Deciding to Homeschool My Gifted Child

I never imagined I’d homeschool. Ever. In fact, I was vocally anti-homeschooling.

I loved my public school experiences and had very little experience with families who chose to homeschool, so I had based my (very strong) feelings on (very incorrect) stereotypes and assumptions. Since you're reading this post on a homeschool curriculum blog, you can guess how those false beliefs turned out for me! (Read more about my blended education situation here.)

My oldest child was what I call a trick baby—a dream come true—a kid so easy to parent that I figured I must be a pro and should have a hundred more babies. My assumptions obviously fail me pretty often because my second born, my middle child, was not easy. He did not make me feel like a pro. He was adorable and fun and never ever boring, but he was, to put it gently, a handful.

My husband and I knew when he started kindergarten that it would likely be pretty bumpy. That was an assumption we got correct.

The Shock of a Lifetime

He’d only been in school for a few weeks when the phone calls started. He was sarcastic and would frequently make comments that were pretty out of the ordinary for kindergarteners. He read several grade levels ahead, so he was bored and acting out during class. He was struggling socially as he couldn’t relate to the “babyish” things the other kids his age were into, and no other 5-year-olds were interested in his scientific monologues.

His behavior problems grew and intensified, and despite months of private counseling, we were at a loss as to how to help him. His self esteem plummeted as he got “bad” colors on his behavior chart every day and became aware of just how poorly he fit in. Kindergarten was turning out worse than we’d expected.

We met with his teacher in the middle of the year and were shocked when she suggested that he skip first grade and go straight to second grade. Totally floored. We knew he’d been doing well academically, but had no idea he’d been doing well enough to bypass an entire grade. Subsequent testing showed that he could do more than that. He was identified as profoundly gifted, having an IQ higher than 99% of the general population and a brain that worked light-years-too-fast for kindergarten.

We were still reeling from this revelation when the idea of homeschooling first popped up in a desperate and tear-driven Google search.

  • How on earth are we going to meet his needs?
  • How can a school that only goes up to fifth grade possibly teach anything new to a kindergartener who is reading on a middle school level?
  • How can we possibly handle the responsibility of making sure his magnificent little brain isn’t being wasted?

Homeschooling.

Every time, homeschooling was the answer.

I Tried to Avoid it, But Homeschooling Was the Solution

I saw it over and over, but tried to ignore it. There was no way I would homeschool. That was for those kids who were in college by age 8 or selling out concert halls by age 6. My kid had a high IQ, but he wasn’t a chess prodigy or working on his master’s degree. He didn’t even wear glasses! Surely this wasn’t for us.

We went ahead with the grade skip, and he was granted special permission to attend Talented and Gifted enrichment with older children. We continued with the counseling, and combined with the new challenges of TAG and a grade skip, he seemed to improve. For a few weeks.

We got a 504 plan in place for him. Then an IEP. Then we modified the IEP. A dozen times.

Deciding to Homeschool My Gifted ChildHe was struggling with some pretty intense anxiety and the cafeteria was too overwhelming for him. His brain struggled to take in and process all the stimuli at once. He started eating alone in his classroom.

By the second month of second grade, there was nothing new for him to learn. His teacher started sending him to the library to occupy himself—to write research papers or read whatever he could find. His behavior worsened. He started hiding in his locker or under his desk. He was moved away from the other students and placed in the hall, alone, with the thickest book his teacher could find.

We kept meeting to tweak his IEP, and it kept not making a difference. His principal said he walked the halls looking like an injured dog, tensed up and in a constant state of reaction. He was miserable. We were miserable. He couldn’t learn anything, couldn’t make any friends, couldn’t find a single reason to go to school in the morning. He was being kept away from everyone and denied the opportunity to learn something new every day. School was just not working.

Making the Leap from Public School to Homeschooling

Finally I had to humble myself and accept it—it was time to homeschool him.

He had this incredibly gifted mind that wasn’t being stretched. His behaviors, due to the extreme boredom and anxiety, were the sole focus instead. It was time to accept that the school just could not meet his needs, and he just could not be who they wanted him to.

  • As much as I was intimidated by his mind, I knew that he deserved the chance to learn, every day, like any other child would.
  • As much as I was intimidated by being responsible for his education, I knew I was already responsible for his well-being, and keeping him in that environment was damaging.
  • As much as I wanted him to have a “normal” school experience, I had to accept that he wasn’t a typical child and he needed what was best for him.

He worked faster than a classroom allowed and craved going deeper than a room full of other children could permit. His brain could receive all of the sensory stimuli going on around him—and in an elementary school there is a lot—but his 7-year-old self didn’t know how to handle it all.

He craved knowledge, learning, challenge, but instead was sent to a corner and told to sit quietly. He was not built for a traditional classroom and the traditional classroom was not built to accommodate him. I had to eat crow, take my foot out of my mouth, and humble myself to recognize that homeschooling was his very best option, if not for the academic challenge then for his own peace.

The Aftermath: Consequences of Homeschooling

It’s been two and a half years since we pulled him out of school, and he is flourishing. He learns as quickly—or as slowly—as he needs and wants. He’s not bombarded by stimuli, and he’s not made to feel like a nuisance by people who don’t know what to do with him. There’s no arbitrary grade level ceiling that keeps him stagnant. There’s no color-coded behavior chart. There’s comfort, freedom, and an absolute metric ton of books for him to devour. He’s a happy kid now, and it shows.

I never, ever thought I’d homeschool. Now I think I’ll never stop.

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About the Author

Jennifer VailJennifer 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.

   

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