What I’m about to describe to you has been in the making for a few years.
I’m proud and ecstatic (along with a bunch of other big emotions!) to announce, The Sunnyside Micro-School opened its doors in September of 2017.
Many of you know that for eight years, I led micro-schools in the Bay Area for gifted and twice-exceptional (2e) children. Along the way, I learned a lot. After the hard but rewarding work of publishing a book about my educational philosophies and practices regarding micro-schools, I took a break for a couple of years to get married, travel, and put down some serious roots in Oakland, CA.
I also started offering private consulting for others as they built micro-schools for their communities. During this time, I tutored gifted and twice-exceptional (g/2e) students on a regular basis and began to see how the one-on-one relationship and committed structured time allowed them to experience success that they had not found in other learning settings.
During part of this time I also worked with g/2e students in a completely different setting and witnessed equally positive results. Teaching inquiry-based, Maker-style pop-up group classes that combined math, science, and art, I watched my g/2e students thrive. I tested a hunch that these kids could experience the joy of learning and progress academically when their inclination to be independent was honored in project-based explorations. After one year, the results were astounding. My own experience and parents’ feedback bore out my hunch almost 100 percent.
My Big Insight
My g/2e students seemed to exist in a realm of extremes; maybe their learning environment needed to reflect that. On one hand, they needed structured and direct one-on-one instruction tailored to their specific needs without the distraction of others. On the other hand, they required the freedom to explore new ideas in the context of a community.
I wondered what would happen if gifted and twice-exceptional students had a learning environment that was able to simultaneously meet their need for freedom and creativity, while also offering direct, one-on-one education in math and language arts from highly trained and experienced professionals.
Filling a Need
As this model started to develop, I polled 150 parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children all over the country, and of the 63 percent who were homeschooling, 62 percent wished they had an alternative like a micro-school to supplement or replace their current educational strategies. Moreover, the majority of parents held freedom and choice in equal esteem with targeted and direct one-on-one educational coaching.
Based on this experience and research, I designed the Sunnyside Micro-School.
The Sunnyside Model
Every day, Sunnyside students engage in inquiry-based Maker projects that highlight each student’s divergent abilities, and they have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a skilled, compassionate professional to develop their math and language arts skills — the two academic areas where gifted and twice-exceptional children seem to struggle most. They benefit from the relatedness and community of group learning, along with the specific support they need to achieve their potential.
Over the past four months as Sunnyside has been in session, I’ve had the chance to once again enjoy the thrill of seeing g/2e students thrive in a setting that respects their needs while providing appropriate challenge and learning enjoyment.
Plus, I’m having the satisfaction of seeing that opportunity opened up to even more learners. One of my goals with Sunnyside was to make it available as a valuable supplement for families regardless of their learning plans. That’s why our microschool offers flexible enrollment, and it’s also why we offer community classes!
Community classes provide engaging learning opportunities to the general public. Students have had a blast letting their STEM learning soar through hands-on creative projects in a small group setting. We’re not done yet! Click here to learn more about our newest community class, “Geometric Art: An Exploration of Math and Creativity.”
If you are in search of a fun and rewarding learning environment for your child, enroll in one of our community classes or schedule a visit today! You can contact me to learn more here.
On a related/unrelated note, I’m hosting a live webinar this Friday, January 5th for families who want to discuss making a mid-year school change. Interested? You can learn more and register here.
This piece of lovely writing was originally posted on Through A Stronger Lens, June 15, 2015. I think many of you will relate to what my dear friend Nikki shares, regarding her daughter’s inner world. Nikki is a mother to three girls, two of which she is currently homeschooling. She is also working towards her Master’s in Family Therapy with the hopes of helping gifted families a lot like yours. You can connect with her, through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
“B likes me to tuck her in and have a bedtime chat. I snuggle down between piles of books and stuffed animals.
“Are you sleepy, Honey?”
“No. I’m waiting for my mind to remember everything it just learned. Sometimes when I learn so much in one day, it all goes to the same spot and gets scrambled up and doesn’t make any sense.”
I imagine a room full of boxes where information floats through the air and has to land in its rightful destination. She tells me it takes some time, but eventually her thoughts settle in the correct places.
After a few moments of quiet in the dark,
“Mom, how do you think Homer wrote so much if he was blind? Did someone write the words for him? How do you think he knew how to describe everything? I guess there are a lot of things that you don’t need your eyes for. Sometimes you can just see with your heart.”
We discuss this and new ideas she has and topics that I am studying.
Recently, I read “A Forgotten Voice: A Biography of Leta Hollingworth“, by Ann Klein. She was a pioneer in gifted psychology; a brilliant, dynamic woman during a time that did not offer women as many opportunities.
I tell B about Hollingworth, and how she led the way in the investigation of how the mind works, and studied people whose minds could learn more and faster than others.
“Like me, Mom? That’s how I am. I learn so fast and I feel like I can learn everything and my brain will never fill up. It’s like a notebook, and every time I fill a page, I can turn the page and there is another blank one to write on.”
Yes, I say, like you. I tell her about how Hollingworth also studied the role of emotions in those whose “brains never fill up” and how they often feel more intensely than others.
“Like me, Mom! When I get so mad I cry, and when my beaker fills up so fast and I feel like I’m going to explode!”
She asks if the people whose minds work differently feel differently in the world too.
“Sometimes I feel like everyone likes me and sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in anywhere, Mom?”
Not long ago, I spoke with a young man who is battling depression. He described feeling much like this when he was young. His “rage to master” is still present in his twenties, but the more he learns about the world, the more it feels like a burden. Navigating the intense emotions that come along with deep understanding can be challenging. “Fitting in” is a concept he’s given up on.
B articulates how she feels and learns beautifully. I hope that her mind’s notebook pages keep turning and filling, and that her father and I can encourage her through the passionate and lonely and expressive moments in her future. I hope she’ll find her tribe where she is understood. I hope that when she’s older, she’ll embrace her uniqueness the way she does now.
For now, I hope our bedtime chats continue for years to come, for I love to hear her thoughts as her unique mind settles.”
Reposted with permission from Nikki Linn. Source: https://throughastrongerlens.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/as-her-unique-mind-settles/
WiFi willing, I will be back with original content August 3rd, 2015! Thanks for hanging in there with me. Many of you know that I’m currently traveling Europe on my honeymoon. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of your well wishes. The reception was a jolly time, to say the least. Check us out in the picture below!
*This blog post contains amazon affiliate links. If you’d like to support my mission of gifted advocacy and education please visit my Amazon store for a list of carefully curated books and games for gifted children, families, and the professionals that serve them.
Today I’m sharing with you five of my current favorite fictional gifted women. These are not all my favorites; instead I’ve decided to pull together an eclectic list from my favorites in order to illustrate a more comprehensive face of gifted women.
Your family culture may determine which of these characters will be appropriate for you or your little ones. Keep in mind that some of these characters deal with violence, and other negative aspects of life that may trigger your gifted child’s sensitivity.
Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation: In an interview, Amy Poehler describes her television character as having the spirit of a suffragette but no “game”; like many gifted people, she has a strong sense of justice, but without the tact. She’s rarely intentionally rude, but rather she’s so wrapped up in her various causes and her mission to improve the lives of the people of Pawnee that she sometimes forgets to acknowledge the willingness and preferences of those around her.
She is a driven and passionate leader who is ultimately loved by those closest to her. While this show is no longer on the air, we’re all lucky that it’s available through Netflix.
Peggy Carter of Agent Carter: A strong, witty character just as adept at chemistry as hand-to-hand combat. If we’ve connected through Facebook or Twitter you know this was my favorite show last year. Agent Carter also has a strong sense of justice, and she does “have game”. So much so that she nearly single-handedly saves all of New York multiple times without breaking cover or even much of a sweat.
When the credit for saving New York was once again claimed by a man, she nobly stated, “I don’t need a Congressional honor. I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval or the President’s. I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” She’s a bigger person than me… and a gifted woman, indeed.
Louise Belcher of Bob’s Burgers: My love for this animated character cannot be overstated, because there has been a little (or a lot) of Louise in every single one of my students. Louise has an intelligent adult’s wry sense of humor coupled with an immature ego. When combined, these two facets of her personality are responsible for getting Louise into some serious (and hilarious, and lovable) hot water.
She has a strong divergent side that inspires her to take certain school assignments or celebrations above and beyond the next level. I suspect she also has some sensory issues going on with her constant wearing of that adorable pink bunny-eared hat. Everything about her screams gifted and I’ll admit that I sometimes fantasize about being her teacher.
Kate Wetherall (or The Great Kate Weather Machine as she’d prefer to be called) of The Mysterious Benedict Society: This literary character is the epitome of a visual-spatially gifted child. She sees the big picture, is creative, and has a strong connection between her brain and her body. Her mathematical ability comes in the form of gauging distance with extreme accuracy. More than once she puts to use her gifted abilities of spatial relations and mental rotation to save the day. She’s a quirky, cheerful dare devil… and a delight.
Constance Contraire of The Mysterious Benedict Society: I don’t want to spoil a special aspect of the story for you, so if you hate spoilers then skip the next passage…
It’s highly likely, if not totally obvious, that Constance Contraire is profoundly gifted. She’s also incredibly grumpy, hungry and prone to falling asleep at inopportune moments. This is because Contance is only 2 to 4 years old but can read and write and express herself as much as someone three times her age. She hasn’t aged out of nap time, but is still tasked to fight evil along children much older than her. I’d be grumpy too!
Whenever I think of this clever book I immediately recall my favorite line delivered by Ms. Contraire, “Rules and schools are tools for fools-I wouldn’t give two mules for rules!”
This was super fun to write! Thank you for taking a look. And I’d love to hear how these characters have touched your life and if we share some of the same perspective.
On a more serious note, if you’re like me, you’ll notice that there are zero women of color on this list. Some of my readers know that I’m of mixed ethnicity; my mother is Anglo-American, and my father is Latino. Growing up, I never enjoyed a book or a show with a fictional gifted character that shared my background, a fact that I’ve been acutely aware of for most of my literate life.
The closest I had was Sesame Street (which I never liked), the Cosby family, and A Different World (both of which I loved). Later, I adored Ricky Vasquez (played by Wilson Cruz) on the 90s television show, My So-Called Life.
And while I’m glad that the world knows and loves Dora the Explorer, this is a disproportionately low number of characters when compared to the throngs of white characters offered by popular media. I would’ve loved to have had women of color on this list, but honestly I couldn’t find one that I authentically resonated with, and I think that’s because there aren’t enough people allowing those characters into the spotlight. I’d love for this to change!
If you know of any non-white fictional gifted women characters please share them with our community in the comments.
I started drafting this to you on Galentine’s Day, an adorable pre-Valentine’s day pop-holiday created by the fictional character Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) of the television show Parks and Recreation. Leslie has created this holiday, which lands the day before Valentine’s day, to celebrate the love she feels for her female friends.
As I exchanged Galentine Greetings online and in-person with my dearest female friends (no we did not share a glorious breakfast, but maybe next year), I of course began to think about the young gifted girls in my life.
Last week, I was sitting with a five-year-old girl as she worked through some problems on Khan Academy, a wonderful free educational resource. Khan Academy is one of her self-proclaimed “favorite things in the world”. After getting a few problems correct, she looked up at me and confidently proclaimed, “I’m good at math.”
“Clearly!” I responded with a full heart and a huge smile on my face.
Then, as I revelled in the glory of learning, I felt a little shadow creep into my heart. That shadow had a voice. It said,
“How are you going to encourage this love of math in the face of overwhelming and undermining messaging that girls are not good at math?”
While amplified intensity, sensitivity, and drive are a few of the well-known characteristics of gifted children, this amplification is generally acknowledged in gifted boys as a “call to action” and in gifted girls as a “cause for worry”.
Girls are judged differently than boys. The expectations placed on them are different as well. There is a societal expectation that girls remain in a supportive, empathetic role. Young ladies who step outside of that role when they declare themselves “good at math” are at risk of being seen as “bossy” and “arrogant”. Boys who make the same declaration are considered “enthusiastic” and as a “go-getter”.
The pay-off for a gifted girl driven to defy expectations comes at the end of a long, winding, partially-paved road. At this point in my life, I still find myself running alongside these ladies. Other times I get to be the one who stands on the side of the road and cheers while handing out paper cups of water.
A lack of healthy messaging for gifted girls makes for a lonely time out on that road. At my most solitary, it’s the gifted women of culture, literature, and movies that have given me guidance. For this reason, I’m always on the look-out for positive images of gifted women in the world that I can share and celebrate.
We need to show gifted girls what’s possible. Show them examples of women who have lived fulfilled lives as leaders. Show them girls that are making quirky, passionate, and sensitive work. Show them how it can be good to be gifted.
Who are your favorite famous gifted women? Share them with me in the comments, so we can get a good list going for our girls!
And in the meantime, sit tight until next month for part two in my “What About Gifted Girls?” series. I’ll be sharing with you my favorite gifted ladies, and yes, Leslie Knope is on the list.