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A New Option for Gifted Students

Is your child an avid reader? Is he or she highly intuitive? As a parent, are you constantly in search of new information to quench your child's thirst for knowledge?

If so, your child might be what is referred to in academic parlance as "gifted." The National Association for Gifted Children defines "gifted" as "a person who shows or has the potential to show an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression."
 

June 17, 2009
 

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Teaching to the exceptionally bright can be extremely fulfilling, especially as your child begins to broach his or her potential. But it's also a challenge. You might find that your child burns quickly through subjects and learning materials. Such students might have certain passions or interests for which they feel compelled to delve deeper—whether it's math or English, science or art. This requires time—and the greatest virtue of all, patience.

K-12 online curriculum providers, such as K12, provide families with the tools and resources to meet a child's every academic need. Unlike traditional bricks-and-mortar schools, K12 encourages each student to move at his or her own pace. No matter a student's IQ, all learners grow through doing. Rather than put your child through a battery of tests and evaluations to determine the level of his or her "giftedness," K12 leaves it to you—parent and student—to determine together the best educational path.

The key, says Jenny Kendall, K12, director of special programs, is to evaluate your child's "strengths and needs on an individual basis."

"One of the pitfalls, generally, of public education is that kids are kind of trapped in moving through curriculum at the pace that works the best for the entire class," adds K12 Senior Director of Academic Services Jennifer Sims. "In [the K12] model, a student can move as fast and far as they want to move."

Once a student masters a particular subject, the goal, especially for a gifted student, should be to expand his or her academic horizons.

"We do not need to stay on the same page of the textbook with our 25 other peers in our bricks-and-mortar classroom," explains Kendall. "Rather, we can move forward at the pace the student needs to move forward at, ensuring there is mastery along the way."

Self-paced learning is one advantage of the homeschool approach for gifted students. Flexibility is another. Whether your child excels in one subject or several, the best way to feed an intellectual appetite is to create new learning opportunities.

Let's say, for example, your child shows a real passion for science and engineering, particularly aviation. The homeschool approach allows you to carve out extra time in the school day for extension activities, such as museum visits or in-depth research projects, devices that will help your child cultivate his or her passion—and move closer to achieving his or her full academic potential.

"The ability to extend lessons beyond what comes up on the computer screen or in the daily lesson is huge," says Kendall, adding that students are constrained only by the limits of their own imaginations.

What's more, homeschool students are not held to the same time constraints as traditional bricks-and-mortar school students, which means they can spend more time developing their interests—and finding out what drives them. "If it's a topic that really interests the student, they can go off in many, many directions with that particular interest and tie it in to other disciplines," says Sims. The fact that homeschool students are not required to take the same high-stakes tests as their bricks-and-mortar counterparts also is a benefit. "There is just a lot more flexibility in terms of how students can progress," she says.

Challenges

Homeschooling a gifted child is a lot of fun for parents. But it can also be a challenge. One of the toughest aspects often is finding enough resources to satisfy students' curiosities. K12 provides homeschooling families with a wealth of resources and activities to extend learning beyond the usual curriculum.

An online speaker series allows homeschool students—and parents, too—to log on and discuss a range of topics from parenting to math and science to leadership. There's something for everyone, whatever your interests might be. Don't see what you or your child is looking for? K12 is always open to suggestions.

Relationship building is another challenge for many gifted students, particularly in the traditional school environment. Because gifted students are in the minority in most schools, finding friends with whom they can talk and share similar interests is not always easy. As a homeschool family using the K12 curriculum you have access to several tools to encourage socialization and help your child develop that "well-roundedness"
that is so important in life. As a national education provider, K12 casts a wide net and provides many opportunities, whether in person or online, for gifted students to meet and interact with others like them.

"You cannot learn in isolation," says Sims. Use the tools at your disposal to find mentors and friends that can extend your child's growth and help them explore their many interests.

Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind that "gifted" is a fluid term. Just because your child demonstrates the potential, or aptitude, to perform in a particular area does not mean he or she will ace every assignment. Social and behavioral aspects will affect how your child performs. Motivation and passion are keys to success. And sometimes interests take time to develop.

"Be a good reader of your child," says Kendall. "Ownership and understanding of concepts is key."

Don't forget that learning is a two-way street. Involve your child in discussions about their coursework. Ask them how they are doing, or where they think they need help. Do they need or want more of particular topic? Don't be afraid to ask. After all, you're dealing with a pretty smart cookie.

Is my child gifted?

Every parent wants to believe his or her child is gifted. And rightfully so. But when it comes to academic ability, there are several markers that parents should look for. Below is a list of general intellectual qualities of gifted students from the National Association for Gifted Children. A more comprehensive list and other materials for parents can be found on the organization's Web site at www.nagc.org. If find your child has one or more of these qualities, you may want to consider looking into gifted education options like K12's curriculum.

General intellectual ability:

Your child...

  • is an avid reader
  • has avid interest in science or literature
  • provides very alert, rapid answers to questions
  • has a wide range of interests
  • is secure emotionally
  • is venturesome, wanting to do new things
  • tends to dominate peers or situations
  • is an entrepreneur—readily makes money on various projects or activities
  • needs little outside control—applies self-discipline
  • is resourceful—solving problems by ingenious methods
  • is creative in new ideas, seeing associations, pursuing innovations
  • displays a great curiosity about objects, situations or events
  • has the capacity to look into things and be puzzled
  • is involved with many exploratory activities
  • reveals originality in oral and written expression
  • is perceptually open to his or her environment
  • displays a willingness to accept complexity
  • has the capacity to use knowledge and information other than to memorize
  • shows superior judgment in evaluating things
  • is a good guesser
  • makes good grades in most subjects
  • learns rapidly, easily and efficiently
  • uses a lot of common sense
  • retains and uses information which has been heard or read
  • uses a large number of words easily and accurately
  • asks many questions of a provocative nature
  • has powers of abstraction, conceptualization and synthesis
  • has an interest in cause-effect relations
  • likes structure, order and consistency
  • has a power of concentration, an intense attention that excludes all else
  • is persistent
  • has a high energy level
  • is independent
  • is friendly and outgoing

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