Preschool at Home for Gifted Children
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 5, 2011
NOTE: I hate the word “average”, because all children are blessed and gifted in their own ways! I just can’t think of another word to replace it…
My advice to parents of gifted children is basically the same as my advice for parents of “average” children. These are the things I recommend:
-Provide a rich, stimulating but calm home environment. Follow the general guidelines for homepreschooling, emphasizing the 4 R’s (see tabs); remember, routine is especially important for emotionally sensitive, easily over-stimulated children.
-Provide lots of opportunities for hands-on exploration, including nature walks, simple science experiments, “field trips”, etc to make learning “real” to preschoolers.
-Provide quality, traditional toys that encourage creative thinking (Dr. Drew’s Blocks, Citi Blocks, Tegu magnetic blocks, Duplos, pattern blocks and cards etc.) When they get older, switch to Legos , Magnetix and Geomags, etc. Timberdoodle and Hearthsong carry good selections of creative, educational toys and puzzles for children of all ages and abilities.
-Introduce your preschooler to the best in art and music (looking, listening and doing.)
-Keep the amount of “seat work” short and sweet, even for gifted children. Better yet, let it be child-initiated only until age 4-5, depending on the abilities of your children. Remember that writing skills often lag behind verbal skills, so be patient.
– If your child is truly advanced academically, consider trying learning games and Montessori-style (hands-on) learning experiences to replace seat-work, or at least to supplement it.
-Consider yourself a “facilitator” of your child’s learning. Provide your children with the materials they need to learn independently.
-When you do start formally “teaching” your preschooler, remember that you don’t have to teach the things that s/he already knows, even if your child is several grade levels above his/her age level. BUT…. you may want to check and make sure s/he has fully mastered concepts (phonics, etc) before moving on. Fill in any holes, and then let them move ahead.
-Be careful to find the balance between encouraging/facilitating advanced abilities and pushing, which often results in burnout.
-Even if your child is several grade levels ahead of his/her peers, remember that it doesn’t automatically follow that you should treat him/her like an older child in every way, or that you should get frustrated if s/he doesn’t want to keep advancing academically at the moment. He’s already ahead!! Relax and enjoy the journey; learning may come in spurts.
-Remember that some preschoolers have the tendency to temporarily SLOW DOWN/almost stop practicing other skills while new skills are emerging. They seem to concentrate on one major skill at a time. Just think of babies; many previously verbal babies will become less talkative while learning to walk. Once they master walking, the babbling picks up again to its previous level. Some preschoolers tend to be like this, too, concentrating on one skill at a time. The new skill seems to consume their every thought. Even so, be sure to contact your pediatrician immediately if your child SUDDENLY loses skills altogether, dramatically regresses, or if your heart tells you “something’s wrong.”
-Encourage curiosity and a love of learning.
-Allow lots of time for creative play.
-Continue to read aloud, even to readers.
-Preschoolers can learn more than just those traditional “academic” facts (colors, letters, numbers, learning to read, math) we associate with the early years. In fact, all preschoolers, included gifted preschoolers, can learn a lot about science/nature, people and how they live (or lived in the past), holidays and traditions, art, music, poetry, love of literature, and so much more. Work on building that simple base of knowledge about the world, and the vocabulary to go with it. This is done through conversation, real-life experiences, and reading aloud.
-Remember that building vocabulary is vital for young readers; it is necessary for reading comprehension.Reading has no value to your child if he/she doesn’t understand what he reads.
-Preschoolers are capable of memorizing many facts. Many parents make the mistake of thinking this means their children are gifted. This may or may not be so. Truly gifted children differ from “average” children because they tend to understand the meaning of the facts they memorize (and often how to use those facts). Remember that knowing the facts (alphabet, letter sounds, numbers) doesn’t automatically mean children are ready for the next step. Be careful not to push your child too far ahead.
-Follow his/her lead. The goal is not to push our preschoolers, but not to hold them back, either. One of the marks of a truly gifted child, in my opinion, is that they will not allow themselves to be held back. They will push and push to learn, and often teach themselves to read, do math, etc. They will spend a lot of their free time pursuing academics. Our job is to facilitate this learning/exploration without demanding that they sit down and do hours of work sheets, just because they can.
-If your child is begging to be taught to read and you’re sure s/he is ready, go ahead and try a few short, play-based lessons. If your child enjoys the lessons and seems capable of learning to read, let him. But if your child resists or is disinterested, back off.
-Remember that there is no proven academic advantage to learning to read early, or having an academically based preschool/Kindergarten. To the contrary, studies have shown that children who are provided with a play/exploration-based preschool/Kindergarten actually do better academically throughout their lives.
Advice for Parents of Young Readers
-If your child has taught himself to read, be sure he doesn’t strain his eyes by reading for too long at a time. Give him/her frequent breaks to look away at the horizon. This can help prevent nearsightedness.
-Make sure the books you allow your child to read are not only appropriate to his/her reading ability, but to his/her social/emotional/spiritual maturity; double-check the content. Early readers should start by reading picture books, and then move up to longer picture books and short chapter books that focus on animals and family life. The goal should be to avoid mature content (too intense, scary, or complex.) See my “book list” category for ideas, as well as chapter 7 in Homepreschool and Beyond.
Finally, I’d like to remind parents of gifted children that:
-Sadly, parents of “average” children often feel threatened by gifted children. So when you share with other parents about your child, be sensitive to the fact that some of them might feel that you are bragging or implying that their child should have the same abilities as yours…even if that is not your intent. Bear this in mind and try to be especially tactful and understanding of others.
-Don’t assume that ALL your children will be gifted in the same areas/ways
-Don’t assume that because your child is gifted, everything will come easily to him/her. As I stated in my previous post, some children are gifted in only one area; others are gifted in one or more areas but have learning problems in others, and so on. Each child is unique and so the variations are endless.
-Don’t assume that because your child is advanced now, s/he will always be advanced.
-Be sure to teach your children that their abilities and talents are a gift from God. Remind your children hat God has a plan for their lives.
-Especially gifted children may have tendencies towards arguing with adults or correcting them. Each family will have to deal with this in their own way (it may be a discipline issue.)
-Remember that academics are only a small part of life. Relationships (with God and family) are the most important thing in the life of your child; keep them the main thing. Don’t “overlook the forest for the trees.” Don’t concentrate so much on academics that you over look activities that are important/developmentally appropriate for your child’s age. Even gifted preschoolers need lots of time to play and explore, make messy art, sing, do finger plays, dress-up, play games, etc, etc. See “Goals of Homepreschool” for more.
© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.