Homeschooling Your Gifted Child
Homeschooling has been on the rise for the past decade. In 2017, it was reported that 3.3% of the nation’s students, about 2.3 million students, were homeschooled. Although these numbers may seem small, they are a big jump from the 1980s, when homeschooling burst into the public consciousness in a big way, leading it to be legalized in 20 states.
There are many reasons parents choose homeschooling, ranging from parents’ desire to have more control over their child’s curriculum, those who prefer a religion-based education, to concern about a school’s overall culture and environment. But the biggest reason? A school’s inability to meet a student’s specific needs. Gifted children specifically fall under this category. Gifted children make up between 5-10% of children in the United States, many of whom, frustrated with the lack of resources and support from traditional schools, choose to homeschool.
Choosing to homeschool
It’s no secret that our education system has been dragging its feet in recent years. With budget cuts, overworked teachers, and unsteady and poorly planned programs, it’s no wonder many have chosen homeschooling, especially those with gifted children. Gifted children are often overlooked and misunderstood by the educational system. To begin with, educational policy dictates that giftedness is not tested until a child reaches third grade. This, says Marianne Kuzujanakis M.D., is simply too late. By the time a gifted child reaches that point, she argues, they may have given up academically and socially.
Because of the scope of giftedness, a gifted child may become bored or wrestle with the traditional curriculum. Gifted children also struggle socially when placed in an environment with traditional learners. The difficulties in forging social relationships may lead to a gifted child feeling isolated or outcasted. On top of the isolation they may feel socially, they may also feel unstimulated or frustrated academically. Therefore, waiting until a child is third grade to test for giftedness could potentially stunt them academically and socially.
Gifted children and their families also wrestle with the preconceived notion that the gifted do not need any aid or recognition. However, the reality is that giftedness is a spectrum; not all gifted children are equal, they do not have the same talents or abilities. This accounts for many parents and their frustrations with the educational system, who believe homeschooling is the answer.
The benefits of homeschooling the gifted are definitely present. Parents have the ability to create a curriculum based on the specific needs of their gifted child. This tailored curriculum will challenge them, pursue their interests, and focus them as needed. Additionally, the nature of such a fluid curriculum means that the gifted child can explore a subject as deeply as they choose. A child can also move at their own pace and allow for parents to give their child much needed one on one time.
The essence of homeschooling means that parents will be building their education, their “school,” from the ground up; but there are a multitude of methods and approaches available.
Unschooling: Based on curiosity, this method has no set curriculum. Students pursue learning by following their own interests, finding their own resources, and working through educating themselves on their own.
Project-Based learning: In this method, the student will pursue a project and be solely responsible for examining its concepts and its completion. Topics (or questions) can range across all disciplines. Child and parent can work together to create a structure that suits the child, i.e. what resources to use, how long the project will take, and whether there will be a presentation.
Unit Studies: In this method, a theme or topic is chosen with the student and structured units and curriculum are created around it. These units can last weeks to months depending on parent and student goals.
Interest-Led Learning: Also known as Delight-Directed Learning, this method is similar to unschooling but lends itself to more structure. Hone in on a particular interest your child has and then pursue it from different angles or disciplines. For example, if your child loves insects, that should be your topic. Analyze the anatomy of insects or the different species of insects through Science. Paint, draw, color, or craft an insect through Art. Read fiction about insects through English. A field trip can even be created by finding an event or museum with an insect exhibition.
Homeschooling is diverse in what it can offer gifted children and their parents. Along with pursuing an education on their own terms, gifted children and their parents are able to do so from the comfort of their own home. The freedom and creativity of homeschooling allow both parent and student to explore and experiment with these different styles. Take notes of what methods and styles are effective. What about elements of those styles really clicked? Put all of these elements together to create a homeschooling method that uniquely belongs to your gifted child.