camp for the kids, you need to make time for yourself. Time when you’ll be at your BEST. Are you a morning person? A night-owl? Do you like silence? Blaring music? How long does it take you to complete a writing assignment? Do you work best at home? The library? Do you read quickly? Need a good highlighter? Like books-on-tape? Give every aspect a thorough going over here, because it will mean the difference between your success and your decision to give up. Set yourself up for success! (Wow, I should sell that line to the motivational speakers, might help pay for school!)
4. The Initiation
How many times have you failed? If you have gifted kids, there’s a good chance you’re gifted yourself, and we all know what perfectionism means to the gifted (if you don’t, then just come sit in my house for a few hours and you’ll leave with a pretty good handle on it). I have one thing to say here, so listen carefully. You will fail. There will come a time when you reach the limit of your knowledge and resources. Know it, own it, and move on. My first assignment was a real eye-opener. I thought I had this all figured out. I took HOURS getting it right (what? how long has it been since YOU did APA formatting?!). Then I got my grade. What?! I owned it, and I moved on. After a short tantrum, in private.
5. The Immersion
After getting over the initiation, I found that I was free to enjoy. Yes, ENJOY! There’s supposed to be an element of pleasure in all this, remember? Up to this point, it’s easy to lose sight of that. Now, with all the prep work is done, the foundation is laid, and you’re free! That’s not to say that you might not bounce back and forth between Step Four and Step Five a bit. Every class is a new beginning, and teachers are all different.
For now, though, just sit back and ENJOY THE RIDE! I’ll admit that, in another several months, I may come up with a Step Six since I’m not all the way through the process, but I’m confident enough to already be looking to the next personal investment. Doctorate, baby!
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Deborah Simon has been involved with gifted advocacy and support ever since she and her husband first encountered the “G” word in relation to their oldest daughter. After teaching for ten years, Deborah is now homeschooling her own gifted children and obtaining a M.Ed. in Gifted Education. She is President of West Sound Gifted, Talented and Twice Exceptional, writes on gifted topics, maintains a rambling blog (www.braverthanyoubelieve.com), works with local school districts and state gifted organizations, and, just for variety’s sake, has a rare breed chicken farm.