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The Homeschool Twist

Districts experiment with partial homeschooling for gifted students.

Gifted children are the fastest-growing group to leave traditional institutions for homeschooling, according to Kathi Kearney of the Gifted Development Center. In many cases, she says, school districts can't afford the resources necessary to meet these students' highly individualized needs.

Rather than losing these children altogether, some districts have become more flexible, allowing for partial homeschooling. The students attend school for part of the day and then learn at home or at a tutoring center or other approved site for the rest of the day.

Ruth Fox, a parent in Naperville, Illinois, worked with her local high school and junior college to structure an educational plan for her high-achieving son, David. When he was 14, David took three morning classes at the high school, was homeschooled the remainder of the day, and attended advanced computer science courses at the junior college two evenings a week. "Partial homeschooling met David's academic needs," Fox says. "It allowed him to soar, not get bored, and to develop his talents and interests."

In Piedmont, Alabama, high school students taking online AP courses are allowed to do so from home and miss their first period each day, as long as they maintain a B in the course. Students' grades have risen, says Matthew Akin, superintendent of Piedmont CSD. "They are able to go back and review the information as many times as they need to, or take their class at 10 p.m. if that works best for them."

With partial homeschooling, gifted students still have access to other children and activities and parents can work or have personal time without paying for child care. Students can take advantage of master classes in a talent area, and spend time on individualized study or hands-on learning.

"Administrators should consider allowing, or even encouraging, partial homeschooling when a family expresses strong wishes to have their child receive ‘more' during the school day," says Deborah Ruf, an educational consultant for families of gifted children. "If the school isn't set up for full-time gifted immersion programming, allowing the family to set up other opportunities for a portion of the school day can be an ideal solution."

Partial homeschooling can provide the best of both worlds, Ruf says. If they're fully removed from school, "bright students will miss out on knowing what ‘real people' are like. We want our future policymakers to be grounded in real life without having to sacrifice their own high abilities and talents."

—Winter 2013—

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