July 2013
By Lee Binz
The HomeScholar
13 Tips for teaching your gifted teen #Homeschool @TheHomeScholoar

Have you ever wondered if your teen is "gifted?" What does that giftedness look like? Gifted children rapidly learn everything placed in front of them. They learn more, faster, and at an earlier age. They remember more, understand abstract concepts easily, have passionate interests, and can do multiple things at once – all of them well. Although experts disagree on exact numbers, gifted students tend to have a high IQ, score above the 97th percentile on standardized tests, and are generally 2 grade levels above their age mates in school.  

As a result, providing an education to gifted children can cause parents to be stressed and overwhelmed. They often run all over trying to provide meaningful educational experiences, and may not understand any of the subjects that their children absorb with ease. They may struggle to provide appropriate learning material for their children, material that is age appropriate but also at their child’s ability level.  Many will confess to crying, night terrors, uncertainty and insecurity.  

How do you cope?

Understand one big idea, and life will be much easier:  You don’t need to teach everything.  Your job is for your children to learn.  You don’t have to teach a lesson they already know.  You don’t have to plod through curriculum, and you don’t have to understand calculus. Don’t teach everything; just make sure they learn.  Here are some of the standard coping mechanisms that schools use with gifted students, which will help you in your day-to-day homeschool.

Tip 1: Acceleration.  Go faster, rather than work at the standard pace of academics. Provide a pre-test first, and see how much your child already knows.  If they pass the pre-test, you don’t need to teach that concept.  Move on to the next test, and keep pre-testing until you find something they don’t know. Once they don’t know something, provide the usual lessons.   

Tip 2: Enrichment.  Go deeper within each subject.  When you learn history, for example, give them a wider exposure to topics, issues, and activities beyond the existing curriculum. Perhaps you will add some critical thinking, hands-on activities, or artistic productions related to the subject. In literature, for example, you can provide a variety of books by Shakespeare, Agatha Christie or Jane Austen, instead of just reading one, and talk about how they compare.

Tip 3: Compacting.  Do less work, by eliminating busywork and repetitive tasks.  Some children may need a moderate amount of practice, but other children don’t.  Figure out how much your child needs to practice in order to learn something, and only give them a useful amount.  If they don’t need the practice, don’t make them practice more than they need.  How can you tell? You can give them the odd numbered questions first.  If they are successful, they don’t need more practice, and they don’t need to do the even numbered questions.  Or you can give them the last, most difficult questions on the assignment first.  If they are successful, they don’t need to practice all the other questions in the beginning. If they don’t need it, don’t do it. It will just slow them down, waste your time, and beat the love of learning out of them.
13 Tips for Teaching Your Gifted Teen #Homeschool @TheHomeScholoar
How do you thrive?

Beyond coping with giftedness, how can you provide the best possible education for someone with a voracious appetite to learn?  Here are some things you can do to help them thrive – things that can keep you from pulling your hair out, too!

Tip 4: Liberal Arts.  Think about going wider in your standard classes, and include a wider variety of subjects.  Instead of the standard core classes, choose challenging electives they enjoy.  You might try Latin, logic, programming, or music. Instead of “basic education” think “Renaissance man,” and study a wide variety of arts and sciences.  Don’t let it become overwhelming to them, of course, but branching out can keep them challenged, and make sure their brains stay busy and engaged.  

Tip 5: Specialization. Encourage your children to follow their passion.  Their interests may ebb and flow, and that’s fine.  They don’t need to develop an area of specialization as a young child and stick with it.  Instead, let them experiment with a variety of interests.  Perhaps later in high school one will stick – or maybe a handful will stick!  But encourage them to follow their passion, without fear of failure if they decide to quit later.

Tip 6: Assessing.  Assess them frequently.  You want to keep them challenged but not overwhelmed in every subject area.  That can be a fine line, difficult to maintain, without careful observation. You see, kids are always learning.  They will continue learning whether you teach them or not.  It’s possible for them to learn something without ever having a lesson. Frequent assessments can help you determine if you need to skip something and move ahead. For example, they might be learning spelling, vocabulary, reading, and writing skills all summer, just from reading novels.  In the fall, a quick assessment might show you what you don’t need to cover when you start school again.

Tip 7: Challenging. You want them to feel comfortable when they are challenged.  That’s what the love of learning is all about!  They want to learn, and find it fun.  In the beginning, they may feel uncomfortable when they have to learn something on purpose.  Many gifted kids are used to just “knowing” things without “learning,” and it can be quite an adjustment!  It will help if you don’t expect perfection, and don’t require 100% for them to move on.

Tip 8: Multi-Age. The key to finding age-appropriate curriculum that is also ability-appropriate is to look for multi-age curriculum. Try to find a curriculum intended for homeschoolers, so it doesn’t assume that you have a teaching certificate in the subject.  Then choose a homeschool curriculum intended for a multi-age audience.  Finally, look for something where their learning level is on the low end of the intended age range.  For example, if your child is a gifted 7th grader, working above grade level, then choosing something intended for grades 7 through 12 would be perfect.  

Tip 9: Mentors.  Look for someone that can help you.  A mentor, college professor, or tutor may be able to help your child understand complex and advanced topics.  They may help your child catch fire in a specific interest area, and allow them to continue learning at a very advanced level.  Usually a mentor or professor truly enjoys their subject, and will love talking about it with anyone who shares their interests.  Ask around.  A friend of a friend might become your new best friend, mentoring your child in a subject you find impenetrable or tedious.

Tip 10: Capture Credits.  For all homeschoolers, the goal of high school is to cover the core classes, and capture delight.  With gifted children, the same is true.  Be sure their favorite subject doesn’t become their only subject on the transcript.  Cover the core classes of English, math, history, science, foreign language, PE, and fine art.  At the same time, capture credits that they learn in a way that comes naturally to them.
13 Tips for teaching your gifted teen #Homeschool @TheHomeScholoar
What are the hazards?

Tip 11: Provide Opportunity.  Without a conscious effort, you might accidentally fill each and every day with academic activities, filling your week so full that there is no free time at all.  But opportunity is usually spelled T.I.M.E.   If your child’s life is too full, they won’t be able to pursue their interests, learning things for fun.  For that reason, you want them to have free time, or margin. The margin of your day is like the margin in a book.  Book margins make a book readable, and life margins make life livable.

Tip 12: Imposter Syndrome. Gifted children may be in denial about their abilities.  They may think they aren’t really smart, they are just really good at deceiving people into thinking they are smart.  In other words, they feel like an imposter – an actor playing a smart kid on TV, rather than a smart person for real.  They may think they were just lucky, or they just have a photographic memory, or it’s just something they found interesting.  They may feel like other kids may be smart, but they can’t be as smart as someone else.  They can feel like a fraud, lacking confidence.  Be aware of this phenomenon, and talk to your children about it.

Tip 13: Perfection or Mastery.  There is a difference between mastery and perfection, so explain it to your children.  Mastery is when you understand the concepts.  Perfection is when you never make a mistake.  Since we are all human, we will all make mistakes.  Don’t aim for perfection, but for mastery.  If you focus on mastery, and explain that nobody is perfect, then children can learn without being inhibited by an unreasonable expectation of perfection.

What are the benefits?

The benefit of homeschooling gifted children is that you can always create an educational experience that is a perfect fit.  With you overseeing their schoolwork, they can learn at their level, in all subjects, all the time, in an age-appropriate, family-values way.  No matter how unique your child or your family, homeschooling is the perfect fit!

13 Tips for teaching your gifted teen #Homeschool @TheHomeScholoar

Gifted Education Strategies for Every Child (Online Training) #Homeschool @TheHomeScholar


If you would like more in-depth information about teaching your gifted teen, I recommend my A la Carte Parent Training Class, "Gifted Education Strategies for Every Child (Online Training)."


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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school . Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School." You can find more of her freebies here: www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/Freebies

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