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Challenging Your Gifted Child

Students in traditional schools who display higher academic abilities than their peers are often shuttled into programs designed to meet their needs. But even more often, their talents are squandered or go unnoticed. These students are typically bored in school. They may act out as a result and can in some cases be labeled as troubled or difficult. When a gifted student is singled out and given special or additional instruction, the results can be very beneficial.

Unfortunately, a current trend in schooling is to keep everyone in the same room so that no one gets identified as being different or experiences any resulting loss of self-esteem. This is called mainstreaming or inclusion and results in a teacher being expected to differentiate lessons and classroom time between students with differing ability levels. While the idea is nice that students with disabilities get to stay with their peers, the reality is that teachers end up teaching to the middle. The lower-ability students struggle to keep up and the gifted students are not stretched.

For you, having a child with exceptional academic abilities means that you have the opportunity to give that child anything she needs to succeed and to advance. Without the restrictions of a traditional school, you have a great chance to keep her stimulated, excited about learning, and to prevent her from becoming bored and disenchanted with education.

How To Tell If Your Child Is Gifted

Of course we all think our children are special, gifted, and extremely talented, but how do you know if your kid is truly gifted in the academic sense? You could administer an IQ test, but in doing so you run the risk of disappointed expectations. Many experts no longer believe IQ scores are very important indicators of success anyway. What may be more important is looking out for certain signs that your child could take on more challenging work than you are currently giving her.

Signs of high intelligence typically show up early. Look for developmental stages in your toddler that occur ahead of what is normal. For instance, if your three-year-old boy is reading already, you have a little smarty on your hands. Another indicator that arises early is sensitivity. Your gifted child may be sensitive to having her feelings hurt, hearing loud noises, or to being inactive for too long.

In your child of any age, signs of gifted abilities may include curiosity, observing things around her, having a long attention span, being able to learn easily or to remember facts easily, being able to reason well, having a well-developed sense of humor, using an extensive vocabulary, being an avid reader, and reaching out for educational materials that are for an older age group. All of these things and other obvious behaviors could indicate that your child has above-average intelligence. Congratulations! Now what do you do with it?

How To Educate Your Gifted Child

In general, your techniques for homeschooling need not be any different between your average and your gifted children. The important thing to remember with your gifted child is that you must keep her interested, engaged, and challenged. Nurturing her abilities means keeping her supplied with learning experiences that are interesting to her and that encourage her to develop her skills. Here are some ideas for supplementing your homeschool routine to nurture your gifted kid:

Nurture, But Don’t Push

If you have just realized that you have a very smart child on your hands, you may initially feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility. You may feel like you need to push her to her limits and that if you are not doing so, she is wasting her time and not realizing her potential. Nurturing that potential is your responsibility, but pushing her is not the right way to go about it. So what is the difference?

Nurturing begins with your child’s interests. It means giving her the opportunity to develop those interests and her academic and intellectual abilities. Pushing means starting with your own interests and what you think should be hers. For instance, if your gifted daughter shows an interest in the piano, but you have always pictured her playing the violin, what do you do? Getting her piano lessons is nurturing her abilities while paying for a violin with lessons is pushing her.

If you nurture your child, she will realize and develop her own potential in whatever area or areas she chooses. If you push her, she may learn to despise academics and learning. The line may seem fine at times, but if you trust your instincts and listen to your child, you will find the right path.

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