As I watched my son, seven years old, sitting on the swing in the backyard, wearing a fantastic four costume and reading, I realized that I really do love homeschooling. I love that he has the freedom to read on the swingset. He can come to class in a super hero costume. He can spend hours a day with his little sister making up characters and stories.
I used to teach in the public school system and to tell you the truth, a child like my son would have driven me crazy. He is sweet and smart, oh so smart… too smart. If he had been one of my students, I would not have known what to do with him. I was unprepared as a teacher when it came to students with significantly above average intelligences. As a teacher, I had to teach to the majority and hope to catch those kids who fell on the far ends of the spectrum. As a homeschool mom, I don’t have that concern. I can be a student of my children. I can learn each one’s learning styles, quirks and nuances. I can teach them… really teach them.
All my training as a teacher did little to prepare me when it comes to my son. He is my oldest. His intelligence is off the charts. I don’t like to say that he’s gifted because I don’t want to try to fit him into a box. But the fact of the matter is that he is gifted intellectually. He showed signs of this very early on as a young toddler. We have continued to be astounded at his ever growing knowledge. At times, I feel that he would have been better off in a different family who could have sent him to the best schools and given him the best opportunities. But then I remember that God gave him to us… on purpose and for a purpose. He is just where he needs to be.
I have attended seminars at homeschool conferences on gifted children in order to get a better grasp on how to teach my son. I have learned that gifted children are those who show significantly higher than normal levels of intelligence in one or more areas. Gifted children like to ask “how” and “why.” They often struggle with social graces. They tend to relate well with older peers and adults.
One key piece of advice I was given when my child was young was to let him lead and be willing to follow. In light of that, here are some things that I have tried to implement in our homeschool:
1. I let my son be involved in decisions concerning what we will learn. He went with me when we picked out curriculum. He let me know what he liked and what he didn’t like. He tells me when something is too hard or not hard enough. I try to adjust when I can and let him know I value his input.
2. My son typically orders our homeschool day. I have a list of tasks to accomplish for the day. He puts the tasks in the order he desires.
3. I use incentives like they are going out of style. My son is motivated by rewards. You’ve got to know what motivates your child and not be afraid to use it.
4. My son is allowed, within reason, to pick the venue for school. If he wants to read on the swingset, I let him.
5. We follow his interests. My kids have such fun ideas and come up with great ideas of things to study. Learning happens so naturally for little ones. If I am willing to think outside the box, I can still work in the fundamentals while exploring the world around us.
6. Read, read and read some more! Utilize the local library, free Kindle app and books, internet, etc. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive.
7. Set boundaries. When I say to let the child lead, I am not saying to let the child be the leader in the home. You are still the parent. You are still in control. Give your child choices and be willing to give up your agenda, but maintain your God given authority.
8. Role playing and practicing how to have conversations help greatly in learning social graces. We talk A LOT about how our actions effect other people.
I do not refer to my son as gifted in his presence. We talk often about how God has given us different abilities. God has designed us each with purpose and no one is more important than another. I only started looking into this whole business of giftedness so that I could learn how to keep pace with my son. We are three years into our homeschooling journey and it has already looked much different than I thought it would. I am excited to see what lies ahead
Really, homeschooling a gifted child doesn’t look that much different than homeschooling any child. It’s all about knowing your children. Whether your child is gifted, has ADHD or is autistic or anywhere in between, he or she was designed with purpose. What a joy we have as homeschool parents to come alongside them in this journey.
Katie Dugdale is a child of God, wife to a wonderful man, mama to four little blessings and a crafter on the side. Her life is a series of adventures. She has moved five times in eight years of marriage and had four children in four different states. She is so thankful to have a job that she can do anywhere. You can visit her at www.wellnurturedplantsandpillars.com or find her on Twitter at @mama_monkey.