Homeschooling Gifted Children: Tips for Parents
Where do parents begin to make a plan to homeschool gifted children? You don't necessarily need special curriculum or have to feel like you are not up to the task. Parents who are educators will always pick what is best for their children. Be confident in your ability to provide for your students.
It's More Than Academics
Some parents are too focused on the academics. True giftedness means being able to think outside of the box. While we can't teach our children to be gifted, we can nurture their abilities. As teachers of gifted students, we can't overlook creativity, imagination and fun. We can challenge our children in innovative ways through art, music, dramatics, languages, cooking and other non-academic ways.
Here are some ideas for enriching your gifted student's training.
- Use hands-on, creative activities such as Play-Doh or clay to allow students to explore different shapes, textures and colors.
- Visit the library often and encourage your child to read, read, read.
- Have them read aloud to other family members and really narrate or vocally act out the story.
- Use construction toys to allow your child to build and create.
- Give your child the opportunity to learn to play an instrument and read music.
- Encourage your child to learn another language such as Latin, Greek, Spanish, Chinese or American Sign language. Whatever language your children choose will engage their mind in a new way.
- Enroll your child in ballet, karate, tap dancing, tennis or some other physical activities that also requires him or her to develop a strategy or memorize techniques. This mind and body requirement challenges students in ways book work doesn't.
- Encourage them to enter writing contests, spelling bees, geography bees, history day competitions and science fairs. These activities give them a chance to interact in a larger community.
- Provide your students with varied art supplies and let them be creative. Painting, sketching and sculpting all require looking at the world in an in-depth way.
- Allow your child to "tinker." One family bought a car engine and put it on blocks in their garage so their son could work on it and figure out how it works. This can also be done with an old computer.
Your goal is feed your child's curiosity and creativity. Gifted children can get bored when they have nothing to create or figure out.
Is Your Student Gifted?
Do you have a child who gets bored with his or her schoolwork because it's too easy? Perhaps they began to think abstractly at a young age and are able to have conversations about complex issues such as ethics or politics.
Do you see a unique creativity in your child such as the talent to write stories, sketch or paint, or compose music? Is your child able to memorize facts easily and recall them and relate them when appropriate? How large is your child's vocabulary and does he understand words most children his age do not? Would you describe your child as a leader who organizes games and group activities with other children? Does he prefer to spend time with older kids or adults? What is his sense of humor like? Is your child witty and does he enjoy word play and puns? Do you see a sensitivity toward others in your child? Have you considered that your child may be gifted?
All of the characteristics listed above describe a gifted student. If you see those qualities in your child you may want to have your child assessed. The official definition of a gifted child is an individual with an intelligence test score above 130, two or more standard deviations above the norm, or the top 2.5%.
Other assessments define "gifted" based on scholastic achievement such as a child who works two or more grade levels above his or her age. While an assessment will confirm that a child is gifted, an IQ score won't necessarily change how you put together your child's homeschool curriculum.
Freedom Homeschooling Provides
Homeschooling gives parents the freedom to construct a curriculum to meet the specific needs of any student at the pace that student needs. A parent of a gifted child may have a student who can read at a 9th grade level but isn't ready for the subject matter in a 9th grade curriculum.
In my own homeschool, my oldest son was identified as gifted. Since giftedness is often genetic, we didn't have the other children tested but built our homeschool to encourage and nurture high academics in all the children. I ran into a snag when having my fifth grader do a high school history through a literature program that required reading The Grapes Of Wrath among other books.
I carefully sorted through which books he would read that year to be sure they addressed subject matter that was appropriate for a 10-year-old. Just because my son had the ability to read something didn't mean he was ready for it. Homeschool teachers need to be creative and careful about enriching their gifted student's studies.
It's important when planning your homeschool curriculum to take into consideration your child's learning style, how he or she thinks and what interests him or her. It has often been said that education is not the filling of a bucket but the fanning of a flame. This has never been more true than with a gifted child.
Most packaged curriculum has built-in "busy work." Workbooks can frustrate a creative learner and aren't worth the investment if your child is going to finish it in a month. Don't even try to replicate school at home. Allow your child to lead a little. For instance, If he or she is interested in the Civil War, study all its aspects and exhaust the subject while his interest is high.
One of the best things you can do as a parent of a gifted student is to get connected. Visit on-line forums, seek out other families with gifted students and share ideas and resources. You don't have to do this alone, nor should you. Creativity begets creativity in students as well as teachers.