Follow Your Heart?

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

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Following your heart is a popular thing in the secular world, and as much as we may like to keep our children from the world, eventually they will be in it. It is important for any child to know that God is the only thing they can truly trust, but I believe it is even more important for a gifted child to really learn the lesson because of the fact that they can so easily fall into the trap of trusting in themselves. There are a few different ways that I try to make sure my children look to God rather than themselves to lead them in their lives.

  • I regularly teach my children about prayer and meditation. I learned in a book (Escape to God, by Jim Hohnberger) that it is important to stop after you pray in order to listen for the voice of God. I’ve found this advice to be a blessing in my life, and it has helped me to hear God’s voice outside of meditation as well.
  • I also talk to my children about questions or doubts I have or someone else has had about God or other spiritual things. I encourage them to answer such questions from scripture, and to use God’s knowledge and not their own. I’ve taught them to use a concordance and to read scripture in context. I’ve also taught them to ask their own questions and answer them through the Bible and not man.
  • I’ve taught my children to apologize when they’ve done wrong. This is such an important part of being a Christian. We are told in the Bible that we are to confess our sins, but if we think we are so intelligent, then we can’t take a step back long enough to even see when we have sinned.
  • Respecting authority is a big deal in our home. The reason is that if the children can’t learn to respect earthly authority, they won’t be able to respect heavenly authority either.
  • I teach my children why I want them to do something so that they learn ultimately why God would want them to do the same things.

Several of these tactics were learned in a parenting class called Growing Kids God’s Way. This class very much helped me with my eldest, gifted child. I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling in their parenting. If you can’t find a class near you, there is a secular book written by the same people called Childwise (Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo). It has the same principles, but not all of the biblical information to back it up.

Meet Me Halfway

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In training my 12-year-old gifted child, I have learned to look to her personality to help guide me in the decisions I make. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, I have learned about each personality test and why they shouldn’t be used in a formal setting. I do, however, find it advantageous to take individual personality traits and use them to help me in my homeschooling style. Below are a couple of her personality traits and ways I have used them to help her succeed.

Lying: She has a tendency to lie, even to herself. Because this is something that she has struggled with for a long time, she is aware of it. Now it has mostly become something that she struggles with on her own. When she was younger, the way that I worked with this trait was to not give her the opportunity to lie by avoiding asking questions to which I already knew the answer. I also gave her a chance to rethink answers that I suspected were lies. I’d send her to her room and ask her to rethink her answer and then come to me when she had decided what her final answer would be. I also made a system where I checked over her homeschool work regularly and also randomly. I also trained her in the opposite trait, which is honesty. I make sure she reads books and stories about honesty, and that we discuss honesty on a regular basis.

Laziness: She has a tendency to do poor work because she is either being lazy or else bored of the work. The way that I work with this is to make her redo jobs or schoolwork until they are completed to the degree that she knows I expect from her. Sometimes this means rewriting a paper three times. Sometimes it means doing a simple chore over and over for an hour. In the end, she can always do it the expected way without reminders or assistance. The opposite character trait that I use in this case is diligence. We use chore charts, and I encourage her to hold herself responsible. She is to ask herself if she is completely done with her daily responsibilities before she does anything for her own enjoyment. If she chooses to do something fun before she is finished with responsibilities, she faces consequences. Usually this entails some extra work. I try to show diligence in the home with my own responsibilities, and I often comment about how much I enjoy having a clean kitchen or enjoying a meal cooked at home.

No matter what characteristics you see in your child that you know need improvement, please be very sure not to label your child as the characteristic (i.e. “you’re lazy”). I like to also remember that everyone has a few characteristics that they struggle with, including me. Though I do work to help my daughter with her character flaws, I also try to show grace in fairly large doses.

Giftedness — A Gift?

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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.


My Story

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.