Expert Offers 3 Ways You Can Support Your Advanced Student This School Year

The school year is upon us, and your student may not be ready to say goodbye to summer vacation. It can be difficult to know what to say to your kid leading up to the beginning of the school year, but certain practices — such as making sure they get enough sleep — can get them ready for success. It's no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic made some students lose motivation; according to Harvard Education Magazine, the pandemic disrupted classroom connections, "resulting in huge numbers of students losing the motivation to even show up" for virtual classes. Even with classes in person, regaining that motivation can be a challenge.

Supporting advanced students is a particular struggle, according to Oak Crest Academy. While gifted students can become their generation's leaders, scholars, and change-makers, parents have the responsibility of ensuring that they also become well-rounded individuals. Additionally, advanced students may find themselves unmotivated or bored during the school year if they are not properly challenged.

Luckily, there are ways to keep your gifted learner engaged at school and at home. An education expert dished out three ways parents and teachers can keep advanced students motivated in and out of the classroom.

Let your student dive into what they love and leave behind what they don't

Advanced students have the unique ability to jumpstart certain skills. However, mastery of any skill requires practice and dedication. "Students need to develop a love for excelling in a discipline — whether that's math, violin, or theater," Chris Smith, Director of Beast Academy Classroom at Art of Problem Solving said.

However, it's impossible for your student to be an expert at everything. If your student has picked out a specific interest, give them the time and space to develop it. If your student has no idea where to start, encourage them to research the companies who created their favorite media, games, or sports teams. Remind them that those leaders needed critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Support your student in finding more mentors who will "help your student dig deeper," according to Smith. Allow these mentors to introduce your student to more complicated topics within their interests, and when your student is stumped by a question, allow them to develop a resilience for failure. "This is how they build adaptability and other problem solving skills that can be transferred to any type of future challenge," Smith said.

Developing an expertise at one skill requires your student to spend less time doing other things. That's okay! "In order to get very good at something, you have to spend time on it — which means, they will likely have to say no to something else," Smith said.

Lead them to meaningful connections with teachers and peers

Connection is the key to keeping your student motivated in any activity, according to Chris Smith. However, some advanced students find themselves isolated from their peers. "For students, learning in a silo can be difficult and discouraging," Smith said. "Find teachers or older students who share the same passions as your child."

Additionally, building connections can make the school day go from a long, boring chore to something your child looks forward to. "There's a misconception that learning can either be rigorous or fun. That's not what we're finding in our research," Christina Hinton of Research Schools International told Harvard Education Magazine. "The more they are flourishing and happy, the better, on average, students are doing academically."

Happier students who feel connected with like-minded peers can be instrumental in your advanced student's education. "There are plenty of in-person and online ways to connect your student to those interested in the same subjects," Chris Smith said. "Is there a math club at school (and if not, could you start one)? Are there groups or leagues outside of school? AoPS Academy in-person campuses cultivate local communities of student problem solvers. And the Math Circle Network includes 300 local math communities." There are also online groups that can provide meaningful connections and friendships built around advanced learning like the AoPS Online Community.

Encourage your student to push themself

Advanced students are more likely to get bored during the school day, which can lead them to be unmotivated. "If you want to keep your student motivated, you have to keep them pushing up against the frontiers of what they're capable of," Chris Smith said.

Smith said that you can break the monotony of a boring school day by incorporating more problem solving into fundamental skills and lessons. "Let's take math, for example," Smith said. "Advanced math is a great way to introduce new, complex, and unconventional challenges to students. By trying multiple approaches to the same problem, students develop creative thinking skills. By spending a lot of time on a single problem, students build up perseverance. By writing out their solutions and thinking through real-life scenarios, students hone their communication skills." The Raising Problem Solvers Guidebook and Raising Problem Solvers Podcast have resources for asking tough questions that will keep your kid engaged.

"Regardless of the classroom your student will be returning to, try to integrate new problem solving challenges into your student's days," Chris Smith said. "Get creative with the questions you ask and scenarios you present by continually challenging your student with problems and situations they've never seen before."