What does it mean to write curriculum for gifted learners?
At Moving Beyond the Page we design our curriculum with gifted learners in mind.
- What does this even mean?
- And what if your child is not gifted?
- Can she still use Moving Beyond the Page?
In this article, we will explore various strategies that work well with gifted learners. We will also show that all children can benefit from our curriculum. Strategies that work for gifted learners work for all learners. You just need to know what you are getting into and find the right level to meet your child's needs.
Don't all parents think their child is gifted? Contrary to popular opinion, we have found that most parents have a really good intuition about whether their child is gifted or not. This is especially true when a family has multiple children or a close-knit extended family. While it is not true for everybody, we have found that most homeschool parents we have talked to are a good judge of their children's strengths and weaknesses.
What Is a Curriculum for Gifted Learners?
Pace and Degree of Difficulty
When most people think of a curriculum for gifted learners, two things spring to mind:
- moving more rapidly through content and
- covering more challenging topics.
While these two elements don't tell the whole story, they are a great place to start, and we implement both of them. Our curriculum covers topics thoroughly, but we often tend to do so quickly, and whether it is the reading level, the writing level, or the content of our science and social studies, our curriculum expects that children will be ready for content at the upper end of what is generally expected from them.
This is why we use age ranges instead of grades for our curriculum levels.
For example, a gifted seven year-old that is entering the second grade may be ready to read simple chapter books and learn how to write paragraphs. This child is going to love the Age 7-9 level with its meaningful books and challenging assignments. Most 2nd graders, however, are better placed in the Age 6-8 level, where the challenge is more typical for their age. One key to being successful with Moving Beyond the Page is to choose the right age level. This is true whether your child is gifted or not.
It is easy to understand that many gifted learners will move more rapidly through their curriculum, but sometimes the opposite is needed. Gifted learners often have a huge appetite to understand, know, and explore. Doing this effectively can require slowing down and spending more time on a topic or project. Moving Beyond the Page provides many opportunities for this type of in-depth exploration. Sometimes it will be prescribed in the curriculum itself, but other times the curriculum will raise questions that a bright child just can't leave unanswered. In these situations, you may need to take time to follow their lead and engage in some exploration and research to learn more.
A mom from Alaska gave a very high compliment of our curriculum. She commented that there so many great ideas covered each day within Moving Beyond the Page that the family's dinner conversations usually revolve around the topics and ideas that their child explored that day. Gifted students are often unable to just let interesting ideas go.
In addition to offering time for exploration, our curriculum also presents learning experiences that are organized by concepts, principles, and application rather than by facts. We continually reinforce the applicability of our curriculum to a child's life. Our activities and projects require students to spend time grappling with topics and ideas, proposing solutions, and working through meaningful problems. A traditional curriculum will often lack the depth and enrichment that all students, whether gifted or not, will benefit from.
Opportunities to Fail
Many gifted children never experience failure as they make their way through school. They are expected by others to make an "A" on every assignment, and they expect the same of themselves. This works out well, because they typically make the grade they are looking for without even a struggle.
On the surface, this may sound great, but how will this student respond in high school or college when they are presented with a high-risk challenge? Many gifted students will struggle with this new task because they have not learned to persevere when challenged, and they may even feel like their image as a smart kid is threatened.
A curriculum for gifted children will invite children to take risks, make mistakes, and correct those mistakes — all while providing the support needed to succeed in doing so. Students need to grapple with ideas and explain nuances. They need to work on projects that don't have a single right answer but rather require the student to design and create something new. These types of activities will help all children develop the skills needed to work hard and persevere. There will be small failures along the way, but students will learn the value of continually getting better and trying harder.
Less Review, More New Material
Gifted children need less review time than many of their peers. When presented with a topic, they typically understand concepts and ideas more quickly, and they don't need to spend lots of time reviewing. Once they have demonstrated competency on a topic, it is time to move on to something else. Review sheets that cover material they have already mastered will not only be a frustration, but this extra busy work also has the potential to make a gifted learner not want to engage in school work. Many parents find their bright children in this downward cycle of boring repetitive work and bright students turning off to learning.
Gifted learners just don't need as much review.
Whether your child is gifted or not, when you are using Moving Beyond the Page, it is important that you evaluate your child's understanding before moving on to new lessons and new units. We do cycle back to topics in future years, but there is often not a lot in the way of just standard everyday review built into the lessons. This is great for most gifted learners, and it is fine for any learner as long as you are aware and can adjust your teaching strategies accordingly.
Choosing Moving Beyond the Page for Your Homeschooler
Whether your child is gifted or not, the strategies used within Moving Beyond the Page will be beneficial. This is because a lot of what we do is just common sense. We believe that all children should be stretched and challenged each day. Instead of being evaluated in relation to their peers, or even to an answer key, children should be evaluated in terms of how their work today compares to what they did yesterday. This is the measure of progress and growth that will be most beneficial for every child.
Advanced learners shouldn't have to wait for their curriculum to catch up with them if they already understand a topic. Their curriculum should be propelling them forward at a pace they find both comfortable and exhilarating. Students should also have opportunities for
- thinking through big ideas,
- learning to communicate with clarity and passion, and
- developing projects that require more than following the directions at the top of the page.
With Moving Beyond the Page, students will learn at their pace, wrestle with interesting topics, risk failure on a regular basis, and think deeply about the world. This is an educational approach that is necessary if your child is gifted, but still beneficial if your child is not.