10 Things I've Learned from Homeschooling Gifted Kids

 

Parenting gifted kids can be a challenge. They have unique needs and differences that sometimes make them a bit, ummm, unpredictable. Throw homeschooling in the mix and you are in for a wild adventure.

I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Over the past few years, through homeschooling my own gifted kids, I’ve learned a lot – about myself, parenting, and how kids learn, particularly how mine learn.

For example:

 

Days rarely turn out as planned

If I forget to be flexible, I’m a wreck, and everyone knows it. Kids get sick. They get caught up in a game. Sometimes they even {gasp} get excited about something they’re studying and don’t want to stop. I can easily kill a lifelong desire to learn by forcing my kids to move onto math when they’re engrossed in a book about Egyptian mummies.

There’s a reason we’re still studying Mystery of History Volume One {a one-year curriculum} three years later… we stay flexible.

 

What they think is cool, might not be to me

All kids, but gifted kids especially, have their own likes and dislikes. Gifted kids, though, tend to perseverate on their own interests to the annoyance of those around them. {Are all of you parents of gifted kids smiling and nodding right now?} I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve listened to a discourse on the characteristics of certain train engines over others and why some have stood the test of time, and others failed. Or how many weeks a certain 10-year-old has poured into recreating Tony Stark’s mansion and tower in our attic so that I probably know Iron Man and his lifestyle better than Robert Downey Jr.

But you know what? Gifted kids need others to listen to them perseverate from time to time. Instead of listening with glazed eyes and iPhone in hand, I’m learning to put the phone down and pay attention. A relationship is strengthening in the process.

 

What I think is cool, might not be to them

I’m not sure if you know, but I’m kind of a science nut… I enjoy all sorts of hands-on science and could do it all the time. My kids… well, they tolerate it. They enjoy science, and think it’s fun to play with and experiment, but going on l-o-n-g nature hikes and sitting by a stream writing in a journal is like pulling toenails out one at a time to a certain animal-hating 5-year-old.

While I’m learning to be okay that she’ll never volunteer to go salamander hunting with me at midnight on a rainy spring night, I’m okay with it as long as she knows that salamanders migrate and lay eggs in a vernal pool. She needs to appreciate God’s amazing creation, but she doesn’t have to love everything about it.

 

Life runs smoother when they are free to pursue their own interests

I’m a bit of a control-freak… There, I said it. I like to know what the kids are learning, when, and how. I want to direct everything in our homeschool so I make sure nobody misses anything.

It doesn’t work.

I know it doesn’t work to control everything when educating a gifted kid, because it once was my job to help other teachers see that gifted kids learn differently. I need to take my own advice and modify my days like I’d help another teacher modify hers.

I choose math and Bible study, and everything else, while organized by me, is based on the kids’ interests. We use lapbooks and unit studies to cover reading, writing, social studies, history, and some science. Life’s more fun that way.

 

Kids don’t have to finish the book

If a bright kids masters the math concept in 4 problems, why should I make him do the thirty that are included in the lesson? It’s pointless – and can be excruciatingly boring. Once a kid gets the concept… move on. We do.

 

School can take place anywhere

The backyard is the perfect place for read-alouds. The park bench or playground equipment can be a unique place to finish a math assignment. My kids end up on, under, or behind furniture. Molly tends to do her math in the bathroom while I shower. {It cuts down on sibling fighting, and keeps her near me, which she loves.}

 

Inspiration can happen anytime

A few weeks ago we went to The Warther Carving Museum on a last-minute field trip. I hadn’t prepped the kids. We didn’t talk about wood carving, what they’d see, the knife making business that has been in the Warther family since 1902. We just went and enjoyed.

My kids learned about ivory, carving, knife-making, and history. They marveled in the philanthropy and family values witnessed. They were amazed to meet the grandson of the carver – still carving like his grandfather taught him.

And Trevor has asked for {and received} a carving knife and wood blocks.

 

Kids really can learn from TV

I’m not a huge fan of TV, video games, and idle playtime on the computer. But these things became my friends this year during a challenging pregnancy and the first few months of new-baby survival time. While I slept and nursed, the kids watched Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Time Warp Trio, Liberty’s Kids, and various Discovery Channel specials.

I am amazed at what they picked up this past year – and how much of it had nothing to do with me.

 

It’s important to have some idea of where we’re going

I know, it seems contradictory to some of the interest-led stuff I already talked about, but it really isn’t. I’m not good at completely sticking with a schedule, and my kids aren’t either. Schedules get blown and we get stressed… life happens.

But, we need to have an idea of what we want to accomplish or nothing will get done. If I don’t have some thoughts about how are day should look, I’ll sit around sipping coffee and procrastinating all day while Logan plays on the computer and Molly and Trevor hide out playing Legos.

Nothing gets accomplished, and we’re all grumpy.

 

I really do like being a homeschooling mom

I struggle with this sometimes. I listen to my friends talk about different moms groups they’re a part of, or different people whom they’ve met for breakfast while the kids are in school, and I get jealous. When I’m having a tough time trying to get to the grocery store without 4 kids in tow, and I hear about the books read, movies watched, and smoothies sipped, I wonder if I’d be happier that way.

But, then I sit with Molly and watch her see a word in a book I’m reading aloud that she recognizes. Or, I listen to Trevor plan the logistics, dimensions, and structural ramifications of building a disco hall onto Stark Mansion. Or, I see Logan use her bumblebee finger puppet to fly from flower to flower in the house collecting nectar to bring back to the hive and make honey.

And I know it’s worth it.

I’m the one sharing in these special moments. I’m the one watching their faces light up as they “get” it. I may feel stressed, overwhelmed, and just plain tired sometimes. Working from home, keeping a home, cooking for my family, and teaching them too might catch up with me sometimes, but there really isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be.

I love my kids. And I love homeschooling them.

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Every Tuesday, for the next ten weeks, I will be participating in a special Ten in Ten blog hop with iHomeschool Network. This blog hop is inspired by  Angie of Many Little Blessings. We would love to have you join us during our ten week adventure. Please link up at Angie’s blog by clicking the image below.

Colleen Kessler

Colleen is an explorer, tinkerer, educator, writer, creator, and a passionate advocate for the needs of gifted and twice-exceptional children. She has a B.S. in elementary education, a M.Ed. in gifted studies, is a sought-after national speaker and educational consultant, and is the founder of the popular blog and podcast Raising Lifelong Learners, as well as Raising Poppies, a community of support for parents of gifted children. She lives in northeast Ohio with her four bright and quirky kiddos, patient husband, and ever-changing collection of small reptiles, mammals, and insects.

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