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Choosing to Homeschool a Gifted Child
These students have unique abilities to learn vast amounts of information and develop skills long before what is typically seen in academic development. Sometimes the advancement is seen in only one area of cognition, and other times it’s in many areas of learning and development. But also, and more often is the case, they progress in asynchronous ways. Asynchronous development means that one area of learning might be advanced while another area of learning might be on target or even behind level.
Many believe that the use of the word, gifted, is an elitist term used to separate out a group of children to allow for special advancement. The reality is the term is simply a way to identify individuals who have a special need to study and develop their unique skills at a more rapid rate in the areas where their advanced cognitive abilities lie.
Identifying Characteristics of a Gifted Child
In order to know if you might have a gifted child, you’ll first need to understand a variety of terms used within the gifted field of study so that you can begin to understand the characteristics that are normal among those who have such abilities.
According to the National Association for Gifted Children, (NAGC) the term gifted is defined as: “Someone who has advanced cognitive, intellectual, creative, and/or emotional processes that progress at a faster more intense rate and/or has higher abilities to retain and disseminate information than what is considered to be the typical developmental process.”
A heightened or sensitive response to emotional stimuli. People, especially children, who have gifted abilities can experience their emotions in a more intense way. These emotional responses may fluctuate through a variety of emotional extremes. One may appear elated one moment and completely bereft the next. You might witness intense sorrow over events happening on the other side of the globe and a complete lack of acknowledgment for something that happens within their own household. At the same time, you might see a simple frustration manifested as an irrational display of anger.
The thing to understand about gifted individuals is that emotional intensity is fairly common among those with such advanced abilities. In other words, for this specific segment of the population, emotional intensity is the norm.
Asynchrony or Asynchronous Development
When a child develops at different rates of growth and advancement, in different areas of learning and social development. A child might show advanced abilities in science but struggle to do simple tasks like tying their shoes. Or, you might see a child develop advanced abilities to calculate extremely complex equations but still not know how to read a simple chapter book. It may also be that they struggle to communicate effectively when compared to their peer group but be able to paint amazing things on a canvas.
Over Excitabilities (OE’s)
Excitability is seen when a child has an extremely heightened sense of response to stimuli. Because a gifted individual’s mind is able to process at a more rapid rate, they may show an increased sense of awareness, excitement, and even sensory processing sensitivities to experiences, sights, smells, or environment. Kazimierz Dabrowski, a Polish psychiatrist, theorized that there are five areas of OEs, psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional.
Inconsistent Social and Emotional Development
Social and emotional development in gifted children often presents in inconsistent ways. A child might show signs of being socially immature. Then again, because some gifted children have unique leadership abilities, they may come across as overly mature. You’ll notice that their social skills are inconsistent in comparison with children of a similar peerage. You may find that the gifted child is more comfortable around either younger or older children or perhaps adults but not necessarily around children their own age.
Two Exceptionalities (2E)
When a child shows two exceptional qualities in their development. It might be that a child is gifted cognitively but also present with a delayed physical development. Or it could be a child who has sensory processing disorder coupled with gifted abilities. Two Exceptionalities or 2es can really be any two or even three or more presentations of unique development. Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder, or Asperger’s Syndrome and Dyscalculia would be examples of twice exceptional development in an individual.
Homeschool and the Gifted Child
Because the learning requirements for a gifted child is so unique the reality is traditional forms of education is not set up to help a child explore their passions as much as they may need. That’s not to say that it’s impossible for a traditional school to meet such needs. However, since each gifted learner has their own unique form of developing their knowledge it becomes harder to differentiate an educational plan to meet each individual need.
Some private schools may offer a more individualized education option. Each family will have to look at both what is offered, a district or school’s willingness to work to meet those needs and possibly the families ability to pay for a privatized education. Start by looking into your state’s laws for identifying gifted learners, look at how your local district is implementing those laws, and see how they are working with students.
Another alternative option is home education. Homeschooling. What can homeschooling offer that public and private schooling can’t?
- Flexibility to take breaks when necessary and learn in unconventional ways.
- Homeschooling allows the parent to set a course of study.
- It allows for individualized plans.
- The child can have a say in what they want to study and decide how much of a topic they want to know before moving on to another area of learning.
- Homeschooled students can learn at their own pace rather than someone else’s pre-conceived idea of what is right.
- The parent will have less frustration, spending time, often vast amounts of time, advocating for their child’s special needs. Gifted children are different from the typical child. Because they experience life with more intensity both emotionally and academically they can become targets for bullying, or ridicule.
- Homeschooling provides an opportunity for parents to seek out encouragement specifically for gifted children.
By homeschooling, you can help to guide your child through difficulties as well as protect them from harmful situations. Group classroom environments can be noisy, and present many distractions and stimulation. Such distractions can quickly lead to over-stimulation, anxiety, frustrations and emotional outbursts in children with overexcitabilities.
Homeschooling allows the parent the time and ability the teach coping skills in a non-confrontational environment. Homeschooling has many educational approaches to choose from. You can tailor an educational experience that best fits your child’s unique learning style. It can provide necessary challenges at a pace that meets the gifted child’s unique needs.
Because learning is no-longer constrained by the same-age hierarchical structure of a traditional school, they will find more opportunities to socialize with like-minded individuals regardless of age. They could be spending time with a mentor who is an adult, or attending classes in a co-op with students 10 years older than they are. But they’ll fit right in because cognitively they’ll be on the same level. Because the parent directs social interaction the gifted child can learn to navigate the social norms without negative peer influences.