Suspect your child is gifted? Already know s/he is?
Homeschooling is an excellent alternative for gifted students. It’s the only alternative, in my opinion. There isn’t an AP class, IB program, Honor’s curriculum or other “advanced” or “gifted” program that compares to a parent educating a gifted student at home. I hear this from other parents, too.
But, not all parents feel this way.
Surprisingly, many parents of gifted kids feel their students are better served by the public, private or charter system. By talking with these parents, I have come to understand their thinking — that teams of specially trained “experts” exist at these schools who possess secrets to unlocking the gifted child’s potential.
Truth or fiction? Let’s look at the facts.
Schools make many promises when it comes to gifted programs. Districts typically lead parents into thinking they know best, their specialists know exactly what they’re doing, and no parent could ever possibly understand what it’s like to educate a gifted student on their own. Gifted programs are so beneficial, parents think, they’re worth changing schools or driving the extra distance to get kids there.
Do specially trained personnel actually exist in these schools? In some of them, yes. Some schools really do employ teachers who have completed coursework in gifted, hold gifted endorsements and/or have worked with gifted youth. Some are in “regular” classrooms and others are assigned to work solely in gifted programs, if they exist. Some have extensive experience, too.
However, districts do a great disservice to students by luring parents into believing that unlimited numbers of these individuals are employed by every school and that extensive program resources exist to serve every single child. That part isn’t always true. But, it helps explain why parents imagine experts taking every child by the hand, giving them the special attention only afforded by favorable student-teacher ratios, providing endless educational opportunities and challenges, and responding to each and every one of their distinctive learning needs. Sadly, those images are usually fantasy.
The assertion that parents are unable to raise gifted children on their own is preposterous. As parents of gifted (parents of any child, for that matter), we must see through and fervently object to this way of thinking. Parents absolutely can school gifted students at home — with great results. Lots of parents are doing it right now.
I advocate homeschooling gifted students whenever possible. Homeschool gifted is not new, thus, many resources exist to help those who feel lost at first (some listed below, but many others to discover). Since nothing can replace a parent’s own caring, investment and intuition when it comes to their own kids — parents really have the upper hand.
Take, for instance, the claim that gifted students are “easier” to homeschool than other kids. Surely, these children are “so smart” they must teach themselves, no? Not so fast. In reality, the opposite can sometimes be true. (Because of some gifted students’ overexcitabilities and peculiar sensibilities, homeschooling these children can be nothing short of exhausting. ) However, there is no other way to allow a gifted student to reach full potential, receive the time and space they need to exercise their active minds and interests, blossom exactly on their own time frames, and have the support of individuals who cherish and appreciate them as they are, than via homeschooling.
Homeschooling is a parenting choice, a lifestyle and a labor of love. Can anyone do it better than the parent of that child?
Far too much has been written about homeschooling the gifted student to repeat it all here. That is why I advise parents to begin by conducting basic research on their own and then join a great network to connect with other parents like them.
I also advise following instincts instead of relying solely on “experts”. A personal anecdote may help illustrate this point: I had a student tested for gifted some years ago. (I knew the child was gifted but wanted to read the results.) After a few moments of initial questioning, the child was returned to me, having flunked the test. I later learned (by the teacher’s own admission) the test administrator had taken 7 attempts to pass the teacher certification examination herself, and did so only by guessing correctly the 7th time around. Though I am not fond of tattle-taling, I use this story to caution those basing school-related decisions on “expert” testing alone. I hear similar stories about students who don’t score high enough for gifted programs or “just miss it” by a point or two from many of the families I meet.
There is tremendous satisfaction and great joy in bringing a gifted child home and directing the education via homeschooling. Gifted students may not always thrive in school environments the way their parents think they do. Sadly, many gifted students are merely assigned petty classroom roles like tutor or teacher’s helper, for lack of other challenging coursework in the classroom. Yet the choices available at home are limitless and without boundaries, in contrast to the limitations placed on gifted kids confined to classrooms with dozens of other kids (many who actually prefer to work independently anyhow). Some gifted children are not particularly high achievers in the classroom, anyhow.
I have a saying I use when talking to families who are on the fence about homeschooling. It is, “Anyone can homeschool, but not everybody should.” Parents of gifted (of any child they homeschool) must be willing to put in the time and must be ready for the twists and turns the path the gifted child may decide to take. In my opinion, any parent is qualified to allow a gifted student to develop on his/her own at home. But, the choice is always up to the family, given individual circumstances, financial considerations, and so much more.
Homeschooling gifted students from the beginning, or withdrawing gifted students from school to work at home is not just possible, but highly recommended. Check the links below, then find others on your own to help make the decision.
Disclaimer: I am not an “expert” in gifted education, at least not by common definition. I am, however, the parent of gifted students, an advisor to families with gifted, and a college professor and school teacher who has encountered many gifted students in my many years in the classroom. Nevertheless, readers are advised to use the information and advice in this article with caution, and to seek the services of trained professional if in doubt.