Homeschool, you say? Yes, we say.
Families of twice-exceptional kids (gifted kids with learning disabilities, a.k.a. 2e kids) are often at a loss as to what to do if school doesn’t meet their kids’ needs, particularly after they have spent no small effort advocating on behalf of their kids with limited to no success. Twice-exceptional kids struggle mightily with school. The further along the gifted spectrum the child is, and the more serious the learning challenges the child has, the higher the likelihood that schools can’t or won’t meet their needs. Most strategies for accommodating learning differences are aimed at kids who are at or below average intelligence. But that’s not what this post is about.
Many families who don’t know other gifted or 2e homeschoolers don’t realize that homeschooling doesn’t have to be about religion, that it won’t necessarily drive parents crazy to have their kids at home during the day — that it might actually vastly improve their relationship — and that it’s even possible to work part-time (for some, even full-time!) and homeschool.
In fact, being able to custom-tailor a child’s education to let her work at her intellectual age-level, while being supported in her areas of weakness, can do powerfully positive things both for your relationship with her, and for her self-confidence, work skills, determination, and happiness. Think about this. Have a 2e kid who needs help with rote math calculation, needs to move while he learns, and who has gotten the message from school that he’s both bad and stupid, even though his IQ is actually in the highly gifted range or above, and even though he excels at advanced math concepts and elaborate literary analysis? Imagine the wonders that would transpire if he were allowed work on those math concepts and analyze books to his heart’s content, while learning at his pace and when his brain development is ready to do rote calculations instead of using a calculator. Now imagine that all those battles over rote homework won’t be part of your relationship.
For homeschooling to work, it needs to be approached flexibly. Have a child obsessed with horses? Allow him to do horse math (angles of legs during different paces! How much does a horse eat a day? What are the odds a particular horse might win a race? How do vets calculate medicine for a horse of one weight vs. another?); read about horses through history; read literature about horses; write stories or film videos or research presentations about horses. Is your ten-year-old obsessed instead with chemistry? Let her do chemistry in the kitchen, using online lesson plans and free experiment resources. Let her read The Story of Science by Joy Hakim, and write essays about it, or create science artwork, or start her own experiments to catalogue for a science fair.
For most families of 2e kids, child-led learning works best. Allow your child to set the pace. Allow him to choose what to study; you serve as facilitator, identifying online resources, finding classes, getting books from the public library. Does your child need to de-school for a while after a mismatched school situation? Let her deschool for as long as she needs — the general rule is one month off per year she was in school. Check your state’s homeschool laws, to make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row with paperwork or (in some states) curricula or testing required. But even within those frameworks, deschooling and child-led learning often work.
Working at home while homeschooling has to be approached creatively as well; while your child is doing a project that doesn’t require supervision, get 30 minutes of work done. Switch off with her other parent, so that one of you is working while the other is with the child. Get up before your child does, and work for a couple hours; or stay up after the kids are in bed. Take a laptop, tablet, smart phone or even pencil and paper to the classes your child takes, or to playdates, and sit on the sidelines working. Scheduling and multitasking are often critical to making work at home, well, work. But work it can.
Perhaps most of all, it is critical to find intellectual peers for your child. It doesn’t matter what age the peers are, although if you can find age peers who are also intellectual peers, that’s even better. Knowing others like them can be critical to 2e kids’ ability to cope with how different they are; finding true peers will help them deal with their challenges and celebrate their joys.
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