This Tips for Parents article is authored by Meredith Warshaw from a seminar she hosted for Young Scholar families. She discusses how homeschooling is often a good option for twice exceptional children because it allows for different levels of individual subjects to be taught. It also allows one to focus on the child in the ways that work best for that particular student.
Homeschooling can be an excellent way to meet the needs of twice-exceptional children, allowing them to use their strengths and preferred learning styles. In homeschooling, it is easy to accommodate a child who is on multiple grade levels — it is not a problem if the child is at a 3rd grade level for writing and an 8th grade level for math. In addition, most homeschoolers are much less age-conscious than schools are and see no reason that every child in a class should have to be the same age, allowing the highly gifted child access to a wide variety of classes that schools would not offer at younger ages. Another benefit for the twice-exceptional child who needs remedial services, such as OT or vision therapy, is that the child has time and energy for these important services rather than being overburdened by sandwiching them in after school or in addition to homework.
It is important to make use of available support networks – find links to state and local homeschooling groups online. It is especially important to contact local homeschoolers because homeschooling regulations vary widely by state and people in your area are your best source of information for learning how the rules are actually implemented in your district.
If you find a local homeschooling group, they often have weekly gatherings, classes, field trips, etc. This is a great way to meet other homeschooling parents, who can give you moral support and practical advice. It may also be an excellent way to give your child some social opportunities.
There are email lists especially for homeschoolers with gifted children. GT-Spec-Home is a very low-volume list for families homeschooling gifted/special needs children.
The book Creative Home Schooling for Gifted Children: A Resource Guide by Lisa Rivero is a wonderful resource. If you buy only one homeschooling book, this is the one. Rivero has done an amazing job discussing the issues involved in homeschooling gifted children and she touches upon special needs as well. I have never read a homeschooling book with so many references, and it also contains a wealth of resources. I highly recommend that you get it — it will reassure your decision to homeschool and provide lots of suggestions.
Some important points about homeschooling:
- Homeschooling doesn’t have to look like “school at home” (and, for our kids, that’s one of the best parts!)
- It doesn’t have to be done entirely by the parents — classes, tutors, mentors, online courses and correspondence courses are all useful resources.
- Learning takes place in many different ways, using many different activities.
- You do not have to be a perfect teacher to do a better job than the schools with your child. Classroom teachers have to try to meet the needs of a large group of children, while you have the luxury of working with your child as an individual.
- Homeschoolers can have plenty of opportunity for social contact. In fact, because they are not overburdened with homework, they often have more time for socializing than school children.
- You don’t have to go at it alone — there is help available both online and in person (local homeschooling groups). In addition, although you don’t need to use them, there are “umbrella schools” available to provide help; some are very flexible while others are quite structured. They can be especially reassuring to the beginning homeschooler and helpful for those dealing with difficult local bureaucracies. However, there is no reason to feel obligated to use an umbrella school.
- Homeschooling doesn’t have to be forever. It may be right for one year, or several, or the rest of your child’s education — you can make that decision on a year-by-year basis.
- Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. Neither are public school or private school.
There is a section on homeschooling at the Uniquely Gifted site: http://www.uniquelygifted.org/especially_for_parents.htm#_Homeschooling. Two good articles to start with are “Homeschooling LD/ADD Children: Great Idea or Big Mistake?” by Suzanne H. Steven http://www.ldonline.org/article/5917/ and “Homeschooling Gifted Students: An Introductory Guide for Parents” by Jacque Ensign http://www.resourceroom.net/homeschool/.
This classic homeschooling joke has more than a grain of truth in it:
Q: How does a homeschooler change a light bulb?
A: First, mom checks three books on electricity out of the library, then the children make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison and do a skit based on his life. Next, everyone studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with dipping their own candles. Then, everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of light bulbs and their prices, figuring out how much change they’ll get if they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill. On the way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also Abraham Lincoln, since his picture is on the five dollar bill. Finally, after building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the woods, the light bulb is installed. And there is light.
Homeschooling can indeed be a wonderful way of bringing light back into our children’s educational experiences!
Meredith G. Warshaw, M.S.S., M.A. is a special needs educational advisor, co-founder of the GT-Special email list for families with gifted/special needs children and has a website of online resources for twice-exceptional children at http://www.uniquelygifted.org.