Monday, August 5, 2013

How Do I Begin Homeschooling My Gifted Child?

Homeschooling gifted's a deep subject (it ranks with wells on that score). If you try to figure it out all at once, you are likely to give up altogether. I have been making my way down this path officially since 2007, when we began homeschooling, but unofficially since my daughter began talking long before she turned one. In fact, she was carrying on complete conversations many months before she could even walk. Of course, as she was my first, I didn't understand why some people looked at me strangely as I carried around a little person who was capable of having an intelligent conversation, but not capable of walking!

Of course, homeschooling gifted kids presents challenges. One of the first we face is which curriculum to choose. There are so many great articles out there on choosing curriculum that I won't go into the specific choices. Instead, I am going to caution you that homeschooling a gifted child is not like homeschooling other children. For this reason, I would strongly recommend against a stock curriculum (i.e., "Company X's 5th Grade) for two reasons:

  1. It is entirely likely that your child will finish it in less than half the time allotted
  2. It is entirely likely that your child will get bored with the format/books/material/font/etc. long before the year is finished

For that reason, your homeschooling path will probably be, of necessity, eclectic. You may hit on a company that really *gets* gifted kids. There are several out there that claim to. The problem is that gifted kids come in all shapes, sizes, and attitudes. Some are pretty compliant. They will do the material you set in front of them, even if they don't really like it. After all, they know that you paid good money for it, they see the value in it, and they respect you. This is my eldest daughter (12 in two days), Therese.

Then there is another variety. They really don't care that you paid good money for something (or, probably more correctly, that thought is just not on their radar). They are bored if they don't feel engaged by their curriculum. They will challenge themselves if they are really interested in a subject, but otherwise will do the minimum to get by. That puts the onus on you to continually find good material to challenge and interest them. That's my 10 year-old son, Nicholas.

Thus, the best advice you can get if you are embarking on the journey of homeschooling your gifted child is one of the hardest (at least for me!) to follow: Do not overbuy curriculum! The odds are very good that you will not use most of it. Five other key pieces of advice to consider when beginning to homeschool your gifted child are as follows:

1.  Do not plan more than a couple of months at a time. If you're not a big planner, this one won't bother you much. If you are the kind of homeschooler who plans a semester or a year at a time, though, it might drive you crazy. Trust me, though. The phrase "rabbit trail" is familiar to homeschoolers - it's that fun little journey you take when something interests you and you deviate from your plan for the day. If you're homeschooling gifted kids, you can begin planning for rabbit warrens. If you have lesson planned too far in the future, you can fully expect to be recycling those plans.

2.  Expect your child's learning to be cyclical: some days/weeks/months/years your child will learn so much so quickly that you will be breathless, while at other times, it will seem to you that your child is going nowhere. First, rest assured that your child is always learning at all times. Even when a gifted child is not "doing school", she is learning. In fact, for some gifted children, school is completely incidental (but that post is coming later this week!). As your child's interest levels wax and wane, though, he may really be acquiring tons of information now and not quite so much later. Relax. It's okay. He's still really, really smart. He's not going to lose that along the way.

3.  Let your child decide how much school he'll do and when - within reason and strictly according to your child's personality type. This one comes with a huge caveat: you know your child best! This one applies very well to Therese, but not at all to Nicholas.

4.  Closely related to the previous, but more applicable to all gifted kids, do not get hung up on what you think you *ought* to be doing for school. This one is hugely important for all homeschooling parents, of course, but even more so for parents of gifted kids. Your kids don't learn like other people's kids; you can't measure your schooling against other people's. Down that road lies madness.

5.  Forget about grade levels. They are meaningless. Your 10 year-old may be doing algebra, but may not have any idea what a five paragraph essay is. So what grade is he in? Who knows? What's more, who cares? Your 5 year-old may be reading her way through Jane Austen but struggle with borrowing in math. What grade is that? And then there are those kids who are in all high school subjects before their age reflects double digits. Don't even bother trying to convince anyone of that fact. Yes, people will ask what grade your child is in. Resort to that stock answer of all homeschoolers and leave it at that: "He's homeschooled." That answer explains and excuses a multitude of issues!

So we've talked about a few things to consider as you begin homeschooling your gifted child. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about some curriculum that I have found really works with gifted kids. For now, click on the banner to find your way to the next fabulous post in the Blog Hop!

Laus Deo,

Summer Blog Hop

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