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

Nurturing Child-Led Passions in Gifted Kids with Supplemental Science and Technology Homeschool Curriculum

Nurturing Child-Led Passions in Gifted Kids with Supplemental Science and Technology Homeschool CurriculumOne of the questions I am asked most often in connection with nurturing gifted learning is as follows: “How do you structure your days? How do you balance child-led learning and formal instruction?”

First of all, it’s not an either-or dichotomy. You don’t have to choose between one and the other. Structured academics and child-directed exploration are not mutually exclusive. Free play and formal lessons can co-exist in harmony within the same homeschool — and yes, even within the same day.

How to Structure Your Homeschool Day to Balance Child-Led Learning with Formal Lessons

I’m a second-generation homeschooler.  My brothers and I were all (excellently) educated at home from preschool right on through high school. Our days as kids were set up in much the same way I set up my own homeschool days today, in two distinct yet complementary tiers. The first tier to our day was highly structured, while the second tier was more open-ended. In the first half of the day, we

  • completed necessary daily chores, and
  • completed required school assignments.

But as soon we our required work was completed, we were free to begin the second tier of the day, in which we

  • launched headlong into own passion-led projects.

Talk about not only excellent motivation to finish your chores and schoolwork, but also a fantastic model mirroring real-world reality!

During our child-directed free time, my brothers and I

  • pursued our own interests,
  • experimented,
  • created, and
  • explored.

Today, with my own voracious learner, I use this same two-tiered structure. Why not? I already know it works.

Child-Led Homeschool Projects Can Foreshadow Future Careers

Looking back, I see that projects we chose for our free time were a foreshadowing of the future. The blown fuses and circuits of childhood led to engineering and tech specialist careers in adulthood, for example. And the self-discipline, motivation, and perseverance we developed from having to complete our required work before anything else has served my brothers and I incredibly well in our adult lives.

Of course, the projects we came up with weren’t always successful. We figured out how to run the microwave with the door open. We coated our microscope with a paste we invented, then let it sit for a week. (Lesson learned: borax-salt paste is highly corrosive.) We attempted to power a homemade Bunsen burner with rubbing alcohol. There were plenty of other, more…productive activities, but those are some of the most memorable.

In retrospect, I realize how many incredible resources were at our disposal. Our parents made sure we had the resources to explore, tinker, create, and experiment. We always had something creative to do.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was compensated for my time in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on a Homeschool Buyers Co-op link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. 

Best Place to Buy Supplement Science and Technology Homeschool Curriculum to Nurture Gifted Kids

As a second-generation homeschooler, I’m in awe just how many educational resources and curriculum supplements are available to homeschoolers now. It’s truly remarkable, especially compared to what was available in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Convention halls are overflowing; and, to be honest, a little overwhelming.

But thanks to the internet and online shopping, you don’t have to wait until convention season — or navigate a crowded vendor hall — to explore curriculum supplements. The Homeschool Buyers Co-op is a particularly excellent place to shop for homeschool resources.  I always order our subscription of WORLDkids magazine from the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

Don’t let the word “co-op” scare you. It simply means thousands of homeschool families have joined together to negotiate lower-priced group-buys on some of the very best homeschool curriculum on the market. And you don’t have to do a thing to qualify for discounted rates on top homeschool resources, other than create a FREE account to join the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

Top Science and Technology Resources for Gifted Kids, from the Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Did you catch my Stapled to a Cheetah: Keeping Up With a Profoundly Gifted Kiddo interview with Colleen Kessler on her new podcast Raising Lifelong Learners? During the podcast, we chat about my daughter going through three full science curriculums in a single school semester. Three. If you, too, are stapled to a cheetah, your kids are likely eating through science resources faster than you can obtain them.

Thankfully, the Homeschool Buyers Co-op has an award-winning selection of science and technology products, including core science curriculum and supplements, coding and programming courses, hands-on experimentation, and more. (Plus, you can save up to 95% on science resources — really!)

After scrolling through the awesome selections for a while, I came up with the following science and tech wishlist:

CodeMonkey

What’s not to love about a name like CodeMonkey? When my family moved to America in 1991, a beloved great uncle took it upon himself to teach my middle brother and I how to use a computer. (This was back when orange and green were the compy colors du jour, and you could lose your mouse pointer off the edge of the screen if you weren’t careful.) Our fascination with how computer programs actually worked took off, and in no time we were opening the source code of floppy disc computer games, and editing the characters’ names to our own, changing the screen colors, adjusting game play, and more. (Remember QBasic Gorillas? We loved editing the Gorilla.Bas code almost as much as we loved entering the correct velocity and angles to play the game.)

Because I’m so nostalgic about Gorillas, CodeMonkey — an online programming curriculum for grades 3-12 — a caught my eye. (There’s no QBasic, but there is CoffeeScript.) In CodeMonkey, kids learn computer programming concepts by systematically going through a series of 35 lessons containing over 250 challenges — and then create a computer game of their own. Why CodeMonkey and not another programming resource? There’s no drag-and-drop coding here!

Learn more about CodeMonkey at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Britannica School Encyclopedia

By the mid-1990s, computer technology had grown utterly unrecognizable from the green-and-orange pixels and blinking command prompts of the decade’s  beginning; software became powerful it was able to run actual video clips. Enter Encarta97, the best multimedia compendium of information a CD-ROM could hold. It was the ultimate motherlode of all singing, talking, video-playing entertainment, and one of the most prized possessions my brothers and I owned.

I’ve often wished for an updated version of this kid-friendly encyclopedia, something which would offer more targeted results than a wide-open Google search. Britannica School might just be the answer. This Internet-powered digital encyclopedia offers “thousands upon thousands of searchable encyclopedia and journal articles, images, videos, audios, primary source documents, detailed maps, editor-recommended Web sites, learning games, a world atlas, Merriam-Webster dictionary in English and Spanish, and a wealth of how-to research tools.”[1]

Sounds an awful lot like my beloved Encarta (RIP).

Learn more about Britannica School at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Brock Magiscope

There are about thirty million different microscopes out there, right? How on earth do you choose the right one? Most of the really high-quality ‘scopes are designed for careful, prepared-slide use, generally by high-school kids. And many of the sturdy models for rough-and-tumble use have low-quality lenses and poor magnification, which just leads to frustration.

The gorgeous American-made Brock Magiscope is at the very top of my wishlist. This field-ready product has been around for years, and is tried, true, and tested. (In fact, its first trial run was years ago at the interactive Orlando Science Center, one of our top destinations here!) My absolutely favorite feature of the Magiscope, other than the rugged brass construction? The eyepiece comes off, so you can use it to explore all kinds of surfaces, not just microscope slides.

Pro tip: don’t cover it with a proprietary borax-and-salt paste, like my brothers and I did to our own microscope. Gulp.

Learn more about the Brock Magiscope at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Bright Ideas Press

Not all curriculum from Homeschool Buyers Co-op is digital; the Christian Kids Explore series published by Bright Ideas Press is one of many wonderful print resources available at the co-op.

While my middle brother once terrified our whole family years ago by going fishing during a tornado (true story), our own little family stayed in during our recent Hurricane Irma adventure.  In true homeschool-kid fashion, my daughter lugged around her huge copy of Christian Kids Explore…Earth and Space by Bright Ideas Press the entire time. The section on hurricanes was definitely dog-eared by the time Irma moved on.

The Christian Kids Explore books are sizable volumes, written in a friendly and approachable narrative voice. They’re just full of hands-on activities, too. I love how these books encourage students to annotate, take notes, and really take charge of their science education — even the illustrations can be colored!

Learn more about Bright Ideas Press at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Ocean First Education

You already know my brothers and I ran the microwave with the door open. We also drove a lawn tractor up a tree (strange, but true). Well, more recently, my daughter continued to boogie board through a swarm of stinging jellyfish, only stopping periodically to shake them off her legs. Phew. The warm waves of the Atlantic might attract starry-eyed tourists by the droves, but warm water also means more jellyfish — and increased hurricane activity.

Marine biology can be a tricky subject for homeschoolers to tackle, especially if you don’t have access to seaside education centers. (Although even if you do, there’s always more to learn.) Ocean First Education offers a number of discounted courses through Homeschool Buyers Co-op, including Marine Ecology, The Truth About Sharks, Caribbean Fish Identification, and more. These ocean literacy courses are ideal for grades 6-12. Best of all? There are no stinging jellyfish anywhere in sight.

Learn more about Ocean First Education at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

My wishlist only highlights a handful of the incredible science and technology homeschool curriculum available from Homeschool Buyers Co-op. Click through to check out other discounted options for core science curriculum  and supplemental science resources, too.

(Not looking for science? The co-op offers great choices for

Join the Homeschool Buyers Co-op today, and see what deals you can nab.

What resources do you need help finding, as you motivate and nurture your own gifted learner? Let me know in the comments below!