The fact that “gifted” has no clear, agreed upon definition means that it can be difficult to find a school environment that – with all the other things a school must do – is suited to help a gifted child reach his or her potential. Homeschooling gifted children provides greater flexibility that may be advantageous for the gifted child. This article explores some of the possibilities for homeschooling a gifted child.
What Is Gifted?
Is a gifted student one who is ready for material that is usually considered more advanced than other students of the same age can handle? Is it a student with a high IQ? Is a gifted student one who excels in any area of the identified multiple intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal? Or is a gifted student one with an extraordinary interest in and appetite for a subject not typically embraced by young children in the United States, such as heart/lung transplants, Sanskrit, flying an airplane, or writing a symphony?
Homeschooling and the Gifted Child
It is, perhaps, easier for a parent than for others to see a child’s special features and gifts. And while in school, obtaining the services and programs available for gifted children might involve testing or other assessment and competing for limited places in a program, at home, no such criteria are involved.
This means that you can do anything on behalf of and with your child that doesn’t countermand the laws for homeschooling in your state. No one is going to stop you if you wish to hire a private tutor, pay for lessons, take field trips far and wide, spend four hours a day (if this suits your child) on a particular study – as long as the state’s minimum requirements are also fulfilled. This situation allows for amazing possibilities, limited only by imagination, time, and money.
But it’s not always easy to tell what a child’s gifts are. First of all, not all gifts are revealed early: by their nature, some gifts become apparent earlier in a child’s development and some later. Gifts that require a certain amount of physical strength, for example, can’t be manifest until that strength is acquired. Second of all, many gifts only become apparent in context. You’re unlikely to discover that your child has musical talent, for example, unless and until she or he has the opportunity to interact with one or more musical instruments.
So the first element in homeschooling a gifted child is identifying the child’s gifts. And this may take time and the child having an opportunity to experience a range of contexts in order to discover. When you’ve clarified where your child’s gift or gifts lie, then you can take steps to help him or her develop in whatever way is appropriate to the particular gift or gifts in question.
Where to Look for Information and Support
Nationally recognized organizations that aim to support and understand gifted children can be valuable sources of information for parents homeschooling a gifted child. Check these websites for information:
• Project Zero – pz.harvard.edu/index
The mission of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education is “to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels.” They offer research reports and a bookstore that you can access by going to their site.
• The National Association for Gifted Children (NACG) www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=48
The NACG website can help provide you with parent resources, as well as information and support.
• The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC G/T)
NRC G/T is studying what works in gifted education. The have resources that may be of use to parents homeschooling a gifted student.