Preview: Many gifted students thrive in a homeschool setting. Use these tips to help you and your gifted learner thrive without getting overwhelmed.
I thought I might be in over my head when my four-year-old asked, “Mommy, what’s a soul?”
In the years since she asked that question, she has asked dozens more just like it. Questions that make me pause, not knowing how to answer. Questions I had never considered.
My daughter has an insatiable appetite for learning. She reads a book in a fraction of the time I do. (And I’m a pretty fast reader.) She is continually learning something new or asking questions and searching for answers. And she has an incredible memory for what she reads.
When we decided to homeschool her, I initially worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with her or teach her advanced subjects.
And I was right. I can’t!
But over the years, I have learned that it is okay. I don’t need to keep up with my daughter’s learning to teach her at home. In this post, you’ll learn the two guidelines I keep in mind to help my gifted learner thrive in our homeschool.
You can listen to episodes 58-59 of the All in a Homeschool Day podcast to learn more about these guidelines and hear how I’ve applied these concepts in our homeschool. Each episode is embedded below the related tip. Plus, in episode 60, you’ll hear how Colleen Kessler of Raising Lifelong Learners helps her gifted learners thrive.
Gifted learners have special needs too.
Gifted learners have very different needs than struggling learners, but they have special needs of their own. (You can read more about helping struggling learners succeed in this post.) Some of the special needs gifted learners have include the following.
All children have asynchronous development to some extent, but it is often more common among gifted learners. Asynchronous development means that a child’s abilities in various areas do not develop at the same rate. They may work several grade levels ahead in some subjects and at or below grade level in other subjects.
Asynchronous development is common among gifted students. Some may even have exceptional abilities in some areas while also facing learning disabilities. Learn more about asynchronous development.
Strategies I keep in mind include the following.
- Remember that they are still children. My daughter had a rich vocabulary and spoke at a level well beyond her age. When she threw a temper tantrum, I often had to remind myself that she was still a young child regardless of how well she expressed herself when she wasn’t upset. This can be particularly challenging for adults who do not know your child well.
- Allow your child to learn at his pace. Let your child learn at a faster pace in subjects in which he excels. Or, let him explore a concept in more depth or more broadly to increase his understanding of a topic. Provide support and additional help in challenging subjects.
- Provide accommodations as needed. Your child’s physical abilities may not match up with her cognitive skills. If your child can read above grade level but struggles to write a full sentence, allow her to record her thoughts into a voice recording app or let her dictate while you type her thoughts. Or use a dry erase board or chalkboard instead of a pencil and paper.
Asynchronous development can pose a challenge to finding books at your child’s advanced reading level that are also emotionally appropriate. Just because your child can read a book does not mean that he should. This post is full of book suggestions for gifted learners.
Sensitivities and Overexcitabilities
Many gifted learners are intense and highly sensitive children. They might be in constant motion, complain about the tag of their shirt itching them, or notice the faintest smell of smoke on a windy day.
These sensitivities can be annoying to the general population. Most people don’t understand why a scratchy shirt is a problem. It’s just a shirt. They think, “Just get over it.”
But children with overexcitabilities or sensitivities can’t “just get over it.” (Learn more about overexcitabilities.)
Instead of dismissing your child’s concerns, help her learn to manage them, and view their sensitivities as gifts.
Fears and Anxieties
When gifted children learn about concepts and situations above their age level, they often do not have the knowledge and life experiences to process and understand what they read, causing fears and anxieties that seem irrational.
It is important not to dismiss your child’s fears. Instead, acknowledge the fears and help your child learn to manage them. These definitions of fear and anxiety by Max Lucado in Anxious for Nothing has been helpful in learning how to deal with fear and anxiety.
Find what motivates your gifted learner.
It can be a challenge to motivate gifted learners for a variety of reasons. And sometimes those reasons are complicated.
For example, when my daughter is afraid, she wants to escape reality by jumping into a good book. When a situation is challenging, she prefers to learn a new Rubik’s cube algorithm instead of tackling the tough problem.
Neither reading a book nor learning an algorithm is a bad thing, but it becomes a problem when it interferes with what she is supposed to be doing.
To motivate her and help her overcome her challenges, I use various strategies, including the following.
Don’t push your gifted learner too hard.
Be careful not to push your gifted learner because you think he should be able to do more.
Encourage him to do his best and achieve excellence. Help him learn to push through challenging situations when learning isn’t as easy.
But also allow him time to pursue his interests. He needs time to be a kid.
Carefully consider your goals. Why do you want to push your child? Does he need help to focus, or do you want to look better to your friends? Referring to your homeschool goals or homeschool mission statement can help you discern when to push and when to pull back.
Learn more: How To Write Your Homeschool Mission Statement
Remind deep thinkers to keep it simple.
Gifted learners enjoy going deep and learning more about subjects that interest them. But this can also get them into trouble. For example, I wrote, “Keep it simple.” on a sticky note for my daughter to use a bookmark in her math book. It also serves as a reminder not to overthink the problem.
Allow them to teach others.
Your child could help a sibling with a subject they love. Or they could teach you what they learn. Be excited as they tell you about their studies even if you don’t understand all of it.
Learn about personality styles.
As we learn more about ourselves, we recognize triggers and situations that cause a problem. We also learn strategies for dealing with difficult situations. Sometimes my daughter and I read a book together. Other times I narrate what I read about personality styles to my daughters.
Provide plenty of free time to explore their interests.
Gifted students enjoy learning about a variety of topics or learning a lot about one topic. (To learn more about multipotentialites who enjoy learning about a wide variety of subjects, watch this TED talk.) Usually, these areas of interest fall outside the scope of typical school studies. Allow your child plenty of free time to explore these areas of interest.
What they learn may not directly relate to their academic studies, but they will connect what they know to future endeavors. The result is a deeper understanding of both subjects.
Thriving as a Homeschool Parent of a Gifted Learner
Homeschooling a gifted learner is challenging and tiring. Despite the unique challenges presented by teaching gifted learners, you are your child’s best teacher!
In episode 60 of the All in a Homeschool Day podcast, Colleen Kessler, of Raising Lifelong Learners, shares three principles to help you thrive as the parent and homeschool teacher of a gifted learner.
You can connect with Colleen and learn more about The Learner’s Lab at: https://raisinglifelonglearners.com/
Thankfully, you don’t have to stay ahead of your gifted learner to help him thrive in your homeschool.
Remember the two guidelines we discussed:
- Gifted learners have special needs too.
- Find what motivates your gifted learner.
And continue to learn more about teaching gifted learners. Some resources to continue learning about gifted learners include:
Learn more about homeschooling: 3 Benefits Of Homeschooling
Do you also have a struggling learner? Learn how you can help your struggling learner succeed in your homeschool.