Louisville Magazine

NOV 2016

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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146 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 11.16 (Britta had a deaf roommate in college and has since felt the need to watch TV with closed captioning. She thinks that watching Reading Rainbow and other shows this way is probably what taught Eilieh to read at such a young age.) Looking back on her daughter's kindergarten experience, Britta says, "She was frustrated. It's hard to think of a kindergartener understanding that they already know everything, but that's what was happening." Against the school's philosophy, Eilieh was able to skip kinder- garten and join a first-grade class, but Britta still saw signs of early depression. Eilieh was withdrawn and would lash out verbally at her parents. Psychologists eliminated the possibility of learning disorders and autism. "ere are misconceptions: 'Well, if you're gifted, you're OK. School doesn't have to worry about you. We need to worry about the kids who are struggling,'" Britta says. "But in reality, the higher the IQ, the higher the emotions, the higher the intensity of everything. In addition to being emotionally intense, they learn really quick. Everything is amped up. You get problems with that in society. You get problems when that goes to school." So the family decided to home-school. "About three months in she was a completely different kid," Britta says. Britta always made sure the kids were learning math, English, science and social studies. Because memorizing multipli- cation tables would send Eilieh "into a frenzy," Britta says, she taught her algebra first. "I have always taken exception with simple things," Eilieh says, "and I won't go into a rant about it because this applies to my philosophy on pretty much anything, but the idea of something being black- and-white has always bugged me — al- ways. ere is no such thing as a yes-or-no issue. ere's no such thing as 'it's good' or 'it's evil.' It's always a lot more complicated than people look at it." "I get accused of being an unschooler," Britta says. "I think that's a dirty word. ey don't see me with pens and papers and books. But I expect my kids to read a lot and write a lot and I hold rigorous standards." She has friends in Massachu- setts, home-schoolers who, by state law, have to turn in a portfolio and meet with a teacher. "I think, e way I home-schooled? Meeting with somebody?" Britta says. "ey probably would have forced me in public school and I would have hated my life," Eilieh says. "I can tell you this now that my kids ar- en't (home-schooled)," Britta says. "ere were two years when my husband was having chemo and I was so tired that we didn't do a whole lot." "I spent a ton of time in the library and read a ton of books," Eilieh says. "She's luckily the type of kid that can self-educate," Britta says. Britta would get a lesson from the library on World War II or a copy of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech for Eilieh and her 11-year-old brother Paxton to analyze. Eilieh read e Odyssey at age nine, after her grandfather brought her a collection of English texts he had found at a yard sale. One year Britta handed her a math textbook and told her to finish it by the end of the year, which she did. For a while, they teamed up with another home-school family. Britta taught the kids literature and the other mom taught the kids science, having them take apart radios and learn about the mechanics. Eilieh and other home-schoolers I've talked to all mention how Louisville is a great place to home-school, with institu- tions like the Frazier and 21c and Locust Grove to explore. "e vision of sitting at the kitchen table for eight hours a day," Britta says. "e world's out there. It's not in your kitchen." Home schooling, as the KDE warns, is a huge undertaking. Families have to figure out if they can make it work financially, if one parent can give up working or work part-time or, in Jackie Hawkins' case, work from home part-time. Jessica Philpott says that when she started home-schooling, her husband, who works in IT, started a woodworking business on the side. Going out to dinner and to the movies is pretty much nonexistent for them now, but she says that it's worth it for her children to get a quality edu- cation. Molly Isaacs-McLeod, who with Britta Stokes started an organization called Parents of Gifted Students, recently spoke at a conference in Orlando about what to consider before home-schooling. She refers to herself as a "general contractor," combining different lessons and resources and tutors for her sons' education. Her youngest son is an "extreme extrovert" and she's not sure if home schooling will work for him like it has for the other kids. She and her husband are both lawyers, but she has not been working so that she can home-school. "While I feel very blessed," she says, "this was not my plan. I'm 51 years old. I was going to be a partner at a firm by now." Britta and her husband John have a mantra: one year at a time. And they told the kids that if they ever wanted to go to regular school, to let them know. "Wherever they are, are they happy? at's a big indicator of mine," she says. Eilieh decided she wanted to go to high school a few years ago. It wasn't that she didn't have plenty of interaction with other kids — she had taken martial arts and met kids through the neighborhood and other extracurricular activities. But she wanted interaction in an academic setting. "ere's only so much you can learn at home on your own," she says. She applied to Atherton for its college-like International Baccalaureate program but didn't get in. Without a record of specific courses, she didn't even bother with duPont Manu- al. She ended up choosing St. Francis, a private school downtown where she's now a senior. She's taking AP courses and plans to enroll in U of L's small-class, discus- sion-heavy honors program next year. Paxton started at St. Gabriel in August after being home-schooled through fifth grade. While he's made some friends, and says he's learning a lot and likes it overall, he has experienced some adjustment issues — in part because of the intensity Britta has talked about that gifted students can experience. (She also suspects he might be what's called 2e, or twice exceptional, with a high IQ accompanied by a learning disorder such as ADHD.) While most kids might get annoyed with group work, having to deal with kids that don't do their part or who take over entirely, Britta says that these kinds of assignments infuriate Paxton. But he's addressing and working through his struggles for now. I catch Britta on the phone one after- noon as she's picking Paxton up from school. "Carpool is so funny — how things are so normal for other parents," she says. "It's the soup I live in now. It's kind of hard for me to have kids in school. I know the exceptions to everything but the rules are very strange for me." HOME-SCHOOLING Continued from page 43

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