Friday, August 9, 2013

Letting Your Gifted Kids Take the Lead

Ah...letting go. Giving up some control. Maybe this part is easy for some parents, but for me, this one is a doozy. Unfortunately, there are some kinds of kids, and gifted kids are among them, who really do thrive when they are allowed to take the reins of their education. The conundrum, of course, is at what point and to what extent you allow them to do so.

A confession for those who may not know: I have control issues. In fact, I am a control freak. I have learned, though, that rigid control does not work in homeschooling. In fact, avoiding rigid control is one great reason that people decide to homeschool in the first place. As I indicated earlier this week, parents of gifted kids should not lesson plan too far in the future and should avoid boxed curriculum. In both cases, their kids will likely thwart them by working too far ahead or by becoming bored. Even when you follow this advice, though, your kids may not finish a curriculum they start. This can be frustrating for so many reasons! 

For some parents, it becomes a "we finish what we start" thing. For some, it is a case of "we paid for it, you'll use it." For me, both of these things come into play, but even more than that, it is the eternal frustration of "So what on Earth do you want?!" Of course, my kids are, for the most part, too young to know what they want. Fortunately, this seems to be changing a bit for some subjects. At least for this month.

How a family handles this issue is completely individualistic. For budget reasons, some families can't change curriculum midstream, although (and this is another blog post altogether) I would very much encourage such families to investigate free alternatives if they find themselves mired in a curriculum that is causing a big problem with a gifted child. If math has become a big problem, but you're too invested in Saxon to get out of it this year, try using something like Cool Math or Khan Academy. Both are free and provide a nice respite from the norm.

Knowing your child well is the best way to figure out how much control to give up and what kind of curriculum to use. Realizing that some years you may make a ton of progress on paper, while other years it may appear that you are stagnating (but parents of gifted kids know that they are never stagnating - send your kid outside or give him a book; buy him a new robotics set or do whatever you need to to feed his passion. He may not have gotten far through 3rd grade this year, but you've continued to feed the bottomless pit that is his brain's desire to absorb knowledge - don't get hung up on the grade levels and the textbooks!) is so key. It is also one of the hardest things for new homeschoolers of all stripes to accept.

As far as my own children go, it has taken a few years (and has somewhat exhausted me), but I am finally starting to get a handle on them. My 10 year-old son, largely, I think, because of what I suspect is CAPD and what I know is OCD and ADHD, likes workbooks. His lessons are short and predictable. He knows what to expect every day. I have managed to find books that teach him as they teach him. In other words, his spelling book presents the words in a science context, so he's being presented with spelling words, but, to him, he's reading science material. As I mentioned earlier this week, his grammar book is an inductive approach that really works for him. I think I have found his magic formula (he does math online with Thinkwell, because I am not about to try to teach him Algebra. Our relationship would not survive). Honestly, though, Nicky's learning takes place mostly outside of school. He reads, lives with his Legos, and takes apart anything he finds. I don't have any idea what makes his mind work. I only know what testing has told me about his intellect. Those 2e kids are a mystery.

Therese is much more difficult. Honestly, most days I think I could send Therese to college and she would do just fine (she's 12). She reads at a college level. She can analyze literature. She knows more history than just about every adult I know. So she doesn't love math and science. That makes her my child in every way possible. She gets frustrated with curriculum so easily, though! I think she's just bored out of her mind. If she could, she would read all day and do nothing else. Many days I wonder why I don't let her. She would read the right things. She would read The Great Books. She loves The Great Books. She would read Latin. She loves learning Greek. So is it really all that important that she does a lab science? Really? 

These are the questions I deal with, and I know I'm not alone. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Therese will be very successful in college (the right college - we're talking about a small, private, Liberal Arts College), regardless of how we spend the next few years at home, but there are so many things I want to teach her and I am afraid of wasting time. So I tell myself what I tell other homeschooling moms, you can't do it all and you'll drive yourself crazy if you try. I sit down with Therese every few months and check with her to see how she feels about what she is doing. Then, we make adjustements if necessary. Agewise, she is about to start 7th grade, but I have already started her high school transcript, as she has already taken high school level classes. That way, we have plenty of time to make adjustments where necessary and still have a complete transcript when necessary. Gotta check those boxes -- unfortunately!

Thanks for joining me on this blog hop journey! I know I violate all the rules of blog posts (my paragraphs are too long, I don't have pictures), but I have a lot to say on this topic. I hope something I have said has been helpful. Don't miss all of the other wonderful posts - click the banner below. I have spent a lot of time this week reading through them!

 Laus Deo,

Summer Blog Hop

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