If you are considering homeschooling your gifted child, there are many factors you must consider. Here is a guide to homeschooling a gifted child that answers the most common questions that parents have.
You do not need a teaching certificate to homeschool a gifted child, but you do need to make sure that you can develop a curriculum that is tailored to their strengths and weaknesses as a student. There are also some special requirements for homeschoolers, some government-mandated.
Continue below to learn how to start or join a homeschool and how best to approach your gifted child’s education.
What Qualifies A Student as Gifted?
A child qualifies as gifted when their test scores and benchmarks exceed those of their peers. An example of a gifted child would be a student who can perform third-grade level math while still in first grade. Students can be gifted in a variety of categories, other than just mathematics.
A good way to determine whether a child is gifted or not is to compare their scores on standardized testing required by the state to the scores of their statewide peers. A student exceeding benchmarks in several categories can undoubtedly be considered gifted.
The signs that your child is gifted may be very similar to the symptoms of a behavioral disorder such as ADHD. This includes having outbursts in class, not getting along with others, and not participating. One parent even recalls taking their child to a pediatrician specializing in behaviors, who then suggested that her child was gifted.
Please seek the advice of qualified behavioral specialists before making these decisions. Not every student with behavioral issues is necessarily gifted, but it does seem like this may be a good qualifier for homeschooling.
Should I Enroll My Child in A Homeschool Program? Things to Consider
Before committing to a homeschool regime, be sure to take costs, scheduling, qualifications, and long-term consequences into consideration. What will be entailed in homeschooling your gifted child? Learn the answers to this question here:
Registration with The State May Be Required
Your state may or may not have regulations covering homeschoolers, to ensure that these students are taught the same curriculum as their peers. You may even need to complete a specific registration form with a state government agency. The best source of information regarding specific regulations will be your state’s department of education.
Am I Qualified to Teach My Child?
The good news is that you can teach your student through homeschool without needing to get a teaching certificate. If it ever gets to a point where your gifted child needs to learn more advanced concepts than you are capable of teaching, then the responsible choice would be to enroll in a distance-learning program or courses through a community college. Fortunately, there are plenty of advanced courses available to homeschoolers these days.
Consider Your Schedule
Before homeschooling your gifted child, take into consideration your work-life schedule. If you are very busy, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to homeschool your child, but you may consider looking into local homeschool groups or co-ops. You will suddenly find yourself in a position where your child will be home all the time.
The good news is that homeschooling does give you much more flexibility than traditional schooling. There is no reason why you can’t hold classes in the evenings. You still need to make sure that your child is under adult supervision during the day. Childcare solutions are one aspect of homeschooling that may not be apparent at first for the working homeschool parent. This is a topic that would be worthwhile discussing with other, more experienced homeschool parents.
If You Are Homeschooling A Gifted High School Student
Your state may have requirements for high school graduation. At primary school, there are few regulations, but high school is seen as the final step before adulthood. Students in gifted programs are likely to exceed state guidelines, but college admissions may be a little more complicated.
As an example, here is how the admissions department at Princeton University handles homeschooled candidates:
- Provide as much documentation as possible for academic and non-academic activities.
- Include a graded written paper.
- Include three adult references.
- The academic transcript should show rigorous academic study in a wide range of disciplines throughout the student’s high school career.
Even if your child is younger than high school-aged, you should be thinking about how you will lay a good foundation for their high school career and beyond. Any glaring deficiencies, in terms of the quality of coursework provided, are likely to reduce their ability to be admitted to the college or university of their choice.
How to Save Money on Homeschooling: Find or Start A Co-op
Some people may be taken aback by the start-up costs associated with homeschooling your child. Textbooks and course plans can be on the pricey side, even if you teach your child yourself. Things get even more expensive if you decide to hire an instructor. Homeschooling can cost more than $500 just to start.
One way to alleviate these costs would be to find a homeschooling co-op or group of parents and children with similar learning objectives. The costs of homeschooling can be divided up amongst the parents. This is also a good way to connect with other parents who may be more familiar with the homeschooling process than you are.
To find local homeschool groups, you are encouraged to visit the Home School Legal Defense Association directory page. This page contains many verified resources subdivided by the state for the parents of homeschoolers.
How Do You Start A Homeschool for Your Gifted Child?
There are a multitude of factors to consider if you are looking to start your homeschool. One of the biggest challenges may be putting together challenging coursework for a gifted child. Fortunately, many parents have been in your shoes before and have found one or more of the following steps to be helpful.
Year-Round School or Traditional Scheduling? There’s A Case to Be Made for Each
Most public and parochial schools use the traditional schedule where the year begins late in the summer and ends the following spring. This standard plan has many merits, such as providing children with an opportunity to enjoy the summer with their friends. Alternatively, some programs offer year-round learning.
Homeschooling makes year-round education more plausible, but is it worth it? In the end, year-round students will generally spend less time in classroom instruction versus their peers in traditional school. Homeschool students taught year-round generally have periodic breaks, split evenly throughout the entire year rather than one extended summer vacation.
The Case for Year-Round School
- Students will find it easier to keep their minds in learning mode.
- Having breaks evenly-split should help keep students from getting “burnt-out.”
- There is no need for the adjustment period in late summer after children have spent an extended period away from school.
The Case for A Traditional School Schedule
- Students have schedules that align with those of their peers in public and private schools.
- Children can attend summer camps.
- Summer vacation provides children a better chance to participate in sports leagues and similar activities.
How to Develop A Homeschool Curriculum
Once you have developed a plan for structuring the school year, your next step will be developing a student curriculum. Before committing to any particular curriculum, consider their strengths and weaknesses. Gifted children tend to have an uneven skill level on a subject-to-subject basis.
You can make learning fun for your child by ensuring that every class is themed around their interests. If your child is most interested in outer space, for example, you can assign math and reading work that focuses mainly on this subject.
There are many resources for the parents of homeschoolers that help them avoid the need to brainstorm a suitable curriculum from scratch:
- 180-day Workbook Sets: These include various textbooks and workbooks, not unlike the materials that students at traditional schools receive.
- Online Curriculum Plans: Programs such as this one are available for either a monthly or annual fee. These curriculum plans contain all the coursework that students usually have, plus online software that allows them to submit homework that is then graded automatically.
- Online lectures: One such resource for online student lectures is Khan Academy, where parents and their gifted children have access to videos posted by experts covering a wide range of subjects.
Hire an Expert Teacher
To provide your gifted child with the best education possible, you might consider hiring an expert teacher(s). During the events of 2020, it became a trend for parents to hire freelance instructors. You can say that the floodgates have been opened now that parents realize how practical it is to hire a qualified instructor.
This means that there should also be more accredited teachers available for hire than there used to be. Be wary of internet scammers who may be taking advantage of these programs. The best way to connect with an accredited professional is to go through a place like Verified Teachers, where instructors must verify their expertise and are subject to background checks.
Get in The Habit of Keeping Good Records
If you are homeschooling your child, you will need to take recordkeeping seriously. Unlike traditional schools, the homeschool setup doesn’t come with an office full of faculty and secretarial staff in charge of keeping records of student attendance, grade performance, and transcripts.
Build a portfolio for your child’s education that includes the following:
- Books used in education
- Writing samples
- Graded papers and exams
- Completed workbooks
- Assessments/standardized testing done at the end of the semester or school year
This is the benefit of virtual learning software is that the software automatically scores the student’s work, adds it to a grade book that can be downloaded, and then printed, as needed.
Other Important Tips for Homeschooling A Gifted Child
When you commit to the homeschooling option, you’ll soon realize that you now have full customization of your child’s education plan. This can seem a daunting task at first, particularly if your child is gifted. Here you can find tips on how to make homeschooling a productive experience for a gifted child.
Make Learning Fun
Homeschooling presents parents with an excellent opportunity to make learning fun for their gifted child. They will benefit from a learning environment that is specifically designed for their interests.
Look for ways to implement a hands-on learning environment:
- Home lab kits
- Field trips
- Academic competitions
- Interactive software
Make Sure That Your Child Is Held Accountable
There needs to be a healthy balance of fun and accountability in your child’s homeschool program. The good news is that studies show that homeschool students are indeed performing better than their public school peers based on standardized test scores.
The best way to ensure that your child remains on the right track is to register them for the same type of standardized testing that public school students must participate in every year. Many organizations offer standardized testing.
Some states may even require that homeschoolers take a “nationally normed achievement test” every year. This includes options like the Stanford Achievement Test or the Iowa Form-E. Whether it is legally required or not, proof of standardized testing will help make college admissions simpler. Additionally, if your child decides to attend a traditional high school later on, the standardized testing results may help ensure proper class placement.
Emphasize Social Opportunities for Your Child
One potential downside of taking your child out of traditional school is that your child will naturally have fewer opportunities to socialize with others. Social skills should be as central to the learning structure as practicing math or science problems. Studies show that children end up being more intelligent when they have access to social opportunities.
There are many ways that you can provide your homeschooled child with social opportunities:
- Field Trips
- Youth sports
- Co-ops with other homeschool groups
- Summer camps
How to Teach Science to Your Homeschool Child
It is relatively easy to find equipment for teaching subjects like English and math, but science can be a little bit harder, mainly if your child is learning at such a high level. Fortunately, there are a variety of home kits that you can use to help you provide lab instruction.
Home Science Kits
Before purchasing home science kits, be sure that they don’t contain any chemicals that you wouldn’t want to use on the inside of your home. It may be best to perform these experiments in a well-ventilated garage. In addition to these kits, you may also need to purchase the necessary glassware.
Many home science kits are perfectly safe for use indoors, such as those that are specially designed with the homeschool student in mind. The addition of science kits will vastly enhance the learning process, as students in traditional schools usually have access to some kind of a science lab.
Examples of science kits for homeschoolers include:
Open-Source Science Lessons
There are also some universities, such as Hofstra, that offer open-source K-12 science lessons. The STEM projects offered by Hofstra include lessons in math and engineering that have real-world applications. These lessons are specifically designed for children grades 5-8. To find more open-source lessons, you are encouraged to search “open-source homeschool science lessons” and look for websites holding the .edu domain.
Science Fairs & Academic Competitions
Another good way to challenge your gifted homeschooler is to enter them into science fairs for homeschoolers, such as the online competition listed here. Academic competitions add some fun and excitement to the learning process while also showing students how hard work can pay off. You may also use this as an opportunity to find inspiration for future lesson plans.
Other competitions include those like the academic decathlon, a nationwide competition including the fields of art, economics, literature, math, music, science, and social science. The USAD competition comes with the stipulation that homeschooled students must participate on behalf of the school district that they would be attending.
You are still encouraged to contact a local school district representative to see whether they would accept homeschoolers. In the alternative, you should still be able to find a variety of similar competitions catered to the gifted child.
Thanks to the abundance of educational resources on the internet, there exists plenty of opportunity for parents to homeschool their gifted child. If this is your first time homeschooling a child, you are encouraged to look for a homeschool group or co-op with the parents of children at a similar skill level to that of your child. Alternatively, you can also connect with an expert teacher online or find virtual classes that you can register your student.
When it comes to developing a curriculum, don’t be too worried about the verbatim copying of the coursework plans at a traditional school. Homeschooling gives you a chance to fully-customize your child’s education. Look to develop coursework that suits their interests.