Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

The Letter

handwritten-letter-12507167

My family set out to get some outdoor exercise this afternoon in our neighborhood park. It was a typical Colorado winter Sunday: sunny, warm at times, and a little windy with snow still on the ground. We found we had the park all to ourselves, which my kids love. Our girls, H and E, started on the tire swing together, while Dave and I played some football with A. We ran around after him, breathing the cold air in the afternoon sun.

It’s these moments that always stand still in my mind. It’s as though we are in a bubble, my family and I, our own little space that only we can enter. Since we started homeschooling, it feels even more this way; each of us revolving like planets around each other, in our own secret solar system. It feels peaceful and wonderful. I try to stop and soak in these moments as they come – trying to slow the earth’s turn while I can, just a little.

Soon afterwards, the girls came running up to me, a letter in hand. They had found it discarded in the park, and brought it to me because they thought it was funny. It was written on notebook paper, in neatly scrolled cursive, with hearts and exclamation points. The letter was from one high school girl to another, outlining the droll details of her day while she was in class. She discussed, in perfect teenage-ese, how she liked one boy better than her boyfriend, her plans to get lunch and smoke pot after her class, and how much she loved her friend. She also stated she felt bad for the teacher, since no one paid attention to him (apparently just not bad enough to stop writing the letter while she was in his class.) We’ve all read, or written, hundreds of letters of this type during our lives.

But my daughters, who are almost 11, had never seen a letter like this one. They asked me, puzzled, if I thought the letter was real, or just a joke – planted by someone in the park to make them laugh. And from their point of view, I could see why they were confused. They can’t imagine someone of their gender actually speaking this way- much less bothering to write it down by hand – or how someone would behave if they were told what to do and where to go all day, every day. For our kids, their time is their own, their thoughts are their own, and their day is their own. Sure, there are house expectations – a dog to be walked, dinner table to be set, laundry to be put away. And there are learning expectations – math, reading, writing, history and science to be explored, and passions to be lost in. Through it all, though, they get to do everything when they would like, and wherever they would like, as long as the work gets done.

So I can see why they viewed this letter as a product of another dimension, or time. And in some ways, it was. Would this girl have written the same letter if she were free to not go to school, to walk out of class, to learn what she wanted to learn, when she wanted to learn it? Would she have been looking forward to smoking pot at lunch if she were excited about working on her passions? Was this letter a product of who she was, or how she spent her time – in apparently mind-numbing boredom?

I can’t say that my kids will never write this letter, or smoke pot at lunch. Right now, my kids are in the magic middle years, where they are wonderful to be around, funny, inquisitive, curious, and snuggly. I know that, despite our unschooling-type approach to homeschooling, they will likely become sullen teenagers in a few years. The teenage years are about individuation and separation – finding your own identity and place in the world. We will support, and love them, as they find their way, and we will be proud of them no matter how they separate from us. It is a necessary part of growing up. I will find some peace, though, in the fact that whatever actions they take, it will be because they wanted to take them, not because they were led to believe that there was only one way to become an adult, with no escape from the day. They will act knowing their thoughts, desires, and passions have value.

After we talked about the letter, the girls asked what I thought they should do with it. I asked them to decide, since they had found it. H and E decided they wanted to keep the letter, mostly because they thought it was funny, but also, I believe, because of the window it offered into another time, an alternate universe, that is not theirs. H folded it neatly and put it in her pocket, and then we continued running around as the sun set against the mountains. Back in our own magical universe.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Pushmi-Pullyu-Story-of-Doctor-Dolittle

Despite Susan Wise Bauer’s advice, I don’t always feel like quitting in November – but I’m glad the month is over, and we’re on to the long, pleasant glideslope into the holidays. It’s not really that quitting comes up as a desirable option, because we’ve got responsibilities to each of them that require our time and effort; I can no more ‘quit’ work or laundry or cooking than I could ‘quit’ homeschooling. But I do often find the need to take a deep breath and remind myself what I’m doing – namely, offering an environment in which skills can be developed and knowledge obtained. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s nothing magical about homeschooling. It’s still an interaction between and among scholars. If there is a difference, it’s that we acknowledge the fundamental nature of learning: while I’m happy to share what I know,  ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the student to learn. I don’t push; you pull.

In a fifteen-year consulting career (and going), I’ve often been told that I’m a good salesman, and I generally take a moment when I get that compliment to deflect it. I’ve never sold a consulting engagement in my life, I like to say. Plenty of clients have bought one from me, but I’ve never sold one. Selling implies some degree of sleight of hand, some aspect of false demand, that I take exception to. I like to think that I’ve gotten clients excited about the prospects that a given engagement or project might have for their business, or the outputs or applications of a quantitative tool or re-engineering process. That’s fine. But in the end, they’ve all bought something they wanted.

Similarly, I don’t think of what I do as teaching. That word is a cousin to selling in that it somehow implies push. I’m all about pull. I’m happy to expose my kids to subjects and concepts and disciplines and skills, but in the end, it is up to them to reach out and take them. I’m equally happy to go on ‘content walkabout’ to find new, interesting things that might fire their imagination. That’s how we found Algebra Touch and Little Bits and Slooh, among a sea of other such tools and technologies and, frankly, cool stuff. I’ll put these things in their path, pull the kids aside to talk about them, sit down with them to run through something once. I’m looking, frankly, for spark, because spark is the beginning of pull.

But I don’t push. Because there’s a day when there’s no one to push, except themselves, and what then? Sure, in one sense, I hope they’ve learned to push themselves, because there are moments that you do need to push yourself: reaching a personal savings goal, or lowering your golf score, or leaving the last slice of Lou Malnati’s alone. But that’s a very Tiger Mom-ish perspective, and not all of life works on push. The larger things, the important things, will be done with pull. In a larger sense, I hope they learn to pull themselves – to keep identifying the activities and concepts and hobbies and careers that incite passion in them.

Part of the challenge is that there’s still a part of them that is waiting to be pushed to, waiting for education to happen, and I have to remind them that this is an environment for skill development and knowledge acquisition. Want some? Get some. Want more? Get more. Want nothing? Get nothing, most likely – or get what you keep by sheer luck or happy accident. If I allowed myself to become offended, or get to the point of wanting to quit, based on their consumption, I’d be in a lot of trouble. I don’t. I’m in the business of fomenting pull. I’m a pull provocateur – not a push pimp.

But yes, I’ll be re-reading this post again in February, probably when I feel myself starting to push again.

Bobamento

boba-fett-banner

In the summer of 1979, there was much to be excited about for me. Van Halen II still had singles in heavy circulation, Alien  and Star Trek were in movie theaters, and Trivial Pursuit was a brand-new source of intra-family strife on board game night. Hell, it snowed in the Sahara for thirty minutes that year; anything, it seemed, could and would happen. It was in that spirit of unbounded excitement and possibility that I ripped open a padded mailer from the Kenner corporation to reveal an action figure I knew absolutely nothing about.

Boba Fett was a giveaway in the summer of ’79. Collect enough proofs of purchase, and he was yours, but with a catch: Kenner told you next to nothing about Boba, because they didn’t want to give the plot of Empire away. Still, he was yours to do with as you saw fit between June of 1979 and May of 1980, when Empire came out, and we found out who the hell he was. But for those glorious eleven months, I had the time of my life with Boba, who was one day a rogue with a heart of gold, assisting the Rebellion in its takedown of the mighty Empire, and the next a soulless blackguard who would sell his grandmother’s ashes for beer money. Boba had no story, and, conveniently, no memory from day to day of who he was or what he did the day prior; he might as well have been Guy Pierce in Memento. Boba changed allegiances and personalities at a pace that would have made Loki ill, and I often paired him up with another group of masterless ronin, the Micronauts, a translucent army of action figures imported wholesale by Mego without so much as a thought for backstory or explanation. The Micronauts had only titles and suggestive coloration; Baron Karza was, likely, bad, just as Force Commander was probably good, but who knew? Even the Star Wars figures I had to play with in 1979 were near-ciphers themselves, since we had little concept of what a Jedi Knight even was, let alone the enigmatic Clone Wars. Without an ethnography of the Jawas, or a robust explanation of who Jabba the Hutt might be, I just forged ahead devil-may-care and made up my own stories for all of them.

Flash forward to November of 2013, and the Collective’s Christmas lists are decidedly hesitant. E wants a compound bow, but beyond that, she’s pretty much left things in my capable hands. A, similarly, has designs on a few items, but they’re not just more than broad strokes, and A might be the most toy-detached of them all. The reality is that they grow less interested in traditional toys with each passing year, and I can’t honestly say that I blame them. Toys come with baked-in universes anymore: everything has either an online tie-in, or a supporting TV show, or another culturally circumscribed environment that’s belted so tightly that there’s not much to do but to act out what’s already happened on one screen or another. Where’s the fun?

If Kenner existed today, there would be no possibility whatsoever of a ten-year-old opening an action figure that had no rigorously developed backstory, online product push, television tie-in, and, probably, soft drink promotion at 7-11 tied into it. Everything, it seems, has converged on the concept of play guided by consumerism.  Even Legos, the most historically stalwart of open-ended playthings, has succumbed to this. Everything in Legoland is now a set, and builds a defined entity (or, if you’re lucky, three), but that’s it, and God help you if you toss it into the Lego bin intact for repeated rummaging to begin abrading that completed vehicle into its component blocks.

In 1979, I built an entire army of X-wings out of Legos, and every single one was a ragtag assemblage of rainbow-colored blocks, as if the Rebel Alliance had hired the Teletubbies as its fighter repair mechanics. When one broke, I fixed it. I came across an X-wing that A and I built for his birthday in 2012 in the Lego bin the other day. It was substantially still together, but missing some key chunks. I asked A why he didn’t play with it anymore, and he shrugged and said it had gotten to be too hard to fix. It was, too; it was too close to perfection for intensity to tackle, whereas my godawful rainbow X-wings were usually just a brick or two away from being pressed back into service against the Empire. But creating X-wings from bricks I already own has no value to the Lego corporation, and the more kids are told, stepwise, what to do, the more dependent on Lego ‘set logic’ they become.

The reality is, that was we face off against another holiday hijacked by the consumerist economy we live in, we’re increasingly confronted with what one blogger called ‘junk toys’ -mindless, scripted-recreation plastic that does nothing to let our kids expand their creative horizons and everything to line the pockets of corporations.  It’s strange, that as we’ve begun to purport to value creativity more in our society, we’ve actually provided our kids with toys that encourage less creativity: just follow along with the script, no thought process allowed. It’s for that reason that they’ve come to count on me – in the form of a Christmas who-kn0ws-what-you-might-get construct called the Randometer – to find cool stuff for them. I can’t disclose what this year’s Randometer might bring, since they read this blog, too – but I’m confident that what they find under the tree on Christmas morning is going to encourage out-of-the-box thinking.

Jonathan’s Game

BarbellMovements-1024x681

This week, a three hundred-pound man and a skinny genius collided in my world, united by a common experience, and divided by a single action.

The man was Jonathan Martin, the sort of physical specimen you wouldn’t normally think of as the victim of bullying. Jonathan Martin stands six feet, five inches tall and weighs three hundred and twelve pounds. He’s not only enormous, he’s bright – a starter at Stanford – and relatively wealthy, earning a 2013 salary of $607,466. In short, he’s physically imposing, intelligent, and possessed of considerable – if not NFL star-level – wealth. And this week, he left his team – the Miami Dolphins – because he was being bullied. We’re not talking about some sort of exotic grown-up bullying, either. According to teammates, he was teased, called names, and – I’m not making this up – forced to eat his lunch by himself, because they would actually get up and move if he sat down next to them. Grown men did this. Seriously.

The skinny kid, meanwhile, was Ender Wiggin (portrayed by Asa Butterfield), protagonist of the new movie Ender’s Game1, who’s bullied twice – first on Earth (where he’s fairly sure his response gets him kicked out of the training program), and again in space – SPACE! – where the same cycle of guilt and shame repeats. Watching Butterfield up on the screen brought back the same throat-closing adrenaline rush I experienced when I first read the book back in 1985, a year that found me freshly on the other side of the bullying ‘line,’ having shot up two inches during the year and gained twenty pounds from a full season in the swim team weight room. I was bullied incessantly from the time I entered the fourth grade through the summer of my eighth grade year, and when it dissipated, I was keenly aware of its absence. Not being bullied is something you notice, especially being a smart kid that was a frequent target; one day, they’re looking for you, and the next – it seems – they’re not.  But looking back after the fact, Ender’s Game spoke to me, and I’m sure it’s spoken to bullied kids ever since. It still speaks to me, because of what separates Martin and my current adult self from my own 1974-1984 self (and from Ender): choice.

With, seemingly, at least a few hundred thousand dollars in the bank, Martin could – literally! – afford to make a choice. It might turn out to be an unpopular choice, or one that might end up branding him with many of the same words that kids across the country get branded with – insert your own pejoratives here, I’m not going to dignify them by typing them here – but it was a choice nonetheless. That choice said a lot, too. It said that bullying is in the experience of the bullied, not the intent of the bully himself/herself. Martin, of the Stanford education and the 20 reps at 225 pounds on the bench and the six-figure bank account, simply had no answer for teasing and name-calling and lunch exclusion, but he did have choice. He left. Kids in school bullying situations don’t, and thus begins the cycle I saw up on the screen with Ender Wiggin: the desire to somehow end bullying permanently. I won’t spoiler the movie for those that haven’t read the book, but bullying – and some unseemly steering of his emotional state by authority figures – transforms him into a monstrous entity. Did Martin try to do the same through all those hours in the weight room? Was he trying to permanently outrun bullying by becoming something unbullyable?

It’s easy to look upon Martin’s situation as a reflecting pool of the bullying issue. Some would find his situation laughable, or dismiss his issues as easily discardable; a six hundred-thousand-dollar salary might be interpreted as sufficient to balm the wounds of plenty of names called, or plenty of lunches eaten in isolation. Others would find Martin to be a case study in the lack of hope for bullied kids everywhere; if a starting NFL  offensive lineman can be bullied, what hope is there for skinny junior high kids trying to avoid eye contact with the hulking eighth-grade brutes, dog-eared copiesof Ender’s Game in hand? We all looked forward to being Jonathan Martin someday: frighteningly huge, college-educated, wealthy. Unassailable. What would I have thought of this news when I was in the sixth grade? What does his plight say to those kids today?

What I took out of it is the depressing permanence of the damage bullying causes. It leaves scars that no one can see, and worse, are expected to heal on their own. I’ve taught my kids that school bullying has three timeless and eternal aspects: it exists, it is temporary, and it is best solved in groups.  No amount of school assembly speeches or stern hallway posters are going to eliminate bullies from human existence, but it does pass – at least in the aspect of confinement to the bullying environment, since adults – like Martin – can just pack up and go. It’s also a test of group fortitude, since if even one friend can be counted on to stand up and side with you against a bully – let alone an entire class – bullying can’t survive for long.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Bullies pick loners, the Ender Wiggins of the world, to go after. They don’t have classrooms on their side, or even groups – and sometimes not even a single friend – to side with them. Who are the loners of the junior high hallways? Smart kids. Kids with intensity. Kids with learning disabilities. Combinations of the above. I don’t know that Jonathan Martin wasn’t bullied in the Dolphins training room; maybe he was. Or maybe, the kid within Jonathan Martin, the smart kid who got bullied in those junior high hallways, never got a chance to grow up feeling safe – and thus never got a chance to really grow up at all. Souls don’t necessarily benefit from the strengthening effects of bench presses, and bullying scars don’t necessarily heal in the cold tub.

His certainly didn’t.

______________________________________________________

Yes, I’m fully aware of the irony of writing a bullying post involving Ender’s Game when author Orson Scott Card has turned out to be a homophobic monster of an individual, and yes, I’m aware of the backlash against the movie. Here’s what I would say about it: at the time I read the book, Ender’s Game had one of the most powerful messages of compassion, inclusivity, and empathy I had ever read, It moved me deeply to see those qualities present in Ender and his friends, and the book encouraged me to continue along that path in my own life. Clearly, I wasn’t alone in those feelings. If it was Card’s intent to instill in me instead a hatred and suspicion of those different from me, he did a colossally piss-poor job of it, and somehow ended up doing precisely the opposite. In the end, I went to see the movie in large part to close the chapter in my own life that Ender’s Game had been a part of.  I take issue with what Card has become in the years since the publication of the book, and I wonder if he would, himself, not benefit from a careful re-reading of Ender’s Game.

Taking Life As It Comes

keep-calm-and-mellow-out

Dave and I had an infamous (well, to us, anyway) conversation several years ago that began with him telling me, at great length and in vivid detail, about his then-current hopes and aspirations in life.

He then ended by saying, “Kath, I guess what I’m saying is, are you living the life you imagined?”

“Yup.” I replied.

There was a long silence, and then we both howled laughing.

Because, really, the conversation was so typically us. Dave likes to examine everything in detail, with the nuance of a writer, analyst, and anthropologist. I love listening to him dissect situations, and examine alternatives out loud. He worries about the existential nature of life, how we fit into the universe, and why we’re here, in this form.  I, generally, do not worry about these things, and, as such, don’t have much to say. My talkative brothers describe car trips with me as “painful,” since I’m usually quiet.

I have gotten better since we’ve had children, especially since we have kids who are so inquisitive and philosophical. I also talk a lot when I have something I care about, and tend to interrupt people, but I have to confess this is generally because I just want to say what needs to be said and get to the end of the conversation. At home, my kids talk a lot, so I don’t have to. I just need to listen, and I’m pretty good at that particular skill.

While I definitely have my goals in life – and have achieved many of them – I typically take life as it comes.  If I have a certain way I’d like to see things done, then I make sure they are done that way. I round on my own patients, while insisting that nurses and other support staff do what work belongs to them. I don’t make “honey do” lists for Dave; if I want something done, I do it – or arrange to have it done – myself. Dave does the same, and we discuss as we go.

After part-time homeschooling over the last two years, we embarked on full-time homeschooling our three kids this month. This is definitely a “take it as it comes” arrangement: every day brings new joys, challenges, discoveries, and heartbreaks. We make a schedule, then ignore it some days; the kids start projects, then get interested in something else. We try to walk a balance between insisting they complete a course or project, and allowing them to wander among their activities and interests, knowing that once something catches their imagination, they will run without any help from us. The trick is forcing ourselves to wait, and not intervene, while the learning process develops naturally on its own.

I live among intense kids who feel exuberance and despair, and I am part of the balance in their lives. Now that we are together and learning every day, that balance feels even more important. The conversation still goes on in our house, with Dave spinning tales to the kids about the wonder and amazement in the universe, and I listen, engaged in the conversation, adding my own comments here and there.  When the kids ask me if I’m happy, I still answer “Yup,” and then break out a huge smile.

Actually, You Probably Could

Hands-adult-reaching-to-help-child-4383246_l6

Now that school is back in session, we’re starting to run into our old trad-school friends – at restaurants, in the Target aisles, at the pool in the evening. There are pleasantries exchanged, and they often feel the need to bring up alternating positives and negatives about their own experiences, as if to both reassure themselves and reassure me at the same time. I’m sure we’ll get past all of this in time, and we’ll all agree that we’re doing what we need to be doing. It’s with that thought in mind that I’m finding that the most common denouement to these conversations is a simple statement on their part with respect to homeschooling: “I couldn’t do it.”

Actually, you probably could.

If you felt you needed to.

Seriously. When have you, as a parent, not tried to do what you felt your kid needed? Not wanted; needed. And how often have you, in a split-second, made a judgement call as to whether something was a want or a need? I found myself in the school-supplies aisle at Target this week, and I saw parents make those calls a hundred times over. Yes, you need a binder; no, you don’t need a binder with a built-in iPad holder. Yes, you need a protractor, but I’m sure you could get by with this one instead of that one. Yes, you need a backpack, but…yes, you need a calculator, but…on and on it went. We’re in the business of drawing those invisible lines as parents; where am I serving this kid’s needs, and where am I being wheedled into something unnecessary and indulgent?

I know where that line is in education, and so do you. We all do. If you felt as if homeschooling was a need, instead of an indulgence, you’d do it, and you’d do fine. You’d at least go down swinging, which is all most of us do anyway; some days are wondrous voyages of enlightenment and learning, and other days, we’re fighting through our frustrations just as our kids are fighting through theirs, to get their heads around writing assignments and algebraic formulas and the role of the sickle in early agriculture. Like anything, there are days that we feel like we’re doing it, and there are days we feel like we’re not.

I think that sensation – “I couldn’t do it” – is probably a good and healthy test of your own thought process on homeschooling. This was an option for us for several years, and nothing more, despite a very dear friend and counselor – the inimitable Patty Gatto-Walden – calmly taking Kathy’s hand during a counseling session, looking directly into her eyes, and saying, “you’re homeschooling in three years.” We exchanged a quick glance, one that probably betrayed the shared initial feeling of we can’t do that. And that was true, at the time, because I didn’t know everything I needed to know to perceive homeschooling for my kids as a need, not an indulgence.

But the data piled up, like snow in March here in Colorado, layer upon layer, silent drift upon silent drift, until the same instinct kicked in that makes you start pulling on boots and coats to go and shovel it. EXPLORE scores and WISC-IV data and dyscalculia information and case studies on emotional sensitivity all accumulated until Kath and I began to exchange other glances, ones that suggested that maybe, just maybe, Patty had been right. Were we really going to send a kid off to sixth grade who already tests high mastery of all of middle school and a fat wedge of high school? Were we going to undertake increasingly distant split-grading for another kid who belongs squarely in one grade for writing and reading and squarely in another for math? What about our kid who just doesn’t seem to learn anything in school because the emotional ‘noise’ is too loud? This was looking less like an indulgence with each datapoint.

In the end, Patty was right, of course, and here we are, ready to get going again, and I’m nodding and smiling in response to I couldn’t do that in all of its varieties of delivery.

I couldn’t either, once.

But I can now.

2e or not 2e?

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

― William ShakespeareHamlet

We are spending some time over this month preparing for homeschooling in September. For Dave and I, this involves more conversations with the kids, and lots of research about what’s out there in terms of tools and curriculum.

We have decided to continue a structured math curriculum for each of them. This helps us support their math learning without having to create a curriculum ourselves. For H (our dyscalculic), a Connections Academy single course worked well last year for math, and she’d like to continue this fall. We have tried, it seems, every possible variation for her in years past: math at school on a 504 plan, private tutors, LD specialists, etc. Last year was her best year so far, and although H certainly struggled, she definitely had fewer emotional issues with math, and she really learned and retained the material.

E finished Algebra through Northwestern CTD in May. The class was decent, but frankly not worth the money. As it turns out, we paid the price of a college course for a textbook, some grading, and a stamp on a transcript. Although E did have every other week chats with the teacher – which were great – she essentially taught herself algebra out of the textbook. She also loved using the Algebra Touch app on the iPad. Luckily, she enjoys learning, and she truly learned algebra inside and out. However, this year, we are moving on to try Thinkwell Homeschool (which gets good reviews from other parents) for Geometry.  We’ll use the HMH Fuse iPad app to go with it. The combination of the two will be about 1/3 the price we paid this year, with potentially higher quality instruction.

This fall will be A’s first time homeschooling. He was in a second grade GT class last year, finishing up the third grade math curriculum at school. I had him take an online, above-level math placement test to see what he really knows. As many parents have found when their kids come home, he knows more higher-level math than I had expected he would. He likes to watch Khan Academy videos to learn new math concepts, and uses IXL to practice math. One of the questions he didn’t know on the placement test was a long division question, and afterwards, he wanted to learn long division. In the “it’s awesome to be a kid in 2013” column, Dave showed him Long Division Touch on the iPad, and he learned the basics of it in about 5 minutes. (I relearned it, too!)

The post-test, though, led to a much more interesting discussion about fairness. We have never required H to perform long division by hand. She has struggled so much to learn basic math concepts that we have had to focus on what is important, and what she will need to know to survive. Long division is not, in our opinion, something that is necessary. So-we’ve had her look at it, so she understands that it exists, but when she sees problems of this nature, we have her use a calculator. In fact, her calculator skills are much better than her siblings, because this is her lifeline to math.

The natural question from my son was: why does H get to use a calculator, while I am required to do it – initially – by hand and in my head? We discussed with all of them that H has a learning disability, and gets tools for this. My son has always struggled with writing down concepts and paragraphs, and so he keyboards or uses Dragon Dictation instead of writing by hand. I explained to him that this was no different; each child gets the tools that will help them learn. He understood, and didn’t have a problem with the situation once we discussed it; he has certainly watched his sister struggle with math as he has surpassed her knowledge level this last year. Plus, he enjoys doing math, which helps. On the flip side, H has watched her brother strain to write a paragraph that would have taken her a few minutes to dash off.

The kids all got iPad Minis for the school year, and we helped each of them choose all the apps that we thought would help them the most.  Each of them also has their own laptop, which they use to access Google Drive from anywhere they want. I got to thinking, as I watched them all working away happily at their individual levels, whether it even matters anymore exactly how gifted they are, or which ones have a learning disability, too. As long as we give them the tools, they will learn what they would like to learn, at their own pace, in their own space, and in their own way, no matter what the labels.  My thinking is changing to make it so.