ERIC Identifier: ED414683
Publication Date: 1997-12-00
Author: Ensign, Jacque
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Homeschooling Gifted Students: An Introductory Guide for
Parents. ERIC Digest #543.
During the last 20 years, increasing numbers of families in the United States
have chosen to educate their children at home or outside the conventional school
environment. Current estimates range from 500,000 to 1.2 million students
(Lines, 1991, 1995; Ray, 1996). Of that number, a significant percentage of
families have chosen homeschooling as the educational option for their gifted
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
When families consider
homeschooling, there are many issues to explore.
Time commitment. Homeschooling requires an enormous time commitment by at
least one parent. However, many parents of highly gifted children are already
actively committed to their children's education. Parents find themselves trying
to squeeze in extra hours for music, dance, and art. Frequently, their evenings
are spent enriching the classroom curriculum so their children will continue to
be academically challenged. These parents claim that homeschooling is a way to
tailor their children's education to specific needs and interests at the
appropriate academic challenge level, and to create an integrated educational
environment that includes a wide range of activities.
Talk together as a family to decide if this is the appropriate choice for
you. As with any educational option, homeschooling works better for some
students and parents than for others. Some find the demands and intensity of
homeschooling to be too stressful; others love the freedom and challenge.
Resources and financial considerations. Homeschooling parents use many
resources and materials. These can become expensive, but there are ways to
defray some of the costs. Homeschooling parents can borrow from each other,
share resources, and make use of common items in the house and natural
environments for curriculum material. The public library is a rich resource for
books and videos. Many libraries offer interlibrary loans and vacation-loan
extensions to the public. The Internet offers a wealth of highly sophisticated
information, especially in the academic subject areas. A computer in the house
is an advantage, but there are other ways to gain access to the Internet; for
example, some public libraries and schools offer access. When considering
homeschooling, explore resources and materials in advance. At all levels, verify
the type of support schools will provide. If they have a gifted program, they
may provide curriculum suggestions and guidelines. Contact others who are
homeschooling through your state's homeschooling network.
Academic considerations. Homeschooling can offer increased flexibility and
academic challenge. Flexibility is particularly important since many gifted
students are uneven in their abilities. For example, a child may be several
years ahead in math, but struggling with reading or writing.
Some children excel in all areas and require academic challenges to remain
motivated in school. Many of these students sit idly, waiting for the class to
catch up (U.S. Department of Education, 1994b). A rigorous, academically
challenging curriculum offers the opportunity to insert depth and breadth. For
example, the use of primary or original sources and advanced reading material
may lead the gifted learner into critical thinking about an academic subject
area or an interdisciplinary approach to subject matter. Projects, hands-on
learning, and problem-based learning may provide interesting approaches to
Gifted homeschoolers enjoy opportunities to develop in multifaceted ways and
pursue interests without time and curriculum constraints. Individual learning,
tutorials, and small group classes are some of the options.
Social considerations. Many people have expressed concern about the social
life and potential isolation of homeschooled children. Studies of social
adjustment and self-esteem indicate that home-educated students are likely to be
socially and psychologically healthy (Montgomery, 1989; Shyers, 1992; Taylor,
1986). Homeschooled students tend to have a broader age-range of friends than
their schooled peers, which may encourage maturity and leadership skills
(Montgomery, 1989). Homeschoolers are not necessarily isolated from others of
their age; they meet and socialize with peers in their neighborhood and at
community classes and activities.
With concerted effort by families, most homeschoolers can find avenues for
social and intellectual interaction. When a student is interested in a topic,
efforts can be made to ensure that the student talks with people of various
backgrounds and viewpoints. A mentor working individually with the student may
add stimulation and challenge. Professional societies and community
organizations are a good place to start looking for people interested in
sciences such as astronomy, visual and performing arts, and music. Libraries,
museums, parks departments, historical sites, scout and sport programs, local
businesses, religious groups, and theater groups expand homeschooling programs.
Some homeschool groups have formed their own sports teams, and participate in
community leagues. Homeschoolers benefit from volunteering in agencies such as
hospitals, nature centers, museums, parks, libraries, and businesses. Legal
considerations. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, Canada, and many other
countries. Some states require that parents notify the local school district of
their intent to homeschool; others require parents to register with the state
department of education. Some permit a homeschool to register as a private
school. Many states require yearly proof of student progress. Some states have
additional requirements, such as the submission of a curriculum plan or
education requirements for parents. Except for yearly standardized testing as an
assessment of student achievement, services for homeschoolers have not been
routinely available from the states. A few states permit homeschooled students
to participate in public school classes or activities. Many state education
agencies have a homeschooling liaison to help families understand state
requirements. Federally mandated special education services may be available to
homeschooled students through the public schools.
Since states vary in their specific requirements, obtain a copy of your
state's homeschool law from your state department of education or your state
legislator's office. Local homeschool support groups are good sources of
information on complying with the local laws and regulations.
WAYS TO HOMESCHOOL
There are many methods of homeschooling;
no single method is best. Success often comes through experience, confidence,
and willingness to experiment. Many parents prefer the structure and security of
a correspondence or purchased curriculum in the first year, switching to their
own tailored program once they have developed experience and feel more
confident. Some parents prefer to use textbooks and commercial curricula; others
prefer to use a variety of resources.
Some parents opt to teach all subject areas to their children; others seek
out classes or tutorials for some or all of the subjects, especially for
homeschooled high school students. Approaches may vary with individual children
and change over time as demands and experiences alter their lives. Reading
accounts of other homeschool experiences and getting to know other homeschoolers
offers perspective, ideas, and appreciation for the many ways of homeschooling.
WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO DEVELOP OR ASSESS THE
QUALITY OF A HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM?
Testing and evaluations of subject
area competencies can be useful in planning an educational program and assessing
its outcomes. A combination of assessments normally provides the most complete
picture of a child's progress. Off-grade standardized testing and portfolio
evaluations may also be appropriate. Standardized grade-level achievement tests
may be available from your local school district or state department of
education. These tests can be used to ensure that students are keeping up with
local school district grade level competencies. Homeschooling families should
plan for objective assessment as part of the curriculum. Not only does objective
assessment document achievement, but the results should inform program planning.
To investigate the topic of assessment, contact the ERIC Clearinghouse on
Assessment and Evaluation (1-800-GO4-ERIC).
Model content and performance standards are available in many of the subject
areas. Content standards define what students should know and be able to do.
They describe the knowledge, skills, and understanding that students should have
in order to attain high levels of competency in challenging subject matter (U.S.
Department of Education, 1994a). Performance standards identify the levels of
achievement in the subject matter set out in the content standards and state how
well students demonstrate their competency in a subject (U.S. Department of
Education, 1994a). By following the basic academic standards set by the states
or the national subject area standards, parents have a rich framework from which
to develop challenging curriculum. Homeschooling resources and information on
obtaining standards is provided in ERICEC Minibibliography EB18, which is part 2
of this digest.
International, national, and regional competitions may be valuable
assessments of and incentives for achievement. Further, competitions may provide
feedback as to how the student compares with others who are interested in the
same area. Regional and national competitions can be found in most fields,
including math, science, computer programming, writing, engineering, geography,
environmental, art, music, and dance. Specific examples are included in
Homeschooling Resources (EB18). A selected list of competitions and activities
can be obtained for a fee from the National Association of Secondary School
HOW WELL DO HOMESCHOOLERS PERFORM?
One way to compare
homeschooled students with peers who attend public schools is to use
standardized achievement test scores. A study of homeschooled student scores on
standardized achievement tests shows higher scores than the general population
(National Home Education Research Institute, 1997). Galloway (1995) investigated
homeschooled graduates' potential for success in college by comparing their
performance with students from conventional schools and found insignificant
differences, except in the ACT English subtest scores. Homeschooled students
earned higher scores in that subtest.
WHAT ABOUT COLLEGE?
The later high school years should be
structured with college applications in mind. These years may be managed in a
variety of ways. Some students remain in homeschooling and receive no diploma.
Others choose to reenter public school during high school to align themselves
with peers and obtain a standard diploma. Others select a combination that will
take advantage of Advanced Placement courses or other academic and
Limited research suggests that the home educated do well in college (Sutton
& de Oliveira, 1995; Galloway, & Sutton, 1995). Furthermore,
homeschoolers may find the unique experiences and abilities gained through
homeschooling make them attractive to competitive colleges. Check with the
colleges of interest to determine if they have specific application requirements
for homeschoolers. When standard high school student transcripts are not
available, colleges may need other information to make an informed decision. SAT
scores may be given more weight, since they are a way of comparing a
homeschooler to the general college-bound population. Transcripts from community
college courses taken during high school years can be useful. Letters of
recommendation from persons who have worked with the homeschooler in tutorials,
apprenticeships, community service, and social activities may prove very
valuable. A detailed description of unique homeschool courses, in-depth
independent projects, competitions, publications, and community service
activities will help a college understand the quality of an applicant's
homeschool education and recognize the student as a competitive applicant. An
interview, when offered by a college or university, is particularly important
for homeschool applicants.
WHERE CAN FAMILIES GET INFORMATION?
This digest has an
accompanying bibliography (EB18) that provides a wide variety of resources. The
following resources and others cited in their bibliographies are another place
to start. There are many parent discussion groups on the Internet that discuss
homeschooling issues. Groups such as TAGFAM and TAG-L are listed on the ERIC EC
website http://www.cec.sped.org/gifted/gt-menu.htm>. Or, seek out a local
homeschool support group. You can find one by checking with state organizations
listed in some of the magazines and through some of the Internet sites listed in
EB 18. Other sources include libraries; state and local boards of education,
especially state or local gifted advocacy groups; La Leche League; and religious
organizations. Be sure to look for groups that match the underlying philosophy
that attracted you to homeschooling.
Galloway, R. A., & Sutton, J. P. (1995).
Home schooled and conventionally schooled high school graduates: A comparison of
aptitude for and achievement in college English. Home School Researcher, 11(1),
Galloway, R. A. (1995). Home schooled adults: Are they ready for college?
Lines, P. M. (Oct. 1991). Estimating the home schooled population. Working
Paper. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Research and
Improvement. ED 337903.
Lines, P. M. (1995). Homeschooling. ERIC EA Digest No. 95, ED381849.
Montgomery, L. R. (1989). The effect of home schooling on the leadership
skills of home schooled students. Home School Researcher, 5(1), 1-10.
National Home Education Research Institute, (1997). Strengths of their own:
Home schoolers across America: Academic achievement, family characteristics, and
longitudinal traits. Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute.
Ray, B. D. (1996). Home education research fact sheet IIb. Salem, OR:
National Home Education Research Institute.
Shyers, L. E. (1992). A comparison of social adjustment between home and
traditionally schooled students. Home School Researcher, 8(3), 1-8.
Sutton, J. P., & de Oliveira, P. (1995). Differences in critical thinking
skills among students educated in public schools, Christian schools, and home
Taylor, J. W. (June, 1986). Self-concept in home-schooling children. Home
School Researcher, 2(2), 1-3.
U.S. Department of Education (1994a). High standards for all students.
U.S. Department of Education (1994b). Prisoners of Time.
Note. The Home School Researcher is published by the National Home Education
Research Institute, P.O. Box 13939, Salem OR 97309. 513-772-9580.