I still remember scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing a reader question posed on a homeschooling page I enjoy reading. Her seven-year-old was reading at an eleventh grade level, had just completed sixth grade math, was exceptionally emotional, and had trouble holding a pencil.
She was struggling to meet all of her daughter’s needs as a new homeschooling mom and was reaching out for help.
And I felt for her.
How do you meet the asynchronous needs of gifted children?
The term “gifted” holds, for so many people, negative or even threatening connotations. But, like not all children have special needs, not all kids are gifted.
As defined by Webster’s, gifted means having exceptional talent or natural ability.
The National Association for Gifted Children goes further:
Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.
Unfortunately people often confuse the term giftedness with gift.
Children are a gift. They’re a blessing. They are all important and have special talents, abilities, and struggles.
What does a gifted child look like?
While gifted kids are as different from one another as anybody is from another person, there are some traits and characteristics that bear watching for if you think your child is gifted. Keep in mind that not all gifted kids exhibit all of these traits.
- process information faster and more effectively than same age peers.
- may exhibit a highly developed vocabulary earlier than most children.
- speak in complex, grammatically correct sentences early on.
- are continually asking increasingly complex questions that show insight and advanced understanding.
- spontaneously begin reading at very early ages.
- pick up on the nuances of language and can precociously converse with adults at early ages.
- perseverate on topics of interest (focus intensely for long periods of time), and seek out their own exposure to these topics.
- have depths of background knowledge about the world around them that surprises even their parents.
- remember things with little to no repetition.
- are critical and creative problem solvers, often finding connections between seemingly disconnected things.
How do you keep gifted kids challenged?
Knowing beyond a doubt that your child is truly gifted (through ability, achievement, and IQ testing) isn’t nearly as important as creating a nurturing and challenging environment in your home. Being the kind of parent that recognizes ability and interests, and then capitalizes on those to help their child learn is the best thing you can do for a gifted child.
So how do you do it?
- Follow your child’s interests. Gifted children who aren’t challenged can often become undermotivated and turned off of learning altogether. An underachieving child can spend more time arguing with parents about homeschool than actually learning. By tapping into your child’s interests and focusing their learning in that direction, you can stimulate their motivation to learn.
- Find mentors for your child. Is your child interested in programming, but you don’t know your way in and around technology? Find someone they can learn from. A computer-engineer friend might be willing to meet with your daughter on the weekends to talk and play around with computers.
- Fill up the house with resources. Books, computers, DVDs, streaming video subscriptions, toys that inspire creativity, etc. all provide outlets for learning and thinking. It’s important to bring your gifted child up in a resource-rich environment and encourage him to become a lifelong learner.
By tapping into your gifted child’s interests and strengths, you’ll motivate him or her to keep moving forward, and you can work on weaknesses within the framework of strengths.
Like the mother reaching out for help in meeting the asynchronous needs of her seven-year-old daughter, you may struggle from time to time keeping up with your gifted child.
Remember that you’re not alone (we have a whole community of parents like you on FB that you’re welcome to join), and that gifted kids have special parenting and academic needs. Your child can and will learn, and you will be able to nurture his or her unique abilities.