where wildly different is perfectly normal
Laughing at Chaos


Jen Torbeck Merrill is an Illinois-based writer, musician, marketing project manager, and gifted family advocate.The mom of two boys, she homeschooled her twice-exceptional teen through high school while happily sending his younger brother off to his high school every morning. Those days now in the past, she is settling into the somewhat quieter life of an empty-nester. She is a music educator by trade, with degrees in music education and flute performance. Long before she picked up a flute as a child, however, Jen wanted to be a writer, something that didn’t happen until she opened a Blogger account in 2006 and never looked back. Since that time, her writing has focused more on gifted families and advocacy. Her book, If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional, struck a nerve with families who suspected Jen was living in their closet. Her second book, on the needs of gifted parents and self-care, is in progress; it is taking significantly longer than anticipated because the author herself struggles mightily with self-care and has been spending a lot of time banging her head on the keyboard and hyperventilating in writerly frustration. In the meantime she continues to blog at Laughing at Chaos.
From writing, Jen branched out into greater advocacy in gifted issues, particularly the needs of parents, personalized learning for gifted and twice-exceptional kids, and giftedness as wiring throughout life. She has partnered with Kate Arms of Signal Fire Coaching to develop an online class on self-care for parents of complex kids, and with Kate and Dr. Chris Wells of the Gifted Development Center to present a series of webinars on Thriving With Complexity.
Jen was a Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Ambassador and has presented at the National Association for Gifted Children conference (2013, 2022), the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children conference (2013), the Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted conference (2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2022), and the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Parents’ Day (2017, 2018). She was also the keynote speaker for the Twice-Exceptional Children’s Advocacy conference (2016) and one of the SENG keynote speakers at the annual convention in Houston (2019). Jen brings both her acquired wisdom and her experience as a teacher and mentor to her work in the service of parents, teaching them techniques and mentoring them into their own versions of success. Her intention is to support the parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kids, because they are the ones doing the heavy lifting and are too often ignored, patronized, and discredited. It is her hope that her sons never have to deal with these issues when they raise their own likely gifted children.



Self-Care While Homeschooling: Huffington Post, 2014

Caring For Your Soul In This Age Of Fear: Huffington Post, 2017

Radio Health Journal

Mind Matters podcast

Embracing Intensity podcast

Understanding Our Gifted Journal



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  3. Win Marsh

    I just happened across your site. THANK YOU!!!!

    My 15 yo daughter has run out of high school math and science classes. She is moving into college dorms next fall to start a dual enrollment program. She has mild Aspergers, mild Tourette’s tics and a whole lot of OCD. While the other girls are talking about hair and makeup, she is talking about photons and astrophysics. There is nothing wrong with either conversation … But they are very different conversations.

    Have we pushed her through school? No. We have tried to delay her as long as possible. We have tried to let her be a child for as long as we could. At this point, our choices are limited. The local high school has AP classes but it would be a horrible social fit. We could home-school her and increase her social isolation. We could send her to the local junior college which would be an equally awkward socal fit .. Or we can send her to the dual enrollment program. It gives her to the chance to socialize with other teens her age, to pursue classes that she is interested in, and to grow in ways that she cannot at home. It also means we as parents have to give her up sooner that we want.

    Raising a twice exceptional child had to be one of the most socially isolating experiences a family can go through. She is our last .. And our only child still home. To compare her raising to that of a neuro-typical “bright” student — there just isn’t a comparison. Our older daughter was a gifted and talented student. She has a degree in engineering … But she was nothing like her little sister. This is a different planet. Different rules. Different kind of thinking. This is extreme intellect/brilliance mixed with social delays and anxieties. This is TOUGH .. But worth it.

Whaddya think?

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