I have to first say that it’s not necessary to find curriculum specifically for gifted kids if you have a highly gifted child. But someone recently asked me a question about whether or not you should go deeper or wider when homeschooling a gifted child and what do you do about curriculum. (In other words, do you use ‘regular’ curriculum and just keep advancing grade levels. . .or do you take your time to explore grade level curriculum in depth with lots of investigation.) I think the answer depends on the family and the child, but I’ve offered some thoughts on some common problems and issues faced in specific content areas.
I know there’s a big push for teaching kids early literacy. . .and I know I go against every grain of current wisdom when I say don’t do it. For many parents, the alphabet is the first place they start and some parents, even find their children teaching themselves how to read. The dilemma comes when they are ages 8, 9 or 10 and read at a high school level but are not yet mature enough to read high school level books. However, exposing them to great literature by reading aloud will only help their language arts skills. There is plenty of time for reading for the gifted child. So what do you do if your child taught himself how to read? Certainly nurture the love of books at a young age. If your child likes to write, encourage that too. But the point is, you don’t have to find a ‘gifted curriculum’ in phonics instruction or anything like that. And to my knowledge, there are very few books with content that is grade levels ahead of its theme.
There are infinite possibilties for science but I would suggest this: go see the experts. The difference between science at home and reading at home is that there is no question as to inappropriate theme at a young age the same way there is with literature. You can skip, go back to, and/or teach scientific concepts in any order.
Who are the experts? The folks at the zoo, aquarium, hall of science or museum of natural history all offer educational outreach programs. They are grant funded most of the time and so if you can’t afford the price. . .it is very likely you can get a scholarship–you just need to ask.
As far as finding a gifted curriculum, once your child has a good base of scientific knowledge, open ended investigative curriculums are certainly out there and are made appropriate for younger children.
Unlike science, math has to be taught incrementally. You cannot multiply without understanding how to add, for example. However, like science. . .the possibilities are endless. MIT offers free shareware courses online. This means that if little junior finishes calculus in 4th grade, you still have several years to go of free MIT math courses before you run out of stuff to do.
Engineering is an often forgotten part of math as well and is worth a mention for those parents who aren’t sure where to go. My son has discovered all manner of geometric principles by exploring engineering.
So for those of you who want the structure of a curriculum, these are just a few thoughts from a mom who’s still working it out.