It sounds like a drastic, and possibly terrifying, solution to the problem of securing
an appropriate education for exceptionally and profoundly gifted children... Nevertheless,
many parents of exceptionally and profoundly gifted children find themselves forced
into home education when the schools are unable or unwilling to provide an appropriate
education for their child.
It is far from the case, however, that home education should be seen as a final,
almost unthinkable, counsel of despair. What starts as a ‘last resort‘ can become
a joyous and life enhancing experience for both parent and child. Research indicates,
moreover, that Home Education for children of all abilities can be a highly successful
option, in which children benefit greatly from the freedom to develop their skills
at their own speed. Furthermore, ‘families valued the freedom and flexibility that
home-education brought them and many families reported not having realised that home
education would be so fulfilling and so much fun‘ (Rothermel, 2002: see below ‘What
does the research say?‘)
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient
full-time education suitable:
(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at
school or otherwise.
Section 7 of The Education Act 1996 (England and Wales)
Benefits for the exceptionally and profoundly gifted child
Far from the common ‘hot-housing’ image often evoked in the media by the concept
of home educating gifted children, home schooling can actually allow the exceptionally
or profoundly gifted child to spend less time on traditional curriculum work.
This is possible because learning at home is more time efficient, is matched more
precisely to the child‘s needs, is delivered on a one-to-one basis and can also free
the child, to a large extent, from the seemingly endless treadmill of unnecessary
repetition demanded by the school system.
With more time available, curriculum subjects can be studied in great depth, and
many more academic subjects (from anthropology to zoo management) and non-academic
activities (music, carpentry, knitting) can be pursued. There can also, importantly,
be much more time available for free play.
It is possible, therefore, to slow a child‘s progress through the traditional curriculum
while avoiding boredom and yet still enabling them to learn at their own pace – though
of course, if the child is passionately interested in a school curriculum subject
and allowed to learn at their own pace, progress is likely to be swift.
One very important additional consideration is that the needs of the twice exceptional
child (that is—a child who is both exceptionally gifted, and yet who suffers from
a learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dysgraphia) can be catered for in a much
more targeted, effective and sympathetic manner in a home educating environment.
- The tailored curriculum that these families adopted meant that they could mix
and match whatever learning and social opportunities they most valued. They could
take advantage of education discounts and visit museums, swimming pools, libraries
etc. when there were no crowds, whilst also, if they wanted, opting into home-education
get-togethers, afterschool classes and other activities where there was plenty of
opportunity to be with other children.
- Common to all families involved was their flexible approach to education and
the high level of parental attention received by the children. Children benefited
from the freedom to develop their skills at their own speed.
The study also:
- ’raises the question of why is there so much current emphasis on external provision
when this may be inferior to what parents can provide in a home-based setting.‘
Critics of this research will point out that it is based on a volunteer sample group
of children under 11, and that there is no ‘control‘ group (- nearly always impossible
in this type of research). Nonetheless, it does demonstrate that for a large number
of determined families, home education can work triumphantly, and that it is a viable
option to consider.
In a Class by Themselves “Stanford has found that the brightest homeschoolers bring
a mix of unusual experiences, special motivation and intellectual independence that
makes them a good bet to flourish on the Farm.” (ie at Stanford University, one of
the top Universities in the USA and the world)
“MIT has a long history of admitting homeschooled students, and these students are
successful and vibrant members of our community.” from MIT Associate Director of
Admissions - read more
Alex Dowty, Oxford University undergraduate, says
"University is a shock to everyone, but being home educated probably helped me settle
in more quickly than some people, who felt uncomfortable initially with the change
from more directed learning," he says. "Every week we attend a tutorial. At the end,
we are given a list of 20 books to read for the next week, which you have to get
on with. It's great, like home education but with tutorials." - read more
Gifted-home-ed-uk “If you're home educating your gifted child or considering home
education as a possible option for your family this is the group for you.”
TAGMAX, A USA based list for those homeschooling gifted children:
“Our community uses Internet communications to bring people of like minds together
to share their experiences. It has been, at times, a life-line Tagmax: part of the
TAGFAM on-line support community
Home educating gifted and talented children”
Points to consider on the decision to home educate:
- Your own temperament and your relationship with your child. Would your relationship
permit you to ‘teach‘ your child yourself, without undue friction; or would you need
to employ tutors for the more formal aspects of any curriculum you might follow?
(Note, though, that many families find relationships improve enormously when the
child is no longer in school, and that some families do not ‘teach’, but rather find
resources to help the child to teach themselves);
- The considerable sacrifice and demands upon your time that this will entail. Do
not underestimate this. You will need to be flexible, and sufficiently organised
to keep a programme of educational, sporting and social activities rolling for your
- Whether your child has already outstripped your ability to facilitate his learning.
A few children may do well with on-line or book courses, but many need subject matter
experts and/or tutors to learn from face to face (see Mentoring and tutoring);
- The level of support you will receive from close family members if you decide to
- The implications of the potential loss of one income;
- Home education does not work for everyone.
Home education is not an easy option: it requires dedication, hard work and self-belief.
It can also be lonely and isolating if measures are not taken to ensure that contact
is maintained with the outside world for both children and parents. Taking over the
responsibility for educating your child can be a source of stress and worry.
You will almost certainly need to develop a thick skin: the outside world will not
tolerate your decision easily, and there may be days when you yourself wonder whether
the struggle is worthwhile, and whether you have made a huge mistake in opting for
However, support is available through membership of home education organisations,
as well as membership of PEGY.
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” - Mark Twain.
Factors which precipitate the decision to home educate
A wide variety of factors have driven many parents of exceptionally or profoundly
gifted children to home educate their children. Some of the most common are:-
- When negotiations with individual schools and the education authority have failed
and the child continues to be provided with an inadequate education.
- When the child has become withdrawn and depressed over a period of time, and is
suffering mentally from the lack of suitable intellectual stimulation;
- When the child has ceased to wish to study or to learn at school, because of the
inappropriate education they are given.
- When the child is bullied or ostracised for their differentness, to the point where
they no longer wish to attend school.
- When the child is exhibiting untypical/anti-social behaviours at school, and/or
at home, because of their frustrations, which can lead them to be unfairly labelled
as maladjusted in some way.
What does the Research Say?
A BERA working paper, based on research by Dr Paula Rothermel at Durham University
(2002) concludes that there are real advantages to Home Education for children of
all abilities. The report‘s key findings, based on the largest survey of its kind
in the UK, involving 419 families, were that:
- Home educated children across the board performed academically far better than
their counterparts in school.
- Children who learn at home appear to develop very different skills from those
learning in school. Such children integrate easily into a variety of social settings
and are accustomed to taking responsibility within their families and to motivating
themselves in their day to day activities.
- Results from the psychosocial instruments confirm that home-educated children
were socially adept and without behavioural problems. This is a concern most often
levelled at those who home educate - but one apparently without foundation in reality
for the age-group studied.
- The term home-education is actually misleading. Home was very much a base from
which activities could be planned. There was no evidence to suggest that any families
used the home in the way that a school uses a classroom.