There's a frustrating stigma attached to parents of gifted children. If you talk about the issues that concern you about your child's giftedness, other parents view it as bragging. Even writing this post now, I know some readers will react with "cry me a river.... poor you, your kid's really smart" (snarl a bit here with sarcasm for full effect). It leaves parents of gifted kids with few people to turn to when dealing with kids that often have unique and extremely challenging difficulties. It also means you have to deal with the often unsympathetic reactions of other parents when your kid goes ballistic over something that wouldn't bother their kid in a million years.
After many YEARS of researching, I now understand that much of my daughter's dramatic emotional intensity is characteristic of gifted kids, but that information gleaned earlier on, would've helped me cope more compassionately with her explosive fits of rage and frustration, rather than seeing them as just bad behavior. She needed better understanding from me and didn't get it because I didn't know.
Here's an example that most wouldn't relate to giftedness at all: When she refused to wear clothes that it seemed every other kid on the planet could wear, simply because she couldn't tolerate the itchiness of even the softest cotton, or the tightness of clothes 4-5 sizes bigger than what she needed, I might have just accommodated that, instead of trying so hard to convince her she was being unreasonable. I might have had an explanation to give her frustrated grandmothers who didn't understand why she never wore the clothes they bought for her. I could have explained that her sensitivities, which cover a plethora of situations, also effect this seemingly mundane area of existence. But, I didn't know. I figured she was just being "difficult."
There are so many areas, I wish I'd understood better and I should have. Parents of children with Asperger's have a saying that goes like this: "If you know one Aspie, you know one Aspie." They're all very different. I don't know if it's exactly the same with gifted children (though many kids with Asperger's are themselves, exceedingly gifted), but I do know that part of what got me in trouble was my perception that I knew what it was like to be a gifted kid. I thought my own experiences would've helped me help her. I knew all about feeling bored out of my mind at school. I knew about perfectionism. I knew about feeling estranged from peers who thought my academic interests and existential angst bizarre. In fact, when my daughter at 5yo, woke me up one night to pour her heart out about her own existential worries, I did actually feel equipped for that. But, that didn't mean I had any kind of handle on many other of the myriad issues that would arise.
How was I to know that when we got our first cats and the vet at that initial exam warned her that she should wash hands after playing with the cat to avoid worms, that she would take that to heart in such a serious way? She loved her cats, played with them constantly and washed her hands hundreds of times each day until they bled (this on top of pre-existing eczema). It took years, and several discussions with multiple doctors (who's credentials impressed her more than my own), to convince her that wasn't necessary. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that when I discovered sites like Hoagies Gifted Education page or the Gifted Homeschooler's Forum, I felt like I'd found people who finally understood... people I could learn from.
There was never any doubt in my mind that I would homeschool my daughter. She began reading shortly after she turned 3 years old. If I had put her in school, she'd have been bored out of her head and would have acted out in ways that would have forever branded her as a huge troublemaker. My challenge was to challenge her and at least in that I felt somewhat equipped. I had to find books for her to read that were advanced enough for her reading level, but also appropriate for her maturity level. Needless to say, books written before 1950 came in handy for this. But, as advanced as her language arts skills may have been early on, she hated math and showed no particular proficiency at it. There was no uniform "giftedness" across every area. This wasn't a child that would've necessarily done well skipping grades. She really needed and still needs, the individualized education only homeschooling can provide.
Very little in her schooling has taken a traditional path and homeschooling has allowed us to forge her own unique path. For example, one area she is definitely quite gifted is in music. At 3 I started her with a piano teacher and by 6, her teacher was so enthusiastic about her budding protégé she had her competing in Bach competitions and playing Chopin. I should have put the brakes on this, but I'm embarrassed to say, I was excited too. Finally, she just refused to play. The pressure was too intense. She sensed every one of our expectations and just blew a fuse. We halted the piano lessons and six months later, she barely remembered how to read music. Only years later, did she come back to it on her own and now she works with my stepmother, who lets her set her own pace. If she wants a lesson, she has one. If she doesn't, no problem. She learns only pieces she likes (though if she likes it, it's learned in a day) and eschews everything she dislikes. She spends hours now at the piano, writing her own music and playing her favorites. She loves it. Going the traditional route, for her, destroyed her passion. I had to learn the hard way (hard on her and hard on me) that freedom to learn as she likes is essential to her education.
Now, personally, I'm only willing to take this so far. For example, she would very much like to never look at another math problem again. Too bad. She'll learn her math and keep up with where she should be for her age. That being said though, I researched until I found a math program with a strong language arts bent: Life of Fred. This makes math a bit more palatable. These books include a story line -- and she's read the entire series unbidden, through Calculus (not that she's understood all the math mind you). I could've fallen over the first time I came downstairs in the morning and found her lying on her stomach, happily thumbing through every page of the Advanced Algebra book.
The greatest lesson I've learned with her is that if I give her fairly free reign over her homeschooling/education and just sit back and watch a bit, she astonishes me. I'd say, consider that for your own gifted child, but see above about predicting gifted children J.