Educating and Parenting Profoundly Gifted Children: Part One

By Amelie Dumeny

 

Note from Tiombe Kendrick, chair of SENG’s Diversity Committee:

Amelie Dumeny is the mother of two multilingual and profoundly gifted sons. Mrs. Dumeny and her family reside in sunny South Florida. Two years ago, she made the very difficult choice to put her nursing career on hold to homeschool both of her sons after determining the school they attended could not meet their advanced intellectual needs. Today, her children are thriving academically, socially, and emotionally and are on track to reach their full potential as human beings!

For the last two years, I have been homeschooling my two sons. It has been both a learning and rewarding experience for all of us. My children are like any other children; they love to interact with each other and friends, play outdoors, watch TV, play video games, and dream about their goals. They have enjoyed the entire homeschool experience more than I anticipated. I believe that their direct involvement with some of the curriculum choices has helped them appreciate the importance of their learning because they are encouraged to provide their input. As their mother and teacher, I try my best to instill in them a love of learning while also balancing their emotional and social needs.

The decision to homeschool came after the realization that many schools lack the resources to challenge advanced children to maximize their desire to learn. After much planning, research, discussions with other homeschool parents, and feedback, we decided to homeschool. We began by having them evaluated and tested to give us a better idea of how best to teach them, how to maximize their talents, and what areas to emphasize to make sure we were going to give them all the components of an advanced-level elementary and middle school education.

They were both found to be gifted. Homeschooling two gifted children has been and continues to be a challenging journey. I have to continuously keep myself updated by reading, learning, and keeping up with homeschooling news and techniques as well as understanding the academic, emotional, and social needs of gifted children.

We also wanted to take advantage of their multilingual and multicultural background by incorporating a curriculum with multiple languages, including French, Creole, English, and Spanish and exposure to many people of different cultures and backgrounds. Studies (1)(2) have shown there are future health benefits and early cognitive advantages for children who speak more than one language. Since my children were born, we spoke French and Creole to them knowing that they would eventually pick up English in school, by watching television, and by interacting with friends and family. Homeschooling has allowed us to further immerse them in language by teaching some of the subjects in other languages.

Homeschooling has its up and downs. There are days when I am very proud of my children’s progress and amazed with their development. On other days, it can be frustrating and doubt sets in as to whether all their needs are being met. On those days, I remind myself of the purpose and ultimate goal that I hope to accomplish with my children. I often talk to parents and educators. I read forums and blogs from others who are homeschooling and/or supplementing their gifted children’s public or private elementary and middle school education. These discussions include the daily challenges they face, which helps me keep a better perspective.

In addition, there are external pressures from friends, family, and strangers. They question the need to continue an advanced curriculum when the children appear already well ahead of their peers. Some are of the opinion that it is not necessary and explain that many people who have succeeded in life did not need all of the activities, tutors, programs, projects, etc. that we are undertaking with our children. We continue to believe the path we’re taking will give our children the best opportunity to reach their potential.

We have friends and have met like-minded people who were so impressed with my children’s progress that they would ask me for recommendations on curriculum and a list of suggested books for their children. Some parents have also asked me to tailor programs for their children as I have done for others with gifted children. We realized that we are not alone in our desire to want more for our children than the “status quo,” and this has created an opportunity where we can help other parents. We spent a lot of time creating, developing, and focusing a program(s) that we hope would provide an optimal academic result while developing their “emotional intelligence” and awareness. We struggle with awakening their character, leadership, and maturity skills. Our curriculum is flexible enough to allow additional time for difficult concepts or to move along quickly on subjects easily mastered. We take full advantage of the latest technologies (online classes, learning Apps) available and enrichment programs (critical thinking, reading, and math enrichment programs) to enhance the curriculum. Extracurricular activities in academics and sports are critical in our approach. We teach them to think independently, critically, and not to exclusively rely on accepted norms.

One of the questions I am frequently asked is how my children are developing socially and emotionally. We believe that the academic component of their lives is as important as their overall well-being. We spend time talking with them and encourage them to express their point of view. We allow them to make choices and mistakes while providing guidance to them, when necessary, to make sound decisions. When they are faced with adversities, we show support and let them express their feelings, and we acknowledge them. We teach them the importance of developing a good moral and spiritual character, to enjoy life, and have confidence in themselves. However, like most children, there are times when we have to push, motivate, and remind them that all their dreams and goals (they have both) can only be accomplished by their hard work and sacrifice. It is most encouraging that my oldest son has started to show self-motivation regarding his work and studies.

Next time, we discuss how to ensure social integration when homeschooling.

 

References:

 1) University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. “Two Languages Better Than One for Kids’ Brains: Study”, HealthDay News, Aug. 09, 2012. Web. April 1, 2013

 2) Lang, Susan. “Second language is good childhood mind medicine” Cornell Chronicle,

May 12, 2009. Web. April 1, 2013. 

 

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