The time is quickly approaching when we will wrap up our homeschool journey with our 17-year-old, gifted daughter. She is essentially finished with her homeschool education. With two dual enrollment classes behind her, she could easily move right into college within the next school year.
However, we have opted to continue into a fourth year of high school and she has chosen to completely dual enroll for her senior year.
Although she is academically gifted and exhibits mature behavior, make no mistake, we see her biological age blast through like a fireball entering earth’s atmosphere some days. She reminds us of this when she is having fun in the company of her peers or when her emotions get the best of her and she needs to regroup. Still, every single time, we respond perplexed because we tend to forget she is just a kid! We remind ourselves that we have been treating her much older than she is, because most days, she acts as such. We have to consciously remember to be mindful of her biological age.
Currently, she is 17. On occasion, we witness her 17-year-old emotions and her 17-year-old mistakes. She still requires parental direction like all 17-year-olds.
I have found that many parents of gifted children can relate to our experience. Gifted children can have some seriously big emotions and funny quirks. They are prone to sensory processing issues, OCD/perfectionist tendencies, and certain anxieties. This is a very common theme, and studies have shown this to be true. Gifted children, our daughter included, may experience quirks and unique qualities, especially during transition ages and puberty. These unique traits can concern parents. We watch as our children have a lot rattling around in their sweet young minds and they lack, or forget to use, their coping skills when overwhelmed or overstimulated. Gifted children didn’t ask to be advanced, and we need to seriously take this into account. They are sorting out this big wide world through their unique and special perspectives.
When we look back at our daughter’s academic career, we assumed she was ready to move forward, but she expressed she wanted her senior experience and to see school to the end. I have a feeling we may have influenced that decision, as she is aware we opted to keep her in the same grade as her peers.
We learned our daughter was gifted at the age of three while at the pediatrician’s office. She was writing her doctor’s name in bubble letters and speaking to me in Spanish. She was bilingual and already reading at age 3. The pediatrician wanted to have her tested. Three is very young. We asked to wait.
At age four, she was academically working well beyond her grade/age level. We had the option to move her up a grade upon enrollment in Kindergarten. We chose to keep her at her current grade while utilizing unique opportunities to challenge her. We used a Relaxed Classical approach with a Charlotte Mason twist and let her enjoy herself. In all honesty, she was self-led. So we just continued to move along at her pace.
In grade four, she asked to take a few virtual classes at a homeschool scholars academy. We agreed. She enjoyed the challenging classes and asked to attend full time. We agreed and she finished all the way through. The classes were so rigorous, they caused her to shift her priorities and learn to manage time better. She balanced her time in order to focus on the things that she valued most including voice lessons and music theory. She chose to strengthen her talent in various string instruments, dance, and musical theater.
My daughter’s greatest love has become culinary arts. In fact, she will be majoring in business and marketing with the intention of opening a series of fusion restaurants and bakeries. But she couldn’t wait to finish high school to begin her culinary endeavors. So her father and I assisted her with starting a baking and catering company.
Why did we opt out of an early graduation? Well, firstly, because she asked to! If she graduated early, she would miss out on her last year of soccer. All of her friends are still in school, and she would miss them. She is, honest to goodness, a normal teenager with normal teenage desires.
It is exciting to see our gifted children explore and master multiple talents and interests. Indeed, our gifted children can move ahead and move on to higher academics early. As parents, we need to make sure this is what our children want.
Life is so very short. Statistics are showing that slow transitioning has been very effective for this new generation. With our gifted daughter always ahead of the game while experiencing perfectionism and OCD, we have been very intentional about how we find that special balance of phasing into adulthood.
Christina McMahan studied Spanish at the University of Tennessee Martin. In 2006, she became a work at home, homeschool mom to her two stepdaughters. Her youngest stepdaughter has high functioning Autism and is hearing impaired and was struggling in school academically and socially. Christina works with her husband at their offices in TN while continuing to homeschool their gifted daughter, Reagan. They adopted their special needs son in 2020 and continue to foster behaviorally challenged and special needs children.