MonTAGe: An Eclectic E-Journal
MonTAGe is the Electronic Journal of the TAGFAM Mailing list. MonTAGe
is written by and for the families of gifted and talented individuals.
Editor: Valorie J. King (email@example.com)
Permission is hereby given for noncommercial electronic or print
format redistribution of intact articles from MonTAGe. Please cite
"MonTAGe: The TAGFAM E-Journal (c) 1996 Valorie J. King."
The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the individual authors.
In This Issue:
- From The Editor's Desk
- Resources For Beginning Homeschoolers
- Forever Changed
- Taking Charge Of Your Child's Education
- A Typical Day ...
- A Homeschooler's Guide To The Library
- Problem Solving 101: Planning Your Curriculum
- Problem Solving 102: Planning Theme Units
- Problem Solving 103: Starting In The Middle
Rather than compete with the hundreds of authors who have written books
and magazine articles about the basics of homeschooling, this issue of
MonTAGe is devoted to my own peculiar opinions about the education of
intellectually gifted children. I hope you enjoy reading it. I'd like
to encourage you to comment on the articles both to the TAGFAM mailing
list and to me personally.
Starting with this issue, July 1996, we're going to move to a monthly
publication schedule. This change will give others in the TAGFAM community
time to polish their prose and contribute to our E-Journal. Please consider
writing an article or book review for an upcoming issue:
Issue Date Copy Due Topics
8/5/96 7/22/96 Back To School: Understanding Public Education
9/9/96 8/29/96 Back-to-school: tips for helping your child
settle in with a new teacher.
10/7/96 9/30/96 Distance Education: Options for the gifted
-- Valorie --
When you're ready to seriously think about homeschooling -- visit your
public library or local bookseller. If they don't stock books on
homeschooling you can order books via the Internet (http://www.books.com
or http://www.amazon.com) At the library, the books you want are shelved
in the 300's (How & what to teach) and the 600's (parenting which
includes homeschooling as a subtopic). You'll find useful books in both
the children's department and the general collection. Summer time is a
good time to go looking for many of these books since, around here, the
shelves empty in late August as the teachers prepare to go back to school.
The increasing numbers of families choosing to educate their children at
home have created a large market for books and magazine articles about
homeschooling. Booksellers and librarians, following this trend are
stocking their shelves with newly issued titles and the old stand-bys.
The magazine racks are loaded with magazines that offer both content
(e.g. Odyssey or Cobblestone) and how-to (The Teaching Home, Instructor).
A quick check of the shelves at a local bookseller's shows four or five
"getting started" titles and another handful that cover the spectrum:
record keeping, where to buy books and materials, what to teach, philosophy
of homeschooling, successful support groups, cooperative learning groups.
At the bookstore, books on homeschooling tend to be shelved under
"education" or "parenting/special-needs-children." Books on "how and what
to teach" tend to be with the children's books. If you haven't spent a
couple of hours in a good children's bookstore lately -- take the time
to do so. Even if you have to drive an hour or two to find one, it's worth
the drive. Some communities are fortunate to have a teacher's supply store
or an upscale toy store (e.g. Zany Brainy) that stocks such titles as
"Teaching Gifted Kids In The Regular Classroom" and "The Gifted Kids'
Survival Guide." You'll also find curriculum materials, workbooks, and
study guides based upon themes such as inventions, creepy crawlies
(insects), and classic children's literature.
My personal favorite homeschool resource book for beginning homeschoolers
is Borg Hendrickson's "Homeschool: Taking The First Steps." It covers
the bases whether you're starting at Kindergarten or high school. Her
other book, "How To Write Your Own Low-Cost/No-Cost Curriculum," is
another of my favorite how-to handbooks for homeschoolers. Since this
book is for grades K-6 I use the course descriptions from the University of
Nebraska's Independent Study High School catalog to plan high school curriculums.
(I also use the undergraduate catalog from the University of Maryland
and cruise the textbook aisles at the university's bookstore.)
The "dean" of homeschool authors is probably Mary Pride. Her homeschool
classics, "The Big Book Of Home Learning" volumes I-IV, are a fairly
comprehensive set of resource guides which include ordering information
for a large number of homeschool supply houses.
Magazines are another source of useful information for beginning and
- The Teaching Home (strong Christian basis)
- Home Education
- Growing Without Schooling
- Instructor (targeted towards K-6 classroom teachers)
- Learning '96 (K-6 classroom teachers)
Beginning homeschoolers tend to buy "too much." It's easy to get lost
in the bookstore or catalog and order more than you really need to
get started. Start with a curriculum handbook and a teacher's planbook.
Borrow everything else from the library or a friend until you're sure
that you absolutely must have a copy of your own.
Homeschooling Information on the World Wide Web
A Webcrawler search (http://www.webcrawler.com) of Internet sites listing
"homeschooling" as a keyword produced hundreds of listings. If you don't
have the ability to use Lynx or Netscape (or a similar program) to browse
the web, you really should consider getting an Internet account that will
allow you to do so. The cost for our household's PPP dial-up account is
about the same as what we pay for cable television. In my opinion, full
Internet access is worth far more than cable TV. Who needs TV when
you've got the world to explore? The explosion in information available
via Internet astounds me. Reference books, library catalogs, full texts of
articles, and an enormous variety of educational sites are just a
mouse-click away. It really is an information junkie's paradise. Ooops, I
meant to say a "homeschooler's paradise."
Some links to start with:
Finding What Works For You
Homeschool supply houses and correspondence schools offer complete
packages, from pencils to textbooks. This might sound like an easy
way to get started but, for the intellectually gifted child, it could
be "more of the same thing." More of the same, boring, lock-step,
worksheet-driven curriculum which didn't work in school -- why
should it work at home? Fortunately, there are options and, since
you're in charge now, you and your children can choose what works for
you both. Next stop -- the public library and/or your local bookseller
with a side trip to the World Wide Web. You'll have your answers in
no time at all!
by Valorie King (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Teaching gifted children at home is a life changing experience.
It is the rare person who is not caught up in the excitement of the
child's discoveries and the pleasures of learning through experimentation.
Sharing in the gifted child's burning desire for knowledge, the search
for competency, and the bursts of creativity that so characterize these
children awakens our own giftedness. Seeing the world through the wide
eyed innocence of a child changes how we think, process information, and
experience the world around us. Rain and puddles become venues for
impromptu science lessons. Museums become playgrounds and playgrounds
become learning labs. The world is our classroom.
We become renaissance people. Our lifestyles and opinions change in ways
that friends, family, and acquaintences find curious and disconcerting.
Our time is our own. We have choices and options that are not available to
those who are under the tyranny of bus schedules and school year calendars.
Taking on the roles of teacher and mentor to the gifted child stretches us
beyond our limits at times. And, in that stretching we find our own growth.
We are forever changed.
1) You don't have to homeschool in order to take charge of your child's
education -- but it helps.
2) Changing the power balance is a difficult endeavor.
"expected" to be subordinate to the authority of the education profession
and to its practitioners. Teachers are trained to be "in charge" of their
classrooms. Principals are "given charge" over their schools:
classrooms, teachers, supplies, resources, and children.
Changing the way the system works requires changing the laws which
authorize and fund public schools in your state. Momentum and bureaucratic
gravity are in their favor.
The power equation has many variables. Sometimes the only way to
favorably change the balance of power is to negate the
influence of competing variables -- by electing to homeschool.
3) The "party-line" is "we know what is best for your child." What they
mean is "we know what we've been told is best for children the same
age as your child." Child development courses, taught in schools of
education, rarely even mention the intellectually gifted child. Your
child isn't like the children those courses are based upon -- if he
was, he wouldn't be intellectually gifted, would he? Teacher training,
below the master's degree level, rarely includes more than a passing
mention of the differential educational needs of the intellectually
4) Recognize the "party line" and don't let it derail your efforts to
achieve a good classroom or educational environment for your child.
5) Teachers, principals, and other "professionals" are trained in
methods for "encouraging" parents to accept the decisions and
judgements of the "professionals." Don't let this "encouragement"
get you down. Take their opinions under advisement and then do your
own research and investigating. Reality may be far different from
the picture which is painted for you by those intimately involved
in the situation.
6) If your child is in school, then the burden of proof is upon you.
You have to prove that what they are doing is not effective, that
it is their fault, and that they have the ability and resources to
make changes that will be effective. If your child is taught at
home, the tables are reversed. Rarely is it worth the school district's
time and money to "prove" that your homeschooling is not in accordance
with state law.
7) When you homeschool it becomes possible to empower your children by
adapting the learning environment to each child's needs and interests.
Or, better yet, children can be given real responsibility and decision
making authority for many aspects of their education and learning
8) Taking charge of your child's education requires that you now take
on the leadership role and that school officials and education
professionals become advisors to you. They may feel uncomfortable in
their new roles. They may even decline to participate. If so, find
your own outside sources of professional advice.
9) Education is a constitutionally guaranteed right for every citizen.
If you choose to educate your children outside publicly supervised
institutions then you should expect to be held accountable for providing
an education which meets the standards set by your state of residence.
This does not mean that the state has the right to invade your privacy
or otherwise violate your rights as parents and citizens. It does mean
that recordkeeping and accountability are part of your homeschooling
responsibilities. Your state's home education laws will detail your
responsibilities and the methods which have been established to provide
the legally required oversight for homeschoolers in your state.
10) The schools are now used to deliver a wide variety of governmental
services to children and families. In most states, when you choose
to homeschool you are no longer automatically included in these
services. If you wish to participate in hearing and vision screenings
or other public health services normally delivered via the schools then
it is your responsibility to contact the public health department and
make the appropriate arrangements. Participation in other programs,
services, and activities may also be open to homeschoolers. You'll
never know unless you ask.
A Typical Day ...
by Valorie King (email@example.com)
Is there any such thing as a typical homeschool day? We have friends
who homeschool ... by the clock. Their school day starts at 9:00AM
with everyone at the kitchen table, textbooks at hand. Lunch is at
Noon. If there's school in the afternoon it's phys. ed. or a group
outing. Three pages of math, spelling words neatly written, a paragraph
copied out of a manuscript book. Science worksheets and reading aloud from the
next section of the history book. I think we had a day like that in our household -- once.
A typical homeschool day for us is marked by its quiet chaos. Math is
from a textbook. We've learned through experience that minimum standards
for progress are necessary. Otherwise, everyone plays computer games
instead of doing their problem sets. The rest of our studies tend to
be thematic. Last spring, we spent a month or two learning how to write
nonfiction magazine articles. Along with learning the critical analysis of
other people's writing and writing some articles ourselves, we learned science,
social studies, and English grammar. Our six year old's Cub Scout outing turned
into an impromptu lesson for his siblings; as we toured the printing plant everyone
learned how magazines are created from text and artwork through binding and packaging.
Our oldest son, age 14, is beginning to think about college. For the coming
year, his studies are from textbooks purchased at the university bookstore.
Out of necessity, his studies are becoming more structured. Deadlines
and due dates are becoming as important as the quality of his work. This is a radical
change from our easy going style over the past two years. Time management and study
skills, frequent lecture topics in the past, are now his responsibility. It's time for
this fledgling to try his wings while the costs of failure are still manageable.
Our middle child, a daughter age 11, is a sponge. There are times when I
think she's going to be ready for college before her older brother.
She reads anything and everything in sight. We use the checklists
from both Boy Scout and Girl Scout merit badges to "officially" keep
track of her learning activities. Her learning activities are project
based and geared towards her holistic learning style. She and I share a preference
for processing information in a whole-to-parts fashion. She spends part of her school
day engaging her younger brother in dramatic play and artistic endeavors. He responds
well to her encouragement and tries to "keep up" with her.
Our youngest son, age 6, is a challenge. Fortunately, he likes to be
challenged in return, especially by his older sister. Computer games and
educational software are his "school" activities of choice. Worksheets and
rote memorization are met with a stone-wall of opposition. But, the same
material, in the form of a computer game keeps his attention for hours.
His learning activities are fun, hands-on, and full of activity. Games,
puzzles, and "find-my-mistakes" are strategies that work well for him. He
also uses Cub Scout activities for his schoolwork.
So, there you have it -- a typical day, past and present. Sounds confusing?
We've been at this for four years now. It works for us. Each child's
schoolwork is customized to his or her interests and needs. Our teaching
and learning strategies automatically include compaction (more stuff in
less time), testing-out (you take the chapter test in math anytime you're
ready), acceleration (as soon as you can read it, you can study it), and
all those other "strategies" that parents of gifted children wish educators
would implement in the regular classrooms.
Is it hard? Sometimes. But, it's a whole lot easier than spending my days in
meetings at school trying to get the teachers to change what they're doing. My evenings
belong to me -- I may do windows but I DON'T do homework. Not anymore.
When was the last time you got "lost" in the library? It has been a
favorite pasttime of mine since elementary school when the librarian
would set me to "reading" the shelves (putting books in order by call
number) to keep me out of my third grade teacher's hair. These days
you don't even have to physically go to the library. You can browse
the shelves via Internet. Be careful! Or, you may end up as I did last
night ... lost in the "virtual" stacks. Here are some pointers to get
you started: http://class.unl.edu/final_web/courses/course.htm
The Dewey Decimal System
000-099 General Works --
Computer Stuff like the Internet, MS-DOS, Windows-95 ...
Books about books: which ones are good to read at what ages.
History of Knowledge, Lifelong reading/learning plans
Artificial Intelligence, Robots, Computers as machines
Codes & Ciphers
Guides to music, videos, films
Journalism, Newspapers, Magazines
100-199 Philosophy --
Motivational Writing (7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
Ethics and Morality
Zen, Yoga, I Ching, Plato, Aristotle, Confucious
Existentialism & Humanism
Parapsychology, the paranormal, the supernatural
History of philosophy
Psychology -- (answers to frequent questions on TAGFAM)
Cognitive -- how people think
Perceptual -- how our senses work
Intelligence -- what it is and how it's measured
Creativity -- what it is, how to be _more_ creative
Memory -- how it works, how to improve yours
Testing & Measurement
Character & Temperament
200-299 Religion --
Mythology -- Greek & Roman Mythology
Religious Writings & Texts (Holy Books)
Comparative religions & world religions
History of religious groups
Cults, Sects, "Pagan" religions
Monotheistic and Polytheistic religions
300-399 Social Sciences --
Sociology and Anthropology
Interpersonal relationships including friends, family, work
Communities and cultures
Parenting and child rearing
Folklore, Holidays, Festivals
Government, Politics, Law, Military, Criminal Justice
Economics, Business, Real Estate, Commerce
Etiquette and customs
Careers & Vocations
Education: (more answers to frequent TAGFAM questions)
371.95 -- Books about TAG
Books on how to teach!!!
Curriculum Guidebooks, Lesson Plans & Classroom Activities
"Homework Helper" books (quick references)
Collections of worksheets for math, science, English, ...
Psychology of learning
Teaching tips for various content areas
Montessori (also found under 150's)
Fun books about word origins
Books about different ways of writing (runes, cuniform)
Latin, Greek, and other foreign languages
Pronuciation Guides for TV and Radio
500-599 Pure Science
Mathematics including textbooks
Physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, nature study
600-699 Technology (Applied Science)
"The Big Book of Home Learning" and other "how-to" books
Curriculum Books for Homeschoolers
Family Matters and other "why we homeschool" books
Parenting and raising children including special needs and
Cooking, building, home repairs, sewing & crafts
Books about specific computer programs e.g. word processing
Books about business including typing, accounting, marketing
Gardening & Pets
How-to books and "appreciation" books
Photography, painting, drawing, music
Recreational Activities & Games
How to write:
General fiction and Genre fiction (science fiction,
mystery, westerns, romance)
Anthologies & Collections
Essays & Poetry
Ancient & Modern History
Geography by state and country
920-929 Collections of biographies
92 Individual biographies
Over the course of twelve or thirteen years of study, children spend an
inordinate amount of time rehashing the same old stuff in science,
history, social studies, and mathematics. Each year of study adds only
a small amount of new material. Gifted students are able to handle
much greater depth, breadth, and complexity/difficulty at earlier
ages/grades than their age mates. Curriculums for homeschooled gifted
students can and should be adapted to reflect both their penchant for
"trying to drink the ocean" (breadth of subject matter) and the tendency
to pin-point focus on minutia and detail.
It can be difficult for the teaching parent to anticipate which learning
mode the gifted child will be in at any given point in time. Thus,
purchasing a canned curriculum or even graded-textbooks can be a waste of
money. The best approach is to get a curriculum handbook and work from
the scope and sequence lists in it. "Scope" is the educator's term for
the breadth of the subject matter (detail level). "Sequence" is the term
for the order in which skills and content are taught arranged by grade.
The curriculum handbook (scope and sequence) lists, by subject area, the
"skills" which are commonly taught at each grade level. Most skills are
listed for a range of grades since they are taught multiple times in
greater depth/detail (spiral curriculum).
Many textbook suppliers for homeschoolers will send you an abbreviated
scope and sequence chart for their curriculum so that you can see what
subject areas they cover at each grade level. Or, your state department
of education or local school district may provide (sell) you a copy of
their "required" curriculum. Using these scope and sequence listings you
can choose books from the public library, bookstore, or curriculum supplier
that meet your goals for your child's education. Ask the children's
librarians or children's department specialist at the bookstore to help
you find books that fit into the scope and sequence you've chosen to use.
Preschool and Kindergarten
The best curriculums are oriented towards hands-on activities at this
age. It is not necessary to start teaching reading or mathematics at
this age. Take your lead from the child's interests and desires.
The public library usually has one or two curriculum and activity
books for this age group, shelved in the 300's. Look for:
- "The Instant Curriculum"
- "Mudpies to Magnets"
- "The NEW Kindergarten"
Montessori activities are a big favorite with this age group. There are
several books which detail the teaching methods, the activities, and
give good "how to make your own" instructions for the hands-on materials.
- "Teaching Montessori In The Home: The Preschool Years"
- "Teaching Montessori In The Home: The School Years"
Both books are by Elizabeth G. Hainstock and are available in paperback.
Spend your money on arts and crafts materials rather than textbooks.
Cutting paper and coloring are important at this age since both activities
encourage muscular development in the forearm and improve hand-eye
Field trips are good ways to put science and social studies into your day.
The grocery store, the gas station, the park ... everywhere you go becomes
a learning opportunity. Use your errands as school time.
Lower Elementary (Grades 1-3)
These grades are the foundation of education. Children learn the basic
skills of literacy: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Hands on activities
are still important; books and "seated" work are introduced. How you teach
at this age really depends upon the child -- what type of learner is he
or she? Until you've got that figured out, use a variety of styles and
approaches. Engage all the senses including movement and touch.
If you decide to purchase a formal curriculum for your intellectually
gifted child, consider purchasing only grade 2 or 3. Supplement with
materials from the library as needed. Peggy Kaye's books are excellent
for use with this age group:
- "Games for Learning"
- "Games for Reading"
- "Games for Math"
Upper Elementary (Grades 4-6)
During these grades, children are typically at the stage where they are
searching for competency. Their interests are wide and varied. Thematic
units are a good choice. If you plan on purchasing a formal curriculum
for these grades, consider purchasing only grade 6. The standard
curriculum is designed in a spiral which repeats at least three months
worth of the previous year's content in each succeeding year. Gifted
children do not need the extensive review that is built into the
standard curriculum. For mathematics, move directly to algebra as
soon as the child has mastered basic arithmetic operations and can
solve word problems with help.
Notes on elementary school curricula:
Children need to learn the basics -- reading, writing, and arithmetic.
They also need to learn how to use a library and how to find information
on their own. Study skills and time management should be introduced as
soon as the child seems ready. Friendships are important but the child
should not be forced to socialize with age-mates. Peers are those with
whom we share common interests. For the gifted child, peers may be older,
younger, or a mixture of the two.
Middle School (grades 6-9)
At this level, the child can become a self-directed learner if he or she
isn't already. Thematic units are favorites at this age. (See the following
article on planning theme units.) For mathematics, continue in the
standard sequence: pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, advanced algebra &
trigonometry, functions & equations (analysis), probability & statistics,
calculus. For science, consider getting a group together for lab courses.
Foreign language study should be introduced at this point (if you haven't
started already). Concentrate on projects and other "output" which shows
mastery and accomplishment.
Textbooks for these grades can be purchased from one of the correspondence
high school programs. "The Independent Study Guide" lists hundreds of
programs for both high school and college level study. The University of
Nebraska's Independent Study High School's catalog of courses and textbooks
can be accessed online at:
High School (grades 7-12)
The typical high school program includes:
3-4 yrs. mathematics
2 yrs. foreign language
3-4 yrs. English: grammar, critical reading, literature,
research skills and writing reports
3-4 yrs. Social Studies/History including American History
3-4 yrs. Science: Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics
3-4 yrs. Physical Education/Recreation/Health
3-4 yrs. Fine Arts (Music, Drawing, "Art" Appreciation & History)
For the gifted child, there is no need to languish in high school. As soon
as he or she is ready, move into college level textbooks. For one thing,
they're easy to find (if you live near a university) and you can look at
them before you buy them. College textbooks often cover the same material
as advanced or honors level high school courses and the publishers will
sell you solutions books or teacher's editions (which cannot be purchased
for K-12 books). College catalogs often list the high school course of
study they recommend for prospective students. The general study
requirements for a bachelor's degree are also excellent guidelines for a
high school course of study for gifted students.
Online catalogs are readily available from many institutions. Try the
University of Maryland's online catalog. The general requirements are
listed under CORE courses.
Most of us are familiar with the step-by-step, single subject, one skill
at a time, method of teaching. This method of instruction, called
programmed learning, was developed to teach specific skills in a way
that could be easily monitored to insure student mastery. Intended for
use in industry and job training situations, this method of curriculum
development has made its way into mainstream general education. Under
this method of instruction, K-12 students rarely have the opportunity
or the need to use higher-order thinking skills and abstract reasoning
to integrate the diverse pieces of information that they're learning.
American literature is taught separate from the context of the historical
period in which it was written. Foreign language conversation skills
are practiced in sterile situations rather than as part of the student's
Some curriculum approaches attempt to cross subject area boundaries
using such strategies as "writing across the curriculum." But, by and
large, the current piecemeal setup prevents students from developing
the deeper understanding that comes from seeing the "big picture."
In Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning, he stresses that students
need to move through the following stages in order to "learn" the
lesson being taught:
Knowledge Acquisition (content: regurgitation of facts)
Comprehension (paraphrase or translate into another form)
Application (use the new information to solve problems)
Analysis (see interrelationships between new and prior knowledge)
Synthesis (form hypotheses or plan projects using new knowledge)
Evaluation (make judgements and form opinions based on new knowledge)
For gifted students, it is recommended that greater amounts of time be
spent on the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation steps since they seem
to easily move through the first three stages when presented with new
information or knowledge. Analysis, synthesis, and evaluation invoke
and help develop the student's creativity and critical thinking skills.
Bloom's taxonomy of learning is a useful strategy to follow when planning
thematic units. Learning activities and projects do not require lenthy
planning or setup when you allow the gifted student to exercise his or
her creative skills. Use the following keywords to encourage students to
create their own learning activities and projects which are then evaluated
as part of the thematic unit.
Knowledge Define, identify, list, name, show
Comprehension Explain, compare/contrast, estimate, in your own words
Application Build, develop, plan, solve, demonstrate
Analysis Explain why, how; develop an argument for/against
Synthesis Think of a way, Put together ..., Make up ..., Propose
a solution, What would happen if?
Evaluation Defend an opinion, Decide between options, Explain why
your solution is the best one.
The best thematic units are "works in progress." The theme develops as
the student's learning progresses. In the beginning, choosing a single
topic to study may be difficult especially if your gifted student has
a wide variety of interests. Or, you may find it difficult to broaden the
interests of a student who is pin-point focused in one subject area.
Thematic units can be adjusted to accomodate many different types of
learners and their learning styles. Theme units allow you to change
what you're doing as soon as you discover that "what you're doing isn't
History, literature, and the sciences can all be covered in a single unit
study. Start by choosing a period of history or a chapter out of a science
textbook. Or, select several literary works along the same theme. Read
the selected texts with your students. Then, move into the analysis,
synthesis, and evaluation phases as you decide how to incorporate each
"subject" area into your thematic study. The theme develops as your study
Plans for unit studies should include coverage of the basic subjects:
reading comprehension, critical reading, creative writing, library and
study skills development, and extension of the student's basic body of
knowledge. Beyond those basics -- almost anything goes. To demonstrate
mastery, the student may choose to write and perform a skit (drama),
write a report, create a work of art or build an exhibit (project).
Video presentations, tape recordings, multimedia presentations, and
world wide web pages are appropriate projects to demonstrate learning
and provide tangible evidence of "schoolwork."
There are many assessment options available for thematic unit studies.
Tests of factual knowledge are OK but don't really document the student's
learning in terms of growth in abilities and acquisition of higher
order thinking and reasoning skills. Portfolios, collections
of student work combined with teacher and student evaluations, and
either a journal or logbook are the assessment tools of choice when
your teaching strategy is thematic units.
Executing The Thematic Study With Older Students
- Pick a topic.
- Select a few good books or textbook sections.
- Have the student look for more resources. Student records information
and daily activities in a logbook or journal. Teacher assists and
directs the student to materials or sources of materials.
- Student plans a project or other activity to demonstrate learning.
- The plan and/or project is evaluated by both the teacher and student.
- Project and evaluations are entered into student's portfolio along with
the logbook or journal entries as appropriate.
Note: for younger students, the teacher plays a greater role in each of the
steps and provides examples or suggestions as well as assistance during
Some families make the decision to homeschool, from Kindergarten until
college, before their first child ever sets foot in a classroom. Others,
like mine, find themselves "starting in the middle." Our oldest, a son,
spent five years in traditional classroom settings before beginning his
homeschooling career. His sister, three years younger, was more
fortunate. Her homeschooling days started at the end of first grade.
Beginning in the middle had its advantages. Both children knew how to
read, well, and had learned the rudiments of handwriting and arithmetic.
They were used to the routine of school. They also knew what they were
giving up and leaving behind them ... a few friends, a familiar routine,
and an environment that not only did not meet their needs but was
actually harmful and destructive.
Starting in the middle means that you will probably have a lot of
repair work to do. It starts with getting rid of the built up stress.
It starts with restoring basic respect and self esteem. It starts with
letting go of the surface anger. Many parents have told me that they
could never homeschool because either they don't have the patience to
deal with their children or their children's refusal to do the chores
or other work assigned by the parent. My experience, both with my
own family and with others whom I've helped start homeschooling, has
been that both of these problems have the same roots. Children are
hellions at home after a day spent in an environment that is detrimental
to their emotional well being. The anger and hostility they dare not
express at school comes out either openly or as passive-aggressiveness
at home. In my experience, it takes at least six months of absence from
the poor fit of the classroom before the child "gets it out of his system."
The first six months of homeschooling should not be used as a trial
period. It should be used as a time of less stress. It should also be
used as a "getting to know you" period. How gifted is your child? In
what areas are her skills strong? Relatively weak? What level is she
ready for in mathematics? How well does she read? Last year's achievement
tests probably didn't even begin to measure her abilities or real
achievement. The first six months can also be used to "cut your teeth"
on teaching. There's no need to rush into anything. Limit television and
computer games to the amount allowed before you started homeschooling.
Encourage reading and journal writing. Provide a math textbook at least
two grades above the previous grade level in school and offer assistance.
(Offering "help" implies that the other person is "helpless.")
Underachievement and lack of motivation are two of the most common
problems seen in gifted children who are begin homeschooling after
having been in a traditional classroom. Once the pattern has been
established it is extremely difficult to turn these children into
self-directed learners. Once they've learned to "do the minimum" to
get by ... the underachievement habit is ingrained.
Dealing with underachieving gifted children is frustrating and can
be a source of anger in the parent. It is important to distance yourself
from the situation and recognize that this is "just another problem to
be solved." If you can, hook the child's passion. Find out what he is
interested in and either use it as the base for thematic unit studies
or as a "carrot" to bribe him for acceptable performance. Habits are not
broken. They are replaced with other, hopefully more acceptable, behaviors.
Pleasure and enjoyment are highly motivating for most human beings. Rising
self-esteem, in both parent and child, will aid in your efforts to
encourage study habits and the development of a love of learning for
Starting in the middle is difficult but it's better than the alternatives.
At least, that's the way I see it. We've been homeschooling for four
years now. It took between six and nine months for the kids to stop
picking at each other. During that period, everyone in our family
changed how we treated each other. We're still changing. Respect for other
individuals has grown in each of us. We're still working on responsibility.
It's heartening to hear other adults speak of our children in admiring
tones. They really are mature for their ages. Part of that comes from
being intellectually gifted. But most of it comes from the environment
in which they live and learn, an environment which is appropriate and
"fits" each one's needs -- to the best of our abilities as parents to
make it so.
Editor: Valorie J. King (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Return to... Hoagies' Gifted Education Page
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Copyright © 1997 by Valorie King, All Rights Reserved
Last updated July 28, 1997