You are Not a Teacher

Raising a gifted child is interesting, to say the least.  Teaching a gifted child is even more interesting!  Especially if they’re twice-exceptional.   Here’s the thing: you are not a teacher when you homeschool a gifted child.  You are a guide, a mentor, an alarm clock, a chauffeur – but you are not a teacher.  That’s because gifted kids often learn in different ways than neurotypical kids, and the traditional teaching model may not work.


Wait, I didn’t mean that!

I should probably clarify that I’m not denigrating your job description or skill set as a homeschooling parent.  Nope, that’s not it.  What I’m saying is that homeschooling a gifted child is different than homeschooling a typical kiddo.  Neither good or bad, just different.

It’s an especially important distinction for new homeschoolers, who might expect to do “school at home” when they first start and find their child rebelling against it.  Your job is not to teach – your job is to guide.  It’s a big difference.  It’s a new mindset.


What is teaching?

Teaching is bestowing knowledge on someone, often in a pedagogic style of ‘sit still and listen.’  Guiding a student isn’t pedagogic at all – it’s making sure they have the resources they need, exposing them to new and interesting things they haven’t tried, and helping them move along the ladder of knowledge.  If you put yourself in a mentor mindset, it’s easier to assist your child’s learning.

Actually, I think all homeschoolers should practice this mindset, gifted or not.  Homeschoolers excel at independent learning, child-led learning, and interest-based learning.  In general, we focus on mastery of the subjects, learning “how” to learn, and honing critical thinking skills.  These are all things that gifted children literally need  in order to stay interested and challenged in the subject.


You still have to guide

I’m not saying your child is a masterfully organized individual who can learn independently while you sit back with your coffee and read.  That’s the unicorn of homeschooling – the completely self-directed learner.  Your gifted child might need assistance putting their thoughts on paper, finding resources for their latest interest, or sticking to some sort of routine or schedule.  It really depends on the kid!

In our household, we need some routine and guidance.  The Engineer isn’t reading fluently enough for me to point him to the source in the library or online and let him find his information.  He still needs me to expose him to interesting stuff and guide him.  He doesn’t need regurgitated information, or bland, shallow textbooks that tease him with a subject.


The question

The biggest tool in my arsenal is the question.  He asks tons of questions – non-stop questions that get increasingly complex – and we’ll discuss it or hunt down the information.  Then instead of quizzing him, we’ll talk about it.  I’ll ask a question – “how do you think that bird can soar without flapping his wings?”  He’ll think about it, sometimes give me an information nugget gleaned from god knows where, and delve further.

The question response I use has pushed him to do more, figure out kinks and bugs, and really learn to think critically.  It works best when I’m not tired or grumpy!


It’s really not as hard as it sounds

In order to successfully homeschool a gifted child, you have to have a different mindset.  A way of thinking.  That sounds intimidating and frustrating, but at its core you really just have to follow your child’s lead.  Let them blaze the path while you assist.  After all, haven’t you been doing that since they were born?   Homeschooling is no different – just a little more books to read and math to do.   You’re being a parent – and you’ve got this!


This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forums blog hop “Gifted Child?  Here are Our Single Best Tips.”  Click on the image or the link to go read more helpful suggestions for dealing with this crazy life of parenting a gifted child.


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  1. So true! It was something it took me a while to figure out. And the guide/ mentor thing can still look like teaching, but only if they want to learn! Funny thing: my kids retain more about our ‘chats’ than I do.


  2. Oh my gosh, I love this so much and it all rings so true! “Here’s the thing: you are not a teacher when you homeschool a gifted child. You are a guide, a mentor, an alarm clock, a chauffeur – but you are not a teacher.” <—This is by far my take away from this great article and sage advice. I can just picture a gifted child proclaiming it also, "You are not the teacher!" Thank you for such a wonderful read!


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