Homeschooling

100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids

100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids - by Gina of the Oaxacaborn Blog

Are you homeschooling a gifted / twice-exceptional (2E) child with sensory-seeking tendencies? Me, too! Let’s navigate this wild ride together. I created this mega-post for you, a huge list of 100 resources, sensory tools, educational websites, digital subscriptions, apps, games, morning time ideas and tips for homeschooling gifted and advanced learners.

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It’s a strange world, isn’t it, the cross-section of homeschooling and giftedness? In my own journey so far, I’ve experienced…

. . . a two-year-old begging to learn to write.
. . . a three-year-old announcing “I’m done with toys. Can I have a math book?”
. . . a four-year-old offering to read a bed-time story, then reading “how to prepare a slide” from the appendix of a microscope encyclopedia.
. . . a five-year-old reading 500 books in one calendar year.
. . . a six-year-old reading 500 more books the next calendar year.
. . . a seven-year-old overcome with emotion, hugging a beloved algebra textbook before reluctantly dropping it down the library book return.

You won’t find much support from the world at large for this sort of aberrant behavior; and sadly, you won’t even necessarily find that much within the homeschool community (until you find your tribe — more on that, later.) But this is my normal, and I am willing to bet that if you’re still reading this, it might be your normal, too.

Are you feeling tired, discouraged, or intimidated? I’ve been in this homeschool world for a long, long, time. I’m the child of homeschool pioneers, and I’ve been a reader since age three. And friends, you can do this.

You can homeschool your gifted child.

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→100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids

Homeschooling a gifted child is a whole different thing, isn’ t it? It’ll try your patience. It’ll test your mettle. It’ll put you at odds with the conventional homeschool community, as you, stapled to a cheetah, are wholly unable to conform to the delay-formal-academics-until-age-seven mantra.  And I’ll be real: it might even cost you friendships.

But for the gifted child — especially the twice-exceptional child — homeschooling offers an opportunity to thrive. You have the opportunity to create a personalized situation, especially designed for your child’s own quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. Spelling below grade level? Yup, you can accommodate that. Thinking mathematically far above grade level? Yup, you can accommodate that. Needs chewing gum and a wiggle seat in order to focus? Yup, you can accommodate that. You get to create your child’s own IEP and learning environment — and you don’t have to fight anyone to get the accommodations approved.

But as joyous as it can be to watch your asynchronously-developing, twice-exceptional kids bloom, it’s also exhausting. Parenting intense, gifted children — not to mention homeschooling them — takes a lot out of you. It’s a marathon, only it feels like you’re running sprint speeds all the time. (Sound familiar?)

While no two gifted kids are the same, there are definitely some common threads running through the tapestry. Weary mama stapled to a cheetah, you are not alone. 

Let’s keep going down this list of one hundred resources, books, websites, products and tips for homeschooling gifted and advanced learners.

→Best Sensory Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids

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So much of the SPD (sensory-processing disorder) information available is geared toward sensory-avoiding kids. Have you noticed this, too? But when I learned about sensory-seeking behaviors, my eyes flew wide open, and suddenly so much made sense to me. The behaviors disrupting our homeschooling day weren’t caused by a lack of focus (gifted kids often hyper-focus) but rather by a drive to seek out sensory-enriching experiences. When I started providing opportunities for sensory stimuli alongside our school tasks, everything changed. Put at ease by the sensory input she craved, my daughter was able to direct her attention — calmly! — to the task at hand. Here are the sensory-seeking tools which work best for us:

  1. Tangle Relax Therapy Fidget

This small plastic fidget is covered with rubbery nubs, and has numerous twistable joints so it can be manipulated into endless shapes. Fits easily in a pocket; a favorite!

  1. Puffy Snow Slime (DIY)

This puffy slime only keeps its volume for one day, but is relatively inexpensive to make, especially if you already have saline solution on hand. We skipped the dye.

  1. Dollar Store Cookie Sheets

Yes, cookie sheets! These are the perfect work surfaces for clay and slime messes — and for puzzles and other games with small parts. (See more tips on creating clutter-free activity centers in your homeschool.)

  1. Thinking Putty

I prefer Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty to the other silly brand. The mini 2″ tins are perfect.

  1. Water Beads

Not just for preschoolers! A couple of teaspoons of beads in a $1 plastic shoebox provide lots of soothing sensory play. Add a drop of lavender EO and grapefruit seed extract to keep the beads from getting musty.

  1. Stetro Pencil Grips

These particular pencil grips were recommended to me by an OT, and have been very effective in correcting my daughter’s grip.

  1. ARK Therapeutics Brick Stick Chew Necklace

The colors of ARK Chew pendants correlate to different levels of toughnesses, from soft to more durable. Depending on your child’s personal preference, one might work better than another. Once we bought a chew necklace — and gum presto! no more chewed and ruined shirts.

  1. PÜR Soy-Free Chewing Gum

Free of both sugar and aspartame, this gum has been a lifesaver. Lots of kids can focus so much better when chewing gum.

  1. Wiggle Seat / Balance Disk

I can’t say enough good things about wiggle seats! They’re a cross between a chair pad and an exercise ball, and allow the user to wiggle. In fact, since you inflate the balance disk to fit the person’s weight, the user has to wiggle at least a little in order to maintain balance on the chair. It’s a discreet way to get the wiggles out when you still have to be seated. When my daughter first took outside classes (at age 3 for Chinese) she took her wiggle seat with her. Game changer — and not just for kids!

  1. Foam Place Value Disks

It can be frustrating when we expect kids to immediately grasp abstract math ideas without tangible examples — why not use concrete methods first? These place value disks are so versatile.

  1. Exercise Ball

My daughter likes to read entire books while rocking or bouncing on an exercise ball.

  1. Yoga Mat

Yoga Mats can make a great surface for read-alouds, lapbooking, etc — not all school work has to be conducted at a table or desk! The texture is especially fun when layered over a plush rug. Try to choose a mat that’s OKEO-TEX certified, so it’s not off-gassing endocrine-disrupting chemicals. We found ours at Aldi!

  1. Silicone Body Brush 

Comparable to the sensory brush sold by Fun & Function. It makes a great fidget, and we’ve also had good luck diffusing meltdowns with this, too.

  1. Fuzzy Vests or Fuzzy Socks

Under the “What should the teachers know about your child?” heading of a class registration form, I once wrote “May try to pet other students’ fuzzy shirts“. True story. Sometimes, it helps to have the fuzzy shirt near.

  1. Light Covers / Light Filters / Umbrella

Have you seen the fitted fabric covers to filter harsh light in classrooms? My daughter figured this accommodation out on her own — I saw her underneath a big open umbrella in the living room, working on Chinese homework. “It’s cozy light under here, mama!”

  1. Swipe-Sequin Pillowcase

No one can resist a good flippy-sequin — they’re addicting! My daughter keeps a swipe-sequin pillow nearby when she’s doing written work on the floor — and they’re the ideal squeeze-buddy during a read-aloud, too. We got ours at Hobby Lobby; but here’s a similar swipe-sequin pillowcase.

  1. IKEA bathmat

The top side is of the Toftbo mat covered with ultra-soft nubs, and the reverse side is slightly grippy. It’s a fantastically economical sensory rug — can be used for a reading corner, chair pad, on the floor to dig toes into, or even as a tactile item to play with while listening to audiobooks. And did you know you can find IKEA items on Amazon now, too?

  1. Gel Bead Sleep Mask

Soft velour on one side, and gel beads on the other, this sensory mask can be placed in the freezer.

  1. Hot Water Bottle with Knit Cover

The hot water bottle is a classic for a reason! Comforting and calming.

  1. Rice Bag (DIY)

This can be used to provide warming sensory input, but has an added advantage over the hot water bottle because rice bags can be used as a fidget, too. The rice offers great texture (and you can add dried lavender!)

  1. Aromatherapy Roller Ball

I especially like this pre-diluted lavender roller — it’s safe for kids!

  1. A Balloon and Cornstarch (DIY)

Stress balls are so easy to make, and so satisfying to squeeze!

Shop my Gifted / 2E Homeschool Toolkit

We’re only a quarter of the way through this huge list of resources, so let’s keep going….

Continue reading “100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids”

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Homeschooling

In Defense of Fidget Spinners: How Movement Can Help Kids Who Are Wired Differently

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In Defense of Fidget Spinners

There is a lot of social media furor right now about fidget spinners. In many of these posts, people talk about how stupid fidget spinners are, and brag about how glad they are they don’t need a gadget to focus. One blog post even went so far as compare fidget spinners with the fall of civilization, and called for anyone needing special accommodations such as physical movement to “overcome this need”. (Would the author feel the same way about glasses, hearing aids, or wheelchairs? I scarcely want to ask.)

The reality is, not all learners are wired the same way. Not all students fit into a neat and tidy box of expectations. Not all students are best served by sitting at a desk. In fact, when some children are required to remain motionless in order to learn, the child’s entire capacity for focus is spent on the enormous task of sitting still, and there’s very little left over to actually absorb the information being presented.

I am not advocating for permissive parenting or defying authority. I’m not calling for kids to disrespect teachers, or saying we can’t gently train the art of sitting still. I’m saying sitting still is more than just a matter of discipline. I’m saying that sitting still is harder for some children than others, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with providing these children the appropriate tools needed to equip them to succeed at the task of sitting still.

For children who wired a certain way, the physiological need to move is overwhelming. Since my daughter was in utero, she’s been driven by a relentless need to move. When I was pregnant, ultrasound techs would gather around and giggle at the nonstop somersaults of this tiny wild child. Within five hours of birth, she lifted her head off my chest, and looked around at everyone in the room. She’s made to move. God made her to move. This is who she is.

But society does not favor the wiggly wild child. At home, I can let her run laps around the living room while letting her answer comprehension questions and math problems orally. Outside the home, though, I often need to equip her with the tools she needs to fit in. Without the proper tools, my brilliant neurodivergent daughter — who could read before pre-K, scored in the 99th percentile on every single section of the IOWA test, and is academically many grades beyond her chronological age — will sometimes rock back and forth, scoot on the ground, hang upside down, spin repeatedly on one foot, chew on her shirt, tip her chair back, or engage in any number of other behaviors generally frowned upon by society at large. Obviously, this isn’t ideal in a public setting and poses a true distraction to those around her. But by equipping her with a hands-on focus tool, these behaviors can be minimized and controlled. 

So, to allow my daughter to blend in as discreetly as possible, distract others as little as possible, and still be able to focus on the task at hand, I often provide her with the tools she needs in order to overcome her physiological need to move.  This means allowing her to chew PÜR gum or a chewable silicon pendant, place a wiggle seat/balance disk on her chair (this is an air-filled therapeutic seat pad allowing the user to discreetly rock in place), quietly twist a Tangle, manipulate a puzzle fidget, squeeze Thinking Putty — or, heaven forbid, play with something like an actual fidget spinner.

This does not make her less of  a person. This does not mean she’s lacking discipline. She still has the self-control to sit in a classroom and engage productively in the lesson, read stack and stacks of books at home (yes, sometimes while hanging upside down off the side of the couch), teach herself new songs on the piano (while standing and dancing), play with LEGO bricks (while scooting around on the floor), or consume curriculum at breakneck speed (while gently rocking side to side on her wiggle seat).

Whether young or old, child or adult, male or female, all people learn in different ways. Some people need to move, and some don’t. Some people prefer to listen to an audiobook, others would rather read. Some people need see a concept sketched out on paper in order to understand, others prefer to approach new ideas in an audio-visual way.  Everyone is wired differently — and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What’s wrong is is to ridicule therapeutic items — which have a legitimate and beneficial use for individuals wired a certain way — as pointlessly distracting toys. What’s wrong is to demean the outliers who have a legitimate need to fidget in order to focus.

Fidgeting doesn’t signal moral failure or weakness. It’s not going to trigger the downfall of civilizationIt just means some people have a little bit of wiggle. It just means some people are wired a little bit differently. And that’s okay.


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