Today, I’d like to welcome one of my favorite people, Shawna Wingert. Shawna is an amazing homeschool mama to two outside-of-the-box learners. I connected with Shawna early on in our homeschool journey and I am so thankful I did! I love her honesty, her openness, and her love for her boys. I am over-the-moon excited to have her on the site today… especially because she’s talking about something that so many parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children worry about, particularly those who homeschool:
What do you do when your child surpasses you academically?
(Shawna has great advice for you!)
When Your Child Is Academically Beyond You
I am not sure when it happened exactly.
On some level, I think he may have already been ahead of me in his preschool years.
At four years old, he knew every single shark in the ocean, what made them distinct from the others, their habitats, their prey and their scientific names and classifications.
It was the beginning of what was to come.
My child is academically beyond me.
Today, that same shark loving four-year-old is fourteen.
Ten years have passed.
Now, there is no denying his intellect and abilities.
There is also no denying that I have no idea what he is talking about, or what he is studying on any given day.
He tried to explain an element of astrophysics to me last week. I was a gifted child myself. I thought I would be able to follow.
I wasn’t. Not at all.
In fact, after three minutes, I started just nodding my head and murmuring, “Wow. That’s incredible.”
Yesterday, he wanted to walk me through how a computer mechanically functions.
I understood ‘motherboard’ and ‘CPU’.
After that, it was all a mix of letters and numbers that I have no desire to revisit.
My son is brilliant. He is so far beyond me academically that I am often asked how I can homeschool him, with my own apparent lack of genius.
It’s a good question, and one that I have wrestled with over the years.
Here’s how we make it work.
Providing Opportunities to Learn
Although I rarely “teach” my son anything at this point, my primary role in his education is to provide as many opportunities to continue to learn as possible.
An example is our frequent visits to the computer store near us. We stay for hours. He explores the different components, asks questions of the guys who work there, takes pictures and records notes. When we get home, he continues his research online. Eventually, he takes the next step and we head back to the computer store to purchase the parts for a new build. To date, he has built six increasing complex computer systems – all without me knowing a single thing about computer builds.
My son is not as advanced in his social and emotional development as he is intellectually. This asynchrony means I spend a large percentage of our homeschooling focused on his emotional learning. This includes mindfulness training, practicing coping strategies for anxiety, and social skills exercises. We also spend a much larger percentage than most children on life skills including basic hygiene, calendar management, executive function skills and self-advocacy. This is as much, if not more important than any of the areas my son excels in academically (truth be told, he could take the SAT today and probably score higher than I did at 17 years old). I am grateful that I can still be his “teacher” in these areas.
My son can spend his entire day focused on very adult things. He enjoys it, and it is part of how his brain works. And, there are times where it increases his stress, decreases his opportunity to interact with others, and is not completely healthy for a teenage boy.
I try and give my son opportunities to play and interact with other children doing “kid things” as much as possible. Going to the indoor go-kart race track, playing at the local pool, and inviting a friend over for an afternoon of gaming are not things he will choose to do on his own. I consider it my job to set up these types of activities and then encourage him to engage. Every single time he does, he loves it. Moreover, he goofs off, laughs and genuinely experiences childhood at its best.
I used to fear what would happen when I could no longer relate to my son intellectually.
Not anymore. The truth is, he doesn’t really want or need me to interact with him on an academic level.
He needs me to have his back.
He needs me to comfort him when he is feeling anxious.
He needs me to push him, when and where he needs it.
He needs me to be his mom.
And the good news is, I am perfectly equipped to be just that.
Love this post?
So do I!
You’re also going to want to listen to The Homeschool Sisters Podcast episode during which Kara and I chatted with Shawna. It was such a wonderful conversation and I wish I could just pull both of these women closer to New Hampshire and chat over coffee!
Also, you should know that Shawna has authored two books and they are both fantastic:
- Special Education At Home: Out-of-Box-Learning for Out-of-the-Box Learners
- Everyday Autism: An Inside Look at Parenting a Child on the Autism Spectrum
Are you parenting a gifted or twice-exceptional child?
Here are some related posts:
- Parenting Gifted? Bookmark These Helpful Resources
- Asynchronous Development and the Gifted Child
- Giftedness: To Test or Not to Test
- When it Feels Like Worry is Winning
- Academic Acceleration and Gifted Children
- Resources for Sensory Processing Disorder
Wondering if your child is gifted/2e?
Are you on the gifted/2e journey?
Are you the parent of a gifted or twice-exceptional child? Be sure to check out our series, Gifted Voices:
Now, it’s your turn. Tell us: Is your child academically beyond you? How do you make it work? Share here.