SEA: Secular, Eclectic, Academic – What does that mean and look like? How does this approach benefit students who have been identified as twice-exceptional?

Secular is obvious and I am not going to spend much time on this component. To say the least, the materials that one chooses are free from a religious worldview (to learn more about why this is important please read Blair’s post here). This is especially important in regards to science materials that one chooses to use with one’s child.

Eclectic means that one draws on a wealth of materials and does not need to stick with just one curriculum provider or one form of homeschooling. Eclectic also allows for one to work with their student on their level in each subject and to try many different methods. It allows a parent to individualize an education plan for each child. This is a wonderful benefit for twice-exceptional students.

Academic is, much like secular, obvious, but worth noting. Having an academic standpoint means that one sees the value in intellectual endeavors. This is also a benefit to twice-exceptional homeschoolers.

So why is a SEA approach such a good match for 2E kids? There are many reasons for this, but before I list them I want to define what twice-exceptional is. I have talked about twice-exceptional students before here at SEA, but I wanted to to revisit the term for those who are not familiar with it. A twice-exceptional student is a student that has been identified as gifted and identified as having a disability or condition. To put it another way:

“This group of gifted children are exceptional both because of their strengths and because of their limitations. Coupled with high intelligence, these children also may have one or more learning disabilities, attention deficit, autism spectrum disorder, emotional or behavior problems, or other types of learning challenges. ”

(From 2E Newsletter – http://www.2enewsletter.com/topic_2e_what_is.html)

Now, back to why a secular, eclectic, and academic approach is a wonderful one to take for this group of kids.

  1. Flexibility – This approach allows for flexibility, which is such a necessary part of any 2E program. Flexibility in the subjects studied, flexibility in the materials used, and flexibility in the methods used to teach.
  2. Ability to develop passions – Twice-exceptional students often struggle in one or more area and this struggle can sometimes make the student feel like a failure. By taking a SEA approach to their schooling, the parent has time to spend on the areas that their child excels at. The parent also sees the value in doing this, and working on areas that the student excels at allows a child to build up their confidence.
  3. Keep on a schedule – This is where the academic part comes into play. By keeping the focus on academics and on the continual growth of mastering various academic goals, the parent has to stay on a schedule, and schedules are great for 2E kids. For some the schedule may look loose and for others it may be more strictly regulated. Either way, a schedule helps these kids, for they work better knowing what is expected from them each day.
  4. Work at their own level – Twice-exceptional students are all over the map academically. Being able to meet them at their level is wonderful for them and helps them succeed. Some students may be ready for algebra at 9 but struggle with writing a complete sentence. Others may be writing novels but struggle with basic math problems. Either way, by tailoring their education, you will be able to work to their strengths and help them with their weaknesses.
  5. Option to explore many topics – 2E students tend to have a variety of interests and passions and by choosing an eclectic path you become open to studying those passions. And by recognizing that there are many worthy subjects to study outside of the traditional subjects, you give the gift of exposure to your child. Through this exposure they may discover a passion they never knew they had.
  6. Option to use many different approaches – There are many different approaches to education in the homeschool world. Some parents follow a Charlotte Mason approach, some parents follow a Classical approach, some follow a traditional school approach, and some parents follow an unschooling approach. A wonderful benefit about choosing to be eclectic is that you can use multiple approaches for your student in the different areas you study, which is a good way to match ability, interest, and learning styles to your child.

So what does an eclectic, academic approach actually look like? First off, it will look different from family to family and from student to student. It is tailored to the student you have: to their interests, their struggles, and their unique learning styles. However, there are certain elements that are common to this approach as I stated above. To get a better idea of how the approach works, let me share what it looked like for my 12-year-old son last year.

Last school year my youngest son was in sixth grade and was 11 years old. He struggled in math but excelled at writing. He loved Scratch (a game making and animation program), reading, audiobooks, drawing, and collecting books. He was fairly neutral on science and history. He needed short lessons, enjoyed working on the computer, and needed a good deal of time each day for his own pursuits. Here is a more detailed look:

For math he worked through a half of year of the Math Works curriculum. Math Works is for kids who are struggling to meet their designated level in math. My son spent a little time everyday on the books and made some good progress with this program. He also used Progidy towards the end of the school year when he needed a break from Math Works. For my son, math is one of his biggest struggles, and I always have to get creative to get it done. With Math Works we used manipulatives when we could which helped my son a great deal. I also had to sit with him while he worked on math to help him and support him through it. This was my most hands-on subject and one in which direct instruction had to be given often. If you could peek into our days, this portion would look very traditional in the approach I took.

For language arts I primarily focused on writing and reading or listening to audiobooks. He worked through a couple Bravewriter classes and used Bravewriter’s Arrow for learning writing and grammar skills. He would listen to audiobooks and/or read for an hour or so a day (sometimes much longer but never shorter). He spent time writing every day for as long as he needed, as this is his passion. His grandmother would edit his work for him and he learned quite a bit through this process. He participated in NaNoWriMo and worked through a wonderful book we found called Writer to Writer. I also put a unit together in which he learned about where writers were when they were young. You can read more about this here and here. Finally, he started a blog where he began to publish his own stories.

We utilized BrainPop for science and history because my son loved Brainpop and enjoyed the worksheets and games that were available on the site to supplement the topics. I also picked up a unit from Royal Fireworks Press on ferret ecology for science. These units are made for gifted children and dig deep into an area of study to keep kids interested in the material. My son enjoyed this unit and it added a great deal to our science studies for the year. For some extra history he listened to many living books dealing with history which he learned a great deal from.

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Beyond these four traditional subjects he also spent a good deal of his time working on his animations, drawing, and collecting Italian Scooby Doo books. All of these interests are worthy of study, and I was very happy to give him as much time as he needed to work on these passions. His love of Italian Scooby Doo books has lead to many things, including his learning how to find the best way to translate a text (this took months of trial and error). He has picked up some Italian through these books and wants to learn more, and he has gained a greater understanding of cultural differences from comparing the English Scooby Doo books to the Italian ones. To read a little more about my son’s love of Italian Scooby Doo books, click here.

To sum it up, a SEA approach to homeschooling allows for one to create a custom and individualized plan for one’s child. This approach works well for all homeschooled students whether they are twice-exceptional or not, but it works extremely well for twice-exceptional kids because an individual approach that takes into account their strengths, their struggles, and their passions and also takes into account the need for different methods for different areas of study is an approach that will go a long way towards the success of these students.


Jill HarperJill Harper is a homeschool consultant aiding families on their homeschool journey. She has a bachelors in film studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara and completed the multi-subject credentialing program from National University. Jill has been homeschooling her three children for over 12 years and has been blogging about creative homeschooling and her own journey at TAD Town. You can follow Jill on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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