At any given time, roughly one-third of the families served by the Davidson Institute homeschool. Some have made a long-term commitment to this option from the beginning of their children's formal education, while others have implemented it as a temporary solution in response to an unfavorable schooling environment. As parents pointed out in Genius Denied, homeschooling a highly intelligent child is both rewarding and challenging. Here, we hope to address some of the issues that commonly arise for homeschoolers and offer some suggestions that will help you find success should you decide to explore homeschooling as an option.
Know the Law
Although homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, specific requirements vary dramatically. There are many resources on the Web that provide information about state legislation. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on legislation, pending legislation and legal action related to homeschooling.
Another important source of information on what school authorities require in your community is the people who already have dealt with the bureaucratic red tape. Homeschooling associations have formed across the country, and they can be an encyclopedic source of information. Contact your local association as well as the school district or state education department for the specific requirements in your area. Ensuring that you have taken all the proper steps will save you the headache of having your child declared truant.
Besides providing advice about cutting through red tape, homeschool groups and associations offer support in other areas as well. Many homeschool groups gather on a regular basis to offer students an opportunity to interact and socialize. They may organize classes, lectures, tours and even sports teams for students, as well as share curricula, books, materials, resources and ideas. Electronic bulletin boards and mailing lists also provide a wealth of information about homeschooling. Such groups are listed at many homeschooling websites, including:
One of the great advantages of homeschooling is its adaptability to the student's interests and abilities. Using this to your child's greatest benefit requires that you be open to cues from your child. It's important to be open to change and opportunity when they come along.
Also, remember that your child may be in a position to re-enter school at some point - most homeschooled students do. For example, some homeschooled students attend traditional high schools so they can receive a diploma.
Although flexibility is one of the primary advantages (and goals) of homeschooling, organization is crucial for making everything fit together and work smoothly. Prioritize, and don't go overboard by chasing down every available option. This is more about time management than scheduling, and there is no way to avoid a significant investment of time.
There are many electronic as well as paper-based systems available to help you organize and document your child's education. Most cost less than $40. A simple Google search for "homeschool" and "records" will return dozens of hits. There are also many private schools that specialize in providing accredited distance education. Although these programs vary in quality and flexibility, they do provide an important service to homeschooling families by alleviating some of the record¬keeping workload and producing transcripts that are generally accepted by colleges and other institutions. The other advantage is these schools are able to issue an official diploma from an accredited institution - something useful when applying to college and for scholarships. Sound documentation and record-keeping can also serve as a valuable resource should your child decide to re-enter public or private school and will be especially helpful if you wish to negotiate for a grade skip upon re-entry.
See Everything as a Teaching Opportunity
Homeschoolers are known for finding creative lessons in everyday activities. Baking can become a chemistry lesson; a trip to the store becomes a math exercise. Local libraries and museums offer many opportunities for instruction that can be tailored
Find a Tutor or a Mentor
If your child is highly gifted, don't expect to be able to teach them every subject as they progress. Even if you are familiar with a particular subject, it might be preferable to find someone more knowledgeable or not as emotionally involved as yourself to facilitate some of your child's studies.
Local universities often provide references for students (often graduate students) who can offer tutoring services. In addition, if your child has a specific interest and ability, universities and colleges are wonderful places to find mentors. One remarkably successful mentor who teaches at a major university suggests talking to the department head for help with finding a professor or graduate student who fits your child's needs.
Enroll in Classes
Local colleges and universities offer courses that have the subject matter to satisfy almost any need for advanced middle and high school students. Expect to fulfill some requirements before enrolling, such as placement or aptitude tests. Taking some courses at a college or university also provide students with a tangible record of their schooling - this can be especially helpful for homeschooled students who will go on to college full-time.
Use the Schools
Just because your child is not enrolled in a public school full-time does not mean that the school cannot be a resource for you. It may be possible to enroll part-time for specific classes and homeschool for other subjects. Other opportunities may include access to textbooks, tutoring or extracurricular sports. Contacting the school or the administration to see what services or materials are available might even open the door to something that was not available previously.
In the quest for accountability many states have adopted minimum educational standards for students. Many states require homeschooling students to take proficiency exams at specific points. Although this requirement may seem cumbersome, having such a record in hand will deflect much of the criticism and questions that people may raise about your child's education. It also may ease future transitions back into school or into college.
Prepare for College
Homeschooled students who do not have a high school diploma or equivalent may need to demonstrate proficiency through a separate documentation process. The sooner you begin keeping records, the better.
A good start is keeping a journal or log of all the subjects the student has taken along with work samples. Include the curricula and books used or read. Also forward any transcripts that the student might have from college or high school courses that he or she has taken. Aptitude tests such as the SAT or ACT are likely to be important components because they allow universities to compare a homeschooled applicant's performance to those of other applicants. Some colleges offer advice specifically for homeschooled applicants online. The websites for Stanford University and University of Washington are examples that also include information regarding study areas and demonstrating proficiency. Finally, plan to visit the school your child will apply to and, if possible, talk with an admissions officer in person.
Many parents of highly intelligent children find that homeschooling is a rewarding and effective stopgap when traditional schools fall short. It is not a decision to be taken lightly because it does require a considerable investment of time, effort and money. Although some parents find that their child's needs can best be met through homeschooling, many will return to traditional schools when they find a good match for their child.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.