Category Archives: Interests

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Autism Intervention or Connection?

I wanted to share my experiences with intervention with my sons with autism, and maybe now that I have perspective, see what was useful and what wasn’t as important as I had thought. Language Intervention I have three children diagnosed … Continue reading

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Stuffed Animal Imaginary Friends

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In my book, The Right Side of Normal, I talk about imaginary friends being a representation of a right-brained child’s highly developed imagination. I also talk about the idea that right-brained children can view stuffed animals and toys as “real” … Continue reading

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Dressing Up Medieval-Style

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Admittedly, I’m not a dress-up kind of person. I’m not a decoration kind of person. Hmmm. Left-brained/right-brained stuff again? That kind of creativity just isn’t my thing at all. I’m very, very left-brained. I don’t do Halloween decorations or outdoor … Continue reading

Natural Math Progression

I wrote a comment at Peter Gray’s “Psychology Today” in response to his blog post entitled, “When Less is More:  The Case for Teaching Less Math in Schools.” I thought it would be useful if I shared the journey my son, Eli, took for learning and loving math.

Eli is pursing both a computer science and mathematics degree at 19 today.  He showed from an early age that he would be gifted in the spatial arena.  He viewed everything spatially, and math was no exception.  In fact, I would have to surmise that those who are builder-types and view things spatially have a natural bent toward learning and loving mathematics.  I believe his spatial skill development truly started through his play choices.

It started with puzzles, like many preschoolers, except Eli noticed his older siblings’s alphabet puzzle at around 18 months old.  I remember my mother being impressed that he could do it (upside down at that time she watched him) when she came to visit when Eli’s new little brother was born (they are 18 months apart).  When putting it in upside-down, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were simply using the shape of the puzzle to find its match, showing early spatial ability.  He continued to love puzzles up to his early teen years.

Eli just before turning 4.

Eli at about 2.5 years old.

And continued into higher levels:

Eli at around 11 years.


Eli at about 9.5 years old with a 3-D puzzle.

At around the same age of 1.5 years old, Eli also took notice of his big brother’s die cast Thomas the Tank Engine train collection.  He would meticulously link them together and drive them around a large space in my kitchen.  He liked to get right down at the same level of the trains, with his face pressed into the floor, as he drove them around.  This showed early skill development of visualization of spatial concepts.

Eli at almost 2 years old.

Eli getting an up close and personal view

When Eli was almost 3 years old, he received his first Brio wooden train tracks for Christmas.  Oh, was he excited!  He began constructing train track configurations ever since, including any other style he found or was given.  I remember well this little corner in our living room was put to good use as Eli’s train corner.  Again, the visualization and spatial skills necessary to accomplish this is evident.

Eli with a motorized Tomy track.

Eli at almost 4.

I don’t know when I bought the Lincoln Logs to have in the house.  I think I may have done so when my two older children were younger, thinking it to be a classic toy, so I would bring that into the home.  I may have also done it on my “all wooden toy” kick.  Needless to say, when Eli discovered them, they were next on his agenda to conquer.  One day, I was to get a big surprise when I walked into his room.  I found that he had taken the Lincoln Log pieces and laid them out to represent all the single digit numbers.  He was about age 4.5 years.  I guess that would have been my first indication that he would naturally be drawn to math!  He would subsequently build with Lincoln Logs traditionally.

Eli created at around his 5th birthday.

Eli created a few months before 5 years old.

All types of building material was fair game for Eli to explore and develop his spatial skills.  I found a screw and nail building set in which Eli was challenged in new ways as well as using to enhance his train track creations.

Eli at a little over 6 years old.

Eli at about 4.5 years old.

Naturally, it was only a matter of time before Legos entered the scene.  He started dabbling in it around 4 years old, and went to around 14 years old before he traded it in for computer programming.  He started making stop-gap action movies with his Legos with Lego Studio around 11 years old.  Technics and Lego Mindstorms followed shortly after that.  He seemed to always want to build with the actual directions the first time, and then he would often build his own creations.

Eli with his own Lego creation around 6.5 years old.

Eli searching through a bucket of Legos around 5.5 years old.

It takes great visualization and spatial ability to create novel Lego designs.  Eli made a pyramid after talking about it in our homeschooling.  Inside this pyramid was just as intricate with mazes as the outside was able to depict its representation.  Further, Eli was making contraptions before they existed (or at least before we knew they did if they were in existence at the time).

Eli's contraption creation at 6.5 years old.

Eli creation at around 9.5 years old.

To conclude the building aspect to his math progression, there was a season when he would intersperse the diverse types of resources and create cities.

Eli and one of his cities around his 6th birthday.

Thus, beginning at 18 months with building his train cars to the age of 14 with his Legos, truly was the foundation of thinking mathematically for Eli, in my opinion, and extensively developing his visualization and spatial skills that would serve him well both for math and for computer programming.  He would spend time during this entire timeframe of at least 6-8 hours a day building.

It was between the ages of 4-5 years old that Eli started dabbling in areas recognized as math by society, though often not valued as much as it should be, especially in the early years for a right-brained builder type.  From 5-7, Eli discovered manipulative-based logic math experiences through pentominoes, tangrams, geoboards, pattern blocks, etc.  He would spend hours challenging himself through books and visual diagrams related to these resources.

Eli with a geometry puzzle book at 4.5 years old.

More resources used during this timeframe:
And still more, although this is actually not exhaustive, but highlights what Eli was attracted to:

Because he showed such a fascination from these types of resources, I could see that math intrigued him, so I started introducing both arithmetic as well as other spatial-oriented activities.  It was between 5-6 years old that I shared dot-to-dots with him, which he enjoyed.  I also went on-line and printed off some mazes that I thought he would like.  Further, at that same timeframe, I shared and gave access to how tracing paper works.  As I looked in his 6-year-old folder, I noticed he would trace the mazes I gave him.  This certainly sparked ideas in his mind!  Here are two samples of his original progression with skill development through mazes:

Eli's maze at 6 years old.

Eli’s hand-drawn original maze at 9 years old.

Also from 5-8, I exposed him to simple addition and subtraction.  Although he is a strong right-brained learner, he also has a few left-brained traits, mainly organization and orderliness, that he gets from living with autism. With that in mind, as well as the idea that the “puzzle challenge” to math was forefront in how he viewed it, he seemed to take to it quite easily.  As for reading, that was more traditionally along the right-brained timeframe of 8-10 years old.

Starting at 8 years old, Eli was ready to do more in-depth and even formal math, so I experimented with offering him the math series I had picked up through the recommendation of an admired unschooling friend.  The series is called “Real Math” that was sponsored by the National Science Foundation.  It highlights patterns in math and thinking skills through story problems and other strategies employed.  It takes you through pre-algebra, but is no longer available it would appear upon trying to locate it through the internet searches.  He continued with this series until 14 years old.  Other math programs that I have tried that I think would be as advantageous would be Singapore and Math U See.

While doing this, I would share “math tricks” like doubling numbers and adding/subtracting one, or using 10, etc.  He would get excited and created his own “Math Trick Book”, drawing out the concepts and creating his own “now you try it section”.  Certainly, there were always opportunities that would arise that would show Eli how his amazing spatial skills are involved in real life.  Here he is at a science museum putting together a cathedral:

At almost 8 years old, the "before".

At 9, I rented a piano to teach myself how to play.  As Eli observed me learning, he sat down and started teaching himself to play using his strong spatial ability.  Although he eventually learned the names of the notes (probably around 12-13 years old), he still plays spatially.  (In other words, he sees that a particular note found on the paper falls on the piano in a particular location.  He can do this with large groups of notes.)  Playing an instrument is simply an extension of a strong spatial awareness.

Eli practicing at 9.5 years old.

At around age 13, Eli wanted to learn to computer program.  We found some great books that kick started him, and from age 14-16, he spent about 6-8 hours a day programming.  At 14, he wanted to do a formal algebra program, tried Saxon math, hated it and asked me to “find me a program that gives it to me straight.”  So, he went to Math U See and loved it.  The reason he wanted it straight was because he naturally knows how to apply it.  In fact, many times, he was already using various aspects in his programming (like graphing).

Here are his first two resources for learning to computer program:

And the third and fourth ones:

At 17, he took trigonometry at the community college, working up and through calculus and differential equations, etc.  He literally gets 100% on his exams.  He has said that “when the instructor explains a concept, it’s as if I already knew it”. Math is “natural” to him.  In fact, I claim that math is his primary language; English his second language.

As outlined by my Collaborative Learning Process, I believe by honoring Eli’s natural progression toward math, through his creative outlets in the young years, and feeding this gift that revealed itself in the middle years, led to the explosion in computer programming that riddled his teen years and his subsequent choice to pursue it as a career.  He also intends to minor in math.

About Being Beautiful

I’ve been thinking about my daughter, Abbey, a lot lately as she traverses her time at college. We have an amazing relationship and she gifts me access to her journey. Recently on my Homeschooling Creatively list, a concern was shared about someone’s daughter and how she was socially different from the other girls. I believe this is one of the benefits of homeschooling. On the other hand, one has to have a strong foundation to stand unique among a sea of cultural conditioning on what beauty is and standing for who you are.

I feel I did two things to buoy up my children: Our learning environment is strengths-based and gift-centered, so they each have had an anchor of their specialness and knowledge of their gifts going into the teen years. And we did a lot of talking and discussing and exploring as anthropologists of sorts as to why young people do the things they do and believe the things they believe and adopt the things they adopt. Through this process, each of my children were able to mindfully choose what they believe, adopt, and do.  Because of this, each of my children seems to be able to embrace their differentness, allow it to shine out as they stand tall, even as they travel the road to finding their place in the world.  It seems to exemplify the idea of “being in the world, but not of it.”   Choosing to unschool requires it; having been unschooled naturally unfolds into it.

Anyway, I listen to music as I drive, and this song grabbed my attention as I thought of my daughter. I told her about it, and she immediately asked, Is it “Beautiful to Him”? She loves the song as much as I do. Here are two YouTube videos using the song from two different young women (whom I don’t know) in our worldwide church that I thought did a nice job.  Enjoy!

(Anyone want to share with me how to embed videos?)

watch?v=BE5KBtePL90

watch?v=0WL6T04L7U0

Here are the lyrics:

“Beautiful to Him”
by Rachel Thibodeau

So much noise, so much peace destroyed,
I can hardly hear the voice, leading me through the void,
So much noise.
The world’s little lies,
Destruction in disguise, opportunities to compromise,
To make me beautiful in their eyes,
But I’m not gonna buy the world’s little lies.

‘Cuz I define myself and find my beauty in the light He gives.
I’m refined by His divine intentions every day I live.
It doesn’t matter what the world believes,
Or what they say that beauty means,
It comes from within,
I want to be beautiful to Him.

He’s given me His trust, so I’ll be strong enough,
To run from a dangerous touch, I don’t need that kind of love,
I don’t need that crutch, He’s given me his trust.

I define myself and find my beauty in the light He gives.
I’m refined by His divine intentions every day I live.
It doesn’t matter what the world believes,
Or what they say that beauty means,
It comes from within,
I want to be beautiful to Him.

I know how to shine, my life’s not really mine.
It’s not about a worldly climb, it’s all about His design.
So in His eyes, I want to shine.

‘Cuz I define myself and find my beauty in the light He gives.
I’m refined by His divine intentions every day I live.
It doesn’t matter what the world believes,
Or what they say that beauty means,
It comes from within,
I want to be beautiful to Him.

I want to live to have His peace,
And feel the holiness He seeks.
It comes from within.
I want to be beautiful… to Him.

Passions, Obsessions, and Self-Stimulatory Behaviors

I believe there is a lot of confusion about these terms used in home/unschooling, in regard to the right-brained learner, and in the autism community.  I thought I might be able to shed some light on the differences based on my experiences with my various children.

I think Alex, age 14, can serve to illustrate the difference between all three to start us off.  Alex was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when he was 2 years old.  He has two older brothers diagnosed as well.  One of his “special interests” around that age was ceiling fans.  However, as a 2-3 year old with limited cognition, his interest in them was purely for self-stimulatory satisfaction.  He enjoyed watching the blades spin around and around and gets a kick out of the sensation he gets from watching it from certain angles.  Around 3-4 years old, his interest shifted into obsession, even almost addiction.  Suddenly, it’s almost like the joy of watching it no longer existed, but was replaced with a need to turn them on and off, with a frantic-like quality.  I found that he didn’t want to do anything else, in any way, shape or form.  The most important difference, though, that made it an obsession/addiction was the idea that he was taking no pleasure in it, and he couldn’t seem to stop his need to do it all day long.  (We “broke” all the fans in the house, and that helped him “snap out of it” after a few months, so that we could “fix them”, and he could go back to enjoying the experience of watching them again.)  I don’t know when it went from self-stimulatory behavior to passion.  I think it was around 8 years old when he realized that there were more components to ceiling fans than just the thrill of the viewing of it.  He started to assemble fans, collect fans, create his own fans, understand how all the parts create the whole, and to appreciate vintage fans.  Alex has a full life with several focuses or passions as well as meaningful relationships and interactions, with future plans and hopes and dreams.  One of his passions is ceiling fans, which may lead to his future career path.  He is a part of on-line forums for fan lovers and they have interesting conversations among each other.  He has even found an IRL friend through his passion who shares it in a meaningful way (he restores ceiling fans at s Habitat for Humanity Restore).

So, my definition in practice of these three words are this:

•  Self-stimulatory behaviors create enjoyable sensations, particularly sensory input sensations, that a person does for pleasure.

Some examples of this are when Adam, age 16, diagnosed with autism (moderately-severely affected) flips coins into a bucket over and over again.  He loves how it feels on his fingers, how it sounds as it rhythmically clinks, and how it visually looks as it floats into an arc into the pile created.  Or when Alex enjoys something for whatever reason, he makes a particular noise while tensing up his body and rubbing his fingers together as a way to express sensorially his satisfaction.  When he was younger, around 1 year old, Alex would crawl into a tight space under my night stand and play with a cord.  His enjoyment of this practice was a positive sensory experience.

I think the categorization of “self-stimulatory behavior” is overused in the autism community.  I believe it is most true from those who view autism as a negative attribute (that’s a whole other post, because I feel there are two sides to that thought) and one to be expunged.  For instance, I believe many would consider Alex’s ceiling fan passion a self-stimulatory behavior.  He can do actions that express that side, but it is overall a passion.  A good example of the misconception is playing the piano.   There is certainly a sensorial appreciation to playing with the listening of the music to the touching of the keys to the patterning of the action, but for most people, it is either a pleasant skill to enjoy or a passion.  Another personal example is Eli, age 18, diagnosed with high functioning autism, starting at the age of 1.5 years old, spent hours with trains.  He would lie down as he meticulously linked the metal cast die trains together, close one eye, and pull the train toward him and past as he watched his creation from various angles.  The experts would call that “looking at the parts”, but in actuality, he was enjoying his three-dimensionality aspect of being right-brained.  There is one type of conclusion in the autism community about “enjoying parts”, but there may be another explanation as so many individuals with autism are right-brained learners, with three-dimensionality gifts, that may be exploring what that means by bringing parts up close and personal for a season while younger.

•  Obsession is when an interest has taken over a life devoid of other enjoyable features and there is no longer joy associated with the action.

Some examples of this is when Alex, 1-2 years old at the time, would line up his Duplo blocks into a line over and over.  He would often get agitated as he did it, thus, not taking any enjoyment from it.  However, he would get upset if it didn’t line up as he wanted, or if it got messed up.  He was not receiving sensorial benefit from it, nor was he enjoying the experience.  Sometimes, Adam accidentally lets one of his self-stimulatory behaviors turn into an obsession related to obsessive-compulsive disorder.  For instance, if he has no other cognitive stimulation going on in his life, instead of using his coin flipping as a sensory outlet and calming enjoyment action, he can begin to create patterns within his mind as he does the flipping that begins to cycle.  He noticeably becomes agitated while flipping, his actions become spasmodic, and the sounds he makes become intense.  He is no longer enjoying the experience and often has a difficult time completing whatever cycle he has created that has taken over the process.

What it is not is often confused with the beginning stages of a passion, particularly with people with autism who may seem “out of balance” at this stage.  For instance, when Eli was 1.5-4 years old, he spent hours creating train tracks and playing his trains.  Then, from 4-12, he spent an equal amount of time with Legos.  During this timeframe, Eli had no interest in friends, though he had consistent interactions in formal settings I brought him to, and had many “odd” ways of interacting and difficulty communicating effectively.  However, Eli was gaining much pleasure from his interest, he was competent in diverse ways, he continued to learn and grow from its practice, and he was in balance for the stage of autism he was at during that time.

Alex’s interest in John Denver songs and the Beatles may be misinterpreted by experts/people of a different perspective as either a self-stimulatory behavior or an obsession, but I see it has a developing passion.  Alex will listen to a particular song over and over again, taking great pleasure out of hearing it, so it could be seen as a pleasant sensorial experience as his reasons for doing this.  Or, because of this repetition, it may be seen as an obsession.  However, though I believe he is having a pleasant sensory experience, he is always learning and growing in more information about these two artists.  It has also expanded into other music.  He has also developed other skills through the interest such as creating his own montages.  I see it as a passion.

Because of the nature of autism, particularly in the early stages of development when a young person with autism is still trying to figure out our “culture” of cognitive understanding, the things that interest them may be more sensory in nature because of how attuned their sensory system is to their surroundings.  Further, as they get older, and if they have not been helped in knowing how to interact with the world in which they live, the interest may become obsessive because they don’t know where else to take it. However, I find that as we expand their understanding of their interest to the world, it becomes a healthy passion like anyone else enjoys.  I wrote a post about that idea here.

•  Passion is when an interest engulfs your being and it brings great pleasure and satisfaction, with consistent growth and/or learning associated with it, insomuch as a person wants to spend many hours a day engaged in its pursuit.

A right-brained learner often is engaged in a passion, particularly one of the creative outlets (music/dance, art/drawing, theater’/showmanship, math/numbers, video games/computers, mazes/puzzles, fashion/sewing, cooking/gardening, building/electronics).  They will spend hours and hours, days and days, years and years in its pursuit in their ability to reach excellence (it is said that 10,000 hours of dedicated pursuit is needed to excel in something).  I wonder if because our schooling system is focused on a generalist education, that we think anything that someone spends hours pursuing must be bad, thus, placing the negative word “obsession” on it.

Some examples of passion pursuits in our house is the hours upon hours of Lego building Eli engaged in, or the hours upon hours of drawing Eric, age 22, engaged in.  Interestingly, Eli’s Lego building led him to computer programming.  At 14 years old, he started spending hours and hours dedicated to learning how to program.  He carried around his programming book as his “bible”.  We give value to this as a passion because it is recognizable as a “career path”, but his surrounding himself with his Legos was no different than his programming.  It was the predecessor to his finding his career path passion.  I always tell people to look beyond the exterior act.  What do you see happening as they pursue this interest?  I saw this one time when Eli had learned about pyramids:

pyramiddrawcut1

legopyramid

This Lego pyramid had as much intricacy inside as it is outside, as depicted in his drawing beforehand.

Everyone has their own balance in life.  In order to develop a passion to excellence, many hours need to be dedicated to it.  This is what a strengths-based, gift-centered learning environment can look like.  Some are introverts and need less interaction time than those who are extraverts.  Some cerebral types of children need less physical activity than those who are active and high energy.  I remember learning an interesting lesson from Eli when he was 9 years old.  I was actively looking for a good match for him in a playmate in order to develop some of his social skills.  I noticed another homeschooled girl who seemed to be “odd” like Eli, so thought it might be interesting to see how they might get along.  In order to facilitate the initiation of diverse activities, I created an idea board of things in the house they could play with, and each could take turns making a choice.  This is what they chose as their first three activities as I observed one day:

First, they chose a puzzle with many pieces, I think it was 100 or something, and they both bent over the activity, deep in concentration as they constructed this puzzle.  Then, they chose a board game that was fun, like Cootie Bug or something that took luck and playful interaction.  Then, last they created their own interest by cutting a long piece of yarn from a skein, attaching it to the back ends of themselves, and finding a circular path in our home and following that path, letting the yarn drag behind, and trying to leap toward the end of their yarn as they circled around, to see if they could grab it . . . a strange, yet delightful to them, escapade.  Suddenly, it occurred to me.  Now I see why Eli had a difficult time finding friends:  he went from a highly cerebral activity, to a traditional (normal) activity, to an odd activity.  Uusually, he would lose someone in the transition, as so many children are either one, the other, or the last, but not all three in one.  His diversity of interest created a division in peer match-ups!

Thus, what it is not is when a child is engaged in a pursuit of potential passion, and they get “out of balance” during a stage that they don’t have the skill set to know how to manage their interest.  Video game playing is a perfect example of this.  My oldest son loved playing video games starting at 5 years old.  Around 8-9 years old, he went through a stage that appeared to be “obsessive/addictive.”  And, in actuality, it had shifted into that realm (just like self-stimulatory can warp to passion, so can passion deteriorate into obsession) because he didn’t have the skills of self-management.  So, suddenly video games were not fun anymore, and he was acting out in frustration, yet refused to stop playing because he had to make it to the next level.  His actions became spastic and his attitude became ugly.  So, just like with my 3-4 year old who needed to take a break from ceiling fans in order to break from the obsessive nature he had found himself, for my 9-year-old, I could pull him aside and give him good information about what he was experiencing, how to manage it effectively, and what had happened to something that was of high interest to him.  Over a year’s time of discussion and collaboration and knowledge sharing, his self-management and “in balance” needs were consistently integrated from himself in order to place his video game interest back into passion mode.  (He used his interest in video games as inspiration for his art and history projects throughout his childhood and into his life’s pursuit.)

In conclusion, spending longs hours in the pursuit of something does not make it an obsession.  We are so focused on being a little good at everything that we forget what it looks like to specialize in something and how much time it takes to excel at it.  Further, being in “balance” looks different for various children based on temperament and learning traits, but also looks different at the various stages of development, including factoring in extenuating circumstances, like being diagnosed with autism.  I have developed my observation skills in order to see beyond what is front of me, but more importantly, I have questioned the generalist attitude of our learning environments for our young children.   We need more passion in our lives; we can give that to our children in our perspective and our learning lives!

Karate

I found a place nearby offering karate during homeschooling hours.  As always happens with starting up homeschooling hours, there are only a few children at this time.  My two boys, William (10) and Joseph (8) and two other brothers currently attend.  Naturally, it’s nice to get the one-on-one attention from the instructor, Tina, who is fabulous with the boys.  But, I do want it to grow in order to continue being able to attend during “school hours”.

That said, we started once a week in February.  The boys started at white belt, moved to white/gold belt in 6 weeks, and then moved to gold belt in another 6 weeks.  Here’s an old picture at white/gold:

Yesterday, after missing every other week this summer, William and Joseph were able to move to orange belt.  Here’s a photo:

What I have discovered is that Joseph is a natural at this, and most everything he tries physically.  William needs to work harder at things, but “fighting” is his big interest, so he is motivated to put in the effort.  I notice that he uses the strategy of watching others heavily, but it works for him.  Excitedly, when he is on his own to do it, he comes through with the knowledge to move forward.

William is one of those children with a lot of “learning disabilities”.  I put that in quotes because I choose to view my children through a strengths based lens while remaining realistic about their needs, but understanding that time and smart exposure can go a long way.  That said, I can access funds through something called an “adoption fund” that covers activities that help the children progress.  Karate is “approved” because there are studies that show improvement in things like ADD and such.  I do notice good quality attention from William during karate, but more importantly, I see a lot of great, natural exercise in the “crossing midline” and “motor planning” arenas.  Joseph is able to pick up which way to do strikes with his hands, which often cross midline from one side of the face down and across.  There is also major coordination when striking with one hand, the other goes into a defensive stance.  William’s processing is quite slow, and he really had to think about it hard.  I can just see his brain working!  In the beginning, Tina and I had our doubts that he could pull it off.  But he really has!  Quite amazing, actually!  This is a great example of a real activity that creates natural “exercises” in areas of need without having to separate them out into drills.

Karate is definitely a keeper, both for high interest, with a side benefit of natural development in William’s areas of weakness.

Acquisition

I originally had this post titled Possessions, but I changed it to Acquisition, because I think Possessions is another category I would like to post about a bit later.  Sara and JoVe set the scene with their thoughts from their blog posts:

Sara shares a quote near the beginning of her post on this subject:

From The Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben:

Since we live with relative abandon year-round, it’s no wonder that the abandon of Christmas doesn’t excite us as much as it did a medieval serf.  We are – in nearly every sense of the word – stuffed.  Saturated.  Trying to cram in a little more on December 25 seems kind of pointless.

JoVe replied in her post Christmas blahs:

Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself. It seems pointless. If we need anything, we go and buy it.  And we end up with a pretty loose definition of need.

And if Tigger needs new pyjamas or coloured penciles or sketchbooks, why should she wait another 6 weeks for them just because they would make good presents? The definition of need tightens up considerably at this time of year. Pyjamas she has already because her others were too small.

I’ve mentioned before on-line that I consciously chose in the beginning of my homeschooling journey to try to raise my children “the old-fashioned way”.  This stems a lot from my own childhood (funny how much what we do can often lead back to our early shaping).  We didn’t have much growing up, but what I had I treasured.  I wanted my children to have that same appreciation, and I knew that too much acquisition would hinder that.

It came more easily to do this because we started our family very young (my first was born when I was 21) while we were in university (I supported my hubby through six years to complete his undergraduate degree that included a two-year “live-and-learn” stint).  We had our first three children during his university years while I either provided daycare to children in my home, worked an evening job at a law firm, and/or my hubby did part-time work on campus to make ends meet.  Our goal was to raise our own children giving value to our time to our children as our greatest gift and sacrifice on their behalf.  Being able to afford “things” didn’t come often.  I found that the gifts for birthdays and Christmases were the main source of gift-giving times at that time, so our saturation level, as mentioned in the posts I referenced, wasn’t an issue.

Once we left university and my hubby began his first degree-earned job, I came home and student loans came due, and money was still tight.  Another child was added and simple family togetherness was our center-point.  I remember taking family walks around our neighborhood and walking a couple blocks down to the small town outdoor ice cream shop.  Getting the ice cream cone with the candy faces put on them was the only expense put out to enhance our excursions and build memories.  Friendships were another acquisition sought after during this time period.

For my three oldest, this type of viewpoint was their foundation.  Only my oldest would have consistent figures bought for him (about $3-5) at the time that seemed to be important to him in a “collection” sense.  (I have since found out through the book “A Mind at a Time”, by Mel Levine, that some people have a stronger sense of “insatiability” to objects that can be best supported through collections; my instincts seemed to prove well for him!)  I helped this child know how to hold off on “needing” something through financial self-limitations and the greater understanding of common sensibilities toward balanced acquisition.  For the most part, birthdays and Christmases were the gift giving times.

The exception was the purchases for personal growth items such as the colored pencils and sketchbooks JoVe referred to in her post.  Though finances still kept this in reasonable check, books and paper and craft items were consistently found in our home.  We still were frugal on how these were acquired, however.  My hubby was able to often supply us with paper from the used printer paper from his work that was to be discarded (do you remember the continuous feed paper with hole punched sides?)  Boy, do I remember those boxes of paper my children would go through, and use easily to create books!  We would save everything from cereal boxes to paper tubes to egg cartons to use to build things.  So, imagination and creativity were also a center of our acquisition perspective.

Things shifted when we discovered that three of our children were struggling on the autism spectrum in 1996.  Interestingly, acquisition was not on the radar of these children.  Once I did my research on how to help each of these children develop to their full potential, exposure to all the things they didn’t notice became high on the list in helping them engage in the world around them.  Because objects were the safest things for the younger of the boys to trust, heavy doses of acquisition of things began in order to help them develop the breadth of knowledge of the world of objects.  Instead of creating saturation, for my boys with autism, each purchase was a step on their path of understanding.

So, the first three children were raised with carefully chosen and treasured objects of interest that enhanced the development of their gifts and passions.  The next two children were raised to recognize the value of how objects can be used to develop their gifts and passions.  And then we adopted in two young children into a houseful of prized and respected interest items as well as buckets of various developmental toy objects.  They neither understood how each object was purposefully chosen over time to find their place in the home, nor were they part of the developmental choices of adding each object.  On the other hand, they had their own issues to work through.

As many foster children experience, the older of the two was quite “lost” with the transition of his former home of need into this new home of abundance.  He didn’t have any developmental understanding of playing with toys nor the framework of possessing them.  Destruction of items is common in the early stages of fostering children.  He needed to have all objects removed from his use and recreate the acquisition process in order for him to know how to use and possess each thing.  It was quite an interesting phenomenon.  On the other hand, because he often would receive whole collections of common objects, saturation still often occurred to overwhelm his ability to understand how to possess in a healthy way.  It’s been a process.  All in all, we try to keep acquisition of things to the special occasions in order to help prevent oversaturation as a common theme throughout the year.

In today’s world of abundance, I think it takes a conscious, mindful choice on the part of parents to observe and utilize our instincts to determine what is most useful for each individual child in our care in developing a healthy emotional relationship with the world of objects and acquisition.  Most important is how we help them take ownership by empowering them with their own personal understanding of these things in their own lives as they make their own choices.

Writing Accountability

I’ve been so blessed to have an amazing journey of learning through understanding and supporting my children as they find their passion and purpose in life.  As I matured in this knowledge, my friend Rebecca (who I met on an on-line forum!) from Illinois and associated with the In-Home Conference for their state, asked if I would be interested in speaking.  That was 2002.  It would be the first step in the igniting of my passion regarding the right-brained learner.  It was at this conference that my tentative steps at sharing the myriad of things that my children taught me about that learning style grew exponentially.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to take the information about the right-brained learner further by writing a book.  I wanted to be the means through which real change might occur in our current out-dated educational system regarding this learner.  But I struggled.  I realized that I had to introvert myself enough to write, and I was failing in that endeavor.  So, I decided to help myself in a two-fold manner by created a yahoo group to discuss my perspective on the right-brained learner.  That was a few weeks after one of my presentations at the In-Home Conference, so March of 2006.  First, writing e-mails is an extraverted way to write and second, I’ve been amazed at how much my knowledge has achieved clarity through helping diverse people navigate the implementation of this new and better information about how a creative person learns.

That takes me to today.  I dedicated this summer to beginning my book I’ve envisioned.  I got started, and then had to abandon it for a crisis in the home.  Now that I have come out of that, I want to rededicate myself, but I think I need accountability.  So, I’ve decided to write consistently on my blog, at least weekly, to share what I’ve accomplished.  Anyone willing to nudge me along would be greatly appreciated.

I have the first three chapters done.  Today, I worked from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon (and is my goal every day, when everyone seems to need me less; I just needed to get off e-mail and blog reading :-)) and really nailed down Chapter Four.  By “done” at this point, I mean the writing is there, along with any visuals I wanted inserted.  I intend to put about a page worth of questions and answers at the end of each chapter associated with the topic, gleaned from my own writing on my e-mail group to personalize things.  That will have to come at the very end.  I want to complete the book by December 31!  If I can commit to at least this four hours a day, plus maybe eight on Saturday, I think it is possible.

It’s absolutely exciting as I put it together.  I feel a great responsibility to complete this on behalf of all the creative children whom I love dearly.  Interestingly, I’m developing a friendship with someone locally who I noticed some time back that I felt drawn to, but only recently had the opportunity to follow through with it.  Coincidentally, she is an amazing entrepreneur in her past life and upon learning of my personal goals has encouraged me to think big, even as I sometimes undermine myself in believing it is possible.

On the other hand, I know one of the beliefs regarding those who are successful at what they do is something to the effect of “they believe in something and are not afraid to go for it.”  I believe in what I do with the right-brained learner SO much, but I do recognize fear in my life.  Here’s to overcoming it by holding myself accountable publicly!

Brave JoJo Gift Book by Abbey

Again, this is a continuation from my post about homemade Christmas gifts.  This post highlights the book Abbey made for JoJo, who was into Indians at the time, and particularly, his bow and arrow.  My creative daughter is SO clever.