Mom-to-Mom Support/We have a precocious 3-year-old daughter who is beyond her age

We have a precocious 3-year-old daughter who is beyond her age


Our very precocious daughter turned 3 a month ago. To say she is articulate is an overwhelming understatement! She is beyond her age in both knowledge of normal child things (such as letters, numbers, etc.) but beyond her age in more abstract thinking (circle vs. sphere, and how an equilateral triangle is different than an isosceles one….whew!) She is also very advanced emotionally, but as is a characteristic of gifted children, she is very emotionally sensitive. (She cried and was overwhelmed when she saw the fireworks play on television to patriotic music).

So…we tried looking into the parish school early education center, but they can’t help us. What three-year-olds are doing, she did 2 years ago. They won’t accept her at a higher grade. It’s beyond frustrating that they have options if you have a “special need” where you are below the grade, but nothing for those with “special needs” for more challenging work. Our daughter is a blessing from God, and so are her gifts. We need to honor those, and nurture them as best we can. We are not choosing homeschooling, but homeschooling is choosing US! 🙂

My question is….how do we start this process? Do we have a desk she sits at, in a special room? I love your curriculum, and I think it’s a wonderful place for us to start her in Kindergarten in the fall, but I don’t know LOGISTICALLY how we do it? All at once? Separate throughout the day? How many days? Can it be only 3 days a week? Do we need to set up a desk area and a “school – type” setting? Do people do that? (It seems like it might be a good idea).

Whew. I have a lot of questions and I hope to find some answers. My husband will be homeschooling two days, and I will be homeschooling two days a week, so we have to share this responsibility because of work. Is that ok? Thanks again in advance for all your help – I’m trying to learn and absorb all of this as fast as I can for our “special needs” blessing. 🙂

Dear Mom,

What a wonderful opportunity for you! Homeschooling a precocious child is challenging and rewarding. You have several excellent questions, and you must be feeling some stress from this situation. So to begin with, relax. Meet each day one at a time. You and your daughter have a learning process to go through, but there is plenty of time.

Let’s look at your daughter’s needs. You mention that she is articulate, advanced in her knowledge of facts and abstract thinking, and is emotionally sensitive. Basically, she needs opportunities to use language and facts in a safe environment. That doesn’t mean that she needs to be kept isolated, but she will need to be guided carefully, and many rules of thumb probably won’t be good guidelines for her. You don’t want to pressure her or allow others to pressure her, but rather allow her to develop naturally at her own pace in all areas, whether that is quickly or slowly.

Your homeschooling should focus on her needs and not on the “right” way to homeschool. Homeschooling is not school at home. It’s a lifestyle. A desk and a special room are not at all necessary. Your home and the world around you will be the school room. Some people do set up desks and a special room, and some don’t. Our children had desks but didn’t use them much until the middle school and high school years. I have my doubts about training a three-year-old to sit at a desk. Most of the three-year-olds I’ve known, including the precocious ones, were wanting to do, not wanting to sit. But they were certainly learning while doing.

You may homeschool at your daughter’s pace, depending upon your available time. Working with her three or four days a week is fine. In fact, the CHC lesson plans are structured for a four-day school week in the younger grades. You can move through them quickly or slowly in each subject area. Having both of you work with your daughter will be beneficial for everyone. Because you are new to homeschooling and you need to find out what is best for your daughter, I suggest beginning slowly with the core subjects and spending no longer than two hours a day with a break in between for formal studies. Give yourselves and her time to find out what works and what doesn’t. She may learn best at this age by sitting in your lap. She may not want to do worksheets but play auditory games. Or she may be a visual learner and be interested in drawing or manipulating objects and discussing what she sees and what she is doing. Give her a chance to ask questions and make suggestions. You will have to listen carefully to guide her, but she will give you clues. If she’s feeling overloaded, back off. Smaller doses of time are better than one long session. Remember, too, that her physical capabilities are probably not equal to a five-year -old’s. For example, some parents have told me that they borrow large-print library books for their very young readers to prevent eye strain and limit the reading to an hour a day.

Two hours a day may not seem like much time for formal study, but there is also informal study. When we learn, we need time to absorb and digest information; so I don’t recommend structuring every moment of her school day. She needs down time. And she needs play time that isn’t strictly or formally educational. You can read to her, play games, sing songs, make mud pies, cook together, and climb trees. I would also allow her lots of time for unstructured independent play. She should begin to experiment and explore subjects and objects on her own, under your supervision.  She will still be absorbing and learning a great deal. She needs to spend some time with other children to develop her social skills, but that can come later. A three-year-old doesn’t need to have an extended social life. At the right time, she will be learning that not everyone is at her level and that other children have different skills and interests.

Enjoy your daughter and your homeschooling. It will make such a tremendous difference in her life and yours.

Sandra Garant

About Sandra Garant

Sandra Garant is a veteran homeschooling mom, certified teacher, writer, attorney, and administrative law judge. She taught her three children at home until they were ready for college. She tutored students in writing for many years and is the author of Language of God, Level F and Language of God, Level G.