Gifted Children And Perfection Vs. Mastery

For parents with gifted children, homeschooling can be a unique challenge. That’s not to say at all that gifted children should not be homeschooled; there are just unique challenges to doing it! One of the most challenging issues is keeping your gifted child, well, challenged! At the same time, they need to understand that you are not asking them to be perfect–you don’t want to challenge them so much that they think they’re not any good; just enough to keep them continuing to learn and enjoying it.

One way to keep your gifted child on track is to make sure their curriculum and educational activities are challenging, but not overwhelming. To do that, you need to assess them frequently. Assessing doesn’t mean giving lots of tests necessarily; it just means to evaluate them frequently.

A yearly standardized test or assessment can, of course, be a useful tool to help you evaluate your child’s strengths and weaknesses. In the younger years, we did standardized tests at home; I just administered the tests myself. As our children got older, taking a standardized test in a group setting became a skill that was important for them to learn, so that they would feel comfortable with the PSAT and the SAT down the road. A standardized assessment can help you know in your own mind that your child is progressing. We get so wrapped up in correcting our children’s faults sometimes that we forget the big picture, which is the fact that they are making progress.

When you use standardized testing, it’s not reasonable to expect even your gifted students to score 100%, because there is a huge difference between mastery and perfection. There are a lot of gifted kids who are perfectionists, so right now is the time to make sure they know the difference between mastery and perfection. If you’ve ever made a mistake in your check book, even though you have mastered addition, subtraction, multiplication and diviision, then you understand that there’s a difference between mastery and perfection. You want to explain that difference to your children– especially if you sense perfectionism in them. Don’t expect 100%. It can actually be harmful to children, because they may think that they must get 100%, and there are certain things in life where you can’t get 100%.

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When we first began homeschooling was when my children actually began to learn something on purpose that they didn’t already know. They actually felt dumb when we first started homeschooling, because they thought that they were supposed to know everything without ever being told or reading about it from a book. They had to learn how to learn, at their own level, and accept where they were at.