Monday, March 2, 2015

A Pace By Any Other Name...

"Do you have your W2P?" I ask from the driver's seat as kiddo jumps onto the curb.

"Water, watch, phone...yup, I have them!" he assures me, flicking his wrist, patting his side and then turning around to show me the water bottle in his backpack pocket.

"Okay, have a good class! I'll be waiting in the parking lot when you're done."

We briefly touch fingers in goodbye before he shuts the minivan door, and I watch him walk up to the Physical Sciences building, shoulders slightly hunched from the weight of his backpack, but steps springy and confident. He likes where he is going to and it shows.

Although he has been doing this for two semesters now, I still smile wistfully at my 12-year-old's receding back before turning into the parking lot to find a spot where I will spend the next 90 minutes reading a novel, answering emails, researching new books and/or planning what to cook for dinner while he attends his engineering physics lecture at the community college.

Not what I expected.
Time has flown too fast for me. I didn't plan this path all those years ago (eight to be exact) when I began homeschooling my only child. In fact, I had no idea what I was doing or what I was going to do. I knew I had to somehow reverse the damage a traumatizing three weeks in a private kindergarten had done to him so I focused a lot on making him laugh. But I was also fearful that I would fail him academically so I spent hours researching curriculum and books to feed his voracious appetite to learn. I would buy a bunch of texts for every subject and he would crunch through them like popcorn in weeks instead of the half-year or full-year time frame stipulated by their publishers. I spent hours making lesson plans and weekly schedules only to find each being discarded after a couple of days because he wanted to set a pace that made sense to him, and not follow a pace dictated by curriculum writers or his harried mother.

His pace wasn't always so predictable. There were subjects that he would completely neglect for months given the chance (usually this was writing and history) and then binge on when the fancy took him. As a lover of classic literature, and as a former writer who yearned for her son to write more, I treasured his brief moments of interest in the humanities, and held on to every scrap he wrote because I knew that such pleasure was fleeting, and that he would soon return to his main loves, math and science, ignoring writing all over again.

Gaining a vocabulary.
Gradually, I started reading homeschooling web forums and articles on gifted education. I discovered that what he was doing for himself was called acceleration, and in some subject areas, radical acceleration. I understood that public school teachers and most parents needed to better understand and use these words to appropriately serve and advocate for a child's learning needs. In our homeschooling setting however, we didn't intentionally employ such words. There was no need. We only needed to know that our child's love of learning was being nurtured.  If it meant using books written for a different age (older or younger), at a pace that he preferred (faster or slower) and in a style that made sense to him (in depth or just barely skimming the surface), then so be it.

For example, math to my child is like a piece of cloth immersed in the deepest, richest royal purple dye. He soaks the piece in vat after vat of intensely-hued pigment, allowing the color to seep deep into every fiber of the fabric until it is saturated. Each pigment is a different area of math: algebra, advanced geometry, number theory, trigonometry, abstract algebra and so on. He has taken rabbit trails galore in math, sought patterns until his eyes hurt and written proofs until his young fingers become sore. One would think he would be bored by now but I don't see that happening. He has worked both with a mentor and by himself to accumulate his math tools, but he also applies them to complex problems. In applying them and facing frustration because the problems are hard, he grows to love math more and more, definitely not the reverse! He took a zig-zag route across the math universe available to interested learners and still reached his goal to learn calculus ahead of normal time. Was that acceleration or his version of a meandering route? I guess you could say it was both.

He reads the same way. Fast and deep, picking thoughts and critical ideas between the lines that his parents miss. But this same child isn't as fluent in writing a completely grammatical two-page essay on a topic not of his choosing. He is very much 12 in Writing but not remotely 12 in Reading. What do I say about his English? Accelerated? Delayed? I have learned another word over the years: asynchronous.

Meeting him where he is.
The words are helpful to know but I am trying not to over-think them as I help my child navigate his education. Instead, I have decided to be brave, and to trust in whatever he needs at the time that he needs it. To keep following his pace whatever that pace might be. To take it one day at a time.

Accelerated, slow, meandering, deep, shallow, swift, fleeting? I believe that whatever name we choose to call it, it will suit my child equally well because he loves to learn.

About a hundred minutes have gone by now and I watch him as he approaches the car for our drive back home. He is beaming from not only having enjoyed his class, but also from approaching the professor afterwards to clarify a doubt and in the process, learning some fundamentals of an interesting equation. He is under fire to read deeper about the concept and find out more.

I realize that there IS a name I love. It is Homeschooling. A life choice of priceless value to my family.
This post was written as part of the Hoagies Gifted Education Page March 2015 Blog Hop on Acceleration. For posts on the topic by other bloggers, please click this linked icon. >>>


  1. Beautiful! Love this so much!

  2. Thank you dearie! <3
    My first attempt at blog-hop writing! :)

  3. So well said, Suji! It's so different here in the UK, in that we don't have anything like the community colleges in the US, so we are still carrying on in our own way, which seems to be working well, although I do with there is more of a mentor mentality here. The US is definitely way ahead in terms of recognising and accomodating for gifted children! It's really good to see how well Kiddo is doing. :-)

    1. Thank you Hwee! I hope you find something there for your T. The system here isn't ideal. We do have to jump through some hoops to access CC before the normal age/grade but I'm glad that there are at least hoops available. Thank you for visiting!

  4. Great post, great advice. I think we should all try to meet our children right where they are, no matter where that happens to be. :)

    1. Thanks Jill! Taking it a step at a time!

  5. It takes so much courage to take a path not taken. Best to you both!

    1. Thank you Min! I wish I could say I am very brave. I am trying to be! :)

  6. Great and reassuring post, as I begin this journey with a first, kindy and middleschooler

    1. Thanks so much for visiting Alycia!


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