By Jennifer Duncan

Raising and teaching gifted children is an amazingly fun challenge, but it is a challenge. Something that I have learned over the past few decades is that often, the best way to teach a gifted child is to allow them to teach you.

That may sound counterintuitive – aren’t we supposed to be the teachers? Yes, but allowing your child to teach you, and allowing yourself to learn from them, can actually have a lot of benefits.

There are several ways in which your child can teach you. Here are the two that I have found work well!


Teaching as a Learning Tool
One of the hardest things about teaching a gifted child is that they tend to learn extremely quickly, and they like to dig deep. This can get exhausting, but it can also stump the most dedicated teacher. How do you teach a ten-year-old who has already surpassed you in some subjects?

This question comes from personal experience.

My son surpassed me in math and science when he was ten, and in other subjects a few years after that. At that point, I had two choices. I could either give up on teaching him and turn him over to someone else, or I could get creative and create an environment in which he could learn.

I chose the latter.

Because I could no longer be the instructor for those subjects, I decided to be transparent with my son. I told him that if he would be open and honest with me about what and how he wanted to learn, I would keep him supplied with resources. Instead of being his instructor, I would be his fellow student – I would learn along with him.

Instead of evaluating him through tests, I studied along with him and allowed him to teach me what he learned. If he could explain it in ways that made perfect sense to me, I knew that he had a good understanding of the material.

Ten years later, we still work with this system, which brings me to the next benefit.


Teaching Your Gifted Child to Understand Others
Most gifted children are aware that they think, perceive, and learn in ways that are completely different from what is considered “standard” or “normal.” They may not be aware of what the “standard” or “normal” ways of learning actually are, but they know that they think differently.

As they get older though, this can present quite a challenge. If they think, process, and communicate in completely different ways from those around them, how will other people be able to understand them?

This is a real issue that many gifted children face. Often, the best way to help them overcome it is to be an open and honest (but compassionate) sounding board.

My son, who is profoundly gifted and twice exceptional, realized around age 8 or 9 that many people did not understand him. Kids his age did not understand why he wasn’t interested in the games or shows that they were. Instructors and leaders had a hard time with the fact that he often knew more about their subject matter than they did.

Many gifted children respond to this by simply hiding behind a “standard” mask, refusing to let people hear their ideas or see their creativity. Sadly, this is difficult to fully prevent, but it can be mitigated.

When your child knows that you really see them, even when they are awkward or speak like someone far older than they are, they will be more willing to open up. It may take quite a bit of practice before they are willing to do so to the world at large, but allowing them to be real, open, and excited with you can solve a number of problems.

First, it allows them to honestly gauge how effectively they are communicating with others (i.e., with you). Often, when my son is working on a paper, a devotion, or something else he wants to teach, he will talk it through with me. He knows that if I’m lost, there is no chance that other people will understand. If I track with him all the way, however, he knows that it’s good to go.

Second, being an honest sounding board for your child allows them to try new things and present new ideas in a safe way. Because they don’t have to worry that you will reject them if you don’t understand their idea, they have the freedom to dig in and work through it. Once they do, they will often have the confidence to then offer that idea to others.


Allowing Your Child to Teach and Grow
When your child thinks and learns in nonstandard ways, it can be difficult to find opportunities for them to learn and grow. Allowing them to teach you and allowing yourself to learn from them can bring many of these opportunities to light!

As they grow, they will find many ways in which to share their gifts, their creativity, and their abilities with others. Simply giving them the tools, confidence, and support they need can make all the difference!



Did you enjoy this article?

Consider supporting the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool

Donate Today


By Jen Duncan

A lot of families like to add learning activities to their vacations, which is something I recommend. We have not taken many vacations, so I found that difficult to do. However, my son has had many opportunities to travel, and this has been a huge part of his learning.

Learning Through Travel When Possible
When he was in elementary school, I was a curriculum representative and speaker at homeschool conventions across the country. Each year, from April to August, we traveled almost every weekend. One weekend we might be in Kansas City, while the next we were in North Carolina.

While this was a crazy schedule to keep and we put a lot of miles on our SUV, we loved it. One of the huge benefits of all of that travel was the learning that went along with it.

Around the time he entered junior high, we had to step back from our convention schedule for medical reasons. He suddenly started manifesting symptoms from an autoimmune disorder that we were unaware he suffered from. Because these disorders are notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat, it wasn’t a quick process. Needless to say, his medical needs took precedence.

Within a few years, however, his health started to improve and he learned to take the necessary steps to manage his health. When he was well again, one of the things that brought him the most joy and fulfillment was being able to travel in order to serve.

For the past six years, he has been given the opportunity to travel both around the country and around the world to serve in many capacities. As I write this post, he is in Mexico serving with a missionary family – and loving every minute of it!

Learning and Serving Through Travel
The travel itself has been both an adventure and a blessing, but what has really surprised me is how much he learns with each and every trip.

Through his participation with Generation Joshua, my son travels several times per year to volunteer for political campaigns in various states. This is something he loves to do and finds a lot of value in. This experience gives him an interesting view of how people in different parts of the country think and express themselves. Talking to people in Kentucky about a political candidate is much different than doing so in Wisconsin.This helps him to understand people on many different levels. For gifted and asynchronous learners, this is a huge benefit!

Traveling to serve also helps him effectively learn life and leadership skills. He is responsible not only to motivate himself and keep himself on schedule but to keep his team motivated and on track.

It’s one thing to read about skills in a book; it’s another to actually practice them in real life. Doing so through his work with Generation Joshua allows him room to learn these skills with a bit of a safety net. He has room to succeed and fail, room to learn, but someone to catch and guide him if he gets too far off track.

These are things that I, as his mom, simply can’t teach him in the way that they can. Somehow, being in a radically different environment helps cement those skills.

Opening Worlds Through International Learning and Travel
Something that becomes evident very early on with our gifted learners is that they want to take on the world. They each do it in their own way, but the desire is often there.

I have found that my son often learns best when I allow him to literally “take on the world!”

He started doing this at a fairly young age by raising money to send his friends on mission trips. For medical reasons, he couldn’t travel internationally until he was 16 or 17, but he could send his friends. By doing so, he learned a lot about what it really means to serve.

Once he had the medical release, he discovered that the world really is his classroom. His first international trip was to western Turkey, on a study tour with his university. He had the amazing opportunity to take his Book of Acts class in Asia Minor!

Since then, my son has traveled each year to both Mexico and the Philippines for missions work. Each time, he has learned so much that I never would have thought to teach him! Of course, he learns about foods that he probably wouldn’t otherwise try (like durian and balut), but he also learns about the amazing nuances of other cultures. He gets to witness, firsthand, why other cultures think the way they do, where their traditions and religious beliefs stem from. In many ways, he also comes to understand their political and philosophical beliefs as well as their sense of patriotism.

Living in a society as polarized as ours, this is essential to understand.

On a more practical note, he learns life skills in ways that I don’t have the ability to teach. He can navigate airports in Asia, shop at a corner market in Mexico, and find his way around the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

But he is also learning what it takes to live on his own and schedule the little details of his day in a way that gives him freedom, but also safety. He is currently learning the ropes of having his own apartment while living just upstairs from the oldest son of the family he’s serving with. He is figuring out independence while having a safety net that isn’t Mom and Dad.

Is Learning Through Travel Right for Your Child?
Learning through travel isn’t the right choice for every teen or college student, but for many gifted learners, it is an incredible tool. These kids think and process in such different ways that being outside their “normal” can be the most effective way of learning.

It might just be worth looking into for your student! If you have any questions, I’d be glad to help – just comment below!



Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today



By Jen Duncan

Our gifted kids often keep us on our toes with how quickly they absorb and apply information. However, it can also be very difficult for them to pick up on some things, such as understanding how to show compassion to others.

This usually isn’t because they lack these qualities. Rather, it is because like everything else, they simply see them differently.

Gifted kids tend to be incredibly perceptive, so they really do see when others are in need of a compassionate touch or an encouraging word. Honestly, they probably see it before many of the rest of us do.

However, they also tend to be perfectionists and to hold themselves to a very high level.

I have found while working with my son and other gifted children, that this usually skews how they show these traits. We can help them with this difference once we recognize the need.

Compassion in Gifted Kids and Teens

Because gifted kids tend to be intense and straight-forward, they are often seen as lacking compassion. Often, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

However, they will often show this trait in unexpected ways.

For instance, my profoundly gifted son found it difficult to “fit in” at church for several years, simply because he was on a completely different level emotionally and academically than other kids his age.

When they would complain about not getting the newest cell phone or having to finish a hard assignment, his reaction was often along the lines of, “Suck it up. It’s really not that bad.”

At times, they thought that he couldn’t sympathize with them – and at times, they were right.

However, he also volunteered every week for over a year to be a one-on-one aide for a young autistic boy so that his parents could attend church. He made sure to have at least three identical “Lightning McQueen” toy cars with him every week, since this was the boy’s favorite toy.

He patiently allowed the boy to teach him the same level of “Angry Birds” every Sunday morning. Each week, he went through the exact same routine on the playset with his young charge while the rest of the class listened to the Bible story.

When the boy needed to walk up and down the halls, my son was right at his side.

When he hid under a chair during a meltdown, my son talked him down and convinced him to play again.

When paid staff and trained teachers tried to get him to take a break, his answer was “no.” Whenever this boy was at church, he would be available. When they asked him the reason, his answer was simple.

“As long as I’m around, he’ll never have to hear someone say, ‘I don’t have time for you.’”

Needless to say, his answer floored them, and they absorbed an unexpected lesson in compassion.

Compassion Comes in Different Forms
In our society, we are often told that we can show compassion by accepting others just as they are – faults and all. Unfortunately, this has brought us to a place where we are also told that we shouldn’t grow.

Gifted kids and teens can show us a different perspective.

Something that raising and working with gifted kids has taught me is that sometimes, prioritizing feelings above growth isn’t compassionate. Sometimes, it’s simply convenient. But is that what we’re really called to do?

Many gifted kids seem to hate to receive encouragement; this really isn’t the case, though, they just don’t like to receive easy encouragement. There are a lot of things that they can do well with very little effort – and if they haven’t put the effort in, the last thing they want to hear is that they did a ‘great job.’

When gifted children put a lot of effort into something and finally succeed, they will beam through every moment of encouragement they hear. They know they earned it, and they’re proud of what they’ve achieved.

When they work with others, gifted kids and teens tend to show compassion and encouragement with the same expectation.

This can be tricky for them to navigate, and it’s often where we can step in to help. Not by being “helicopter moms” or doing it for them, but by being an honest sounding board.

Gifted people know that they see things differently from the rest of us. That usually doesn’t come as much of a surprise to them. However, they don’t always understand how their behaviors or choices are perceived. Talking openly and honestly with them can help quite a bit.

What is the motivation for their expectations and actions? Do the people they’re working with understand what’s going on and why? What is their end goal for those they’re working with? Are the steps they’ve decided on likely to lead to that goal?

Simply being willing to explain how others may view their actions can help our gifted kids and teens avoid the pitfalls of being seen as lacking compassion. That, in turn, can help them connect with and influence others in amazing ways.

Parenting and teaching kids who think on very different levels is by no means easy, but it is worth it in so many ways. Being there to “translate” how others perceive things is a necessary part of that!

What tips have you learned for helping gifted kids show compassion to others? Comment below – I would love to hear them!



Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today



By Jen Duncan

January brings a lot of welcome habits: decluttering, organizing, and mid-year homeschool evaluations.


Our family enjoys this time of year, but mid-year evaluations have not worked well for us. If I waited until January to evaluate and tweak our homeschool, it would take me until June. Meanwhile, my son would lose his mind from sheer boredom and lack of challenge.


When you homeschool a child who may go through three years of material each school year, you have to change your mindset. Instead of evaluating and tweaking a couple of times a year, you have to do it more often. Constantly, even. How do you do that without losing your mind? After 14 years of doing this, I’ve got some tips for you!


Keep a Flexible Mindset

Often, we fall into the mindset that there is only one valid way to educate our children. This is not because it’s true, but because it’s what we know and see. We might believe that a specific schedule or the scope and sequence in the teacher’s manual is the one true path to take. Honestly, though, this just isn’t true.


That schedule which we all know and pretend to love, the scope and sequence that was carefully designed. They are simply tools. They are there to give you a baseline to work from so that you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel.


If they happen to work for you, fantastic! That is one less thing that you have to focus on.


For most families of gifted and twice-exceptional children though, these curriculums simply don’t work. They were not written with our children in mind.



Let Your Child Set the Pace

As the child of two teachers, I thought homeschooling would be easy. I knew how lesson plans and classroom schedules worked, and if I could help tutor a classroom of 20+ 8-year-olds, surely I could handle planning and teaching my own child.


I quickly learned that homeschooling is completely different from teaching or tutoring in a classroom. I also learned that homeschooling an atypical child requires a completely different set of “rules.” No matter how often I tried to plan ahead, my son worked on his own schedule. Eventually, I learned to let him do so.


Gifted and 2E children have their own way of doing things, and it often is not a way that makes sense to the rest of us. It is, however, the way that makes the most sense to them. When you are educating and parenting a gifted or 2E child, you really don’t have to motivate your child to learn. They will do that all by themselves. It is your job to guide them, to be their sounding board, and to keep them supplied with challenging, satisfying materials.


In this case, tailoring a gifted child’s education often does not mean planning a detailed schedule that will be followed to the tee. Rather, it means having a lot of things available for your child to dig into and the patience to deal with their intensity and constant change.


Instead of trying to control your child’s education, you get to go along for the ride. And instead of setting the pace, you are there to make small adjustments as they are needed.


Think of it like driving a race car: you can’t make huge, sudden adjustments because the car is going too fast. Rather, you make constant small adjustments, keeping the car moving along its path.



Keep Communication Open

Something that I came to realize is that I cannot do this on my own. My son has an amazing mind, but it is one that works very differently than mine. If I am going to guide him and educate him, I need to keep a solid line of communication open with him.


For me, this meant admitting, early on, that I am not perfect. I am not the “all-knowing mommy.” If I give him something that does not make sense to him, it’s not on purpose. It’s because I honestly thought it would work. If it doesn’t, for any reason, I need him to be willing to tell me that. In order for this to happen, he needs to know that I’m not going to take it personally. Both of us have to be willing to open up and help each other.


This is a system that we set in place when my son was about 8 years old, and it is one that has served us well for over a decade. Even in college, he will come to me to discuss assignments and systems that don’t make sense to him so that I can help him find ways to navigate them.


How have you handled evaluations and tweaks in your homeschool? Have you found a system that works, or are you still looking? Share with us today what is working for you or where you need help in finding resources.



Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today