Homeschooling the Gifted Child
Homeschooling is becoming more commonplace. People now tend to look more interested than horrified when parents say they are homeschooling. Plus, fewer children and parents seem to receive snide comments about skipping school as they wait in line at the museum or the grocery store.
While most homeschoolers are reveling in their newfound acceptance, parents who are teaching their gifted children at home often find themselves doing a lot of explaining.
Gifts for the Gifted
Jim Dufala from Portland, Ore., removed his 9-year-old son from a school for gifted children to educate him at home.
"To a degree, I have been homeschooling my son since first grade," says Dufala. "The decision to leave public education was very easy, because homeschooling is really a blast!"
Like many parents of gifted children, Dufala found himself supplementing his child's education even though his son was enrolled in a public school specifically designed for gifted children. He figured that he might as well bring his son home and design the learning experiences expressly for Tim's needs.
"In July, Tim and I completed the TV production classes at MCTV (cable access) and just finished our first TV show to be seen in September. Tim now plays in a Marimba Band, does Lego Robotics and is setting up his own sound studio. He is studying Algebra I, Spanish and Mexican/American History."
Dufala and his son have discovered what many homeschooling families already know: By homeschooling you receive the gift of time – time to explore your own interests, time to learn things outside the educational box and time to spend on subjects that you may not understand as easily as others. For the gifted child, this might make the difference between being bored or being engaged.
The Gift of Time
David Albert, author of And the Skylark Sings With Me: Adventures in Homeschooling and Community-Based Education (New Society Pub, 1999), and whose own daughter received a scholarship to Smith College at the age of 16, believes that time is one of the most precious resources a homeschooling family has.
"All parents will find there are more opportunities for learning outside the institution than there are inside of it," says Albert. "Once you take your gifted child out of school, the world is truly your oyster."
In his books, Albert discusses how homeschooling allowed his daughter to delve deeply into different interests. They had time to learn the intricacies of building their own telescope, attend lectures, volunteer for various causes and nurture their musical abilities in a far more meaningful way than if they had spent a large portion of their day in school.
Parents who might be overwhelmed by the challenge of teaching a gifted child should look to their own community for inspiration. The Alberts used all the community's resources to feed their daughter's never-ending quest for meaningful information. Albert believes the overwhelmed feeling parents may have about teaching their child is a good thing.
"Think of your own ignorance on the matter as a great opportunity, and you and your child will end up exploring options you never dreamed possible," says Albert.
"Parents should pay less attention to teaching and more attention to learning. I don't think anyone is really qualified to teach children, but all parents are qualified to help their children on their learning quest."
Jennifer Nielson of Portland, Ore., agrees. She and her husband had their daughter tested at an early age because of her advanced academic development. After exploring their options they, too, chose homeschool.
"We felt that even a school for highly gifted kids would still have many of the same limitations found in a typical school such as large classes, learning in between the bells, busy work, time wasted by numerous transitions, etc.," says Nielson. "As parents we wanted her to be in an environment that would actively engage and challenge her at her various levels while still providing for ample time to explore non-academic interests, play with friends and just be a kid. Homeschooling was the only option that really seemed to fulfill that goal."
A Personalized Education
Tamra Orr, author of A Parent's Guide to Home Schooling (Mars Publishing, 2002), believes that homeschooling can be one of the wisest options available for gifted children.
"Parents who pull their gifted children from school recognize their child needs a better, more personal education than what they can possibly receive in school," says Orr. "They want to foster and nurture that gift, not let it get lost or buried within the public school system."
Orr says that the most necessary requirement for homeschooling your gifted child is confidence in yourself and in your child.
"Immerse yourself in people and information and start asking questions. You are about to give your gifted child the best gift possible!" says Orr.