In a comment on yesterday's post, Angela wrote "I've done lots of surfing today in my gifted education research. I have a five year old son I plan on homeschool fulltime this fall--reluctantly. I am still in the mourning-the-death-of-my-career stage right now. :) But he has made it clear that traditional education is not for him. I am just overwhelmed at how to construct a gifted curriculum for him. If you have any words of wisdom you would like to bestow on a newbie, I would be so happy and grateful. Thank you!"
So here's my best advice for gifted homeschoolers:
1. Realize you're not perfect. Neither are "trained" teachers.
I've got a degree in elementary education, which has helped me hardly at all in homeschooling my kids. You are your children's first and best teacher. You've already taught him how to talk, how to walk, how to read and how to multiply. You can do the rest of it, too, or find someone who can. Educators know that "best practices" include reaching the child at his own level and moving at his own pace. Homeschoolers do this automatically.
2. Curriculum is over-rated
You don't need to spend loads of money on prepackaged curriculum and you don't need to replicate school at home. Especially with little kids, a library card and museum membership is really all you need. A Netflix membership is also helpful--we've used lots of videos and recorded History Channel and Discover Channel shows to follow our interests.
If you follow your child's interests--reading books and watching shows and maybe visiting a local museum exhibit--you will find yourself teaching "classes" in very unusual things. For example, Wolfie spent more than 60 hours his 7th grade year reading books about falconry, watching "Combat" and documentaries about the Crusades on the History Channel and researching catapults and trebuchets. As a homeschooler, we can put that together as a semester of "Medieval Weapons and Warfare," a class you would never find in a regular middle school.
Some beginning homeschoolers prefer to start with prepackaged curriculum. I'd suggest that you get a copy of E. D. Hirsch's "What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know". It will give you an idea what an excellent first grade would cover and I promise it will put your mind at rest about him missing out on anything. These books are available for each grade from preschool through 6th.
3. Nothing is Set in Stone
Deciding to homeschool this year does not mean you have to homeschool forever. Gifted kids and their asynchronies need different kinds of learning at different points in their lives. There may come a time when he wants to go to school to see what it's like. You may find a homeschool co-op that offers group activities one day a week--a day when you can concentrate on painting. I know I got a lot more writing done when I had only the three hours of preschool to myself. The short duration concentrates the mind wonderfully. ;-)
There are still days when I have to remind myself that the boys will only be middle schoolers once. They need me now and I can finish my novel once they're out of the house. But please keep in mind that homeschooling does not take as long as public schooling. You don't need to sit at a table for six hours a day. (In fact, please don't!) You can cover the K-2 curriculum in about 90 minutes a day of direct teaching. If he's got Legos to play or a backyard to explore or videos to watch, that can be your painting time.
4. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, not an educational choice
You can't only homeschool the oldest child. The others are watching. I tried this for a year with Klaus. By the end of that year, we were planning homeschool for all three of them. Wolfie and Xavier insisted. Now I have the two younger ones at home and we all have school together, for the most part. We also have the most fun when we have school together, whether that's reading aloud, which we do every morning, or doing vocabulary workbooks. You will never do a science experiment with only one of them. You will never do an art project with only one of them. Gardening and taking vacations and housekeeping and cooking and playing with the baby (remember home ec?) are all educational.
Keep in mind that if your oldest is gifted, the other two probably are, too. Maybe not to the same extent--Klaus is at a higher level of giftedness than his brothers--but they're just as poor a fit for a conventional classroom. Adaptations you make for your oldest will probably fit the others, too.
5. Find a support group
The internet is great for this. I suggest Mensa's Bright Kids for general questions about raising gifted children and the Homeschooling Mensans Yahoo group for questions specific to homeschooling gifted kids. Neither list requires you to be a member of Mensa. It's great to have a group of other parents in the same situation to ask questions of, particularly when you need a resource in marine biology for a 6yo or want to talk about early college options. ;-)