Homeschooling     Hot Topics     Home and Family     K-12     Education Guide    

Learning approaches for your gifted learner

6 directions to explore

 Learning approaches for your gifted learner

As a parent of a gifted learner, you know the problems involved in finding “just the right” units of study for each subject area. And you also know that gifted children are not necessarily gifted in every subject area. Choosing the proper materials for each subject can be a daunting task.

In addition, some gifted children lag behind in other developmental areas such as social skills, emotional maturity and even physical skills. It can be challenging to select the proper curriculum to meet your child’s specific needs.

It’s important to know, however, that gifted children don’t need only to do “more work” than other students; the kind of study they engage in must be different as well. The term used in the education world is “differentiated learning” and it means that just as some children are visual learners and others auditory, gifted learners need curriculum that fits their unique needs.

Here are some of the key characteristics of learning you’ll want to include in the units of study you choose for your gifted child. Gifted learners benefit from:

  • Teaching in wholes. Inquiry-based or thematic units of study that give a broad overview of a topic are readily grasped by the gifted. For instance, when learning about the game of baseball, your student would have the chance to learn the rules of the game, understand important strategies, know the nine positions and also get a chance to actually play the game. This is in opposition to many programs in which children are encouraged to memorize isolated bits of information such as statistics of famous players or a list of equipment needed to play the game. Gifted children want the whole picture, not just parts of it.

  • Material that is clearly well-written, while offering the chance to learn in depth and grapple with important issues and problems. Set individual goals for your learner. Allow him to stop and focus on a particular issue or topic of special interest. It’s important for a gifted learner to work with specific goals in mind. But flexibility is also key, because gifted learners are able to make connections between information across several subject areas.

  • A curriculum that lends itself to independent projects. Look for extension ideas that challenge the student to delve deeper into the subject. Encourage ideas for an independent extension designed by your child.

  • Real-life experiences that require problem-solving tasks. More than the average learner, the gifted thinker needs to apply learning to the real world.

  • Assuming ownership of his or her learning. This happens when higher level thinking skills are used for processing information. Skills such as synthesis when a child makes connections between different bodies of information to arrive at a new principle or generalization of facts. When problem-solving skills are in use and communication skills are taught along with subject matter, the gifted student can shine.

  • Respect for individuality. When he or she is engaged and focused on learning it’s a wonderful thing to see.

Since gifted children comprehend complex ideas quickly, learn more rapidly and in greater depth than their peers, they must be allowed to move through lessons at their own pace. They must be given the opportunity to show mastery of information and then move on. They need time to explore in-depth, manipulate ideas and draw generalizations. They need time and freedom to answer their own questions.

To modify or extend lessons there need to be changes in four major areas:

1. Content

Gifted children must be allowed to skim material they already know well and move on to new. They must be allowed to take “side trips” when a topic captures their imaginations. They may be able to work several grades ahead in their special areas of expertise.

2. Process

The gifted want to learn interesting information in a more in-depth way than other children. They may want to categorize, chart or graph related information. They may see relationships to knowledge in another field of study. They need time, materials and permission to follow a line of inquiry in an independent project of their own design. Cut and dried fill in the blank kinds of learning will bore and frustrate them.

3. Learning Environment

More than most children, the gifted need freedom to explore, hypothesize, ask difficult questions and then create their own problem-solving plan. With guidance they can go much deeper and reach levels of learning in which they synthesize, and inter-relate, information into new wholes. They need alternatives to common paper and pencil learning. Gifted children can benefit from a mentoring relationship in their special area of expertise and interest. Middle school and High school level learning can be linked to higher education institutions in the area.

4. Product Expectation

As much as possible, gifted children need to demonstrate their learning in ways most comfortable to them. That may be in detailed written reports, but more often will be in hands-on projects and real applications. They may want to respond to learning through the arts or music.

The homeschool environment has the potential to solve many problems gfted children encounter in the regular classroom. Accelerated learners can study at various grade levels according to their skills in distinct subjects. They can show understanding and mastery in a unit of study and go on to the next unit. Parents can design projects tailored to their child’s unique interests and extend learning in creative ways. Properly chosen curriculum for gifted children will reduce the stress and frustration many gifted children encounter in traditional learning environments.

There are many organizations and resources available to parents of gifted children. Take a look at the resources below.

What are higher order thinking skills?

Higher order thinking is on a level beyond memorization. It is more than restating facts. It goes on to understanding, making inferences, making connections between facts, categorizing facts and manipulating information in novel ways. It leads to applications that seek new solutions to problems. It is the basis for important learning.

Higher order thinking deals with concepts, larger “idea families,” groups of related ideas in categories such as sports, or biology. Concepts may be concrete or abstract, verbal or non-verbal or may be process concepts about the way things work such as photosynthesis in science.

Schema is a pattern of knowledge already in place in a learner’s mind. It is the body of information one has on a certain subject or area of study.

Metaphors, similes and analogies are ways to explain abstract ideas.

Visualization is the ability to think in visual images, for example mentally seeing maps or settings from a novel.

Making inferences is the ability to draw conclusions. Problem solving is a complicated process which includes making decisions based on facts, logic, using various strategies and being willing to make mistakes in the process of reaching a conclusion.

Original ideas are thoughts unique to a learner and not copied from someone else. They require creativity and imagination. Original ideas may be generated by brainstorming with others and building on another’s ideas in a group setting.

Critical Thinking is using knowledge and point of view to arrive at conclusions. Moral decisions are made in this way.

Jan Pierce is a retired teacher and freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest. She is the author of "Homegrown Readers: Simple Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Read" available online at Barnes and Noble and AmazonFind her at

More Homeschooling

  • Visit cool sculpture parks in the Hudson Valley

    These sculptures are generally huge and sure to please

    Visit fun and educational sculpture gardens in the Hudson Valley. Sculpture Parks and their gardens are a unique way for families to appreciate and enjoy art. The open spaces are wonderful for kids of all ages. Most locations offer space to roam and enable us to enjoy these unique pieces at our own pace. read more »
  • Indoor spots for teens to play

    Older kids need to have some play time too

    Teens need places to go that aren't lame and won't bore them to tears. We have the best in the Valley listed just for you. read more »
  • Everything you need to know about student loans

    Traditional ways of paying for college aren't working

    More American families are borrowing for college. At the same time, merit aid and the use of personal income and savings i falling. read more »
  • 3 ways people of all ages can make the most of International Youth Day

    Celebrate youth activists and combat ageism

    August 12 is International Youth Day, a United Nations effort to celebrate youth activists, combat ageism and help bridge gaps between generations working toward the same change. read more »
  • Everything you should to know about student loans

    Traditional ways of paying for college aren't working

    More American families are borrowing for college. At the same time, merit aid and the use of personal income and savings i falling. read more »
  • 4 ways to get involved this global volunteer month

    It's a good time to get in on the action

    Global Volunteer Month, celebrated throughout April, is a time to recognize people who actively support their communities through volunteerism and active civic engagement. It’s also a time to get in on the action. However, if you’re like many people, you may not know where to begin. read more »
  • Minimize the risk of child identity theft

    NYS Division of Consumer Protection offers advice

    Child Identity Theft is a growing problem. According to recent data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft for those under 19 years old grew 60% in three years. read more »
  • 5 reasons why your child should (and can) learn how to play chess

    A revolutionary new game that helps kids learn this game of strategy

    Chess is one of the oldest and most popular games in history, with early forms of the game dating back to the 6th century CE. The game has certainly seen a revival since the pandemic began, as people around the globe have dusted off their chess boards and even binged one of the most-watched series ever inspired by the masterful game for much-needed entertainment. read more »
  • 5 ways to get kids excited about STEM learning

    The country needs more good scientists

    The events of the past couple of years have shown how important scientists are to making the world a better and safer place. read more »
  • Keep kids learning during summer

    3 fun, easy ways

    With school out, summertime brings long, carefree days of play and fun. With a little thought and a few supplies, summer is a perfect opportunity to revitalize their innate love of learning that may be a bit squashed after a year of academic pressures, tests and schedules. read more »