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Homeschooling Your Gifted Child: Help Them Thrive

Homeschooling your gifted child makes sense for many reasons. Homeschooling allows you – parents or caregivers – to design a curriculum specifically tailored to your child's strengths and interests.

It also allows gifted children to develop at their own pace. This is important, because gifted kids can often struggle with perfectionism. Daily comparisons with 20+ students in a public school classroom, time limits, grading, and competitions can be very challenging and affect your child's mental health and self esteem.

Homeschooling can offer the time and space to deep dive into your child's interests, provide gentle support in struggle areas and tailor resources to his/her learning style.

My daughter is 2e (twice exceptional: gifted and also autistic & ADHD) and her area of giftedness is in verbal acuity, language and vocabulary, and reading. She was in grade school and testing as a high school level reader. However, memorizing basic math facts continues to be a struggle.

Time in nature is one of the benefits of homeschooling your gifted child. My daughter is walking along the beach away from the camera.
Getting out in nature is one of the benefits of homeschooling.


Homeschooling allows us to meet her where she's at and removes her from the constant comparison with classmates and pressure to perform at grade level in all subjects.

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What does gifted mean?

When we think of giftedness, we often think of children who excel in academics or have special talents in the arts or athletics. But the truth is, giftedness comes in many different forms.

A gifted child may be one who learns quickly, thinks creatively, has a strong sense of intuition, or is highly sensitive to their environment. Many times, giftedness isn't apparent when a child is starting school.

Gifted children might find it challenging to play with their peers because of social or emotional differences. They may also feel lonely when their peers do not share their interests. Giftedness might show up as being bored at school, being deeply concerned about world events or other more mature subjects, or near-constant curiosity and endless questions.

Here's a great article about identifying and testing for giftedness.

https://www.hoagiesgifted.org/home_school.htm

Why is identifying giftedness important?

Asynchronous Development

Asynchronous development is a term used to describe the way gifted kids often develop at different rates in different areas. This can be frustrating for parents, who may feel like their child is “behind” in some areas, even as they excel in others. And it flies directly in the face of the well-rounded, grade-by-grade school system.

However, it's important to remember that every child is unique and develops at their own pace. Your child might fly through math and science but need extra help in reading. Or vice versa. Being able to provide support where needed and advanced materials where kids develop a deep interest is one of the big benefits of homeschooling your gifted child.

Four people sitting on wooden stairs each with different jeans and shoes.

Movement and Sensory Needs

Gifted kids often need more movement than public school allows, and homeschooling can provide the opportunity for more physical activity. Some gifted kids have different sensory needs and homeschooling can offer a flexible environment that meets those needs.

  • Some gifted kids do better with background noise, so a great Spotify playlist or afternoons at a coffee shop might be a great fit.
  • Some gifted kids need to fidget, so homeschooling could involve breaks, fidget toys, or yoga ball chairs (my daughter's fave).
  • some gifted kids are sensitive to light or smells, so homeschooling might mean a dimmer room and freedom from the school lunchroom smells.

Homeschooling your gifted child is such great option to create an environment that allows your child(ren) to be supported, non-stressed, and to love the learning process. A child working at his/her own pace, without time pressure or sensory overwhelm is a recipe for success.

Being Advanced in All Areas

Some gifted kids are very advanced academically and emotionally across the board.

Being able to learn and understand work several grade levels above is a sign of giftedness. It's often challenging for schools to keep up with this kind of gifted learner; I've heard stories from several homeschooling parents that their exceptionally gifted kids ended up acting out in school because of boredom.

Homeschooling can set these kids free to deep dive into advanced subjects and interests, and not be held back by grade level or school curriculum.

Homeschooling Your Gifted Child: Tips for Success

Pour into your child's strengths and interests.

As a parent, it can be difficult to make the decision to homeschool. Traditional schools may not offer the specialized attention that gifted children need, but homeschooling can feel like taking your child's entire future on your shoulders.

Before you shell out money for a fancy curriculum, spend some time observing your child(ren) and just making life sparkly and fun for them. Field trips, movies, documentaries, board games, reading aloud and making favorite meals is a great start for homeschooling. Encourage and supply interests. Stay up late. Try out that musical instrument or dance class (and quit if it's not a good fit).

Focusing on strengths and interests builds confidence, joy, and perseverance. We are living proof.

Discovering and pouring into interests is important in homeschooling your gifted child! My daughter loves Irish dance - especially the cute shoes shown here.
Ballet was a no-go for us. But Irish dance has been a blast.

Model overcoming perfectionism.

Encourage your kids to be beginners and to do things they're bad at. We adults aren't very good at those things, either, so let's normalize being beginners and not being good at everything right along with them!

Perfectionism is a nasty taskmaster and it seems that gifted kids are particularly susceptible. Trying new things, laughing about mistakes, and failing in small tries can help prevent and overcome those beliefs that perfection is necessary.

Let go of grade level comparisons.

It can be easy for us as homeschooling parents to fall into the trap of comparing our kiddos' progress to that of public school peers. This has been one of my personal challenges as a homeschool mom! BUT – it's so important that we take a step back from the public school grade-level framework.

Every child learns at a different pace, and homeschooled kids have the chance to move more quickly in areas of strength and take more time in subjects where additional supports are needed.

An empty classroom full of desks. Gifted and 2e children often find the school environment overwhelming or boring.

It's also important to remember that homeschooled children aren't in the school environment for hours each day, so they personally may have entirely different interests and goals than public school peers – both academically and personally. My tween has no interest in K-Pop or the fashion trends that are all the rage at the moment!

It's OK to let go of grade levels as a metric. Pour into strengths and watch how they pull up the weaker areas. I've lost count of the conversations I've had with parents who said their child learned to read in order to play a video game they were super interested in (after struggling with reading for years), or learned to type to keep in touch with friends more easily (after having zero interest in keyboarding skills).

Giftedness and Gentle Parenting

As a parent, it can be easy to feel like you need to have all the answers.

However, gentle parenting is about working in partnership with your child to learn and grow together. This approach can be especially effective when homeschooling. By working together, you and your child can explore subjects that are of interest to both of you.

In addition, gentle parenting helps to build a strong relationship between parent and child. This relationship is based on trust and mutual respect, and it can provide a foundation for lifelong learning. When kids feel safe, calm, and understood, that sets the stage for learning and growth.

We stumbled on gentle, cooperative parenting through Ross Greene's work. I highly recommend any of his books. For us, The Explosive Child was the breakthrough for behaviors we didn't understand. Raising Human Beings is also excellent.

Questions About Homeschooling Your Gifted and 2e Child

Giftedness can coincide with disabilities, learning delays and various kinds of neurodiversity. It might masquerade, looking like “laziness” or “giving up too easily” when the root cause is perfectionism, anxiety, or sensory overload.

I love little insights like the graphic below about autistic culture. In our home, my daughter is rarely without her headphones. She has curated an extensive set of Spotify playlists, and her favorite place to be is in her comfy jammies on her favorite spot on the couch. These adaptations help her be calm and in an emotional and physical place that's conducive to learning.

Yet, I've often dealt with insinuations that I'm too lenient or that I'm spoiling her, or that she should have grown out of these needs by now. It's frustrating. We have to learn that the “regular world” and school environments can be overwhelming for some kids!

Gifted and 2e kids can really benefit when parents or caregivers take the time to observe learning styles, daily rhythms, and what helps kids feel safe and calm.

Autistic Culture drawing by @littlepuddins.ie
  • perceptive, inquiring minds.
  • unusual insight and intellectual curiosity.
  • superior judgment and reasoning ability.
  • abstract and critical thinking.
  • originality.
  • ability to see connections between ideas.
  • long concentration spans in areas of interest.
  • advanced reading ability.

Giftedness is complex! Often giftedness can be in one academic area and not others; it can hide behind perfectionism and overwhelm. Giftedness does not automatically mean your child will be ahead in school in all subjects.

This article is an informative read about giftedness and assessment.

Twice exceptional (2e) is a terminology used to describe children who have both areas of giftedness and also a learning disability or challenge.

Here is a great article about understanding and supporting twice exceptional kids.

Oh, if only there were one answer to this question. Wouldn't that be great?

What I will say is that I believe the best curriculum will not come out of a box with all subjects neatly laid out for you.

Instead, it will come from trial and error, becoming a student of your child and how they learn best. It might involve resources from many different curriculum companies or just weekly trips to the library and Khan academy math online.

It won't happen right away. It took us around two years to find our groove, and from my conversations with homeschool moms this is the typical learning curve. Some people hit success at the beginning; they tend to be folks whose kids thrive on worksheets and more traditional school work.

Those of us with differently wired, or gifted, kids usually need to discover what works best by just – trying stuff out and seeing what works.

I'll tell you how our 7th grade year is shaping up, as an example:

  • Reading: library trips, graphic novels, story lines in video games
  • Math: Life of Fred books, Math Antics, Prodigy online (<–the BEST)
  • Science: MEL science subscription, various YouTube channels
  • Social Studies/History: Yesteryear Gazette, Honest History
  • Art: working with an art mentor/private lessons
  • Music: taking violin lessons
  • PE: swimming and weekly Irish dance lessons
  • Life skills: pet (rabbit) care, baking (kiddo has baking aspirations)
My homeschooled daughter's pet rex rabbit. He is grey and laying on a blue sheet.
Our house rabbit has been an excellent pet for my animal-loving daughter.

Here's an amazing page of resources for parents homeschooling gifted children! Including curriculum ideas, putting together high school transcripts from non-standard learning situations, book recommendations, asynchronous learning, and lots more.

You don't have to be a teacher. You have to be a facilitator.

A homeschool parent doesn't have to know how to teach all subjects: they have to know their child(ren), and find a great curriculum or instructor to meet their needs.

We encourage. We cheerlead. We seek out support where needed (academically, emotionally). We sometimes teach the lesson that things just need to get done.

Fall in love with researching, trying things out, and modeling learning. Get involved in what your kids are into, dive deep with them.

Yes, some do. It's a personal choice for every family – what will support my child's needs the best? However, most school gifted programs are designed for kids who are gifted across all subjects and who are not neurodivergent or 2e.

One dynamic in schools that can be problematic for some gifted kids is competition. Everything is a competition, from grades, to attendance, to performance in art or music. For gifted kids that might be pulled into advanced studies, the pressure to compete and excel can be fierce. Many gifted students struggle with perfectionism, and it can easily tip over and affect self esteem when things become more challenging or they face not being perfect.

The constant competition and comparison can be a grind even for students for whom academics come naturally.

For kids like my daughter, who is gifted in one subject area but has challenges in others, there may be no ‘good fit' in the school system because her development is so asynchronous. How do you give one child in a class of 25 such wildly differentiated instruction? High school reading with 5th grade math? 8th grade science with 2nd grade reading?

This is one of the many reasons why a tailored, homeschool approach can be so successful for gifted kids.

You can find success homeschooling your gifted child!

  • Be willing to experiment! Different times of day, different resources, printed curriculum vs. online learning, how much “out of the house” time is needed. It's likely the ideal mix is one you create yourself with trial and error.
  • Lean into strengths and gently support weaknesses. Weaknesses get pulled up by strengths when kids follow their interests.
  • Remember you are raising a child for the world that they live in, not for the world you grew up in. Beware of idolizing your own childhood and its time period.

Share your questions or experiences about homeschooling your gifted or 2e child below in the comments! What have I not covered that you want to know?

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