Before You Decide to Homeschool Your Gifted Child

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At some point or another, many parents of gifted children contemplate homeschooling their children. It may be when the children are still young and haven't yet started school, or it may be after they're in school and the parents realize that the children's needs are not being met.

Or you may be researching homeschooling due to your child's experience with online school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some parents are turning to homeschooling because their child thrived in remote learning or as a way to ensure their kids' educations progress at an acceptable rate.

Homeschooling can be a real asset if you have a gifted child, allowing them to receive individual attention and a gifted individualized education plan (IEP) without the red tape of getting your child special services.

However, homeschooling is not easy and parents should consider several issues before making the decision to homeschool.

Temperament

Perhaps the first consideration is temperament—of both parents and children. It takes patience to homeschool children. Keeping up with housework and perhaps a part-time job in addition to teaching a gifted child can be stressful. And stress can lead to irritability.

In addition, gifted children can have intense emotions. Parents who get easily upset may find it difficult to homeschool, particularly if their child gets easily frustrated.

Time

The next issue to consider is the amount of time a parent has to homeschool. Remember that homeschooling requires a very high level of parent involvement and availability. One parent, if not both, must be committed to homeschooling and have the time necessary for instruction.

Gifted children tend to be uneven in their development, so they may need one level of instruction for math and another for reading. Children can't simply be given materials and left alone, at least not every day. Homeschooling parents need to find the necessary materials and provide guidance for their children.

Flexible Scheduling

Gifted children are notorious for getting bored and restless when lessons don't move at their pace. The flexibility of homeschooling helps with that issue by not forcing them to spend a set amount of time each day on a prescribed lesson.

Although children still need to learn subjects they don't like as well as those they do like, lessons can be flexible. Children do not need to spend time each day on each subject, nor do all lessons have to take place in the daytime.

For example, children can spend an entire afternoon on math or geography or the subject of their choice. Flexible scheduling can be ideal for gifted children since they often love to immerse themselves in a topic before moving onto the next.

Type of Learning

You'll need to consider the educational approach that is best for your gifted child, which may vary and change from time to time. One of the best ways to make this decision is to talk to other successful homeschooling families to see what they have liked best, and why it's worked well for their gifted child. Here are a few approaches to consider:

  • Charlotte Mason method: Based on using "living books," nature, music, art, poetry, and great literature
  • Interest-led learning: Letting the child's interests guide the learning process
  • Unschooling: Based on the idea that kids can self-direct their learning and receive education by engaging with their environment
  • Montessori: Characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child's natural psychological and social development
  • Waldorf: Emphasizes arts, outdoor play, spirituality, and screen-free learning, and takes a more holistic approach to grading and assessments

Academic Interests

Gifted children are usually highly motivated to dig deep into subjects they like. Although the flexibility of homeschooling makes it easy for parents to nurture the strengths of their child, they must also be sure to help strengthen their child's weaker areas.

Homeschooled children can spend more time learning about their favorite topics in great depth, and those topics can be connected to other subject lessons. Children who love dinosaurs, for example, can work out math problems involving dinosaurs and then write stories about them.

Socialization

Parents often worry about whether a homeschooled child learns socialization skills. While this is a legitimate concern, all socialization need not take place in school.

Children can be enrolled in community programs, including choirs, theater, and sports, all of which will allow them to spend time with other children.

School districts may also allow homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular activities (but not usually to spend time in classes). Homeschooling co-ops also provide opportunities to socialize.

Legal Issues

Although homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, different states have different laws regulating homeschooling. Parents should learn about these laws before committing to homeschooling since some require quite a bit of time.

For example, some states require parents to submit their curriculum and/or lesson plans for approval, require parents to have specific education backgrounds, and have strict attendance requirements. Other states, however, may require only that parents declare that they will be homeschooling their children. Most states are somewhere in between.

To find out what your state will allow and what it won't allow, check out the state summaries offered by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

Finances

Parents need to consider whether they can afford to homeschool. If both parents work, it can be a hardship to lose one income in order to stay home and homeschool. However, some parents are able to work at least part-time if they participate in a co-op.

Some co-ops are made up of parents who share teaching responsibilities. Not only does that allow parents to teach their stronger subjects, but it also allows them time to work or fulfill other obligations. You may also consider hiring a tutor to free up some of your time.

Resources

Parents of gifted children may feel overwhelmed by the possibility of homeschooling, but they are not alone. There are numerous resources to help them come up with an appropriate curriculum and/or get extra help for any subjects they don't feel comfortable teaching their primary age children.

  • Find a local homeschooling group. Survey your town's Facebook page or local mom's page on social media to find out if there are any homeschooling groups in your area. These groups can offer you ideas for curricula as well as socialization opportunities for your child.
  • Contact high schools and colleges to look for tutors. A gifted high schooler or a student at a local college or university may be interested in tutoring your child.
  • Reach out to your school district. Ask your school district about available resources, including access to specific classes (such as art or gym), after-school programs, or extracurricular activities for your child.
  • Consider online education. Online education is another option to help fill in the curriculum gaps in terms of what parents are able to provide for their children.
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Article Sources
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  1. Wessling S. Exploring Homeschooling for Your Gifted Learner. National Association for Gifted Children; 2015.

  2. Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Homeschool laws by state.