Has it happened to you? You buy curriculum that is supposed to last through the whole school year and within a few months your precocious kindergartener finishes it.
How Fast is Too Fast?
It is one thing for your teen to advance through curriculum quickly, but it is quite another when your child is five or six years old.
Learning is like an ebb and flow. It has times that it peaks and there are times that a child may have to slow down to grasp a concept.
For example, my oldest son was advanced in math from the very first time I started teaching him math. I was concerned and wondered if I should slow him down. I did not and followed his lead.
My son continued on through to high school at an advanced pace in math and it is still one of his strongest subjects. There were times when he would take several days on one lesson or concept after having spent a week doing three or more lessons each day. I didn’t push him at that advanced pace, he wanted to keep doing more.
I learned a lot from watching him as he eagerly worked each day.
I learned that I didn’t have to be concerned if he wanted to do two or more lessons a day because he would slow down when he needed to.
My job was to be there to guide him when he got frustrated or needed to slow down to learn a concept that he was not grasping.
Finding the Balance Between Frustration and Fast Learners
Looking back now that my second son too has finished high school and my third son is doing high school level work, I have a much clearer understanding of what learning at a child’s pace means.
For example, I know I took my first son out of Kindergarten because he was significantly ahead in math and reading. At that time the thought never occurred to me to slow him down because I knew he would get bored.
I had noted what other homeschool veterans had said about a child’s love for learning waning as he got older. Instead of setting up arbitrary assignments each day, I set guidelines because I wanted my son’s love for learning to be nurtured.
How to Learn Sideways
There were other fine points I learned as I tried to strike a balance between frustration when he was bored and worrying that he was going too fast and not adequately understanding each concept.
Look at some of these tips to help you find balance in teaching an advanced learner.
- I reminded myself that I was homeschooling to learn at my child’s pace and not step in sync to a scope and sequence. A scope and sequence is a road map, but not the final destination.
- In addition, this meant that if my child was not grasping a concept, no matter what level he was at, I would be willing to help my child stay on the concept long enough for him to grasp it without fear of thinking we were behind either.
- When I saw that my son did get frustrated, I had to decide if I was going to let him move on or have him stop. Though he demonstrated advanced skills, I had to remember that emotionally he was still a little boy and needed time to play. It is my job to homeschool the whole child and not focus solely on academics.
- Another important lesson I learned was that learning doesn’t have to be stacked on top of each other. For example, just because he finished the current grade level before the end of the year, it didn’t mean I had to go right out then and purchase the next grade level.
What my son was currently learning I could enrich with activities so that learning could be expanded sideways and not up.
By enriching his current math study through a lapbook, a math living book or a unit study, his insatiable desire to learn could be satisfied.
Also, enriching topics by expanding out instead of up, it allowed us to do more age appropriate activities. In other words, without slowing down the pace my son wanted to learn at, I could make compensations for his age, his need to play and more importantly keep his love for learning alive.
Many days were exhausting, but well worth it as I planned additional projects to foster his fast pace that he wanted to learn at.
Thinking about it today, I would no more push one of my sons to move ahead if he didn’t grasp a concept than I would try to hold one child back that was ready for the next concept.