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Homeschooling a Gifted Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have a 2.8 year old, who regularly dazzles us with his reasoning, observation and ability to grasp things. We have many in the family and friend circle who have already labeled him gifted. To name a few things -

  • He can easily do jigsaw puzzles up to 40 pieces without help after he has seen them once.

  • He can relate things very interestingly. For example - when I told him that what he sees in the mirror was his reflection, he told me that he can also see his reflection in my eye! He was only 2.5 yrs old when he did that. Or he will see a flower and tell us that it is a 'carrot flower' since it is shaped and has color of a carrot.

  • His vocabulary is amazing, which is a constant source of wonder for us. It is definitely much advanced than other kids of his age.

  • He had mastered his alphabet around 2 yrs of age. Recently when I gave him a 'match the following' activity with alphabets on one side and words on the other, he could match in one go.... same with words on both sides.... he also asked me their sounds and identified them in sentences - sometimes on his own, sometimes with help. All without any instructions from me one go.

  • He loves being read to, and can spend a long time in the library with me reading different books (we are in UK right now).

  • He counts as a part of his day to day activities , on his "mamma, I ate 2 almonds, now one is remaining" ..then he will say "now I ate 3 almonds, nothing left" ....and such things.

There are a lot more things which lead me to believe that he indeed shows signs of being gifted - can vibe, play easily with kids of 4 yrs age , has tremendous energy, asks non-stop questions (even like - why my dad works in Infosys, but Vandana and Adi's dad work in different office).

My question is - I am tempted to homeschool him, since he responds very well to whatever i do with him...we usually learn the fun way. See this (link removed for privacy reason)

But I would like advice from an expert. Do you think homeschooling if done right will help a kid like mine? Would you rather suggest a school environment where teachers can understand if i tell them that my child might have higher capabilities?

A: Thanks for the link (link removed to protect privacy) - it was heart-warming to see a child so advanced at a young age and how hard you work to help him, and the poem is absolutely beautiful! I have no doubt that he is way above average and would need differentiation education to cater for his advanced abilities.

Now, homeschooling is a very tough decision but for the right child, if done appropriately, I believe it would definitely benefit him. However, for now, it is a little early to tell or suggest homeschooling as a schooling option. Have you tried playschools in the neighborhood? You may want to find out if any of the schools in your area have provision for gifted children. Speak to the principal and see how they can help him. At this stage, I think it would be good for you to expose him to other children to develop his social skills, confidence and self-esteem. Only if it is working against him - he is deteriorating, feeling frustrated, bored, burning out, etc, he should be removed immediately.

Some general reasons for homeschooling children are as the following:

  • Parents believe that the child could benefit from a better education at home; school education not stimulating enough (usually for special children, from children with learning disabilities to gifted children).

  • Unhappy with school curriculum - not challenging enough.

  • Religious reasons (ability to control the content of their children's education).

  • Schools or good schools not available where parents live.

  • Anxiety about the physical well being of their children in an increasingly more violent school setting

A major concern about homeschooling is socialization which has been debated a lot over the years. Stereotypically, the homeschooled child is often portrayed as being shy, passive, and lethargic because of their isolation from the normal socialization found in formal schooling, which in turn is believed to affect the self-concept. Some critics also believe that the homeschooled child is overprotecting from the real world. However, studies have also found no difference in the self concept of homeschooled vs formal schooled children. Another breakthrough study on socialization of homeschoolers found that found that all who had attempted higher education were successful and that their socialization was often better than that of their schooled peers.

Having said that, you may want to look around to see if there is a school that may cater for the needs of a young gifted child. And for that, you would need to try it out and have a good relationship with the school. If it doesn't work out, homeschooling may be an option. Only you can decide here. Homeschooling is very complex and requires a lot of effort and energy from parents.

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Being quite costly as well, families need to be financially well off where, as in most cases, the father would be the sole breadwinner and the mother may need to quit her job and be the full time educator with most time spent with the child. Therefore, this decision needs to be taken carefully in view of all the pros and cons.

As beautifully put by a researcher:

"Homeschooling for highly gifted children is sometimes an option when nothing else works out--when the school cuts the gifted program, eliminates any ability grouping, refuses to allow acceleration, or is genuinely rigid in its stance. However, just as often, homeschooling allows the ideal educational program for a highly gifted child to unfold, by providing maximum flexibility in the spirit of the best traditions and the strongest research bases we have in the field of gifted education." - Kathi Kearney (2002).

Hope this helps with your decision and please do a lot of reading on homeschooling to be prepared should you consider this type of education for your son. Wishing you the very best & good luck!


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