It can be a challenge to stay one step ahead of the gifted child. Things can get more complicated when they are spirited, sensitive or don’t deal well with transitions. Homeschooling these children can be a huge blessing as we can tailor their education to accommodate their pace, skill level and learning needs. But it is not without its challenges, for them and for us as parents. Here are five tips for homeschooling a gifted child.
Get Creative with Curricula for a Gifted Child
A lot of parents get hung up on which curriculum to use and when a child is gifted, it can be even harder to figure out what’s best for their needs. There are so many options to choose from, but you do not need to choose a one-size-fits-all curriculum that comes in a nice tidy box. You can mix and match from curricula for each subject to ensure you are working at the child’s level for individual topics, but you can go a step further and supplement with hands-on activities at home, participating in local study groups or co-ops, checking out any and all cultural sites in your area or taking some classes at a nearby community college. (There are usually non-credit options if your child is not ready for credit-based courses.)
For the younger crowd, some great options include printables for tracing and coloring, basic science experiments, an interactive calendar and weather center, watching history or science videos on YouTube or Netflix and, of course, plenty of arts and crafts.
Mixing things up can help the spirited crowd stay interested and focused on the material without getting bored and acting out.
Move at Your Gifted Child’s Pace
Gifted children don’t move at the same pace as their peers. They tend to learn more quickly – we already know this. But also consider the fact that they can get frustrated more easily because they are necessarily using more challenging material. Thankfully, they develop coping mechanisms that allow them to learn through the frustration. They retain the material better perhaps because of this frustration (as opposed to in spite of it), whereas other children might shut down in the same situation.
That said, it’s important to recognize the limits of the gifted child. Watch your child carefully to learn the signs that show when he or she is hitting a proverbial wall, and keep things moving along. To aid in transitioning more easily, find a natural stopping point and then change subjects or take a break. You can come back to the topic later or another day.
Do What’s Right for Your Gifted Child and Nevermind the Naysayers
Perhaps you have started formal schooling with a young child, a time at which most parents insist that learning through play is the only type of appropriate education. Only you know your child’s limits and only you know what your child is capable of. The gifted and talented tend to amaze even themselves, so if you believe your child is ready for more advanced types of instruction, go ahead and give it a shot. What other people have to say about it doesn’t really matter. How you react to these people can affect your attitude during teaching hours, so it’s really important to let it go.
Remember Your Sense of Humor
As with all things in life, being able to laugh at your own mistakes and not take things too seriously can really help when the going gets tough. Showing this to our children is especially important when they are qualitatively different from the general population. These kids have some quirks, and homeschooling will inevitably bring them out. You must show them how to embrace their differences and, in order to do so, you have to embrace it also. Cut your kid some slack, and yourself, too.
Give It to God
When problems crop up, prayer is always helpful. Pray for guidance and discernment, patience, and assistance in understanding your child. It is difficult to be a parent, but raising a child who is gifted, spirited, sensitive or in some way differently wired is as much of a challenge as it is a joy. Trusting in God to provide for your family’s needs can help get you through each day.
Andrea Townsley of The Townsley Times is a Christian homeschooling mom of two, one of whom is a gifted, spirited and highly-sensitive three-year old.