Monday, January 24, 2011

Gifted homeschooling: A lesson in flexibility

Homeschooling a gifted child is not a topic I write much about. It isn't that I don't have experience with gifted homeschooling, I just don't feel like I have enough experience and worthwhile advice to regularly and accurately write on this subject. My only gifted child so far is my oldest biological child, he is 6. (I also have a 9 year old but he is technically my step-son, a term we do not use in our house). So I suppose, I have chosen to stay quiet about my gifted homeschooling journey rather than blog about the ups and downs. There are many times when I want to pen a blog about gifted education but chicken out or write about another topic. Nevertheless, my desire to journal homeschooling a gifted (or advanced) child still simmers just below the surface between my fingers and computer keyboard.

Today, I have decided to take the plunge and write about a gifted homeschooling topic that I have been immersed in since day one with my son. No, I don't mean day 1 two years ago when we started homeschooling, I mean day 1 of being his mother. After 6 years, I feel pretty well versed and experienced with the concept of flexibility as it relates to educating my son. Why flexibility? Well, simply because flexibility is something that my son thrives off of when presented in the context of education. Of course he needs schedules and expectations just like any other 6 year old. But flexibility is paramount for him when it comes to learning.

The type of flexibility I am referring to is the kind I encounter when a lightbulb goes off in his head and he NEEDS to (not just wants to) learn about a specific topic. At first I would resist his need to deviate from what I had "scheduled" and almost insist that we accomplish what I had planned rather than  explore the tangent that he had set upon in his own mind. I quickly found though that this only caused frustration and resentment in my eager little learner. I was killing his love for learning because I wasn't being flexible and sensitive to his needs. Eventually I realized that his learning tangent needs were real, a true and honest search for information that his gifted mind needed for satiation. I used to feel inconvenienced and rather annoyed when he would come to me with random questions about specific topics that never seemed to end. Most certainly I was in the middle of something that I deemed important and necessary only to be interrupted by his stream of unending questions and curiosity. Oh how wrong I was to take that attitude with my young son.

Once I turned the corner and my eyes were opened to the tremendous gift he had been given and in turn could give me, I began to welcome his random topics of learning curiosity with open arms. His need for learning in turn set my own mind on unexpected paths of learning and enrichment. How could I possibly deny both of us those opportunities to learn and grow? And what could be better than learning something new side-by-side with my gifted young son? Nothing, simply nothing. With this new attitude came a lesson in flexibility. In order to fully embrace his love for learning, I had to learn to give up any preconceived lesson plans I may have created for the day and "run" with whatever topic he wanted to learn about. A form of un-schooling if you will.  When I began showing my son that I was prepared to embrace whatever learning topics he was curious about his learning grew exponentially. Now he felt in control of what he was learning rather than simply learning about something because "Mom said so".

Over the years I have taken this flexible teaching attitude to other aspects of our homeschool environment. At one time I was in control of what subject we would start our day with and continued to make all the decisions during our homeschool day. And I wondered why I was met with frustration and lack luster attitude. We battled and butted heads to get every assignment completed. However, as I began to fully embrace the attitude of flexible learning I applied it to the "regular" and "mandatory" subjects completed in our homeschool day. Instead of telling my son which subjects he is going to complete and when, I now begin each day telling him what we need to complete but not how we are going to get there or in what order we are going to complete the assignments. My son gets to choose which subjects we do when. The result? I am now met with an eagerness and willingness to complete his schoolwork. He now feels in control of his education, something that many gifted children, especially those very young, need and require to feel appreciated and valued.

I shutter to think what would have happened to my son's love for learning if I hadn't learned a very important lesson of my own first; be flexible. When you are flexible with homeschool learning, the gifts that will come to you in the way of education and precious experiences with your children will most surely astound you.

Gifted children are a challenge, there is no denying that. But if you learn to go with their flow of learning, not only will you set no boundaries on their education but you will also foster a lifetime love of learning and education in their precious hearts and minds.

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  1. This was a great post, Alexis. Thank you. I'll pray about this, inviting God to work on the aspect of control that strangles flexibility. And not just in learning and not just with gifted children, but mothering in general. How wonderful that God made them with interests and aptitudes for knowledge and pleasure. I want them to lead me to know them, so that I might teach them all they might become.

    Even in this moment I gave up my expectations of the evening: Instead of running through Caleb's piano lessons and reading another chapter in his jigsaw jones book, he's down on the couch with his dad watching an episode of "The Lone Ranger." Two pistols are sticking out of the waist band of his PJ bottoms.

  2. What a beautiful sight Wendy!! I will be praying for you as well. It is not always an easy lesson to learn and I am most definitely still learning it myself.

  3. I have the same kind of learner at home. It is hard to explain or even tell someone that your child is gifted. You feel like they are looking at you like you are bragging.

    Bri asked about Egypt the other day. I put aside her "work" and we surfed the net to find stuff on it. She had a blast. She was grossed out/thought it was cool when we saw a mummified cat from one of the tombs. LOL

    Have a wonderful night.



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