Homeschool Special Needs

Homeschooling a Gifted Child

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.

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  • This is so timely for me! You have NO idea.

    My son will be 2 in exactly two weeks {*sniffle*}, and we are facing some of the same issues. He can read sight words for heaven’s sake, and he has been able to do so since 21 months. He has memorized whole books. He knows all of his letters, can say them phonetically, and can write a good portion of them neatly. He can count, talks well, is artistic {oh so very artistic}, and is obviously flourishing despite nothing more than answering questions when he has them.

    I admit I was starting to panic. He wants to do preschool in the fall since a lot of his friends will be going to actual preschools, and I’ve agreed. Then I realized I think he is past the point of using the program I had picked. I needed someone to tell me it is okay. That we’ll figure it out, and I just need to listen to what he needs and wants.

    THANK YOU!

    • What curriculum did you use when your child wasn’t even two yet? I am currently looking into some options and was curious what was affective for yours. My son is two as of 1 wk ago and has no interest in books. Can u give me some pointers on what u did with your child to get them to read or know the sight words?
      Thanks Regina

      • I don’t think Stephanie meant she was using a curriculum. We certainly didn’t for my little girl who had a similar development level. I just read to her and let her enjoy what she was doing – showed her things that excited me and explained things that excited her. Structured learning is very hard at such a young age.
        It’s perfectly okay for your 2 year old to not know any letters. My 4 year old boy recognises 4 letters on a good day. Do I think he’s any less bright than his 5 year old sister who can read adult books? Not at all! He’s clever in different ways – he thinks deeply and abstractly and just has very little interest in letters right now.
        HTH x

  • My son sounds very similar to yours. If I sent him to K this year with kids his age, he’d get lost and drive the teacher crazy. We’ve been homeschooling for 2 years and are heading into 1st grade, if you can call it that. Allowing him to be involved in the decisions about his work and following his strength are key.

  • Thank you for this post! I enjoyed it, and love to hear from certified teachers that can admit the truth about “the system.”

  • You are doing a wonderful thing for your son! My oldest was tested and found to be gifted when he was in pre-k. In kindergarten he went to public school where he attended a once a week pull out program for gifted students. It was a horrible year. His kindergarten teacher refused to give him work to do at his level and refused suggestions from the gifted teacher. And so last year, we began homeschoing. He loves it and is thriving! He still attends the once a week gifted program. I’ve learned a lot about teaching gifted learners from his gifted teacher. Everything you said is true about gifted learners. Thanks for sharing your story! I don’t know of any other homeschooling familes with a gifted child, so thank you.

  • Beautifully written! I especially appreciate the emphasis on valuing the person above the gift. I know many brilliant people who aren’t too smart where their responsibilities to there are concerned. You have a great journey ahead of you, and I wish you all the best! Thank you for sharing! ;0)

  • The ability to have the child’s input in the school day is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling too, as it was when I was the one being homeschooled. So nice to hear that you are finding what works for your family and going with it.

  • Thanks for posting!! I have a gifted 7 year old son as well. He would be entering 2nd grade but he’s reading at a 4th grade level, does 6th grade math including algebra and geometry, and is advanced in science too. I am often stumped about what to do with him, but have found that mixing and matching different curriculums and grade levels has been working. I went to the Christian Home Educators of Colorado conference yesterday and found no information about what to do for gifted children! Very frustrating as j know i am not the only mother with a gifted child! My husband is also off the charts genius and I am so thankful he is so involved is my son’s schooling. Your suggestions are very helpful and we have implemented similar strategies but it always helps to change things up once in a while. Thanks again and God bless! Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your son!

  • The beauty of homeschooling is that every child is gifted by God in his/her own way and as homeschoolers we are able to discover and facilitate that ‘giftedness’. I have homeschooled seven children over 26 years and each of them is special. No two learning experiences were alike. Some read at age 3 and some at age 10, some were trades oriented, some loved education, some were social butterflies, some preferred to play alone. I love that they are free to be who they are and have the opportunity to reach out to others with the gifts God gave them. The education system teaches us that if you are a certain age and can do ‘this’ you are above average intelligence. God doesn’t put the emphasis on the intelligence as much as He does our doing all that we are able to His glory. I like your attitude and approach to your son. Recognizing his strengths and helping him utilize them is one of the great benefits of homeschooling. God bless you on your journey.

  • Excellent ideas. very detailed post – great to get some real meat on the topic. I have two children that were going to be tested before we took them out of public school and sometimes I hope I am not holding them back. Thanks for your insight

  • I just found your post and it was so helpful to hear a former teacher’s views on gifted children. My son is in first grade and is struggling with boredom and while I have never had him tested, I feel he may be gifted. It is nice to know that mine isn’t the only one with the “social graces” issues. I’m pulling him from school this coming week, it was refreshing to read your article as I’m in uncharted territory now. I know in my heart that doing this will be the right thing, but it is always scary to take on this responsibility!

  • Thank you!! My son is just finishing kindergarten and reading at a 5/6th grade level, doing 3rd grade math, and off the charts with his love of science… And I am completely overwhelmed! He is the oldest of four and the other three are advanced as well, although not as much and in different areas. I’m preaparing to homeschool the oldest three this year and the curriculum at the conventions look awesome but I can’t afford them and I’m afraid that they wouldn’t help anyway. Your suggestions along with a few others from around the blogosphere are helping me feel more comfortable with just winging it. Lol not really but my focus is now less on canned curriculum and more on fostering a love of learning and strong character. (That was a horrible sentence but I’m on my phone so excuse me for not fixing it)
    🙂 thank you thank you!!

  • Thank you for this. My 9 yo son just completed a study for ADHD and in the study they gave me his IQ results and they were, as they say, the highest I’ve ever seen. I homeschool him. I have since day one. The academic tests they did with the study showed that he is working below-average in math, reading (even though he reads above grade level), and writing even though his IQ was so high. Now I’m struggling with what to do with homeschooling and what approach to take… what curriculum to use. I’m just a little overwhelmed. We are relaxed eclectic homeschoolera currently. Basically that means I work at home and don’t have much time or energy for in depth lessons or time consuming curriculum. We use some workbooks some textbooks and CTC math (which we started a few months ago). I am overwhelmed right now.

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