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Home Educating our Gifted Children

Ingrid McCarthy, Defying Gravity

People often confuse the term gifted. It is not "strengths" or "talents" (we all have those). Intellectual giftedness is like seeing the world through a magnifying glass; highly gifted is like a microscope; profoundly gifted is like an electron microscope. It is NOT a issue of "worth" (every child is worthy of our love and a good education), it is an issue of need. They need more - depth, speed, extension, acceleration - whatever.

I have two "gifted" children: DS13 and DD12. They are both in the "exceptionally gifted" range. I had them tested when we were in school, because there was behaviour issues, particularly for my son. For me (and many people have different views on this) the testing was very helpful because it helped me understand my children better and provided valuable information as to their "wiring". In a similar way to when kids have learning difficulties or intellectual delays need different curriculum, so do gifted kids. And knowing "how" much they differ from the norm for me was so enlightening as it explains so much and helps me put things in perspective.

The children are, of course, so much more than the "label" or an IQ "number". But the report that came with testing was useful, as were the other testing (for ASD, ADHD etc) whether or not they were positive. I prefer to know what I am dealing with! If you are in Sydney or even NSW, I highly recommend Fiona Smith at Gifted Minds . If there is any sign of a learning difficulty, the Sydney Developmental Clinic is excellent too. Both have long waiting lists!

The giftedness, and for my son, the learning difficulties, mean that for my kids, school and the school environment was not a good fit and in his case led to anxiety and depression. Now having homeschooled for two years, I am a big advocate of this learning environment for all kids, but it is so great for gifted kids that don't fit the "norm".

What works for us?

  • Letting the kids work at their own pace - DS 13 is doing Yr 11 physics, DD12 is working around Yr 10 maths. We have high level discussions, read widely and critically, we can be ourselves without negotiating it all with some school bureaucrats or being bullied by other kids or parents. I'm not "pushing" them into areas they don't want to go or a pace that is too fast - we are not in some kind of a race. But they can do work that stimulates them mentally, that interests them and they find appropriately challenging - it's just not what "everyone else" is doing!
  • Curriculum that is particularly well suited for gifted kids - Michael Clay Thompson's language arts materials, Life of Fred books for maths, Khan Academy for maths. Some other families I know like Stanford EPGY maths , but it is pricey. I do a range of activities for science, geog/history and we puddle along and enjoy arts/music/p.e. Kids also enjoy computer programming through Khan Academy.
  • Natural learning - everything can be a learning opportunity - my kids love to learn! Voting, visiting museums/science centres/National Parks, watching documentaries, etc etc. The world really is your oyster and homeschooling lets you delve as deeply as you like into topics of interest (this is of course true for all families, but it also benefits gifted kids - you can't research quantum physics in Yr 6 at school!).
  • We can support my children's areas of weakness at the same time - technology for writing (a real issue around here!), quiet environment for those who suffer sensory overload, structured times, extra "reminders" etc. It's like having a full-time teacher's aide in a gifted classroom - except the class sizes are heaps smaller!

Our homeschooling adventures can be found on my blog Defying Gravity . Our path to homeschooling is here and some blurb about giftedness is here .

highly recommend Lisa Rivero's Creative Homeschooling - A Resource Guide For Smart Families . It is such a goldmine of information and helped sow the seeds of how great homeschooling could be for our kids

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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