My Kid is Wicked Smart, Now What? 10 Tips and Tools for Supporting Advanced Learners at Home

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth
Bright Now
Published in
3 min readMay 2, 2024

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By Maria Blackburn

It’s exciting when your child is identified as an advanced learner, but what comes next? As a parent, the education landscape can seem daunting, and it can be difficult to know what to do to keep your child engaged and supported in their learning.

To start, find out what supports for advanced learners are available through your child’s school or district, educate yourself about the needs of advanced learners, and consider supporting your child through out-of-school programs like those offered by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.

That’s just the beginning. “Student success starts with being interested and engaged, and it’s hard to be engaged when you’re not challenged,” says Amy Lynne Shelton, PhD, executive director of CTY. “There are a host of things parents and caregivers can do for and with their child to foster learning outside of school.”

Shelton, who is the parent of an advanced learner, recently shared her expertise about supporting advanced learners and offered these tips and tools for how parents and caregivers can keep bright students engaged in their learning at home.

TIPS FOR PARENTS OF ADVANCED LEARNERS

Foster curiosity.
“Children are natural explorers,” Shelton says. “Help them explore the world.” If your child is interested in baseball, dive deep into box scores. If you don’t know what they are curious about, ask them, “What do you want to know?”

Allow for failure.
Instant success limits the learning of complex concepts. Mistakes can show us the why. “Show your child that failure is part of the process of learning, not the end point,” she says.

Be a student.
Learn alongside your student and from your student. And if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to say so. “You don’t need to be an expert to support them and be willing to learn,” Shelton says.

Talk to other families.
“The greatest power is in the community we build,” Shelton says. Build resources with other families to learn about their experiences, what works and what doesn’t work. Parent groups like the CTY Parents Facebook Group can help you connect.

Embrace the internet.
Yes, parents and caregivers need to be mindful of screen time. But they can also embrace the internet as a valuable place for resources that will help them and their child learn and grow.

TOOLS FOR ADVANCED LEARNERS AND THEIR FAMILIES

Motivated students
Students are good at finding their interests,” Shelton says. “Think of your motivated student as a source for finding things to explore. Help them connect what they’re learning in school to things at home and empower them to do the exploring.”

Mythbusters
Let your child identify popular ideas and investigate them for evidence. Assist them in determining fact and fiction. A question as simple as “Does Dory in ‘Finding Nemo’ have short-term memory loss?” can make for an engaging investigation.

Projects
“Projects are a deliberate way of fostering curiosity and can be simple or complicated,” Shelton says. They’re fun when the student defines the topic and the approach. Examples include having your child plan a visit to a place that fascinates them or building off a fact they learned in school.

Home experiments
Whether you’re following your child’s curiosity and doing it yourself (with help from the internet) or buying a science kit and following directions, experiments at home are always a hit. “I do not recommend heating marshmallow Peeps in the microwave unless it is not your microwave,” she joked.

Play
Play, the simplest of all kid activities, often gets overlooked. “Deliberate and thoughtful play that’s child-driven is so important,” Shelton says. “It’s good for the brain and for longevity, and play is good for all ages. They key is finding the time.” (Learn more about how play can boost learning in early childhood). Examples include playing with games, puzzles, blocks, and everyday objects. Choose play based on your child’s interests and make sure it is challenging enough to engage and not frustrate them so that they can learn.

View Shelton’s recent presentation “My Child is Academically Advanced. Now What?” on YouTube.

We’d love to hear about your experiences and creative strategies for supporting advanced students. Leave a comment below!

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Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth
Bright Now

CTY is a center for innovation dedicated to advancing gifted education through research on testing, programs, and supports for advanced students. cty.jhu.edu