First of all I want to define what it means to be twice-exceptional. A twice-exceptional student is a student that has been identified as gifted and identified as having a disability or condition. Another way of saying this is:
“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)
There is a fairly large population in the homeschool community of twice-exceptional children and teens. These 2E kids often struggle in traditional schools, and many parents feel they can meet their needs better at home. Other 2E children have always been homeschooled, and through homeschooling the parent realized something was going on with the child and had them tested. Whether these students were labeled through the school district or through private testing, they are now being schooled at home with the parent entrusted with their education.
For many parents of twice exceptional kids, the homeschool educational experience must be modified to better meet their child’s needs. There are many ways which this can be done from following a child’s interest, to unschooling, to working at different grade levels, to changing the way material is delivered, to modifying what is used. I have followed all of these paths at different times during my child’s education. Today though I want to talk about modifying a curriculum to use with a 2E child.
So how does one go about making a curriculum a better fit for a twice-exceptional child?
- Cutting down the amount of material covered over the year – This year we are working through a curriculum that is divided into 36 weeks. There is no way my son, who needs a great deal of time for his own projects, will be able to cover all that material in a year. And that’s OK. Instead of stressing about it I am dividing the study up. For this particular curriculum we are hoping to make it through the half way mark, give or take a few weeks, and by doing this I am taking a great deal of stress off of us to get it done. I am allowing us to work through everything at a pace that will give him extra time to do the work and grasp the concepts.
- Dropping parts of the curriculum that will not work – Many homeschool curriculum schedule a good deal of work daily, but often it is not necessary to do it all. Certain activities just do not work for my son, and there is no reason to waste time and inflict stress on either of us trying to get it done. If you know something doesn’t work for your 2E child, do not hesitate to drop it. There are many ways to learn a concept. The ones suggested in a curriculum are just that, a suggestion. Take it or leave it as needed.
- Adjusting ways of learning – Many of the books listed in a curriculum are available as audiobooks. My son loves audiobooks and absorbs much of the material this way. Therefore we will most likely be listening to several of the scheduled books as opposed to reading them. He will also be using his iPad to make a timeline which is recommended in his curriculum. We found out last year that making a timeline on his iPad is easier for him and allows him to use his creativity. He loves looking for images on the internet for his timeline and spends a good deal of time doing it. I am also changing a few of the readers to match his taste and reading level. These are all easy adjustments to make but ones that go a long way in making for a successful year. If you have a twice-exceptional student adjust as needed. It will help both of you in the long run and make for a much more enjoyable year.
- Working through the study as partners – The best way to ensure a successful course of study is to commit to learning side-by-side. Although there are many areas where my son soars on his own, the academic study of history and science is not one of them. To keep him invested in the work I have to be invested. If I want him to make connections and to apply what he has learned I need to lead him to those discoveries. Together we will work through the labs, read/or listen to the books, watch the documentaries that are scheduled, and discuss, discuss, discuss. For many 2E kids partnership is key to a successful year no matter their age.
- Flexibility – There are days when my son is just not able to concentrate. There are days when we are too busy with other activities. There are days when he is too focused on writing, animation, art, or game making. It is not always worth it to interrupt his deep concentration when he is involved in a project, nor is it easy to always get to our work when we are busy doing other things. The best thing I can do then is to be flexible. Allow for an off day now and then, plan to work longer or shorter sometimes, be willing to drop a book or activity that is not working. Flexibility is key to homeschooling 2E students not just for the student but for the parent too.
- Letting go of the guilt – Being a parent and a teacher is a huge responsibility. Schooling a twice-exceptional child puts even more pressure on a parent. Trying to meet their needs and work with their strengths and disabilities is another responsibility. Every day is not going to be a success, and honestly, some days you may feel like you have failed your child. But you haven’t. Release your guilt, attack each day as it is a new day, try to work through whatever you and your child are up for, and look at progress over the year not on a day-to-day basis.
A few other ideas to help your child succeed: start your day by going over the main ideas you covered yesterday and previewing what you want to cover for the day. By going over the key ideas you both know what you should be learning. Also try not to worry too much about your child’s output as this is something twice-exceptional students can struggle with. It really is enough for me to know my son is absorbing the material and making new connections.
Finally remember your relationship with your child is key, so enjoy your child and your time with them. As a mom with two older teens I can tell you it does go by so quickly. During those days when you are feeling frustrated or down remind yourself of that. Put the books away and do something fun with your child. Enjoy who they are, where they are, and be in the moment with them. Years from now, when you look back on this time, you will be so happy you did.
Jill 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.