Why Won’t My Gifted Kid Do His Work?

Gifted kids love to learn, right? So they must love to do their school work, too, right? Well, not exactly.

When you’re homeschooling a gifted child, you face a slew of challenges that other parents don’t. Many of them are good challenges (like finding a book with a high enough reading level and still age appropriate), but they are challenges nonetheless. Gifted kids often need different teaching strategies than other kids do, not because they are better, but simply because they learn differently.

But what about that initial question? How can a child be gifted and still reluctant to learn? It’s actually pretty easy. Gifted kids are naturally curious, but they are curious about things that interest them. They learn best when they understand the reasons for and use of what they are learning.

I use this principle with my sons regularly. Just this week, my older son was working on his Algebra. As I introduced a new lesson on using the slope-intercept formula, I took just a moment to explain to him how he might use this in the future. He wants to be an engineer or an architect. In just a few sentences, I helped him to understand why this was important for him to learn. This made sense to him, and he readily engaged in the lesson without frustration. But if I simply tell him to do something, he immediately questions why. Gifted kids always want to know why.

When you can’t easily make the reason for learning something clear to your children, it may be time to try something different. The first step is to find out what doesn’t work so that you know what changes need to be made to your instruction.

Start by exploring topics that your children are invested in. Are you including those topics in your instruction? If not, then consider how you might do that. This may be a new curriculum. It may be something very informal involving online research. Keep your options open and look for opportunities to build on your child’s interests.

Even with these strategies, gifted kids may still be unmotivated to learn. In those cases, the best place to go is directly to your children. Try to find out what is preventing them from being motivated. Is it perfectionism? Is it anxiety? Is it fear of failure? Is a different type of learning challenge getting in the way? When you talk with your gifted children about their challenges, you validate their feelings and encourage them to face them with you.

Do all you can to create a learning environment that works for your gifted child. This may not be the way you prefer to learn or teach, but it may be what works best for your child. Be flexible and find things that they do enjoy doing. Then encourage learning within those tasks.

When our children were in public school, everything was easy for them. When we started homeschooling, we were able to teach them at the level and pace that worked for them and that challenged them. This was not an easy transition. At times, we’ve had to speed up and slow down as we work our way through our curricula. This type of flexibility is vital for gifted children.


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