By Dr. Melanie Hayes
Ask a parent if the school provides adequate accommodation for their gifted child’s needs and you will most likely get a negative response. Ask any parent of a twice exceptional (2E) child if the schools provide adequate accommodation and you will hear a resounding, “NO!” They will ply you with horror stories of their Herculean efforts to get the schools to understand the needs of their child. They will shudder as they recall jumping through endless hoops which ended at a brick wall. They may get very emotional as they tell you how damaging the school experience has been for their child. They will most certainly tell you that, for the safety and well-being of their child, they felt there was no alternative except home schooling. After interviewing 31 families over the course of nearly two years, I can only ask myself, “Is it any wonder that the homeschooling movement is growing exponentially?”
Across the nation schools spend an average of one penny per dollar on gifted and talented education (GATE). Due to budgetary constraints and nonexistent laws, many schools have reduced their GATE programs to weekly after-school sessions or dissolved them entirely. School districts do not provide specific programs for 2E children and often focus only on the child’s disability. In many instances, the only accommodation offered is special education, which further reduces the child’s chances of receiving an appropriate education. Gifted children have very little possibility of interacting with true peers on a regular basis; 2E children who are placed in special education programs are even less likely to have opportunities for peer interaction. Most gifted and 2E kids spend their entire day in at state of mind-numbing boredom. They often quickly become disinterested in school and either tune out or drop out altogether. The wasted potential of these children is staggering; what might they achieve and contribute if they are provided an appropriate, challenging education?
Home schooling gives parents the chance to provide their children with an education that develops their full potential. The very nature of home schooling is highly supportive of the needs of gifted and 2E children. Experts on the needs of these children recommend a flexible environment that allows the children to self-select and monitor their method of approach, depth of investigation, and length of time spent on topics of interest. They also recommend access to true peers, mentors, experts, and working professionals in each child’s area of passion. These experts recognize that gifted and 2E children do not fit into any set pattern of learning and need unique environments, tools, and methodologies. They may need to work alone in a quiet room or be physically active in order to process information. They might need to work on real-life problems with appropriate professionals or study nature alone in the wild. They may need to investigate a topic for a long period of time or accelerate rapidly through many grade levels. In short, these kids need a scope of flexibility and intellectual freedom that no school can ever hope to provide.
Parents know their child better than any one else and are in a position to provide a truly individualized education. The parents I interviewed expended large amounts of time, energy, and resources to meet their child’s needs; schools cannot match that kind of attention and devotion to each individual child. Unfortunately, most school administrators do not acknowledge parent efforts and are not supportive of home schooling parents. I contacted over 40 school districts in the greater Bay Area and only one, Venture School in San Ramon Valley School District, provided a program to support home schoolers. We can’t single out school administrators for their ignorance however, the misperceptions about gifted, 2E, and home schooling run rampant among the public at large. Educating the public on those topics requires much more information that can be covered in this brief article. On the other hand, I can provide a small amount of ammunition to shoot down a few of those persistent myths about home schooling gifted kids. The following table compares public (and private) school GATE programs to home schooling. It clearly shows that home schooling provides a far superior environment for educating gifted and 2E children. Hopefully, it will help arm all of you beleaguered home schooling parents with some facts you can use to fight back.
Comparison of Public School GATE Programs and Home School Learning Environment
|GATE programs (public school)||Home School|
|Fixed time schedule||Flexible time schedule|
|Fixed/predetermined curricula||Flexible curricula|
|Limited acceleration||Unlimited acceleration|
|More automatic social opportunities||Less automatic social opportunities|
|Limited opportunities to work alone||More opportunities to work alone|
|More opportunities for group work||Less opportunities for group work|
|Generalized instruction||Individualized instruction|
|More incidents of bullying/harassment||Less incidents of bullying/harassment|
|Less opportunity to work with mentors and professionals||More opportunity to work with mentors and professionals|
|More social pressure/isolation||Less social pressure/isolation|
|Little one-on-one attention||More one-on-one attention|
|Less information/resources available||More information/resources available|
|Limited research opportunities||Unlimited research opportunities|
|More simulated learning||More real life learning|
Information for this article was obtained from a study on gifted home schoolers conducted over an 18 month period by the author.
Dr. Melanie Hayes is the Director of Big Minds Unschool, a research based elementary school designed for 2e children.