While interacting in the gifted homeschooling community, I see one major concern come up pretty frequently. Daily, even. No, it’s not wondering about socialization, or even how a homeschooled child will ever learn how to stand in line (insert sarcasm font).
It’s wondering how to adapt a curriculum for a child who devours knowledge, programs, and books at lightning speed. Parents find products and programs that they really like, full of information and easy to use, but their kids just want more.
Maybe your child is older. Maybe your child is gifted. Maybe your child simply relishes the subject matter and can’t get enough. Whatever situation is most like yours, how do you give your child more than what comes in the box?
Learning Outside the (Homeschool Curriculum) Box
I'm homeschooling a gifted kiddo who absolutely cannot get enough history. He loves it, gobbles it up, and asks for more. It's natural, then, that we adore the literature-based model of BookShark history. We are both thrilled when that big brown box shows up full of fantastic books he can sink his teeth into. Some of the novels we read aloud together; some he falls asleep reading. But we read and enjoy every single book.
And still he wants more.
His hunger for more information motivates me to dig and delve. Here are four ways I give him more than what’s provided in our curriculum.
1. Embellish with Art Projects
One answer is to marry the two sides of the brain by combining art with whatever topic my son is reading.
- We researched games played by medieval children and made our own, giving feel for long days with low technology and an appreciation for the craftsmanship required.
- We spent a day writing everything backwards when we learned about Leonardo DaVinci’s habit of mirror writing in his journals during the Renaissance.
- We’ve made quill pens, berry ink, stained glass, scrolls, and more.
We find art books that feature artists and works of the period and pore over them. A math kiddo might search for Fibonacci sequences in nature and art. A science-lover might experiment with chemistry and creating new mediums for painting or sculpture. Whatever subject your child is devouring, find a way to incorporate art and hands-on art projects as a way to apply their knowledge… and have fun!
2. Expand with Lap Books
Lap books are another way to deepen and extend learning. Especially good for kids who like papercrafts, lap books are made up of multiple smaller paper projects. Whatever you read about, make a paper project to represent it. Then assemble all the smaller projects into a single file folder base.
Start with a lap book kit like the ones BookShark sells. The extra research, writing assignments, and cutting and folding may satisfy your voracious learner's appetitie for more history.
3. Binge on Documentaries
No rabbit trail is complete with documentaries. As your child is learning about a topic, check out Curiosity Stream, Netflix, even YouTube for documentaries, examples, and funny music videos that apply to your subject matter. There are a lot of math raps on the internet, and seeing a cuttlefish hypnotize their prey is a lot cooler than merely reading about it.
Extend the documentary watching even further by having kids watch, rate, and make playlists of relevant videos. Or ask them to summarize videos in writing or via oral presentations.
Here are some favorite documentary lists:
- Explore Africa Through Streaming Video
- 10 YouTube Videos for Exploring South America
- 6 YouTube Videos for Exploring Australia in Your Homeschool
- Experience Ancient Greece with These 7 Videos
- 13 Video Supplements for BookShark Eastern Hemisphere
- 10 Captivating Netflix Shows for Elementary Science
- 10 Virtual Tours of Art Museums Around the World
- Ancient Egypt: Eight Movies to Stream Online
- 10 YouTube Videos for Exploring Central America
- Explore Australia with These Fascinating Streaming Videos
4. Seek Out Experts
While you’re not really going to find a Revolutionary War hero to meet for coffee, you can find local experts—or experts willing to chat online—who can share experiences or insights you won’t find anywhere else.
- During our study of bees, my son and I met with a local beekeeper, suited up, and helped tend the hives.
- When my oldest wanted to dive deeper into theoretical math than his program—or my own understanding—allowed, we called my dad, an actual former rocket scientist.
Museums have docents and experts. Historical societies have knowledgeable members. Professors, conductors, and researchers are only an internet search away. Find the people who know the most, and set up interviews or experiences for your child to be immersed in. Most experts are thrilled when asked to share their knowledge with passionate listeners!
If you're feeling no curriculm will be enough for your gifted and voracious learner, you may be right! On the positive side, any comprehensive program can work as a spine for your child who needs more. What works as an open-and-go curriculum for most families doesn’t have to be a cage for you or your child. Use your favorite program as a launch pad and enrich the learning. Go beyond the books—beyond the box—and discover a whole world of education just waiting for your child to gobble up.
About the Author
Jennifer Vail proudly lives in the great state of Texas with her very handsome husband and three very funny children. All three kids are educated in three very different ways according to their very different needs, which is exhausting but fulfilling. Jen's hobbies include naps, 90's pop culture, Netflix binges, buying books with the best of intentions to read them all, photography, and extroverting. She holds a degree in counseling but has found her calling by writing for and spending time with families of differently-wired, outlier kids—the square pegs of the round world.
She stays up way too late and drinks way too much caffeine, but has no intention of changing either. She is the community manager and contributing author at Raising Lifelong Learners where she writes about homeschooling gifted, anxious, and otherwise different kiddos, but also rambles at This Undeserved Life from time to time. She feels compelled to mention that she still very much loves the Backstreet Boys and rarely folds her laundry.