Navigating Homeschooling with Your Gifted Child
Many Young Scholars have been starting school over the last few weeks. Since the Family Consultant Team, a free service offered through the Young Scholars program, serves families across the country, as well as US families stationed abroad, we have been hearing a variety of back-to-school plans, many of which are continuing to evolve even as the school year gets underway. Some families live in places where school is taking place face-to-face in the classroom. Some families live in places where school is remote. Some families live in places where they have hybrid options. However, regardless of what local schools and districts are doing, the conversations the Family Consultants have been having with families over the last month make it clear that some families are unsure that face-to-face learning is best for their family or are unsure how long their school will be able to provide this option. At the same time, these families are unsure how they can pivot to homeschooling again.
As Family Consultants, we are here to help our Young Scholar families as they navigate this school year. This school year, you may find yourself suddenly homeschooling in light of the COVID-19 school closures – again. This is hard for myriad reasons, not least of all because Fall 2021 is not necessarily turning out to be the light at the end of the tunnel that many parents had been hoping for. It’s ok to be disappointed and frustrated.
To find out that you have to pivot your child’s educational plans at the last minute—when many programs have closed their registration for Fall 2021—is disheartening and challenging to say the least. It’s ok to feel defeated and angry. We are facing another hard, complicated school year. While that may seem like an unsurmountable roadblock, especially since you probably spent last year navigating a similar roadblock, you are not alone.
Time and time again, this community proves that more hands make less work: We accomplish more together. In that spirit, here are some tips and resources to help you through transitions to homeschooling that you may be encountering or may encounter during this fall semester. (If you were part of the Young Scholars program in March 2020, some of this may look familiar.)
Time, Organization, and Homeschooling: Finding What Works for Your Family
The Family Consultant team has seen an increase in the variety of homeschooling schedules on the internet as families share how they are going to get things done. There are many, many ways to organize your homeschooling life. They are all valid. Different types of homeschooling work for different families. And, for some families, the way they are homeschooling may be largely dictated by their school who may be having virtual classes or sending home specific curricular materials.
For those families who have been left to their own devices, we want to share a big homeschooling secret: Homeschooling takes a lot less time than brick-and-mortar schooling. In fact, many families in our community spend only 2-4 hours on academics a day (and some spend even less!). When you think about it, there’s a lot of time spent in schools making transitions, repeating directions, making announcements, and waiting for everyone to finish assignments. So, if you realize that your child is only spending a fraction of their time on schoolwork, that’s okay!
We’re living in extraordinary times, and we hope you don’t put too much pressure on yourself as parents to make sure your child is doing schoolwork for 7.5 hours a day. Instead, we invite you to consider the following ideas:
- Create a daily rhythm. Instead of a strict schedule watching the clock, a daily rhythm can help you build your day around what matters to your family and the shifts in mood and energy that occur for your family throughout the day. In particular, you might be noticing that there are certain times of day when everyone is cranky. Could that be time for a snack, taking the dog for a walk, or perhaps time for everyone to quietly read in their rooms? What if family movie time is at 2:00pm? Do you need to try some reset rituals throughout the day?
- Reflect on how you start the day. How does each day begin for your family? Are you starting with something easy and enjoyable? Homeschooling mom, Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, explains how this changed everything for her family in her article, “Coffee and Books.” The Coffee and Books idea can even be used with older children. Maybe everyone brings their own books to the breakfast table and then shares what they’re reading on a post-breakfast neighborhood walk.
- Use mealtimes as anchors. One thing you’ll be doing every day is eating. How can you use this time effectively in your day? Can other activities be built around that? For example, maybe everyone does chores for 30 minutes after lunch. Or, dinner is a time for conversing about the “Wonder of the Day” from Wonderopolis. Or, maybe you all eat breakfast together as you watch a TED Talk. Consider this an opportunity to start a special family tradition during this extraordinary time.
- Make working from home work for you. If you’re also changing how you work, you might glean some tips from “How These Parents Work and Homeschool, Too.” These parents aren’t speaking about the restrictions during COVID-19, but they do have a key insight: There are 168 hours in a week. Think about all those hours. Which do you, as a parent, have to work? When can that time overlap with homeschooling activities; when can it not? If you have a partner at home, how can the load be shared?
- Brainstorm with your Young Scholar. You have an amazing child who may have additional ideas on how to make this work. Including your children in this type of brainstorming and planning may elicit creative ideas and work to instill more buy-in from your children. With that buy-in, your Young Scholars may be more invested in following the new family rhythm and helping you make this work. Dr. Dan Peters talks about the benefits of including gifted children in this sort of discussion in his article, “Family Rule Setting and the Gifted Child.”
We know that, no matter how many hours you homeschool a day, you need to find something to fill that time with. Below are a few to get you started:
- Long list of educational resources – These educational resources include lists of online courses, books, magazines, podcasts, educational videos, and further inspiration and ideas for your family.
- A Short Guide for Building an Independent Study Course (with an example included!) – This is a useful resource if you decide to homeschool without a program or if your child just wants to do a deep dive into their passion subject(s) as part of homeschooling.
- Tips for Organizing Your Homeschool Space – This is a resource to help you figure out ways you can organize your home to better work for your family’s needs and activities.
- Tips for Taking Care of Yourself – This is a resource to help parents integrate practical, functional self-care practices into their lives.
As the school year progresses, things are going to evolve. Your family dynamics and priorities may shift. Your school’s requirements and procedures may shift. These changes may come at once, or they may be spread out throughout the year. Whatever happens, know that the Davidson Institute is here for you.