GHF: We’re All Homeschooling Now

Mother and daughter doing schoolworkWhile schools scramble to redefine themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are increasingly considering homeschooling. For gifted and twice-exceptional students, there are certain advantages to learning at home, but this puts a burden on parents who may not be equipped for teaching their cognitively diverse children.

The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF) was formed 15 years ago to support individualized learning. Recently, in response to the overwhelming need, GHF launched its DIY Education series, an online course to make homeschooling accessible to a general population being faced with COVID and distance learning.

“More families feel a sense of panic and urgency as they find themselves either in trouble or having to embrace what turns out to be a new way of life,” said Carol Malueg, GHF’s director of education.

Last spring, during the national shutdown, many parents weren’t prepared for homeschooling. The experience “exposed a number of hidden truths about in-person school,” Malueg observed.

Many families learned for the first time that schoolwork was not necessarily tailored to their students’ level of knowledge and ability. Consequently, the differentiated or individualized model of homeschooling has become very appealing.

“Some students actually thrive with the autonomy to manage their own time and work independently,” said Kasi Peters, GHF’s director of family membership. “They can work more at their own pace and are motivated and able to achieve more than in a classroom setting.”

Much of a traditional school day, Peters said, is spent on group management rather than new material or reviewing information and skills. Students who learn at home may have “more time and space to deep dive into their interests and the flexibility to stay in the moment when they are inspired.”

However, even if many schools do not meet the needs of their gifted and 2e students, the prospect of having their kids home all day is daunting to many parents.

“There is an extraordinary amount of responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the parents and an endless amount of work that goes into creating specialized education for kids who are homeschooled,” Peters said.

“Parents right now are very worried. They are worried about their ability to handle homeschooling, about doing it right, about making sure their kids don’t fall behind. They are worried about choosing a curriculum, making sure their kids continue to receive services they were receiving in public schools. They are worried about the mental health of their kids, about the transition to homeschooling and possibly about transitioning back. They are worried about being isolated from support and about being judged by others for trying something different.”

But the good news is there is also a lot of help out there.

GHF’s DIY Education course seeks to answer some of those concerns. For instance, during the year-long course, several weeks are devoted to different themes, including “Supporting Social and Emotional Needs,” curriculum development, and managing multiple exceptionalities and 2e students.

“The Forum provides resources, advice, and most importantly, a community for families seeking alternate educational opportunities for their children,” Malueg said.

“All families are homeschool families whether they know it or not. They are in charge of their children’s learning.”

The program, which can be accessed here, is an integrated platform that supports community, education, and differentiated content. Through videos, chats, and lessons, parents can utilize the experience of veteran homeschoolers and gifted education specialists, including grammarian and language arts guru Michael Clay Thompson, 2e researcher Dr. Christiane Wells, author and educator Celi Trepanier, and many more. It is an in-depth curriculum providing theoretical background and practical applications for parents seeking to become at-home educators.

“Each expert brings something new and valuable to our community,” Malueg said, “from ways to manage homeschooling stress to helping 2e children learn self-advocacy. We find ways to think creatively in order to support the uniqueness of each child.

“All families are homeschool families whether they know it or not. They are in charge of their children’s learning.”

Dispelling misleading information about homeschooling also is part of GHF’s mission. One of the biggest “myths,” Malueg said, is the supposed lack of socialization opportunities for homeschooled students, often a big worry for parents.

“Homeschooled kids have opportunities to interact with both age peers and interest peers on a regular basis,” she said. As for missing out on the playground and cafeteria, these are not always the most nurturing environments. “We hear too many stories of kids who are bullied in school to think that socialization in school is everything we wish it could be.”

Another common criticism of homeschooling is that kids won’t learn how to cope with the real world. “What I hear,” Peters said, “is how many times parents of homeschooled kids are complimented on their children’s thoughtful questions, behaviors, curiosity, and knowledge.”

Both Malueg and Peters came to GHF after negotiating on their own for homeschooling or non-traditional schooling options for their children.

“It is overwhelming to teach yourself how to teach,” said Peters, who has guided two children through homeschooling because her family chose to “create something wonderful” rather than constantly advocate for accommodation.

“There’s so much info and resources, but people need one place to go to get them. I have a strong passion for supporting other families who are in the same boat and I’m now in a position to give back. If I had GHF, a one-stop shop to learn, to connect, to debunk some myths, and to get advice when I started, I could have calmed down and relaxed a bit.”

Based on the pandemic world we live in now, the time couldn’t be better,” Malueg said, “for a platform that creates a culture of choice, opportunity, and support to help families be creative about education.”

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About Stuart Matranga

Stuart Matranga is an author and journalist who has written for Rolling Stone, Maxim, and other magazines. As a teacher, he specializes in students who are reluctant readers. Stuart has extensive experience teaching and working with twice-exceptional students.

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