I have a gifted 10-year-old who is also homeschooled, we also live in a small community. I also have three older gifted kids who were homeschooled until adolescence.
I'm not a big believer in bragging and praise. I think it's perfectly healthy for children simply to know that they are loved and cherished, and that you value their kindness and their hard work. None of that has to hinge on public recognition or praise of their accomplishments. I think that's particularly true when the accomplishments come easily, because it can create an imposter syndrome whereby your child feels unworthy of the praise and believes there must be some sort of accidental good luck and lack of validity in the accomplishments. My eldest dd (now 19) hated doing readings at the local Writers' Festival because writing was something that came entirely naturally to her; the accolades all rang hollow. Yet she enjoyed the positive attention she got performing on violin or piano, because she knew that while she was extremely advanced, she had worked hard to get where she was.
This is a really good article on The Power (and Peril) of Praise with a gifted spin in New York magazine. It's worth reading through to the end. It really encouraged me to think about the nature of self-concept, and about perfectionism, and confidence. There's a fair bit of conventional wisdom about praise and self-esteem that really doesn't bear up under scrutiny.
I've made an effort to ensure that my kids are involved long-term in something that is individually paced and multi-faceted where persistence, hard work and problem-solving are necessary. For us that has mostly been music lessons. I'm surprised that your dd's violin and piano lessons aren't providing her with challenge. Perhaps she either needs a different teacher who will expect more, or perhaps she would benefit from more support and higher expectations from you so that she is willing to put more work into her instrumental study. The sky is really the limit with music instrument study: there's all the challenge a kid could ever need in piano or violin provided they're willing to do the work. It gets more complex, more difficult, more multi-layered the better you get: it really is a case of "the more I learn, the less I realize I know." Music isn't everyone's thing, of course, and if she's not willing to work hard because she doesn't like violin or piano, you should probably try to find something she does like: dance, martial arts, community theatre, math contests, chess training, whatever. But if it's a pattern with her of simply coasting along with minimal effort, she probably needs you to help her learn how to work hard and push through difficulties and temporarily flagging motivation.
Like you I prefer not to provide that vigorous support and "active facilitation" in the realm of academics. Eventually my kids have all chosen to attend school, and to have them astronomically beyond what a school could offer would have been a major problem. Things like music, though, tend to be much more individually defined: there are no age-grade-levels in piano.
I think that finding something that is individually-paced and persistently challenging also mitigates against a type of arrogance -- the incredulous sort -- that no one could possibly fail to know how to do something. It lets your child understand that sometimes a surprising amount of hard work is required for mastery. When other kids don't know things she does, or can't do the things she can do, it's not because they are lazy or deficient. It's because for other kids this learning requires "the same kind of hard work you had to do to learn sautillé bowing in the Mozart -- remember all those weeks you had to keep doing those exercises before it started to get easier?" It helps gifted kids understand what it is to have to work really hard to learn something and helps them build empathy for others' learning challenges. It also, of course, builds the habits of problem-solving and persistence that get applied to other areas. My dd10 is a beginner at gymnastics and not particularly gifted in her abilities there, but she's spent hours over the holidays working step by step, repetition after repetition -- just like she's done on violin -- at the skills for walkovers.
I've found that a stimulating intellectual community can take many forms. In our case (living in a village of 600, hours away from a large city) it doesn't look anything like a middle school chess club or a congregated gifted class. For my kids it's been far more about mentorships, and about informally mentoring within multi-age, multi-level interest-based group activities.
So for instance, several years ago my ds (now 17) joined a club for kids and teens interested in gaming (PC, Xbox, etc.). It was facilitated by a couple of local computer geek adults as a community service for rural youth. My ds found that the other teens involved in the club were pretty unsophisticated in their understanding of computers and computer games. He divided his time between helping out the other kids and hanging out with the adult facilitators. He gradually got involved in building and managing computers for the club, administering the network, managing the budget and advocating for community support. He's now on the Board of Directors of the society that manages the youth rec. centre and its tens-of-thousands-of-dollars budget, manages their website and their computer network, is part of a peer counselling network, and acts as recording secretary at meetings. His "challenging intellectual community" is primarily adults, but he is also challenged in role as youth mentor.
I could give similar examples of how my 10-year-old's challenging intellectual "community" exists very much outside the box and includes a huge variety of people of various ages. Maybe in an urban area we'd have been able to find clusters of agemates to create an intellectual community for each of my kids, and maybe we'd have been thrilled with that community. Where we are, in the middle of nowhere, with only 5 to 10 kids in each annual cohort, that's definitely not going to happen. And I don't think it has really mattered, at least it hasn't really become an issue until the mid-teen years.
Edited by moominmamma - 12/28/13 at 7:14pm