Virtual schooling a gifted child has its own unique set of challenges. In many cases, it seems like the ideal solution for a parent who would not normally have considered homeschooling as an alternative. Your child is still in a public school, with teachers who will give them assignments and a curriculum that you don’t have to keep up with, but they’re at home, completing their lessons at their own pace instead of being held to the pace of the middle-achieving child in the classroom (if they’re lucky) or the slowest-achieving child in the classroom (if they’re not). Even better, they are able to complete their curriculum at their own pace, so that if there’s something they grasp quickly, they can move on to the next topic when they’re ready, not when the class as a whole is ready.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to this, too. Sure, you can allow your gifted child to work at their own pace—to a point. Once they are a hundred percent finished with all of the lessons in their English/Language Arts or Math curriculum, they can turn in their textbooks and get the coursework for the next year, continuing to work at their own pace just as long as they want! (Pro tip: don’t mark optional lessons “skipped.” Go ahead and complete them as normal and mark them that way, because otherwise, you’ll have to go back and do it before you can order the new curriculum.) There’s just one problem: sooner or later, that has to end.
Do you intend to virtual school your child through middle school? Into high school? TNVA doesn’t currently offer a high school option, but if your child is in the early middle school grades or still in elementary school, you may have high hopes that they will be able to continue a bit further. The question is…how far? And once they reach the end of the road—whatever that may be for your child and your family—what will you do about it?
Will you enroll them in college early? Permit them to take online classes, but not actually attend a campus? Look at a “real” four-year university, or consider community college for a while?
Furthermore, regardless of where they find themselves in the curriculum, all children in a given grade level must attend the same class connect sessions. In some cases, these aren’t too bad. In others, they may bore a child out of his or her mind. Since they are currently ability-level sorted for many classes, advanced children may well be with other advanced children; but a truly gifted child may still be frustrated with the slower pace of his peers.
Teachers may also have trouble grasping the mind of a gifted child. While they may be in awe of his reading prowess or her ability to complete complex math calculations without needing to write them down, they also will insist on things being done the “right” way. With no opportunity to actually interact with your child on a regular basis, they may not understand the way their mind works (Do you?), and will instead insist on thought patterns that conform to the norm—at least as far as they are displayed on paper. Some traditional classroom teachers will continue to insist on this after weeks and months of watching your child’s frustration, but they are thankfully less common. In a virtual setting, it may take much longer for a teacher to start to understand the problem.
In addition, virtual schooling may not provide your gifted child with the setting he needs to thrive. On paper, it sounds great: lessons provided, a little bit of guidance when he needs it, and he’s good to go! However, the ability to fly through his lessons may not always be a good thing. In some instances, he may fail to absorb necessary material properly. While this might not matter in the short-term, long-term, that means that he will be missing building blocks that he needs in order to complete higher-order skills. A virtual schooled child will be presented with the same sort of curriculum that is taught in a brick and mortar classroom, but it may not sink in as well--if for no other reason than that there is no repetition other than that which is presented to him by his parents and teachers.
Overall, the virtual schooling experience will likely be a good one for a highly gifted child. However, the parent will still need to act as an advocate, taking an active role in the learning process and moderating for the child. In many cases, that may seem like an insurmountable difficulty—but it is one that can be undertaken with the assistance of a knowledgeable teacher.