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Homeschooling Your Gifted Child

I interviewed Terrie Bittner, author of Homeschooling: Take a Deep Breath—You Can Do This.

Question: What are some of the problems gifted children face in traditional schools?

Answer: Because they often learn very quickly, gifted children spend a great deal of time working on lessons they already know or waiting for other children to catch up. After many years of this, these children become accustomed to just getting by. They sometimes lose their excitement about learning. Another problem gifted children have is that they are often not equally gifted in all areas. A child placed in a class for gifted children might shine in English, but be better off in a mainstream math class.

Question: How can homeschooling resolve some of these problems?

Answer: Homeschooled children can progress at their own speed in each subject, ignoring traditional grade level limitations. A child can comfortably do college level work in math while doing fifth grade work in reading. He can also pursue his special interests in greater detail and become an expert in his chosen fields. Many gifted homeschoolers spend a portion of their school day at the community college. This allows them to stay enthusiastic about learning and to reach their potential.

Question: How does homeschooling affect the socialization of gifted children?

Answer: Some gifted children have difficulty fitting in at school. So many children believe it isn't "cool" to be smart that very intelligent children are often teased for their sophisticated interests and enthusiasm for learning. When they work at home, they don't suffer from the jealousy of less gifted children, and they can choose who to spend time with. Most homeschooled children find their friends in their neighborhoods, churches, clubs, or classes. A gifted child has a much better chance of finding compatible friends in a chess club, drama class, or a sports team, where everyone has at least one interest in common. He isn't limited to just students his own age, which is helpful since many gifted children prefer the company of older children, or even adults.

Question: What can parents do when their children want to study subjects the parents don't know?

Answer: Many homeschooling parents focus on developing independent, life-long scholars. Instead of pouring knowledge into their children's minds, they teach their children how to teach themselves. They also enjoy learning together as a family. The process of working together to research an area of common interest builds a bond between family members as they talk about the subject and work together to unravel the mysteries of the project. After a few years, children understand how to find books, websites, and videos, how to contact experts, and how to analyze information. From that point on, they can teach themselves. This will allow them to continue learning for the rest of their lives, even when they're unable to attend classes. Students can also enroll in classes at museums and community centers or attend college classes.

Question: What about college?

Answer: Nearly every college, including the most prestigious ones, accepts homeschoolers and many give them special consideration because they're known as motivated students and effective leaders. Today's college's want high SAT and ACT scores from homeschoolers. Parents should keep careful records of what the student learned and how he learned it, what outside classes he took (to show he can learn from other teachers), and what activities (including service projects) he was involved in. They generally require a student to be educated according to the homeschooling laws for his state. In addition, they want the student to contact the school himself, and to attend the interview without a parent. They like to see that the student had strong involvement in choosing what he learned and how he learned it. Finally, the student must have studied the same subjects other applicants are required to study. The student should keep track of the hours spent on each subject, using Carnegie hours to determine how long he needs to study each subject. He can also take CLEP level exams and community college classes to demonstrate a college level learning ability. Often, gifted homeschoolers start community college full time at the age of sixteen, and at the normal graduation age, they can move on to a university as a transfer student.

Question: If a parent is unable to homeschool, how can he give his child some of the same benefits?

Answer: Teach him how to learn, which is not always taught in traditional schools. Help him develop a special knowledge in one or two fields, where he can dig in as deeply as he desires. Meet with teachers to find out how his needs can be accommodated as much as possible, but be prepared to supplement his school work at home. Finally, follow his lead, and accept that his abilities may be uneven. Keep in mind that gifted children are still children and need time to play, have fun and do something meaningless every now and then.

Question: How can parents learn more about homeschooling gifted children?

Answer: My book, Homeschooling: Take a Deep Breath—You Can Do This explains how to create a challenging curriculum for children. My children are gifted and I've always enjoyed challenging children to reach their potentials through a challenging curriculum.
My web page is at http://www.terriebittner.com

You can order Terrie's book by clicking on the title below...

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Content copyright © 2013 by Carolyn Chambers Clark, EdD, RN. All rights reserved.
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