Thursday, January 14, 2016

Helping a "Gifted Child" Through Homeschooling

I don't often think about or talk about the fact that my middle son was labeled "gifted" before we pulled him out of public school.  To be honest it just doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me anymore.  All kids have strengths and weaknesses, all kids are individuals and in homeschooling I look at the individual child.

Yet, I turned to homeschooling in order to help my gifted son.  There are so many benefits to homeschooling the gifted child.


But before I get into all of that I'd like to look back at how it all started..

While he was IN the public school system that label was very important to me for a variety of reasons:
  • It allowed the teachers to see he needed extra/ different work
  • It allowed me to read up on gifted children and understand the struggles they have fitting in and the frustrations that traditional schooling can cause
  • It helped me to find new ways of addressing his behavior issues at home
  • It allowed me to see how traditional schooling could lead him to become apathetic about learning as he was rapidly loosing interest
  • It helped me to realize that school was not the ideal setting for him
In general kids are labeled as gifted when they pick up on concepts at a much faster pace than their peers.  They learn differently than kids their own age.  They need less repetition and seem to intuitively know where the lessons are going to lead when learning.

My son was tested at reading at a MINIMUM of a middle third grade level when he was in kindergarten (and I say minimum because our school reading specialist told me she basically just stopped him at that point because she had more than enough information to diagnose him but that he was not in anyway finding the material difficult).

His teacher noted that he always seemed to know what she was going to teach before she even started whether it was math, science, or a myriad of other topics.  He was easily asking questions that the other kids in his class didn't even understand and eagerly awaiting answers his teachers didn't have.

Our school had no programs set up for gifted children and there was a lot of  indecision as to how his needs would be met in future years.  I had already thought about homeschooling and decide to pursue that with a bit more vigor.

I began reading book after book on gifted children, parenting gifted children, and helping them develop socially and emotionally.  I read book after book on homeschooling and started participating in some homeschool events even before I pulled my kids out of school.

I felt prepared but anxious.

After our first year of homeschooling it no longer seemed to matter that he was gifted.  At home he was just Alec, our kid who learned fast, enjoyed reading, and seemed to have an endless amount of facts stored in his brain.

The behavior problems just about disappeared altogether and since he's the only one his age all his schoolwork is different and unique anyway.

He's excited about learning and plays a hugely active role in deciding what and how he's going to learn.  

Sure it can still be hard to challenge him without frustrating him; I always have a hard time gauging what grade level to try next or where to start with certain subjects.  But homeschooling has been a gift.  One that has helped tremendously.

Homeschooling has helped Alec in so many ways and ways I'm sure he's not even aware of!:  

  1. It has allowed him to dictate much of what he learns about.  I encourage him to follow his passions and help him find books and materials on topics he's interested in. He picks out all his own workbooks and knows that he can negotiate one assignment for another.  
  2. I listen to him when he tells me he already knows a certain topic I wanted to teach all the boys and give him the choice of sitting out the lesson completely.   
  3. I encourage Alec to take the role of teacher, when appropriate, supporting him and his knowledge base.  Allowing him to take the lead.  
  4. Homeschooling has cut down on the extreme mood swings because he's not as frustrated being held back, having to sit through lessons he already knows.
  5. It has allowed him to make friends with peers as equals.  It was widely known in his kindergarten class that he had all his own work and was a few grade levels above his peers.  I'm pretty sure over time that would have caused a rift between him and his classmates.  When he meets other kids now it's just for playing together as equals. 
  6. He has more time to pursue "other" interests.  With schoolwork/ book work lasting just an hour or two he has plenty of time to try a variety of hobbies.  He has learned the basics of forging and metal work, has taught himself to draw using Design CAD, taught himself a variety of computer and video games, taken classes in computer coding, learned how to tackle all sorts of varied crafts, and try out a variety of physical activities too like trampoline, rock climbing, and karate.   
  7. Since learning has always come easy to Alec he does not have a lot of patience with new concepts that he does not immediately grasp.  Homeschooling allows us to set aside those topics that truly frustrate him and revisit them at a later time when he's ready to learn them rather than plow through them and deal with lots of tears and emotional outbursts.  
  8. Homeschooling has allowed Alec to come into contact with many specialists and talk with them as equals.  He dominates discussions at aquariums, zoos and any place where we are learning about animals (one of his consistent passions).  He often stumps these specialists with their questions and has been asked by so many of them whether or not he plans to work with animals when he grows up.  The best part is watching how passionate and helpful these experts are when dealing with him; fostering his love of animals and learning even more. 
  9. Homeschooling has allowed him to be introduced to a far wider variety of topics that would not otherwise be known to a fourth grader.  This year Alec discovered the periodic table of elements and spent a good week immersed in learning all he could about it.  He's also learning about covalent bonds, DNA, and other "high school" topics as they interest him.  He meets a variety of people with a variety of interests and he's not afraid to ask them questions and delve deeper into areas he's never heard about; often setting off new passions. 
  10. Homeschooling has shown him that learning is fun and can happen at any place at any time.  
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