By guest author Victoria Weaver
Since most of us were raised to be humble, we never want to be “that” parent who goes on and on about how bright her child is. Everyone is gifted in some way, but there’s no denying that some kids are gifted.
Smart kids and kids with good grades are not necessarily gifted. A gifted child goes beyond straight As and may not even excel in the traditional sense of grade reporting. However, the label “gifted” defines those who go above. Gifted students dig deeper, grasp concepts quickly and view them differently.
Often people are asynchronously gifted, meaning they excel in one subject while struggling or being quite average in another. Other traits that often accompany giftedness include:
- Emotional intensity
- Overexcitability, such as extreme joy or frustrations
- Inconsistent maturity in relation to age-based peers
- Early communication with an advanced vocabulary
- A rich imagination that shows originality and creativity
- Being argumentative
- Preferring solitary play to playing with children their own age
- Acute observational skills.
Because of how truly unique they are, homeschooling is ideal for the ability to customize education for your gifted child.
Is Labeling Your Gifted Child Necessary?
The gifted child can wear many labels: accelerated, advanced, smart, genius, peppy and many more. But are any of these terms helpful, even “gifted”? Obtaining the label often involves expensive, in-depth tests that many homeschool parents prefer to avoid. While these tests may seem unnecessary or even detrimental, they can assist you in understanding how your child learns and how best to help them in a homeschooling environment. Ultimately, it is your choice, and because homeschooling allows us to bend and flex with our learners in the way that best suits their needs, paying to confirm the label is certainly not necessary.
There are a few times you may want to pursue testing. If your child is already in school and you are removing them to homeschool, it may be helpful to pursue a diagnosis, both for your benefit and for the potential return to school in the future. Knowing the diagnosis (if there is one) will help you immensely in adapting your education style to your gifted child’s learning style.
Additionally, be honest with gifted children about the results of any tests they may take. They deserve to know. Just be careful to keep the explanation at a level they can understand. We must remember that though they may be advanced in many areas, they are still children and grappling with the fluctuations of a growing brain.
Why Homeschool Your Gifted Student?
Gifted children often process and understand material faster than their peers. A gifted child is more likely to become bored, which can lead to disruptive behavior or, paradoxically, underachievement. Keeping the material challenging while maintaining a classroom of children is difficult for the mainstream educator.
Another challenge for the educator may be that the gifted learner quickly outpaces the instructor. There is no handbook for when you think your student is smarter than you. In that case, the best option is helping that child find the best way to learn and achieve goals.
Homeschooling gifted children may be the only recourse that will fully allow gifted children to find meaning and substance and truly develop their astonishing potentials. In this age of connectivity, it may also be the only option to find peers of similar ability and age.
The complete control to adapt curriculum for your gifted child is one of the best reasons to homeschool. You and your child set a course of study. Not being tied to a schedule opens a world of opportunity to go beyond the page and delve deeply into subjects. Field trips will not just be a day away from home, but an integral aspect to your child’s explorations and comprehensions.
If you’ve decided to homeschool your gifted student, you’re in for an adventure that is as singular as your student. Here are some ways to maximize success and minimize frustrations.
Finding Your Curriculum
One-size-fits-all learning will be a waste of money because gifted children will likely be learning different levels for different subjects.
Avoid a style of constant review (e.g., spiral method or those heavy on manipulatives) because gifted learners will be bored revisiting mastered concepts. Rather, they need to build on their learning to keep pace with their brains
Avoid Needless Repetition
We often approach learning in a linear fashion and require our students to master A before beginning B. But the gifted mind does not always work this way. Forcing steps or basic concepts that the gifted child has already grasped will exasperate both sides. Likewise, busywork will lead to similar frustrations and disappointments. Manipulatives are generally used to help reinforce concepts. If they already feel comfortable with the concept, repetition merely slows them down.
Avoid insisting on completion. When gifted children learn what they need from a book or project, they may abandon it. Forcing them to complete a project that is no longer interesting will turn into a contest of wills. Find out why they want to abandon it: perhaps they were intrigued by a different idea or decided their time could be better used elsewhere. From there, you can help them decide how to proceed.
Challenging Gifted Children
Allow them to teach themselves. Find curriculum that teaches without parental help. Often, they will move beyond our level quickly. Their capacity for intrinsic motivation related to their interests will often allow them to take the lead when provided the raw materials and resources.
Allow them to fall down the rabbit hole. A gifted child can often become intensely persistent or obsessed with learning all they can about a particular subject. It may mean extra trips to the library and a lot of guided internet searches, but absorbing copious amounts of information allows their brains to work at capacity and lays a foundation for future learning.
Challenging work is essential for gifted children. When gifted children don’t have an educational challenge, the intensity that is so common in gifted children can lead to emotional overload. If their lessons are always too easy, they may end up with a deep sense of failure when they encounter more difficult topics or problems that actually do challenge them.
Is Early College the Right Course?
This is a family choice. Part of why we homeschool is that we get to be with our children. Depending on your location, community college may be a better option to help them mature emotionally and gain some real-world experience before it is time for them to actually leave the home.
You can also use this time to encourage gifted children to develop emotional maturity and independence. Encourage them to find a job, volunteer and/or intern in a field of interest. Developing leadership, teamwork, time management and personal resilience are all necessary to move forward as a socially and emotionally healthy adult capable of independent success.
Gifted children have been given something of great value — an exceptional intelligence in one or more areas. Most will not fit within the mold and capabilities of a traditional school. Save yourself a lot of energy by stepping away from bureaucracy, even in curriculum or common homeschool methods, to meet the needs of your gifted child.
Homeschooling will not always be the easier option for you as parent to a gifted learner. In fact, it will likely be exhausting and isolating at times. But it may be the best gift you can give your learner. Schools teach to the average. Your homeschool can teach to the exceptional.
About the Author: Victoria Weaver
This article is reprinted with permission of Texas Home School Coalition and the author. It originally appeared in HEQ. Visit THSC.org.