Dd8 has, like her older siblings, been unschooled. They all started school part-time or full-time at the high school level. She's the only one still at home full-time. It's been a big shift in our home life: last year we had four kids home most of the time. This year dd17 is living across the country, ds15 is in school 3/4 time and dd12 is in school full-time. We've done pretty well at filling youngest dd's life up with interesting occasions, travel, projects, field trips and social opportunities but there has been a big change.
This week she was part of a fabulous all-day art-and-outdoor education workshop. It was held at the local K-12 school and was just for the homeschoolers. She had a great time. But because she was at the school most of the day it got her thinking again about "when I go to school." We've talked about this in the past. She would love a challenging school program -- she's a performer, a social kid, likes producing output, likes teacher approval, isn't terribly perfectionistic or anxious. In many ways she's very well-suited to school. But because of the academic mis-match, I'd always told her "school won't really work so well for you until you're at a high school level," and explained that high school students are able to take courses at a variety of different levels according to their need for challenge. Which is true in this school, and has worked well for her siblings.
Yesterday she had heard some 10-year-old girls in the hallway quizzing each other on basic division facts and it brought home to her how vastly advanced she is compared to what is typical.
"How am I ever going to fit into school if I keep learning math? If I'm four years ahead when I'm 8, and I keep doing math, I'll still be four years ahead when I'm 12. I'll never fit in! Maybe I should stop doing so much math."
Well, the reality is that she spends maybe an hour a week on math, if that. Often weeks go by with no math work at all. I reminded her how much math classroom time her school-going brother and sister spend, and made it clear that compared to school children, she's doing very little work on math.
"Then why am I so far ahead?" she asked. "What makes school-learning so much slower?"
Compared to my other kids, this one is far more curious about how she fits in (or doesn't) with the rest of the world.
I explained that the difference isn't so much in the type of teaching, or the amount of time spent, but in the different ways people learn. She learns academic things with great leaps of understanding, rather than with repetition and practice. She got it. She's had experience with having to work at things. Sight-reading on violin, for example, has come gradually and with consistent work, not all in a rush. But she had thought that her "great leaps of understanding" were a typical learning trajectory, and the "repetition and practice" thing more an exception to the rule. It was kind of a revelation to her to realize that her learning is on rather a different plane than is typical for the majority of children. Her frame of reference has been her gifted older siblings.
She found the whole thing a little depressing, as she was looking to envision a way that she might fit in at school. I could sort of see the cogs and wheels turning in her mind as she processed this. I wonder what will come of it? I'm sure she would love a gifted school, but that's really not an option.
I do feel that a bit more excitement and challenge in her life would distract her from the question of fitting into school, but it's hard to provide that without furthering the academic mis-match. What to do?