In my experiences, homeschooling a gifted child (I know that all children are gifted in their own way — I’m talking about a child with a higher than average IQ) is not as simple as many perceive it to be. Although learning various academic subjects came more easily to my daughter than peers her own age, the emotional challenges that she faced were much more severe. Often times, she seemed like a high school student trapped in a third- or fourth-grade body. Her intellect quickly surpassed her maturity, and it was up to me to find a balance between these two. During the last six years since she was diagnosed gifted, I have learned many lessons that I have wanted to pass on to other parents who may be facing similar challenges. For more information about my learning process, check out “My Story” at the end of this post.
The first thing that I did after my daughter was diagnosed was head to the internet. I hoped that Professor Google could guide me through the challenges in my near future. I soon discovered that there were a lot of sites dedicated to homeschooling gifted children. I particularly liked an article from the Duke University TIP program, https://tip.duke.edu/node/667. In this article, the author wrote that teaching a gifted student successfully required a different mindset than the typical school curriculum. Rather than focus on one’s age, it was more important to focus on their unique abilities. For example, while my child excels in math, science, and history, she struggles in writing. This article taught me that it was OK for her to skip third-, fifth-, and seventh-grade math altogether, and to read books well ahead of her peers, but to stay at her grade level in writing.
After this realization, homeschooling really took off for us. I was able to see that I needed to tweak almost every subject to make it work for her. Instead of focusing on her age and grade level, I focused on her personality traits, learning styles, and where she was academically. I figured out how to use this knowledge to help her on her learning journey. She is a very visual learner, so I bought a curriculum that incorporated Bible reading with drawing pictures. (Find those books here: http://www.notgrass.com/notgrass/draw-to-learn.html.) I used math manipulatives, math storybooks, and games using math to drive the math concepts into her mind. I used science curriculums that were heavy in experiments so that she could see firsthand what the book was talking about. In history, I made her narrate (for an explanation of narration, go to https://simplycharlottemason.com/blog/the-charlotte-mason-method-of-narration/) after she had listened to or read her part for that day. For grammar, I purchased books that had passages with mistakes that the student was expected to correct.
In essence, I have tried to bridge the gap between her academic strengths and her unique personality traits. Instead of forcing her to adapt to school, a common practice in our local public school system, I designed school to work for her. Although our homeschool adventure has not been without its challenges, it has come to work for us. Each year presents a new learning opportunity for us both.
When our daughter was six years old, she was diagnosed with something we never expected to hear: giftedness. I took a deep breath and let it out. I felt relieved. Little did I know at the time that this would actually prove to be a very bumpy road for our homeschooling journey. For those individuals who might be facing a different challenge, homeschooling a gifted child is very similar to homeschooling an autistic child. In fact, up until her testing, I wasn’t sure which my daughter actually was.
I carefully chose the curriculum and planned out our first school year. The next few years were met with a mixture of blessings and obstacles, both in and out of the “classroom.” Her memorization skills were phenomenal, she verbalized her ideas beautifully, she could keep up with her work while taking little direction from me, and was extremely creative in all of her assignments. On the other hand, we saw her behavior sliding because she (more often than not) thought that she knew more than us and decided to skip important facets of chores around the house or entire sections of schoolwork. She had extreme difficulty making friends, and was actually more comfortable with adults than children her own age. She had trouble following through on anything that required patience, and showed incredible difficulty staying focused with even the smallest interruptions. She wanted a schedule and she wanted it to be RIGID. If she had to deviate from the schedule at all, she would usually have a complete and total meltdown. She also needed to be briefed on each and every change in the schedule as far in advance as possible.
Trying to keep all of these things in mind, I’ve worked with her to the best of my ability for the past six years. She has skipped entire grades in math, and has gone through several different science and history curriculums in a single year. She has also read tons of books, including the KJV Bible from cover to cover a few times. I do whatever I need to do to keep her challenged. In writing and spelling, however, she lags behind, so I just make sure to keep her at grade level.
It has been a lot of very careful balancing, but I am starting to see the rewards. My hope is that anyone else struggling with homeschooling a gifted child can use my experiences to learn and plan their own curriculums with just a little more insight than they previously had.