We had an email asking for tips for homeschooling a gifted daughter which prompted us to compile all our very best tips and tricks learned over the past decades. What would you add?
1. Disdain Busy-Work
Your child wants to learn, so don’t slow her down! If she has mastered multiplication, why are you still spending an hour a day reviewing it? Yes, she does need some review, but we’ve seen way too many families focus on completing every problem rather than mastering the material. One way to test this is to have her try doing only every other review problem and see how she does. If she can prove she’s mastered it, she doesn’t need to be spending quite as much time on it.
2. Go Deep
Allow breathing room in your schedule so you have time to investigate earth’s gravitational pull or the advantages/disadvantages of hair sheep vs wooly sheep. Once again, your child wants to learn, why pull her away from learning something she’ll never forget to focus on material she won’t be able to recall next week?
3. Go Fast
If your child wants to take 3 science courses this year, or race through 2 math levels, why not? Homeschoolers can absolutely rock this, because there are no peers holding them to a “traditional” pace!
4. Encourage Completion
Sometimes I think there is a touch of ADD in every genius. Give your child as much flexibility as you possibly can, but also keep in mind that you’ll be doing her a disservice if she never has to tackle something she doesn’t feel like working on at the moment. Sometimes she may even be surprised to realize that the very subject she dreaded is the springboard for a whole new area of investigation!
5. Give Space & Opportunities
If you can keep mandatory studies to a minimum you’ll give your child more opportunities to accelerate her learning in the areas she’s gifted at. Common sense perhaps, but also worth deliberately thinking through as you plan out your school year.
6. Work on Weak Areas Carefully
While you definitely want to work with her to help her overcome areas she’s just not as strong in, you also want to be careful that a weakness in one area doesn’t impede her progress in other ways. For instance some children struggle with writing simply because their brain works much faster than their hands. While I encourage those families to work on handwriting skills, I also suggest that they try teaching their child to type and allowing her to complete writing assignments on the computer. This lets her continue to build her writing skills instead of holding her back because of her lack of handwriting speed.
7. Emphasize Humility & Service
We have met way too many children who are obnoxiously convinced that they are a genius, and everyone needs to be in awe of their abilities. Your child will be much healthier (and happier!) if she realizes these 4 things:
1) Her identity is NEVER found in her brainpower.
2) Even as gifted as she is, there are many things that others do better than she does.
3) She could lose her edge at any point by something as simple as a car accident. (So again, she is much more than her brain!)
4) Her gifts are not for herself alone but for serving God and His people.
If course the goal is never to insult or degrade her, but to give her a framework from which she can truly thrive and be free to learn. With a proper perspective she’ll be able to enjoy learning without the burden of constantly assessing her genius or studying based on what people will think of her. Don’t weigh her down by constantly telling her how big her brain is either. Encourage her learning to be sure, but don’t forget to cultivate her character at all costs. In 10 years her response to rebuke will be much more telling than her test score this year so don’t put an inordinate stress on intellectual pursuits.
Talk about what she’s interested in. Talk about the theories she came up with today. Talk about her daydreams. Talk about what she wants to study up on. Talk about why she may actually need to master that most-dreadful-of-subjects, whatever that may be to her… Not only will you be able to impart your years of wisdom to her, but you’ll also know well the subjects she’s interested in and be able to tie that in to her other studies, the places you’re visiting next week, or that interesting article you read yesterday.
Your child is a wonderful gift, don’t feel that every moment must be spent maximizing her potential. As a side benefit, just relaxing about her genius may in fact increase it. Our own family found that some our best test scores came after a year off of most formal schooling! Not what we would have planned, but a very valuable insight. Living life=learning, maximize that!