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Gifted Homeschooling Children

© Beverley Paine

Yesterday, on the http://groups.yahoo.com/group/australianhomeschoolers/ the discussion turned to defining 'giftedness' (digest 453).

Kim asked what we all thought giftedness and said, "I did a fair bit of specialisation in giftedness and 'special' ed, back in my teaching and studying days and I felt fairly strongly about giftedness and what it meant. Now, I've almost come full circle. I feel every child is gifted. Every child has intelligence in one form or another (we're all so different). And that when children are given freedom to learn on their own terms they flourish in whatever it is they are learning. My concern with the 'gifted' label is that many children who are labeled as gifted are very good at 'school' type stuff. This puts the emphasis on the person judging the giftedness and not on the actual child."

Like Kim, I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about this subject. I, too, found that young children 'dumbed down' considerably when they went to school and lost the ability to 'learn' and 'think' - hence the need for DeBono's great books. I've known some gifted homeschooling students who were accelerated through school-type learning activities in their younger years who lost the touch before their teen years, but still shone in areas of high interest - way beyond what most children or people are capable of. So I still believe in the notion of 'giftedness' - some people are naturally talented, some in one or two areas only and others in whatever piques their interest.

As always, personal interest, usually displayed as seemingly insatiable passion or curiosity, is the heart of motivation for learning. With a 'gifted' child the parent works very hard to accomodate this - and it is hard work finding all the resources, be they people, places or materials. The thirst for knowledge and ability is intense. Most parents of gifted children I know tend to sacrifice their own lifes - or at least put them on hold - until the child is old enough to be responsible for his or her own learning.

I've met some precocious homeschooling parents who think their children are special and deserve special treatment and they seem to get high on telling everyone how great their child is... And sometimes the child is gifted at age four, but by age eight is pretty much like all the other kids in the homeschooling group.

Nowadays I do my best not to judge the child or parent but treat them both like I would any other child or parent - with encouragement to "be" whoever they are today and to "do" whatever is needed to be done right now to fulfil that learning need.

According to Stephanie Tolan , in an article on Annette Hall's website http://reliableanswers.com :

"It's a tough time to raise, teach or be a highly gifted child. A school system that defines giftedness as behaviour, achievement and performance is compromised in its ability to recognize its highly gifted students. This cheetah metaphor will help us see the problem with achievement-oriented thinking in our schools today."

Her cheetah metaphor is the clearest description of giftedness that I've read. Most of us agree that, in nature, it's important to preserve biodiversity. Looking at the issue from this point of view creates a powerful argument in support of accurate labelling and individual treatment of every child.

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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