I feel a little silly having requested and then won from LibraryThing EarlyReviewers not just a book about homeschooling but one about homeschooling “gifted” and “advanced” learners.
My son is just four years old and has more than 18 months before he’ll officially enter school. While I feel ridiculous assuming my child is a brilliant one, I must say I’m regularly at a loss for answers to his questions already, and he’s only four. I am, of course, biased, but I certainly think he’s a quick learner: he can read and do basic addition/subtraction (counting fingers, not really on paper yet), and he’s fascinated by everything, always asking questions about what he sees around him.1 He’s currently interested in the planets, electricity, and the human body (what’s inside and how it works).
But, that said, I have no idea if I do plan on homeschooling, if he’ll remain an eager learner throughout his life, if homeschooling would provide the best opportunities for engaging his inner spirit, and even if he truly is “gifted.” That term has a lot of connotation associated with it. Maybe I can just settle on “advanced for now.”
Nevertheless, I initially requested Cindy West’s Homeschooling Gifted and Advanced Learners (Prufrock Press, 2011) because I thought it might help me gain a better idea of what homeschooling entails and how a parent untrained in education might be able to meet the needs of a brilliant child.2 Ms West’s book, although slim, certainly gave me a lot of things to consider in relation to my questions, and while I remain unsure what I will do in the coming years for my son’s schooling, I now see the possibility of homeschooling as a reality, while before it was just an overwhelming concept.
A little background: A month or two ago, I began my “homeschool or not” ponderings by checking out about ten different books from the library. Most of them seemed to emphasize a lax “unschooling” approach to teaching kids, with Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind (see my “non-review” thoughts) being the one exception that broke down the rigors of home schooling almost to the point of overwhelming.3 I didn’t read through any of the other homeschooling books in full; I only browsed for general concepts.
Homeschooling Gifted and Advanced Learners is a slim book, about 140 pages long. I must admit that when it came in the mail, I wondered what new information it may provide to give me the “better ideas” that I sought. Yet as I began reading, I found that it did give me hope. Because it’s shorter, it provided a succinct framework for how homeschooling can work right.
Besides, I enjoyed the casual tone Ms West provided. She gave numerous personal examples from her own years of homeschooling her three children. I enjoyed the charts that listed ways to give life to unit projects and the numerous websites (and curriculum options) she referenced for further ideas and information. If I do homeschool, I’ll probably reference these pages a lot as I get my feet wet! I appreciated how she addressed ways in which to adapt a teaching curriculum for the child who wants to learn more, even when a unit is over. And while I still cannot quite see myself teaching my son for all of his school years4, the flexibility Ms West emphasized gave me hope.
Is Homeschooling Gifted and Advanced Learners the best book for new homeschooling parents? Is it the best for parents who’ve been doing it for years? Is it the best for parents of gifted children?
I have no idea. I have not read enough or even homeschooled at all in order to answer those questions. I think the best aspect of Ms West’s book is that she provides her personal stories and tips for success. This was not a dry explanatory book but rather one that provide context, conversation, and what felt like support for the inexperienced and/or overwhelmed homeschooling parent. It kept me reading, and I am inspired to keep considering homeschooling. Now I have a book full of ideas to reference if I do decide to go that route.
In case you are wondering, here are some possible options for Raisin in 18 months when he is legal supposed to go to kindergarten.
- Send Raisin to a public all-day kindergarten class, with 25-30 kids and no aide. If there is a part-day option (2.5 hours) I may consider public school. Otherwise, I’m very wary. That’s such a long day.
- Charter school all-day kindergarten. Because the charter school is affiliated with my school district, this doesn’t charge tuition for me, just registration fees and so forth. The classes would still be rather large, plus there would be no school bus so I’d have to drop him and pick him up. Again, I’m wary of the full day of school for my young kid.
- A few kindergarten classes at the charter school (like art, PE, music), supplemented with K12 homeschooling curriculum, provided free through the charter school (same school as in the second bullet point as above). From what I’ve read, K12 is a very intense kindergarten program (as well as subsequent years), and 25% of it is online. That seems like a lot of computer time and a lot of school for an almost 6-year-old. It also seems the parent needs to help a lot because the workload is so heavy. At the same time, my son will probably be able to do a lot of the curriculum already if it’s a typical kindergarten curriculum. Will it be busy work that bores him? Can I adjust his curricula as the year progresses? I suppose these are also my concerns for the first two bullet points: he’s stuck learning what they tell him to learn.
- Homeschool kindergarten – free reign! I determine my curriculum and pay for it. This is a more expensive option and also the most work on my part in figuring out the correct curriculum for Raisin. But, then again, I can follow Raisin’s many interests, rather than forcing him through an intense curriculum or watching him become bored with school. This looks more and more appealing. If only I can find an appropriate co-op for the P.E. and art classes, etc.
- Private school. Too costly to even consider, I believe. And I hear they have huge classes too!
All of this would of course be happening while my second child is learning to walk and talk. That is definitely something to consider as well…
Note: I received a copy of this book for review via LibraryThing EarlyReviewers.
- His only real problem area is he refuses to practice handwriting. He can write his letters but finds it “too hard” and frustrating most of the time. ↩
- That “untrained parent” would be me, of course. ↩
- I love the concepts of teaching history based on the classics of antiquity, but in general I left book feeling rather overwhelmed as to how I could pull it together. Teaching Latin? Really? ↩
- I feel I am a very organized person but then I get very tired of rigidly trying to follow a schedule ↩