Gifted Homeschoolers Interview and Online Forum Information

Do you have any gifted homeschoolers in your home that you are wondering how to teach? Recently I was able to interview Corin Barsily Goodwin who is the CEO/Executive Director of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. She has an interesting story of how their forum and website began and how they can help homeschoolers now. Many people wonder if their children are gifted and others know their children are gifted or 2e (as some call it) but don't know how to help their children learn in the best environment. It looks like the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum could be just the place for them.

1. How did your Gifted Homeschoolers organization get started?

gifted homeschoolers

Once upon a time, in 2004, I was the gifted/special needs contact for a statewide homeschool association. At about that time, due to NCLB and budgetary issues, services for gifted kids in the public schools were being cut and an increasing number of parents were finding themselves homeschooling their gifted kids and needing support. At that time, many homeschooling groups didn't acknowledge giftedness, and gifted associations didn't acknowledge homeschooling. The population who needed this kind of support was greater than the services available. Ultimately, a number of us spun off from the homeschool association and formed GHF so that we could focus specifically on these needs. Originally, we were a California based organization, but now we have members across the US and around the world.

2. What do you have to offer gifted students and their parents that they can't find anywhere else?

Understanding and trust. We 'get' where they are because most of GHF's board and staff are homeschooling our gifted and twice-exceptional (gifted and LD) kids, too. We understand that many institutions have their own guidelines that define giftedness, ignore giftedness, or are focused on academics or achievement. We realize that many gifted kids don't look like the stereotype of a gifted child, and that gifted kids have different learning needs than neurotypical kids. We trust parents to know who their kids are and what they need, and we respect that expertise.

We do our best to support these families in whatever educational choice they make - not all of our members currently homeschool - and to get cutting edge research and useful resources to them. While we are a membership supported organization, we don't insist that everyone become a supporting member to take advantage of our services. We just hope they recognize that, while we are all volunteers, we can't run on financial fumes alone :-)

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a gifted student?

That's one heck of a question! :-) Any child can be a wonderful child who drives their parents bananas at times. The differences in the case of gifted kids stem largely from two things: intensity and asynchrony.

More specifically, gifted kids tend to be much like other kids, only more intense. Dabrowski's Overexcitabilities describes these intensities. (More about OEs and related issues on our site at http://www.giftedhomeschoolers.org/articles.html)

Gifted kids also tend to be highly asynchronous. Of course, children don't develop in lockstep, but gifted kids often develop outside even the normal guidelines. A child who is advanced in one part of their brain maybe be average or even below average in other areas. Their strengths and weaknesses may be all over the map, and those with more significant gaps in ability may have learning differences that need to be addressed relative to their overall ability. The kids who have these significant gaps are called "twice-exceptional" or "2e" and may have a particularly difficult time getting their needs met in a more traditional educational setting.

4. What do parents of gifted students need to do differently than parents of students who are not gifted?

Parents of neurotypical children are encouraged to understand their children and do what they can to meet their needs. All children deserve this. For parents of gifted kids, this is especially important due to the potential for emotional harm when their children recognize that they aren't like all the other kids (and they always do!) and when the children and most others around them assume they are stupid rather than simply different.

5. Should teaching gifted students be left to the "experts" or can ordinary parents teach their gifted homeschoolers with success?

Well... define "expert"! And define “teaching”, too! At GHF, we believe that parents don't suddenly lose their ability to parent when their children turn "school age." We know that parents usually know their children best. Gifted kids aren't a community resource; they are human beings who need a more individualized education. Parents who can pull together a program that is tailored to their child's specific needs are more likely to be effective than most "experts" who are constrained by a system designed for mass education. These programs can involve just the parent and child, or it may include homeschooling study groups, cooperative projects, mentors and individual tutoring. For more on this, see Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn't Fit Your Atypical Child.

6. How does a parent go about finding out if their student is gifted or not?

There are a variety of checklists that can be used as guidelines. Just keep in mind that these are guidelines, not set in stone, and if they're not sure, they may wish to have an assessment done by someone who has experience assessing gifted and 2e children. There are a number of articles exploring giftedness here.

7. Any advice for new homeschoolers or those new to teaching gifted students?

Yes: Get support! You don't have to do it alone. Join a community like GHF's group. Learn to trust yourself and trust your child. The goal is to raise your child to be who they are. Don't worry too much about what others think or their expectations. What worked for the children of your neighbor's mother-in-law's cousin who was a teacher's aide twenty years ago won't necessarily be right for your children... and that's OK.

Thanks so much to Corin and the information she has provided for us about gifted homeschoolers. I learned quite a bit and am excited to hear that there is a resource available to gifted homeschoolers and their parents.



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