I'm not fully convinced that homeschooling a profoundly gifted child is more difficult than homeschooling any other kid.
All parents that embark on the adventure (and sometimes suicide mission) that is homeschooling are likely to enjoy their share of troubles. But, sometimes it really does feel like having a kid that has never remotely followed the beaten path has a few extra headaches or stresses.
When my son started reading at two, my wife and I were amazed. When he was reading Charlotte's Web shortly after turning 3, we were impressed. When he had finished much of Harry Potter by 4 and The Lord of the Ring series by 5 years old, we were terrified.
This fear was only made worse by the fact that he went through a grade level of math every few months starting at 3 and had completed high school-level Algebra by the time he would have started kindergarten. The fact that he had three college math credits before turning 8 years old strangely seems normal at this point. Though, normal is a relative term.
Still, what does one do with a kid like this? You feel sure that everyone suspects you are torturing the child. While our son was asking why can't we spend more time homeschooling, most people were wondering why we started homeschooling at such a young age. In regards to curriculum, I am never sure if I am moving too fast or too slow for him.
Sometimes I am convinced that everyone else is right and he should just be playing and "being a kid." But then I remember that the kid never had much interest in toys or even playing. Years of failed birthday and Christmas presents provided ample evidence of this fact. I also take into consideration the fact that this is the kid who begged me to homeschool again at night after a full day of homeschool.
Going into his eighth year of life, I have never once asked the kid to do something academically that he didn't do, and it was always without complaint. That is not to say that there were never struggles. Not everything came easily for him. Yet, we have yet to hit a road block in the learning process that has even made me wonder if I might have asked too much of him.
In some ways, this sounds a bit ideal. And, in many ways, I know that I'm lucky to have such a willing student. But, it is hard to say anything has ever been normal. The level of intensity is far from normal. Every mistake is pointed out with an "at your own risk" approach.
Gifted kids are famous for being explosive, but it is only slightly exaggerating to say I consider locking my bedroom door to increase the odds of surviving the night on especially intense days. If he missed a problem and thought he got it correct, I used to do a quick bit of visual reconnaissance to make sure no sharp objects were handy. Fortunately, years of experience have taught me it only seems like my life is in danger.
And since most things come so easy for him, getting him to listen to me when he needs help makes pulling teeth sound like pure relaxation.
I approach teaching him somewhat like I would approach teaching a pig: I assume he is hearing my words but has no idea why I'm wasting my breath. Thankfully, something magically happens in his brain where, without effort, focus, or any willingness on his part, the concepts being taught just absorb into his brain. Sounds great, but it is exasperatingly frustrating.
It would be nice just once to have him say, "Oh, I get it." Instead, I leave most days feeling like the homeschool room is filled with a surplus of wasted breath. It is only in the last few months that I've noticed a slight shift towards his actually considering that I might have something useful to say.
Possibly, one of the most troubling aspects of homeschooling a profoundly gifted kid is that there is absolutely no road map. Not many books on the shelves of even the largest academic libraries have anything to say about teaching a kid who learns at a pace that even a fully-drugged Lance Armstrong couldn't maintain.
So, how do I decide what to teach him? Honestly, I usually start by saying, "He could never do this." That is usually the last step before I start figuring how we'll approach learning that exact thing. He somehow always manages to make it seem like I was crazy to ever have doubted his ability to achieve something. However, this never seems to alleviate the amount of second guessing and self-doubt that goes along with making a choice like allowing a 7 year old to take a college course.
I envy the parent that can follow the path established for his or her kids that proceeds on a yearly basis fully determined by the age of each child. There is something soothing about the idea of just doing what is thought to be appropriate for a given child based on societal standards. It takes a lot of weight off the parent's shoulder to make a decision of how much to challenge a kid.
In my case, I'm often stuck between a world that expects that my son should still be learning his multiplication facts and the reality that he wakes up excited to watch an online lecture on calculus.
In short, since the moment we started homeschooling, I've not had a moment's mental peace in regards to if I'm doing anything right.
In regards to homeschooling a profoundly gifted child, it often feels like throwing the proverbial dart at an invisible dart board. Even if I'm hitting the bull's eye, I'd never know.