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Methods and Strategies for Teaching Your Gifted Children

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Welcome to week 2 of a 10-day series sponsored by Prufrock Press and iHomeschool Network. 40 bloggers, more than 350 posts, and some great giveaways {including my newest book!} in the “Pin to Win” contest, all over the course of two weeks.

I can’t believe we’re on day nine of the series already. Based on some of the comments, emails, and Facebook/Twitter conversations, we could talk about homeschooling gifted kids forever. I’m hoping to make these questions and discussions a regular part of my blogging so make sure you take the time to subscribe or follow in some way {and refer some friends} if you want to  be a part of future conversations and support.

If you’re just joining in, we’ve talked about giftedness, kids with twice exceptionalities, why I think you should homeschool your gifted, unique, and asynchronous learners while following their interests, talents, and being really flexible when parenting and teaching gifted children.

All of this information is well and good, but it’s tough to puzzle out exactly what to do with that gifted learner sleeping down the hall. How do you do it? How does one teach such a different learner, and stay sane? Unfortunately, the answer is that there really isn’t one answer.

Gifted kids are a puzzle because each is so totally different from one another. Yes, they share similar characteristics and defining qualities, but they are interested, passionately, in different things, and fuel those interests in incredibly varied ways.

Here are some methods and strategies you could try as you figure out what motivates your children and how they learn best:

  • Immersion Learning: I talked a bit about perseveration yesterday, but what does it mean? Perseveration, in the context of gifted and twice-exceptional kids, refers to the obsessive and highly selective focus on things of current interest. Homeschooling affords a child time to be obsessive if need be. If he needs to know everything there is to know about trains, as Trevor did between the ages of 2 and 5, he can spend time on that. You can help him immerse himself in that subject by checking books, magazines, and videos out of the library, doing art projects about trains and, if old enough, he can write a report or do a project about it. And then move onto the next topic…
  • Creative Questioning: Do you have a child that.just.won’t.stop.asking.questions? Obscure, unusual questions like, “What if the South had won the Civil War?” or “Why don’t we eat stew for breakfast and pancakes for dinner all the time?” Encourage that. Be respectful of the questions and encourage your child to look for answers to impossible questions. Just think about the amazing things he’ll discover along the way.
  • Separate out Subject Areas: This is perhaps the easiest way of modifying a curriculum to meet varied needs. By focusing on each subject individually, you can order a math program that fits your child’s needs at the level he’s on, pull reading books from lists on his level or purchase a reading curriculum that works, and then branch out from there, piecing together curriculum materials for the other subjects.
    • When you’re studying each subject individually, still take into account your gifted kids’ needs. You may find yourself compacting a subject area. When you do this, you skip things your child already knows, ask them to complete only a fraction of the exercises, different from the one suggested by the curriculum itself.
    • You may find a need to telescope the curriculum. In this case, you allow your child to speed through material as he or she masters it. If the suggested pace is two chapters a week, but your child can complete two chapters a day because he or she adores the topic – let him or her go. Completing more curriculum in less time will free your child up to enjoy other topics at their leisure later on.
  • Classical Approach: The classical style of homeschooling emphasizes logic, literature, and languages, and can be made very rigorous. Kids who crave structure and challenges may benefit from this method.
  • Unit Studies: We use unit studies and lapbooking interchangeably because a unit study approach allows us to integrate subjects like reading, writing, grammar, science, history, art, and music effortlessly, and pulling it together into a lapbook or notebook format at the end offers a tangible showcase of our kids’ work.
  • Self-Directed Learning: While some children are naturally more self-motivated than others, this is a skill that can {and should} be developed. A moment of honesty here – my kids are not self-directed. This is something we are working steadily towards, and with one of them, I despair of it ever happening. Since being a self-directed learner is so crucial to becoming a lifelong learner, I’m going to spend a bit more time on it:
    • I try to give my kids a say in the materials and topics/content they will be studying. They also help me determine the pace. Trevor recently struggled with our math program. It wasn’t the math itself—his best subject—it was the format. The pages were busy, with very little white space. While the pace was rigorous, it was overwhelming to look at and he grew discouraged. I found a used copy of Teaching Textbooks online, ordered it, and told him we’d give an alternate a try, but he’d need to decide on an equally rigorous way to handle math as I believed the pace of TT to be much slower than his previous program’s. He agreed that it was easier, but loved the novelty of working on the computer and decided to complete 2-3 lessons a day during the week and at least one each day on the weekends to help keep himself moving at the pace he wants to in math. It’s working well, so far.
    • We try to expose the kids to a variety of subjects, ideas, topics, and time periods by reading aloud to them often. We read picture books, classics, non-fiction, magazine articles, newspaper stories, and more, often and to everyone. For a great series on reading aloud to your kiddos, check out my friend Mary over at Homegrown Learners.
    • We keep lots of reading material available – magazines, books, encyclopedias, nonfiction, and eBooks.
    • We visit the library to browse often. Encourage your child to look around and pull something off the shelf that looks interesting. Then find a comfy chair and stay awhile, reading and talking about what you are each discovering.
    • We love to play games, cards, study maps, write, do artwork, explore new places, hike, collect objects—all for fun. Model this behavior for your kids and they’ll naturally take their own pleasure in it and begin to develop their own love of learning and discovery.

I hope you can draw from some of these strategies and methods, and that they are a help to you. We tend to be eclectic in our approach and draw from many of them. {Probably one of the reasons I find it so hard to nail down a solid routine!}

Do you have a great strategy or method of homeschooling that works really well for your child? Please share any and all. I’d love to hear what works for other parents of gifted kids because we’re always looking to improve our homeschooling, and I’m sure you’re ideas will bless other readers.

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Also check out the 39 other fabulous bloggers who are participating in this 10-day Hopscotch sponsored by the iHomeschool Network and Prufrock Press.


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Colleen

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