When Gifted Kids Want Homework

when-gifted-kids-want-homework

I know it sounds crazy, but some gifted kids want homework. They crave it. They beg for it. They will even make up fake homework if it’s not given to them. Trust me. It’s a thing.

Many gifted educators know the research about the limited value of most homework, especially among the gifted, who need far less repetition than the typical learner.

But what does a teacher do if a child is begging for homework?

What do you do when gifted kids want homework?

Like virtually everything else, I would suggest you go ask some questions to find out why. There are a lot of reasons a gifted kid might want homework, and here are just a few:

  • They have an older sibling who gets homework, and they see it as part of the big kid experience.
  • They like the accoutrements of homework, like cool office supplies (which I can totally get on board with, as I’ve written about before).
  • They feel they’re not really learning at school, and hope homework will teach them something.
  • They have unmet expectations of how hard school should be, and are trying to value-add first grade.
  • They’re afraid that if they don’t get used to homework now, they won’t be prepared for it next year.
  • They love learning, and don’t want to stop because a bell rings. Gifted kids typically do enjoy learning, and it may feel much more like play to them than it would to typical learners.
  • They would rather do math facts practice than chores. (This was my reason, in the interest of full disclosure.)
  • They have an intense affinity for a particular subject area and want to continue its exploration.
  • They have an intense affinity for a particular subject area, and it’s not covered at school (epidemiology in second grade, perhaps).
  • They be telling you what they think you want to hear.
  • It could be a manifestation of their perfectionism.

It’s important to know the reason why the child wants homework because if you don’t know the reason, you could easily make the wrong decision.

Choices to Make

Once you know why the child wants homework, you can make an informed decision about what to do. I’ve listed a couple of ideas for each of the above possible reasons for the child’s wanting homework, and just as there are other reasons, there are also other ideas.

These are things both parents and teachers might do, so some may not apply to your role.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

  • They have an older sibling who gets homework, and they see it as part of the big kid experience.
    • Give them home tasks that are valuable and authentic that make them feel less little-kiddie. They can, at shockingly young ages, make menus, help cook, check bills for accuracy, and perform chores.
    • Make sure they understand that homework doesn’t actually really help learning, and that hopefully by the time they get to be the grade of the sibling, their teachers will have figured that out. (You may not want to say this, actually, but I probably would. #nofilter)
    • Have them write letters/postcards to friends and relatives at the same kitchen table.
    • Avoid allowing the older siblings to make comments about how lucky the younger child is not to have homework. This backfires.
  • They like the accoutrements of homework, like cool office supplies (which I can totally get on board with, as I’ve written about before).
    • Get them cool office supplies to do work they’d like (projects, correspondence, decorating calendars for the family, cards to deliver to nursing home residents, etc.).
  • They feel they’re not really learning at school, and hope homework will teach them something.
    • Differentiate their instruction. Ta-da!
    • Teachers should make sure that gifted kids are actually growing and progressing. Just mastery of grade-level content is insufficient and undemonstrative of learning for a gifted child.
    • They have unmet expectations of how hard school should be, and are trying to value-add first grade.
      • They may need a discussion of how initially school will have some things being taught they’ve already mastered. Here’s the spiel I use with them: “Most kids come to school to learn the content (math, reading, writing, science, social studies, art, music, PE), but sometimes kids come to school and already know some or even most of those things. For those kids, they have to learn other things, like how to take turns, how to listen respectfully to others’ opinions, how to wait, how to develop patience, how to speak in a respectful tone of voice. What do you think you most need to learn at school?”
      • Let them learn specific skills, such as PowerPoint or video editing. They may have mastered grade-level content, but there are still skills to be learned, too.
  • They’re afraid that if they don’t get used to homework now, they won’t be prepared for it next year.
    • Let them interview teachers and students in higher grades and prepare something to share with the class about where this journey is headed. They can use Google forms or Survey Monkey to create a survey. Yes, even tiny ones can do it. Nothing like data, folks.
  • They love learning, and don’t want to stop because a bell rings. Gifted kids typically do enjoy learning, and it may feel much more like play to them than it would to typical learners.
    • Provide ideas for exploring cool stuff outside of school. Possibilities include:
      • Introduce them to the cool stuff to explore at Wonderopolis.
      • Let them create cool digital stories at Storybird.
      • Invite them to watch some age-appropriate TED talks. Not all are appropriate for kids, so start with the TED Connections I wrote just for kids when I was at Mensa. They’re free, and they have questions and extension activities.
      • NASA maintains an award-winning website that houses a special link to Cool Web Sites for Kids. Students can access a variety of interactive, hands-on activities and resources about: airplanes, the Earth, planets, space travel, stars, and galaxies. All links are chock-full! Once into the planet site, for example, students have a wide variety of options such as, Make Your Own Scale Model of Galileo, Build Your Own Martian Spacecraft, and Gravity Box, in which students compare Earth’s gravity to gravity on the Moon and Mars.
      • National Gallery of Art kids’ section (super neat!)
      • Dinosaur lover? Kidsdinos may be a hit.
    • If they’re readers, guide them to cool reading opportunities like the Mensa Foundation’s Excellence in Reading program.
    • If they’re mathy, they may love Khan Academy or Wolfram Alfa.
  • They would rather do math facts practice than chores. (This was my reason, in the interest of full disclosure.)
    • Look, some kids just love it. Let ’em. Ask them what they’d like, and give it to them. Make sure that everyone (parents and kids) know that it’s for fun, not stress, and that if it becomes stressful in any way, it stops. Family comes first.
  • They have an intense affinity for a particular subject area and want to continue its exploration.
    • Ask your campus librarian for help in working with the student to find resources to explore beyond what you’re doing in class.
    • Send out a plea on your social media channels for ideas. This is one of the good uses of Twitter and the like (They don’t have to be just the vortex and horcrux of hate.)
  • They have an intense affinity for a particular subject area, and it’s not covered at school (epidemiology in second grade, perhaps).
    • See above.
  • They be telling you what they think you want to hear.
    • Some gifted kids are hard working teacher pleasers, and they may feel like they will win brownie points with you for expressing an interest in homework. If this is this the reason, reassure them that what they do isn’t what makes you love them.
  • It could be a manifestation of their perfectionism.
    • I actually wrote an entire book about this, so my recommendation woudl be that both the teacher and the parent read the book! Even kids ten & up can read it, I would guess.

Wrapping It Up

Sometimes gifted kids want homework, and while it’s tempting to pull out the research and explain why it’s not necessary, a deeper exploration of the reasons may yield some surprising reasons why.

Hopefully these ideas have helped you, and if you have others, please, please share!

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