Poetry & Fairytales for High School Home School Style



Our first High School English Credit is from the year-long study of poetry and fairy tales. We did work on grammar, reading, and writing too but for this English credit, we worked on poetry.  We used Michael Clay Thompson’s curriculum program along with lots of books.  This is the first high school credit earned exclusively from books.  We did not use any online programs or videos.  We did use some audio recordings and music CDs to accompany various lessons.

Here is the list of books used (some we purchased and some came from our public library):

  • A World of Poetry by Michael Clay Thompson
  • The Poetry of Literature by Michael Clay Thompson
  • The Music of Hemispheres by Michael Clay Thompson
  • Leave Your Sleep: A Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry by Natalie Merchant and Barbara McClintock (This was a book and musical CD combination)
  • Language A to Z by Professor John McWhorter & the Great Courses (This was a book and audio recording Great Courses series and not a video series)
  • Best Practices of Spell Design: A computational Fairy Tale by Jeremy Kubica
  • Palindromania by Jon Agee
  • Bookworm: Discovering idioms, sayings, and expressions by Karen Emigh
  • Fables & Folktales: A Writing Workshop for Young Storytellers by Darcy O. Blauvelt & Richard G. Cote
  • Elvis Lives and other Anagrams by Jon Agee
  • Orangutan Tongs: Poems to Tangle Your Tongue by Jon Agee
  • Emily Dickinson’s Letters to the World by Jeanette Winter
  • The Block: Poems by Langston Hughes by Romare Bearden & Langston Hughes
  • Computational Fairy Tales by Jeremy Kubica
  • The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens
  • The Best Poems Ever: A collection of poetry’s greatest voices by Edric S. Mesmer
  • Treasury of Indian Love Poems & Proverbs from the Indian Sub-Continent by Christopher Shackle & Nicholas Awde
  • Irish Fairy Tales by Padraic O’Farrell
  • Honeybee Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye
  • There’s a Frog in My Throat: 440 Animal Sayings a Little Bird Told Me by Loreen Leedy & Pat Street
  • Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost by Gary D. Schmidt
  • Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin
  • Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb

If you need more support for creating a poetry program or want to do just a smaller scale poetry lesson/unit the following websites are great resources:


High School Art History & Appreciation Homeschool Style



We are privileged to live in Houston, TX which is the 4th largest city in the US and holds one of the largest variety of art collections in the country.  Thus, our son has been able to experience significantly more hands-on and in-person art than many traditional school students. In addition to Houston, our son has been to art museums in other Texas cities, other states, and other countries.  Where ever we travel to, we visit museums and art galleries. In addition to these experiences, we did use some online programs and books. For those who do not have a good art history program or for those who do not live near lots of museums, consider looking at Khan Academy.  It has over 1,000 lessons on art history and AP Art History. Our son has enjoyed their classes and appreciates the art we see in museums more because of them.

Here is how our son got his 1 credit of high school art:

Online Programs:

  • Khan Academy (375+ lessons)
  • History Through Art (5 classes from History at Our House)

Art Classes & Experiences:

  • Paint Until You Faint (painting classes)
  • Fire It Up Pottery & Art Studio (ceramics and glass fusing classes)
  • Visited the following museums within the greater Houston area: Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum, The Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel, Art Car Museum, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Lawndale Art Center, Station Museum, Houston Museum of African Culture, The Printing Museum, Houston Center for Photography, Moody Center, Czech Cultural Center, Asia Society Texas Center, Bayou Bend Collections & Garden, Beer Can House, the Orange Show, Chapel of St. Basil, Fort Bend County Museum, The Heritage Society, and Rienzi.
  • Visited art museums or exhibits in other cities within Texas, other states, and other countries (Hawaii, Wisconsin, Nevada, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Canada, Ireland, Germany, England, and New Zealand ).
  • Street Art Tour of Houston

Books Used:

  • My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook: 50 Awesome Drawing Activities for Young Inventors
  • Research as Art
  • The Ultimate Book of Optical Illusions
  • The Art of Steampunk: Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement

TIA at 42: Make Sure Your Kids Know How to Call 911


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On Friday, June 1st, while finishing up an early dinner to get ready for the pool I had the freakiest experience. I was unable to talk, walk, or do anything with my right arm. I could see everything around me but could not control my right arm. I moved it with my left hand to where my brain was telling it to go but it would just drop and dangle.  This went on a couple times as I was trying to assess my situation. I was thinking seizure, heart attack, or about to pass out. I tried to get my son’s attention to call 911 but it didn’t come out as words. I sounded like the teacher from the Peanuts. He gave me a very odd look.

I was finally able to walk after a few minutes but I had absolutely no control or feeling in my right arm.  As I was shuffling to the floor by the couch to escape any fall hazards, he claimed I looked different. I got to the couch and floor in case I was going to fall from having a seizure, heart attack, or pass out.  I was still trying to talk but it was mumbled. He immediately knew something was wrong and called 911. He held the phone by me and eventually got it on the speaker setting to place on me. My son answered most of the questions from the dispatcher and helped translate my mumbled speech.  I could hear everything but I could not get my thoughts out and my speech was slow and slurred at this point. My son was the main communicator with the 911 operator. He took care of putting up the cat like the dispatcher said and getting the front door open (not the easiest thing to do with its tricky and high lock) for the paramedics.

When the paramedics arrived he directed them to me. I was finally able to speak more clearly but it was not normal.  I was still struggling to get my thoughts out. I could move my leg better but I had absolutely no feeling in my right arm and only minimal control.  I couldn’t pull or squeeze well at all. I could barely lift it. Instead, it was twitching and jerking on its own. While 4 paramedics were manning me, 1 was with my son. They helped him get what he needed for the ER and even shut the house. He then got to ride in the back of the ambulance with me. They harnessed him in similar to like what is inside glider planes. The paramedics told my son what to text message his dad the whole time during the ambulance ride as he was in a meeting and we didn’t get him via phone calls prior to their arrival.

At the ER I was whisked for a CT scan while my son was with the charge nurse and one paramedic until I came out and was put in a room.  My husband finally was able to join us in the ER room to learn I was being treated for a stroke protocol and we had to decide about tPA or not. Thanks to my son’s fast response in calling 911 and the EMT’s quick arrival we got to the ER in the window for tPA to be administered. By the time my husband arrived at the ER I had regained partial feeling in my right arm but still had lots of tingling, twitching, and couldn’t fully push, pull, or squeeze but I had regained full speech and definitely looked normal in the face. We chose to do the tPA.

45 minutes after the tPA was started I had full feeling back in my right arm and at 2 hours after administration, I had full ability to control my arm, push, pull, and squeeze! The tPA is intended to work like Drano in pipes but to my blood to remove clots and prevent further strokes. Thus, I was then moved to ICU for 24 monitoring and waiting for an MRI. Late Saturday morning I got the MRI and learned in the afternoon that my brain was fine, no damage, no sign of stroke so my incident on Friday was classified as a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) and the tPA did its job at keeping me from having a severe stroke! The neurologist did order a ton of bloodwork to look for any rare blood clotting disorder or genetic conditions that could have been a contributing factor since I did not have high cholesterol, not high blood pressure, and was not obese.  All of the doctors indicated that my history of aura migraines and my current birth control factors may have caused my TIA as they drastically increase the risk of clots. And like the doctor said, I was discharged Sunday afternoon.

We are so glad I had no brain damage and I am fine. We are thankful for my son’s ability to handle calling 911, working with the dispatcher, and the paramedics fast response so I could get to the ER quickly. Who knows what would have happened if my son would have waited to hear back from my husband or waited for him to get home as we would have missed the tPA window and it is possible what had started in the house could have continued to a full-on stroke. I am glad to be home and feeling so much better.  It will take some time to return to normal or pre-TIA.

I am writing my story so that others will understand the importance of ensuring that their children know how to call 911 for medical emergencies and to warn people about the signs of stroke.  Please, talk with your children of all ages about how to call 911 for help, the importance of staying calm, and answering their questions. Make sure your children know your address so they can clearly tell it to the dispatcher.  Make sure your children know how to unlock front doors for paramedics. Make sure your children know how to reach their other parent or another family member at their work or cell phone in case of an emergency.

At the hospital, we all learned about Act FAST, which my son did without even knowing it.  Thus, it is important that everyone knows what Act FAST is; in order to best address a stroke (or TIA) one needs to act as quickly as possible.  Time really does matter as there is only a 2 to 4-hour window from the time the stroke starts with being able to give tPA. FAST is the acronym for Face (Look at the person’s face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?), Arms (Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Do they have difficulty moving one arm), Speech (Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?), and Time (If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately).  Thus, teach your whole family to Act FAST and make sure your children know how to call 911.  Seriously, my son’s ability to call 911 quickly made the difference for me!

World Schooling Round 8


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Homeschooling has allowed us to be more flexible with travel, thus the term world schooling and road schooling appear frequently with my description of our homeschooling. In my previous blog, I have explained world schooling and road schooling and have links to all previous adventures.  Traveling is a huge part of our learning plan. This time our adventures were to Maui, Hawaii. Although the adventure was a domestic trip, going to Maui from Houston, TX definitely feels like going into a different world because there is no direct flight, takes about 13 hours of travel time (with good flights), is a 5 hour time change, and is a tropical island with a unique culture and history.   

I wrote about our previous Hawaii adventures in World Schooling Round 4.  We are blessed to have an Aunt who lives on Maui, which is why we are able to experience this special place so frequently.  Thus. in addition to being a cultural and language experience, it is also a treasured family time. Our son has grown up with Hawaiian children’s books from his great aunt and he enjoys the Hawaiian music.  This is our son’s third time there, and we continue to find new adventures and cultural experiences.

Here is the list of our experiences on this Maui trip:

  • Kula
  • Kihei
  • Ko’ie’ie Fishpond Cultural Outrigger Canoe Tour
  • Ulua Beach
  • Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
  • Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve
  • Maluaka Beach
  • Keawala’i Community Church
  • Wailea-Makena
  • Haleakala National Park Summit
  • Twilight ‘Ua’u Discover with Friends of Haleakala National Park & Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project (lessons on the Hawaiian Petrel also known as the ‘Ua’u and special nighttime observations with their night vision goggles)
  • Kahului
  • Emanuel Lutheran Church
  • Koho’s
  • Maui Art & Cultural Center
  • Kepaniwai Park & Gardens
  • Iao Valley
  • Iao Historic Theater for “Of Mice and Men”
  • Wailuku
  • Ocean Vodka Organic Farm & Distillery
  • Kula Bistro
  • Dragon’s Tooth
  • Makaluapuna Point & Burial Site
  • Kapalua Labyrinth
  • Oneloa Bay
  • Kaopala Gulch
  • Pohaku Park
  • Honokowai Beach Park
  • Airport Beach Park
  • Beaches between Kaanapali and Kapalua
  • Po’olenalena Beach
  • Historic Hawaiian Fishing Heiau
  • Makai Glass
  • Sacred Garden of Maliko
  • Makawao
  • Haliimaile
  • Quiksilver Lanai Snorkel and dolphin watch (Hawaiian Spinner dolphin pod found off the coast of Lanai)
  • Lahaina
  • Baldwin Home
  • Lahaina Galleries
  • Wo Hing Museum
  • Snorkeling

Travel to Maui is like international trips in terms of similar frustrations: long travel times, red-eye flights, flight delays, time change adjustments, lack of free wifi everywhere, and additional inspections (agriculture inspections instead of customs).  Travel to Maui is also a great way to physically learn about: climate, geography, geology volcanoes (especially with current eruptions on the big island of Hawaii), Hawaiian language and culture, immigration history, WWII history, physics of waves, sea life, coral reef life, healthy oceans, trade winds, solar power, wind power, and more.

Traveling is a great educational tool.  It does not have to be foreign countries or out of state but could be local or even “armchair” traveling with books, videos, and computers.  Traveling via postcard exchanges is another great way to reinforce geography. In addition to the educational opportunities, traveling and exposing the world to our children is extremely important for them to be better global citizens.  Be inspired, go explore!

What Does “Profoundly Gifted” Mean? FAQ for Parents and Educators from TPPG


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What Does “Profoundly Gifted” Mean?  FAQ for Parents and Educators

What does the “profoundly gifted” label mean, and why is it significant?  Please see below for frequently asked questions and answers from TPPG leaders, drawn from the work of psychologists and educators who study and work with profoundly gifted students.  

How do you define “Profoundly Gifted?”

Experts define PG using evidence of an extreme level of ability and/or achievement.  The Davidson Institute defines profoundly gifted students as “those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests” (Davidson Institute).  In the past, using IQ tests yielding scores above 160, including the WISC-IV extended norms, experts described scores above 130 as “moderately gifted,” above 145 as “Highly Gifted” (HG), above 160 as “Exceptionally Gifted” (EG), and above 180 as “Profoundly Gifted” (PG) (Gross, 2000).  Using the most recent versions of intelligence tests, scores ≥ 145 qualify for services through the Davidson Institute and for membership in TPPG (Davidson Institute; current January 2018). TPPG accepts either ability or achievement scores ≥ 99th percentile.

As a child’s ability and achievement scores increase, according to experts who work with the profoundly gifted, the level of academic work the child can perform (and will need in order to stay challenged and motivated) is likely to increase.  Disabilities, low socioeconomic status, and other factors at school and at home can contribute to gaps between ability and achievement. Professionals who work with profoundly gifted children find that they differ from other gifted children in additional ways, such as greater sensitivity, more extreme concerns about adult worries, and greater challenges in finding like-minded peers (“Serving highly & profoundly gifted learners,” 2009).

Why are different categories needed when describing gifted abilities?

While all gifted children share certain common challenges, some face added challenges which require different educational services and interventions. In the field of gifted education, groups facing extra challenges are called “special populations.”  Special populations include culturally, linguistically, or economically diverse students (CLED), twice-exceptional (2e) students, highly to profoundly gifted students, students impacted by gender and sexuality, urban gifted students, and rural gifted students.  

Just as medical diagnoses help doctors prescribe the right course of treatment, parents and educators find that gifted categories can help educators “prescribe” services and interventions which have been shown through research to result in student success and positive outcomes.  

Why are there services for just PG families?

Profoundly gifted children need inclusion and advocacy from organizations dedicated to all gifted children, but because of the extreme nature of their needs and characteristics, these students and families often need additional, dedicated support.  Many PG students need radical acceleration (3+ years beyond age-grade), and parenting these children comes with unique challenges. The goals of PG parents are the same as the goals of all parents: to support the social and emotional wellness of their children, and to allow their children to reach their potential.  The parenting journey often looks different for PG families, and parents need information, support, and guidance from other parents and professionals who understand these differences. It is important for PG children to have access to other children who share their characteristics and needs.

Some researchers express concerns about the limitations of IQ and achievement data, particularly when assessing children from diverse populations.  When seeking an evaluation for suspected PG level needs, parents concerned about these limitations may wish to inquire about options to submit alternative evidence of ability, such as portfolios, student interviews, or information from adults familiar with the child’s development.  Just like other gifted students, PG children exist in all cultures, racial and ethnic groups, and income levels. Advocates for the profoundly gifted hope that identification practices will continue to improve.

What is acceleration?

As defined by the Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students, acceleration is the “strategy of mastering knowledge and skills at rates faster or ages younger than the norm” (Texas Education Agency, 2009).   Publications by the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa summarize research on several forms of acceleration, including full grade acceleration (grade skipping), subject acceleration, curriculum compacting, early kindergarten entry, early college entry, and concurrent enrollment (Assouline et al., 2015).  According to researchers, when a gifted student is a good candidate for acceleration, “evidence on the effectiveness of acceleration is very positive. For example, contrary to many people’s expectation, the evidence shows that acceleration does not damage students socially or emotionally. In fact, grade skipping has been found to aid social relations (as well as academic achievement), while concurrent enrolment has been found to enhance psychological adjustment” (Bailey et al., 2004).  A careful evaluation of a student’s ability needs, achievement levels, and other characteristics can help parents and educators work together to make appropriate educational placements. The Iowa Acceleration Scale can offer assistance in making full-grade acceleration decisions (Assouline et al., 2009). Parents who choose to homeschool profoundly gifted children often use a combination of online courses and traditional curriculum materials.

Can students with disabilities have PG level abilities?  

Yes!  Children with both disability needs and gifted needs are called “twice-exceptional,” or 2e.  Disabilities can impact academic achievement and ability testing, however, which can make PG abilities more difficult to identify.  When parents of a child with a disability seek testing to identify gifted needs, they may wish to ask how the disability could impact the child’s assessment.  Subject acceleration may be recommended to provide challenge in areas of strength for 2e profoundly gifted children with extremely asynchronous development.

In students with identified gifted needs, the child’s abilities can also mask symptoms of a disability and delay diagnosis (Webb et al., 2016).  A number of psychologists, diagnosticians, and other professionals are familiar with the diagnosis of disabilities in the gifted population.

Should the PG label be used in Gifted Education?  

In education, any use of labels may involve pros and cons.  TPPG leaders are aware that many students with extreme ability needs remain unidentified, and we are concerned about the needs of all gifted children.  However, just as the “gifted” label allows educators to study and identify certain educational interventions for above-level ability differences, the “profoundly gifted” label is needed for the same reasons.  Without a way to research, discuss, and teach to the extreme differences of the profoundly gifted – academic, behavioral, and emotional – parents and educators cannot advocate for research-based interventions shown to prevent misdiagnosis and underachievement.  Different levels of ability and achievement require different interventions, and in our current educational system, labels can successfully connect student needs with educationally appropriate solutions. From the perspective of families living with PG children, declining to identify and name these abilities and differences would be the equivalent of refusing to identify other significant learning differences.  

I am an educator or professional who works with gifted children, and I would like to learn more about the needs of profoundly gifted children.  Where can I learn more?

Educators can join the Educators’ Guild of the Davidson Institute (https://www.davidsongifted.org/Educators-Guild), may wish to consider some of the resources below, and can contact their district’s GT department or state GT organization to request professional development on special populations in gifted education, including the highly to profoundly gifted.  Your interest and support is critical in helping these children to reach their potential. We thank you for seeking to learn more – these students and their parents will be grateful!

Sources and Further Reading

Assouline, S., Colangelo, N., Lupkowski-Shoplik, A., Lipscomb, J., & Forstadt, L. (2009).  Iowa Acceleration Scale Manual, 3rd Edition.  Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.  

Assouline, S. G., Colangelo, N., VanTassel-Baska, J., and Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (Eds.) (2015).  A nation empowered: evidence trumps the excuses holding back America’s brightest students.  University of Iowa.  

Bailey, S., Chaffey, G., Gross, M., MacLeod, B., Merrick, C. and Targett, R. (2004).  Types of acceleration and their effectiveness. Canberra, Australia: Department of Education, Science and Training.  Retrieved from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, Web. https://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10487

Davidson Institute.  IQ and educational needs.  Retrieved from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, Web.  http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10877

Foley Nicpon, M. (2009).  Tips for parents: advocating for the 2E child and the profoundly gifted in a traditional school setting.  Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Web. http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10571

Gifted Development Center.  Educational planning for highly to profoundly gifted children.  Web.  http://www.gifteddevelopment.com/about-our-center/our-services/k-12-educational-planning/highly%E2%80%94proufoundly-gifted

Gross, M. U. M. (2000).  Exceptionally and profoundly gifted students:  an underserved population. Understanding Our Gifted, Winter 2000.  http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/underserved.htm

Gross, M. U. M. (2010).  Exceptionally Gifted Children.  Second Edition.  New York: Routledge.  

Gross, M. U. M. (2006).  Exceptionally gifted children: long-term outcomes of academic acceleration and nonacceleration.  Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 29(4), 404-429.  Abstract available on web.  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.4219/jeg-2006-247

Gross, M. & Van Vliet, H. (2005).  Radical acceleration and early entry to college: A review of the research.  Gifted Child Quarterly, 49 (2).  Retrieved from web.  https://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10349  

Henshon, S. E. (2009).  Serving the needs of highly and profoundly gifted children: an interview with Linda Silverman.  Systems, 19(1), 1-5.  Center for Gifted Education, The College of William and Mary.  Retrieved from web. http://education.wm.edu/centers/cfge/_documents/resources/newsletter/fall09systems.pdf

Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page.  Highly, exceptionally, and profoundly gifted (resource list).  Web. http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/highly_gifted.htm  

Jackson, P. (2011).  Highly gifted learners.  In J. A. Castellano and A. D. Frazier (Eds.), Special populations in gifted education: understanding our most able students from diverse backgrounds.  Waco: Prufrock Press.  

Jackson, P. (2006).  Tips for parents: an integral approach to the social and emotional development of the profoundly gifted.  Davidson Institute for Talent Development.  Web. http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10392

K., Carolyn (2012).  What is highly gifted?  Exceptionally gifted? Profoundly gifted?  And what does it mean? Web. http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/highly_profoundly.htm

Manning, S. and Besnoy, K. D. (2008). Special Populations. In F. A. Karnes and K. R. Stephens (Eds.), Achieving excellence: Educating the gifted and talented. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.  

National Association for Gifted Children.  Acceleration. Web. https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/gifted-education-practices/acceleration

National Association for Gifted Children (2010).  Use of the WISC-IV for gifted identification: position statement.  

Ruf, D. L. (2009).  Five levels of gifted.  Scottsdale: Great Potential Press.  

Schultz, R. (2006).  Tips for parents: the social/emotional needs of the highly/profoundly gifted individual.  Davidson Institute for Talent Development.  Web.  http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10407

Serving highly & profoundly gifted learners (2009).  Gifted Education Communicator, 40 (4), 1-48.  Web. http://www.giftededucationcommunicator.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/200904GECWinter-1.pdf


Texas Education Agency (2009).  Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students.  https://tea.texas.gov/Academics/Special_Student_Populations/Gifted_and_Talented_Education/Gifted_Talented_Education/

Wasserman, J. (2006).  Tips for parents: intellectual assessment of exceptionally and profoundly gifted children.  Davidson Institute for Talent Development.  Web.


Webb, J. T., Amend, E. R., Beljan, P., Webb, N. E., Kuzujanakis, M., Olenchak, F. R., Goerss, J. (2016).  Misdiagnosis and dual diagnosis of gifted children and adults. Tucson: Great Potential Press.


Organizations for Profoundly Gifted Children

Davidson Institute for Talent Development: https://www.davidsongifted.org/About-Us

Daimon Institute for the Highly Gifted:  http://www.daimoninstitute.com/

PG Retreat:  https://pgretreat.org/

Texas Parents of the Profoundly Gifted: http://www.tppg.org/


Support for Gifted Families in Texas

Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (join as a parent member!) – http://www.txgifted.org/

List of TAGT-affiliated Parent Support Groups (PSGs) in Texas: http://www.txgifted.org/psg-members


© 2018 Texas Parents of the Profoundly Gifted (TPPG) Board and TPPG Advocacy Liaison (Emily VR).  Although reasonable effort has been made to present accurate information, TPPG makes no guarantees of any kind about the information above, including accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.  This article may not be reproduced or transmitted without permission. For questions or comments, please contact tppgliaison@gmail.com.

Last updated April, 2018.

World Schooling Round 7


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Homeschooling has allowed us to be more flexible with travel, thus the term world schooling and road schooling to describe how we homeschool. In previous blogs, I have explained world schooling and road schooling: Ireland, Canada, Hawaii, England, Germany, and New Zealand. Traveling is a huge part of learning. This time our adventures were to Nevada.  Although the adventure was a domestic trip, going to rural Nevada from urban Houston, TX definitely feels like going into a different world and time period.

Our trip to Nevada was twofold: DH was taking a wave camp with Soaring NV in Minden and while he was in camp DS and I wanted to explore the natural wonders and historical sites surrounding Lake Tahoe.  The part of Nevada we were going to is known as a high desert on the edge of the great basin before the mountains that surround Lake Tahoe. It is part of the California Trail, Mormon Emigrant Trail, and Pony Express.  We knew there would be mountains and lakes to explore as well as lots of historic sites. However, we failed to realize that it was still winter in April. Although many places ended up being closed and roads either closed or requiring snow chains we were able to explore a lot of the area.  Although I say the trip is to Nevada, we crossed into California many times but Minden and Gardnerville, Nevada was our home base.

Here is what we experienced during our week in Nevada:

  • Minden, NV
  • Minden-Tahoe Airport
  • Soaring NV
  • Zephyr Cove, NV
  • South Lake Tahoe, CA
  • Gardnerville, NV
  • Carson Valley Swim Center
  • Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park
  • Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center
  • Heavenly Ski area
  • Stateline, NV
  • Emerald Bay, CA
  • Inspiration Point
  • Eagle Falls
  • Truckee Dam
  • Tahoe City, CA
  • Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
  • Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
  • Sand Harbor
  • Spooner Lake
  • Virginia City, NV
  • Slammer Museum in the Courthouse
  • Pipers Opera House
  • The Way it Was Museum
  • St. Mary’s Catholic Church (first Catholic church in NV)
  • Silver City, NV
  • Gold Hill, NV
  • Carson City, NV
  • Nevada State Capitol
  • Nevada Supreme Court
  • Nevada Governor’s Mansion
  • Woodfords, CA
  • Pickett’s Junction, CA
  • Carson River (in CA & NV)
  • Genoa (oldest settlement in NV)
  • Mormon Station State Park & National Historic Site
  • Lahontan National Fish Hatchery
  • Perlan Glider
  • Grover Hot Springs State Park
  • Markleeville, CA
  • Nevada State Railroad Museum
  • Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada
  • Carson City Hot Springs
  • Topaz Lake
  • CA Agricultural Inspection
  • Slinkard Valley, CA
  • Mud Lake
  • Washoe Tribal Lands
  • Lampre Park
  • Gardnerville Ranchos, NV

This trip did have a unique challenge due to my cell phone dying right before we left.  We came up with a way to communicate that involved DS and I have my husband’s cell phone while he had a very old iPhone that would only work with wifi to send or receive messages (broken speaker & microphone, old locked phone handed down to my son).  And, I had old-fashioned printed maps in case navigation wouldn’t work as DH’s phone was dying (died on our last day there) and I knew we would be without the reception in some parts of the mountains. However, our plan sometimes had issues due to the lack of internet and cell reception in areas more than just the mountains and national forest as well as lack of free wifi outside of our rental and the soaring camp.  We were okay with it as it was like old times without phones. DH was at a glider camp with others who had working phones and he was always given our itinerary for the day. It was also a good experience for our son to learn that there are times when you have to know your directions by landmarks and reading traditional maps. We were also traveling in rural areas which were extremely easy to navigate and not get lost.  Our travels to Nevada also allowed our son to physically experience and learn about: time changes, climate differences, geography, Washoe culture, earthquakes (Nevada is ranked 3rd for earthquakes after CA & AK), weather forecasting for gliding (watching for lenticulars and learning about wave lift), wild mustangs, cattle and sheep farming, biological sensitivities, species-saving, water rights, evaporative rate, droughts, wildfires, living history, mining, and much more.

Travel should be a part of everyone’s educational learning.  Travel does not have to be to faraway lands but as simple as exploring the areas around you or visiting friends and family in other states or countries.  And, travel can be via “armchair trips” by using books, videos, and computers or via postcard exchanges and studying of maps. All forms of travel are great ways to expose our children and ourselves to the greater world community.  Get inspired and go explore!

GT funding in TX on chopping blocks again.



The Texas Commission on Public School Finance has been meeting in Austin to study school finance and draft a recommendation for the Texas Legislature’s consideration in the 2019 legislative session.

Once again, the subject of eliminating the G/T allotment has come up. We need your voice to tell the Commission how important the G/T allotment is for gifted education in Texas.
Learn how to make your voice heard: http://bit.ly/2vedcu2

Here is the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented’s Legislative Alert:


Gifted Education in Texas needs your voice! 

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance has been meeting in Austin to study school finance and draft a recommendation for the Texas Legislature’s consideration in the 2019 legislative session.

Once again, the subject of eliminating the G/T allotment has come up.  We need your voice to tell the Commission how important the G/T allotment is for gifted education in Texas.

Please email the Texas Commission on Public School Finance and tell them the importance of the G/T weight and allotment. Explain that it was created to support gifted students for a reason and voice your concerns about how detrimental it would be to eliminate the allotment.

You may use this sample letter to send to the Commission.
PDF version

If you know any of the members personally, please contact them soon.

Texas Commission on Public School Finance members: 
Justice Scott Brister (Commission Chair) – Georgetown
Rep. Diego Bernal – San Antonio
Sen. Paul Bettencourt – Houston
Dr. Keven Ellis – Lufkin
Rep. Dan Huberty – Houston
Nicole Conley Johnson – Austin
Dr. Doug Killian – Pflugerville
Rep. Ken King – Canadian
Melissa Martin – Deer Park
Elvira Reyna – Denton County
Sen. Larry Taylor – Friendswood
Sen. Royce West – Dallas
Todd Williams – Dallas

If you have any questions, please email Sheri Hicks, TAGT Executive Director.

Raspberry Pi with CAP


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Last year I became an educator member through Civil Air Patrol (CAP).  Last June, I lead a civil air patrol lesson on the weather, the atmosphere, the climate, and weather forecasting.  I wrote up a list of resources for this here.   In October my Civil Air Patrol educational materials were the Hydraulic Engineering STEM Kit. I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  In January me educational materials were on Astronomy and telescopes.  I wrote up a list of resources for this here This time my educational materials are centered around the Raspberry Pi.  This is a brand new module for CAP and does not have the extensive support that other modules have.  In fact, the guide is still in development. It doesn’t have all of the units complete yet. However, I found other resources and what is in the guide is enough to get started.

The following are a list of terms that came from the Civil Air Patrol’s “Computing with the Raspberry Pi: An Introduction to Programming, Embedded Systems, and Digital Sensors” downloadable guide:

ADC – Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) is a microchip used to convert analog signal to digital signal.

Arithmetic – Arithmetic is the math operators that within  Python’s basic math such as addition +, subtraction -, multiplication *, division /, floor division //, or exponent **.

Basic program loops – A basic program loop is used when a programmer needs a computer to continue to perform the same tasks for a long period of time or for as long as it has power.

Binary – Binary is a computer or machine language that uses the binary digits 0 and 1 to represent a letter, digit, or another character in a computer or other electronic device.

Breakout Board – A breakout board is a device that converts small terminals into larger terminals that make it easier to wire electrical components.  You can connect alligator clips or solder to them.

Capacitor Burn Out – A capacitor can burn out when connected backward and will typically make a popping sound.  

Circuit – A circuit is the “path” we create guiding power flow between the hardware (sensors, LEDs, etc.) that we are using with our raspberry pi GPIO pins.

Cobbler – A cobbler can be used to connect a breadboard to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins.  This component is used to make the GPIO ports easier to use.

Components – Components are the various parts or pieces that we connect to our Raspberry Pi (i.e., sensors, LED, camera, etc.)

Conditional operators – Conditional operators are used in programming just like in English.  Sometimes we need to tell Python to do something only if something else is the case.  We can do that using an “if” statement.

Coordinate System – A coordinate system is a set of 2 numbers that indicate positions on Earth relative to the Equator.  Latitude indicates vertical position and longitude indicates horizontal position. An x-y axis is another type of coordinate system.  And for 3D an x-y-z-axis system is another type of coordinate system.

Current – Current is the electricity flowing from a power source to the Raspberry Pi. Current is measured in Amps.

Electrolytic Capacitor – A capacitor is an electronic device used to store energy.  If a consistent voltage is applied to a capacitor, it has a very high resistance, but if the voltage is suddenly removed, it will provide power to the circuit for a short time.  If the voltage is increased, the capacitor will resist the flow while it is charging up.

For Loops – A for loop is a finite loop and will loop a fixed number of times.

Function – Function is a type of programming feature that will allow us to have only one set of code.  A function has three components: input, output, and body. The input is what you give the function to work with.  The output is what the function generates from its inputs. The body is what gets us from the input to the output.

GPIO – General Purpose Input/Output. GPIO pins are used for connecting LEDs, sensors, and different devices. There are 40 GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi 3.  

GPS – Global Positioning System (GPS) uses an antenna to connect to satellites in orbit around the earth.  From these satellites, the module can find out its positional data on the Earth and the current time.

Ground – This is where a circuit ends.  It can either be a pin waiting for input or a return path for power.

Heading – This is the direction you are facing or the direction towards a particular location.

IDE – Interactive Development Environment (IDE) is when the shell opens so you can enter your python code.

IDLE – IDLE is the development environment for Python.  You can create and test programs using it.
Input – Input devices let you send data to the raspberry pi like a keyboard, mouse, or camera.  On the raspberry pi, inputs can be the USB connectors or the GPIO pins.

LCD – A Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) are like those used in many modern monitors and HD televisions.  There are tiny LCD screens available to use with the raspberry pi.

LED – A Light Emitting Diode (LED) can light up in one color (available in many different colors).  The longer lead is positive, while the shorter lead is negative.

List – A list is a data structure variable that can hold multiple values.  These values can be referenced by numbers like numbered items in a grocery list.

Operating System – This is required for your computer to start up. The raspberry pi runs on Linux.

Output – Output devices receive data that the Raspberry Pi sends to them like a speaker or display.

PiTFT touchscreen – The PiTFT (Thin Film Transistor) touchscreen is a device designed to both display something and read when touched as input.  This specific one with our kit is a single-touch, resistive touchscreen. This means that it only supports a single point being touched at a time.

Power Source – A power source is the typical starting point of a circuit such as the power supply.

Python – Python is a simple programming language that requires only a few lines of code to do amazing things.  Any code you write will be fed to an interpreter that converts your python code into the computer’s binary language.  Python is the command prompt that Raspberry Pi uses.

Resistance – Resistance is measured in Ohms and is how hard the components on the board push back against the voltage. Resistance is like the size of a stream.  A stream that is running through a deep section with wide banks has low resistance and moves slowly; a stream that is running through a shallow water with narrow banks has high resistance and moves quickly.

Shell – The window that opens is known as the shell and is where you can enter the python code.

Short Circuits – A short occurs when a component with a positive polarity is directly connected to a component with a negative polarity and both have very low resistance.  This can occur by setting the Raspberry Pi on a piece of metal or allowing two pins to touch. A short can destroy your Raspberry Pi.  Do not set your Raspberry Pi on metal and be careful to not touch the wrong pins together.

Source code – Source code is any collection of computer instructions, possibly with comments.  The raspberry pi uses python as its source code before being converted to binary.

Static Electricity – Static electricity is generating a shock when you touch a conductive surface such as metal or another person.  This kind of shock can easily damage the Raspberry Pi. You can use a grounding bracelet to protect against static shocks.

Storage – Storage is where the programs you create are saved to. Memory/RAM is temporary and gets cleared any time the machine is powered off or reset.  The storage for the raspberry pi is the microSD card or a hard drive if you need to backup your programs.

Troubleshooting – Troubleshooting is a form of problem-solving and in the case of the Raspberry Pi it is done to find errors or debug the code when errors occur.

Try-Except Block – A Try-Except Block is similar to an if-else statement, the code in the try section is run unless there is an error or interruption.  You can use the except block run code when the specific event happens during the try block.

Variables – Variables are one of the most useful tools in programming.  Variables allow you to tell the computer to remember something.  Variables can be integers, strings, or names.

Voltage – Voltage is the electrical potential between positive and negative. The Raspberry Pi has a 5-volt input but outputs 3.3 volts.

While Loops – While Loops are potentially infinite.  A while loop will repeat the indented lines of code until the condition is no longer true.

The following are links to online resources that I located or were suggested in the activity booklet (videos, lesson plans, ebooks, etc.) that can be used to better understand the raspberry pi:

  • Raspberry Pi is the official website of Raspberry Pi and where you can get your own and accessories.  In addition, it has tons of resources for online training, tutorials, project ideas, coding club locators, and educational resources.
  • Getting Started With Raspberry Pi is an online guide.
  • KA-Pi is Khan Academy for the Raspberry Pi and the ability to watch their videos without internet.
  • The Pi Hut is loaded with tutorials as well as links to the official Raspberry Pi and maker stores.
  • Sparkfun Pi is Sparkfun’s raspberry pi tutorials and online guides.
  • Adafruit Raspberry Pi is Adafruit’s raspberry tutorials and demos.
  • RPi is filled with raspberry pi tutorials and project ideas.
  • Instructables has Raspberry Pi project ideas.
  • Hackster.io has Raspberry Pi tutorials and demos.
  • PiMyLifeUp has lots of Raspberry Pi projects.
  • Python is the main programming language used on the Raspberry Pi.
  • Learn Python has a tutorial for learning python.
  • Python Guru has tutorials for learning python.

The following are books (all at our local library) about the raspberry pi:

  • Raspberry Pi Projects for Dummies by Mike Cook
  • Adventures in Raspberry Pi by Carrie Anne Philbin
  • Learning Python with Raspberry Pi by Alex Bradbury
  • Raspberry Pi in Easy Steps by Mike McGrath
  • Getting started with Raspberry Pi by Matt Richardson
  • Understanding coding with Raspberry Pi by Patricia Harris
  • Raspberry Pi Zero Cookbook by Edward Snajder
  • Python Programming with Raspberry Pi by Srihari Yamanoor
  • Raspberry Pi by Charles R. Severance
  • Make Bluetooth: Bluetooth LE Projects with Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Smartphones by  Alasdair Allan
  • Motors for Makers: a Guide to Steppers, Servos, and Other Electrical Machines by Matthew Scarpino
  • The New Shop Class: Getting Started with 3D Printing, Arduino, and Wearable Tech by Joan C. Horvath

Here are some places to obtain Raspberry Pi kits or bundles for those who don’t want to acquire everything individually (the actual raspberry pi is about $35):

  • Adafruit has a starter kit; all you need is a screen or monitor or hook it up to your TV.
  • Adafruit PiTop is a complete raspberry pi laptop kit.
  • Piper Computer Kit is a complete build your own computer kit.
  • Neego Raspberry Kit is a build your own tablet kit.
  • Kano Computer Kit is a complete build your own computer kit.
  • Raspberry Pi is the official store with bundles but you will need to supply your own screen and keyboard.
  • Cana Kit has a build your own computer starter kit and you need to provide the screen.

Here are some magazines that can offer inspiration for making and creating with the raspberry pi and other technologies:

Beyond Academics: What Else Our Children Need to Learn



Sometimes our children are singularly focussed on only their interest.  This leaves them less well-rounded.  Some schools stress only academics, again leaving their students less well-round.  Sadly, many schools have eliminated or reduced educational opportunities for music, art, home economics, and shop or trade classes.  These leaves students without learning some basic life skills that we learned while we were in school.  For some gifted children, their academic skills are so advanced that they look inept in other skills.  In addition, asynchronicity can affect them and also have them looking inept in some life skills.  All of this is further reason why we as parents need to teach our own children other skills beyond just academics. This means as parents, we need to step up to teach our children some critical life skills that they need beyond just academics such as money management, media literacy, gun safety, cooking skills, cleaning skills, finding a hobby, tinkering, and trade skills.

Money management. Money math is not taught in most schools.  The students who choose to take an economics course in high school may be the only ones getting real exposure to lessons on money management.  However, given the lack of savings by Americans and the exponential rise in student debt it is extremely important that all children get lessons on money management starting when they are little.  There are all kinds of programs and banks for teaching children about saving, spending and giving or donating.  But, money management is more than just giving children an allowance and having them allocate between save, spend, and give.  It is the active teaching them about debit cards, credit cards, checking accounts, savings account, and retirement savings.  Our son has been coming to our annual financial advisor meetings and hearing all the discussions on investments, life insurance, debt management, and retirement planning.  We have worked hard with him on understanding a need versus want.  If it is something he wants, he has to pay for it.  If it is something he needs and he can prove that it is a need instead of a want, then we pay.  There are also times we split the cost.  He also created a gift wish list of his wants for the extended family to consider for his birthday or Christmas.  The point is, he recognizes the differences between needs and wants and he knows everything has a cost.  We have been bringing him grocery shopping and putting him in charge of the calculator so he can calculate unit cost if the price tag doesn’t list it.  We have certain food items that we need specific brands but for others, we have taught him how to do a price comparison and to understand when buying in bulk is a better deal.  He has heard the conversations when vacation planning regarding best airfare, lodging deals, car rental deals, and the looking for free activities as well as places where our memberships have reciprocity.  We also talk to him about taxes (sales, property, and income) and every year we review our tax return with him.  We want him to understand all aspects of money.

Media literacy.  Media literacy is extremely important for our children.  They are growing up completely surrounded by social media and instant notifications.  However, there is so much information and misinformation that children (and adults) do not always know what is factual.  I previously wrote on the issues of media and news literacy and provided links to resources for teaching media and news literacy.  We need our children to understand the media that they are exposed to as well as learning how to make proper arguments and understanding logical fallacies.  With the amount of time our children are exposed to the screen with some form of media, it is important that they learn how to think critically and analyze information.

Gun safety. Gun safety is important for all people, but especially those living in America.  Given the current events, it is critical that we as parents have a conversation about gun safety with our children.  Not all gun owners are as responsible as they should be in storing their guns safely. We as parents do not know what is going on in another person’s house in terms of if guns are in the house, are they loaded or unloaded, are they locked, etc.  For those parents who do not own guns but are in areas where lots of people do own guns, it is important that your children know what to do if they see a gun when at a friend’s or different family member’s house.  Guns are not toys and this needs to be stressed to all children.  If they see a gun, they need to report it to an adult.  They should not touch it or pick it up.  There have been too many cases of young children and toddlers accidentally shooting a gun at another child.  Thus, it is important as parents that we have these difficult conversations on gun safety.  If you do not feel comfortable talking to your child about guns, there are numerous gun ranges that have gun safety classes for children and hunting safety classes.  Field and Stream, Safe Kids, and Kids Health have suggestions for teaching children gun safety.  The important part is teaching kids that guns are not toys, they should not touch the gun, and they need to get an adult.  And, if they see a child at school with a gun, they need to report it.

Cooking skills.  Some kids love cooking and eating, but some do not.  And, we all know the same is true for adults.  However, every child needs to know how to do basic cooking.  With many schools no longer having home economics class, some kids never even try to cook until they leave the house.  Instead, we as parents need to involve our children in meal preparation.  They don’t have to be expert chefs.  Every child before they leave the house should know how to make at least 3 simple meals, do grocery shopping, and meal plan. Knowing how to cook can save on food expenses versus eating out for every meal (I know adults who ate out for 2 meals a day).  Knowing how to cook can also help with being healthier.

Cleaning skills. Cleaning skills might be considered chores by some.  I also know that there are some families who have maids and nannies which means their children never have to do cleaning chores.  However, once children leave the home, many do not have the money to afford a maid and some will still depend on their moms to do laundry.  This is why I have cleaning skills on the list of what every child needs to learn.  In addition, we don’t have a maid or lawn service company (a rarity where we leave).  These chores have to be done by us.  It is not that hard to teach a child how to use the vacuum, washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher.  In fact, my son loves to vacuum!  He knows how to start all of the appliances.  Because I use too big of a soap container, he can’t get the soap into the washing machine but he knows what settings are for bedding versus clothes.  He can transfer laundry for me and he can unload.  I admit he is not a good folder.  But the point is, he understands cleaning chores have to be done and he knows how to do the basic ones.  The goal is to get him to do these completely independently.  And the next step is to work on him doing the lawn maintenance chores.  Houses, clothes, and dishes do not magically clean themselves.  Children contribute to the messes and thus children need to learn how to help clean and maintain a house.

Finding a hobby or leisure activity. Many children are over scheduled.  They don’t have downtime and some don’t have any interests besides their academics.  Teaching children how to have a hobby and what a hobby looks like is a critical life skill.  Many adults work to support their hobbies and some have turned their hobbies into work.  Hobbies are important because it is usually something you enjoy and can be a source of stress relief.  Some hobbies involve a group and others don’t.  Hobbies could be craft related, sport related, flying, strategy gaming, reading, traveling, etc.  The point is, teaching children about hobbies and exposing them to various leisure activities can help them be more well-rounded and have an outlet for stress relief.

Tinkering.  Tinkering is a new part of education and is part of a bigger global community.  Some schools and libraries now have makerspaces that children and adults can use for making just about anything.  However, some children do not have access to these places.  This is where parents can come in to create opportunities for tinkering.  Although playing with 3D printers and CNC cutters is amazing, there are simpler ways for kids to learn tinkering.  Letting children of all ages take things apart and reassemble or better yet use those parts to make something different is a great way to allow creativity to blossom.  The point of the tinkering movement is allowing people to make things that solve a problem they have or just for the sake of making something out of stuff they have.  Tinkering can also be fixing or repairing what is broken to extend its usefulness longer than the typical buy-break-buy cycle than many people do.  Tinkering can also lead to art formation.  Tinkering on the cheap just entails having a simple tool set and cell phone repair kit so you can take about just about anything.  Then, let your child’s imagination and creativity go in terms of what they want to do or make with those parts.  There are also some beginner robot and Arduino kits and lots of online programs that are free or low cost for taking the tinkering to the next level of robotics and programming (Arduino, raspberry pi, launchpad, Adafruit, etc.).  There are also books that are available at many libraries: Tinkerlab, Invent to Learn, Exploralab, 50 Dangerous Things You Should Never Let Your Children Do, Maker Dad, The Big Book of Hacks, and Make: Tinkering (Make has a magazine and lots of books).

Trade skills.  Trade skills is a broad area but an important one, especially since many schools have completely eliminated these programs and every person depends on a tradesperson to keep their cars, workplace, or homes running.  Our children don’t need to know every single trade out there.  However, understanding what electricians, plumbers, woodworkers, and auto mechanics do is extremely important.  Knowing about the tools the trades use is helpful.  Regardless of where one lives there will be a time when something breaks.  When we call a repair person, it is the perfect learning opportunity for our children to see what they do.  In addition, learning some of these trades means they may potentially save themselves on future repair bills.  Having an understanding of how a car engine works and what is routine maintenance can help reduce auto repair costs.  Having just some basic or introductory knowledge could help when explaining what is wrong to the mechanic or repair person at your house and lower your bill because you won’t be billed for a service you didn’t need.  In addition, having some understanding of the trades can help build appreciation for those who do these needed jobs.  And, learning some of these trades can lead to some interesting hobbies, side jobs, or even future careers.

I am sure that there are additional areas that students can and should learn.  However, I picked these as the most critical due to seeing so many high school students and college students lacking these skills.  I have also heard from friends about the recent college graduates looking good on paper but lacking functional life skills.  I have heard and seen the college kid saving several weeks worth of laundry for their moms.  I have even heard some college students asking their parents to hire them a maid and increase their food budget for eating out.  We have friends who didn’t figure out balancing debt until they were in their 30s and we all know people who never get out of debt.  In addition, many current events highlight the need for our children to learn more than just academics and test-taking skills.  At some point, our children will have to live on their own and we all want them to be successful and independent.

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Beyond Academics.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:


Sweet Dreams Are Not Made of These


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People don’t always tell you that some babies, toddlers, or children are not good sleepers.  Oh, you will get that passing comment about sleep-deprived newbie parents.  However, even the prenatal classes make no mention of possible sleep issues or prepare you for the reality of sleep deprivation.  Yet, there are tons of books, alleged sleep gurus, and general advice on sleep problems and sleep training.  But, when you are in the midst of it, you feel all alone and completely sleep deprived. Honestly, very few babies sleep through the night!  Parents should not expect that so they can be realistic on sleep expectations.  That being said, we know our child was an outlier on horrible sleep.  Hopefully, your child is better or that your future child will not be this difficult.

Here is our story of our son’s not so sweet dreams:

Our son was born with congenital scoliosis and kidney reflux which meant he had lots of specialists his first couple years.  He did latch but was not the best eater. We suspected something was not right but our first pediatrician just said it was colic and that some babies are difficult.  The longest he would sleep for was 1.5 hours.  We actually made logs of his spit-ups, projectile vomiting, gas, and crying fits (not normal baby cries).  His spine specialist showed us his x-rays at 6 months and said we need to to take a copy of the x-ray to his pediatrician and consider seeing a gastroenterologist as his stomach was filled with air despite not crying during the x-ray.  This lead to our pediatrician backing off all of her previous comments and getting us to a gastroenterologist rapidly.  Instead of the usual 3 month wait time, we were seen in 2 weeks.  We did switch pediatricians too.  This led to several diagnostic procedures and the diagnosis was severe GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) aka Reflux.  We tried various medications, sleep positioners, elevating bed, and played around with prescription formulas and breast milk and combining with rice cereal to thicken.  We got him to sleep at least one 3 to 4-hour chunk at night with smaller chunks but he never napped more than 45 minutes.  By age 1, he was only napping once a day but he was so alert during the day he truly did not need the naps. It was me who needed the naps!

By age 2 he was also diagnosed with abdominal migraines and delayed gastric emptying.  He was still only sleeping one 3 to 4-hour chunk at night with smaller chunks and no longer napping at all.  Again, he was completely fine and did not need the naps.  It was me who needed them.  And it was during this time that we may have missed how gifted he was.  By age 4 the abdominal migraines were gone and he was only on reflux medications.  He was finally sleeping for 4-hour chunks.  We did go through a phase of nightmares and night terrors (worse than nightmares) and sleepwalking.  And it was during this year he was diagnosed as profoundly gifted.  By age 6 we stopped prescription reflux medicine as there was no difference on it or off of it and there were risks of long-term use of such medication.  

At age 11 he still does not sleep completely through the night and requires significantly less sleep than his peers.  Like his physical size, his sleep is on the bottom of the chart and completely opposite of his cognitive and academic abilities.  His doctors and we realize he doesn’t know how to turn off his brain to relax and just sleep.  He is constantly thinking and planning.  He can pick up in the middle of the night or in the morning right where his conversation ended before going to sleep.  And, he is part of the small percentage of babies that never outgrows GERD and continue to have reflux their whole life.  The reflux is better but not gone.  He still takes forever to fall asleep.

Here is a list of things we tried (I am sure I am missing some):

  • Swaddling (he loved being swaddled but didn’t necessarily translate to sleeping)
  • Shushing
  • Rocking
  • Pacifier (due to reflux, he was never into one)
  • Singing lullabies & nursery rhymes
  • Sleeping in bouncer
  • Sleeping in car seat
  • Walking outside to put to sleep
  • Driving in car to put to sleep
  • Babywearing to put sleep (baby Bjorn was my best baby item)
  • Elevated bassinet & crib with binders (4 inch hard sided binders, and for a period of time multiple ones stacked on top of each other)
  • Wedge pillow
  • Baby sleep positioners
  • Elevated twin mattress with binders & books (we considered purchasing a wedge mattress but binders worked enough)
  • Double sets of sheets & mattress protectors so that if bad vomit or bathroom incident could quickly get back to bed (this was best baby tip we were ever given)
  • Cry-it-out aka Ferber Method (tried it and resulted in worse vomiting, and learned this method is not recommended for severe reflux babies)
  • Pick-up Put-down Method aka Hogg Method (tried it and didn’t work, he would get too worked up and vomit)
  • The chair method (the crying resulted in vomiting)
  • Co-sleeping aka the Sears Method (didn’t stop the waking up but everyone got more sleep)
  • Bedroom sharing aka McKenna Method (didn’t stop the waking up but everyone got more sleep)
  • No cry sleep method aka Pantley Method (reducing crying, reduced reflux compared to other crying methods)
  • Shush-pat method (less crying, but took over 30 minutes to fall asleep every time he woke up)
  • Sleep Fairy method (based on the book by Janie Peterson and Macy Peterson)
  • Medications
  • Probiotics
  • Sleep books for kids
  • Lavender baths
  • Calming Music
  • White noises (small fans)
  • Monster spray
  • Dreamcatchers
  • Detective Thinking
  • Deep breathing and counted breathing
  • Bedtime stories
  • Sleep reward charts
  • Strict bedtime routine
  • Quiet time before bedtime

Sleep-themed books for kids that we tried:

  • Sleep Fairy by Janie Peterson and Macy Peterson
  • Time for Bed by Mem Fox
  • Jake Stays Awake by Michael Wright
  • I Don’t Want to Go to Bed! by Julie Sykes
  • Go Sleep in Your Own Bed by Candace Fleming
  • Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton
  • Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
  • Mommy, I Want to Sleep In Your Bed! By Harriet Ziefert
  • I Sleep In My Own Bed by Glenn Wright
  • Good night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown’s
  • The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
  • The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  • Kiss Goodnight by Amy Hest
  • Big Enough for a Bed by Apple Jordan
  • A Book of Sleep by II Sung Na
  • Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss

I share our story, not to scare you but instead to assure you that you are not alone if you have a difficult sleeper.  Also, the books and sage advice may not work for your family.  Trust me, I read over a dozen sleep training books, watched several videos, and subscribed to several sleep training emails; you need to find what works for you and your child. You need to find a strategy that you can live with. There is no one-size strategy for sleep.  Some children are great sleepers.  Some are not great sleepers like ours.

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Sweet Dreams.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser: