Homeschooling the Gifted or 2e Child

By Corin Barsily Goodwin and Mika Gustavson, M.F.T.

July, 2011

Many gifted and 2e children do very well in schools throughout the U.S. There are all kinds of programs designed to meet the special needs of the fortunate children who have access to them. When there’s a good fit for the unique educational needs of one’s child, there’s no need to look for further options. However, these programs are not available to all of the families who need them, due to location, district funding, or limited personal resources. So what are parents to do when a good fit is not available? Since an increase in developmental asynchronies correlates with an increase in IQ scores, finding a comfortable place for a gifted or 2e child to grow and thrive educationally and socially gets commensurately more difficult.

Enter homeschooling as an option.

What is Homeschooling?

Homeschooling is a multi-dimensional continuum that can take many forms. Variables include:  

  • The extent of structure or planning
  • Who does the teaching (if any)
  • The degree of independence from educational institutions
  • Whether or not to grade
  • Whether learning is child- or parent-led
  • Whether or not to pursue a theme or follow a specific curriculum.

Some parents who are brand new to homeschooling may choose to take advantage of support and services offered by a school district or charter program. One benefit of such a program is the familiarity of the educational paradigm — that is, school still looks like school, after a fashion. This arrangement can allow homeschoolers to take advantage of resources, such as a science lab or orchestra, that they might not otherwise have access to. Parents can benefit by working with trained teachers who will assist with curriculum and other content issues. The disadvantage of this style of homeschooling is that by replicating school outside of school, these families may yet run into the same kinds of problems they were seeking to avoid, such as issues with acceleration, repetitious make-work, or standardized testing.

Other families prefer a less structured approach to education, which allows them to create a better match for their child’s learning style. Homeschooling provides an educational environment that can be tailored to meet the needs of the gifted child without the repetition found in the mainstream sequential curriculum; without a focus on standards that do not support individual potential; and without artificial social relations, which are often poorly suited to gifted children. Families can allow the interests of the child to take the lead in the educational process, adopting a more eclectic style of homeschooling,  

The Educational Benefits of Homeschooling

The flexibility inherent in homeschooling allows gifted children to work from a wide variety of educational materials and to set the pace and manner of learning to suit their needs. For example, kinesthetic learners (those who need to move while thinking) are more likely to retain information when allowed to sit on the floor and build Lego™ starships or otherwise remain in motion during a discussion of whatever subject is at hand. They don’t have to use up all of their mental energy by trying to sit still and focus on reading an assigned textbook. Other children may find that participatory activities, such as designing and building catapults, are a successful method of combining physics with historical/political context in a way that engages their creative minds. Still others may prefer a more subject-specific orientation, albeit in great detail and depth.

Another benefit to homeschooling is that these children tend to have more time to pursue interests not normally covered in the classroom or to find experts or mentors willing to share their specialized knowledge. Homeschoolers are not limited to the expertise of a particular teacher nor to a predetermined lesson plan or unit length. If the depth and speed of their neural connections take them someplace other than where they were directed to go, they have the freedom to follow their thoughts and exercise their creativity.  

The Social and Emotional Benefits of Homeschooling

From a social/emotional standpoint, homeschooling parents can be more available to help their children navigate difficult situations as they occur. Homeschoolers have the opportunity to learn social skills with guidance from caring adults rather than from age peers, who are themselves still developing their own social skills. There is no need for a highly sensitive gifted or twice-exceptional child to learn socialization by the “sink or swim” method on the playground.

Relationships between parents and children often benefit as well from homeschooling, due to the improved quality of their interactions. While homeschooling families may spend a lot of time running around to activities, they don’t have to spend untold hours in power struggles over inappropriate homework. The increased time together also allows parents more opportunity to cultivate an appreciation for their child’s unique qualities and to get to know and understand their child’s abilities in a less formal or structured setting.  

Conclusion

The extensive body of research being built about homeschooling clearly indicates very positive outcomes. The data shows that homeschooled children, as an aggregate:

  • Do better on standardized tests than non-homeschooled kids
  • Are readily admitted to colleges and universities
  • Move on to successful, often entrepreneurial, careers
  • Are more likely to be involved in a positive manner within their communities than their traditionally educated counterparts.

Furthermore, they develop the ability to seek knowledge on their own, a critical life skill generally overlooked by the rigidity of many modern classrooms.

Ultimately, there are as many methods of learning as there are children. William Butler Yeats describes education as “...not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Most classrooms are designed for filling pails, whereas gifted children in particular need opportunities to fan the flames of their abilities beyond the strict confines of someone else’s agenda. Homeschooling can provide those opportunities.

Corin Barsily Goodwin founded Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF) in 2004 to address a growing need for support and advocacy. Prior to that, she served as the Gifted/Special Needs Advisor for the HomeSchool Association of California and co-chaired their Legislative Committee. She has been presenting workshops on giftedness, learning differences, and homeschool-related issues for many years. Her articles have appeared in many gifted, twice-exceptional, homeschooling, and other publications. She also serves on the SENG Editorial Board and the Advisory Board of the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund, and is excited about her soon-to-be-released book, co-authored with Mika Gustavson, Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Work for Your Atypical Child. She lives in the woods of southern Oregon , where she homeschools her 2e children.

Mika Gustavson, MA, MFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Silicon Valley, California, specializing in helping the gifted to thrive. A certified SENG-Model Parent Group Facilitator, she leads groups for parents of gifted, twice-exceptional, anxious, and intense children, as well as providing trainings and presentations for parents, educators, and other professionals. Her articles have been published in gifted, twice-exceptional, and homeschooling publications. She serves on the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s Professional Outreach Committee, is a community board member for Camp Summit for the Gifted, and is excited about her soon-to-be-released book, Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Work for Your Atypical Child, co-authored with Corin Goodwin. When not seeing clients, teaching, or writing, she’s enjoying life with her own homeschooled, twice-exceptional son, her husband, and the family’s ever-evolving menagerie.

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