Online G3 has been a way to give not only my own daughter but also many students in the broader gifted community a means to find their own identities as gifted individuals in an active, diverse community that inspires friendship and support daily…Without this unique opportunity to give back to the gifted community, my own ties to my gifted identity would have never been so deeply strengthened.
The gifted community is no new topic of conversation; many generations, including my own, have taken part in accelerated learning courses and GATE enrichment programs in grade school and found community amongst such smaller groups. However, without solid foundations to build such communities, our own identities are hung out to dry. Lack of proper support for gifted individuals affects the community as a whole, thus straining relationships with ourselves and others. With this in mind, the more the gifted community can discuss new methods of learning and support for its individuals, the closer-knit we as a community can become. In my own journey as a gifted individual, Online G3 has become a means to give back to the community that my family and I have participated in for so many years.
While afterschool programs and one-off accelerated learning courses have proved valuable when it comes to providing a starting point for gifted children in school, students often feel separated or different for taking classes that don’t align with the norms of traditional schooling. Because of this, this sliver of the community feels isolated, often lacking the typical support received in traditional learning environments. Gifted students are able to learn at a pace more appropriate to their advanced needs, yet lack the social community provided in day-to-day educational environments. It can feel even more isolating for gifted students who are homeschooled. As homeschooled members of the gifted community often aren’t able to access the opportunities of a traditional learning community, the supportive bonds formed between individuals through consistent interaction are noticeably absent.
When I agreed to teaching a grammar class at my gifted daughter’s own weekly co-op over a decade ago, I realized just how valuable a sense of community is for gifted students, many of whom do not experience any sense of traditional group education. The friendships formed between my students fostered an environment of immense creativity and learning, far more than would have been possible without such a community of gifted individuals to help push each other forward. I noticed how each student was able to form social bonds that led to further academic success. By encouraging individual growth and learning in an environment that also fostered a sense of community, I was able to observe these gifted students making progress towards their own academics through their relationships.
In an afterschool program or one-on-one homeschooled setting, my daughter struggled to take classes seriously, not finding enough challenges in such isolated coursework to recognize her own potential and find the motivation to learn. I had made the decision to homeschool her due to the lack of individuality I sensed in my own upbringing through accelerated public school programs, but felt I wanted to give back to her, and to the friends in the gifted community we had already made, by providing more than just the bare bones of classes. I wanted to provide a community as well.
With the noticeable success of a weekly co-op in mind, I wondered what would happen if I extended the community there to something that could grow outside of classes that simply met once a week. What would happen if the community was similar to that of traditional schooling, without sacrificing the needs of gifted students? Classes that catered to the gifted community’s needs seemed to only be half of the battle, so I set out to create an environment that fostered such support and encouragement through learning, but on a daily level. The first iteration of Online G3 was limited to my daughter and her friends and included an online forum for students to discuss different topics in line with the weekly class subjects. Not only did I aim to deepen their learning through an online extension of the class, but I also aimed to use the forums as a host for a community: one where students could ask questions, converse with other students, and bring new ideas to the daily virtual table and weekly literal table.
As all the students got older and became busier with other commitments in their lives, the co-ops were gradually brought to an end; yet, I still felt compelled to provide a sense of community to my gifted daughter and her friends. I worried that I was alone in the desire for an online learning program that provided the motivation and camaraderie that only a community of like-minded learners can. Thankfully, I quickly learned I was not alone, and many parents across the world also yearned for learning opportunities catered specifically to the gifted community, wishing for a place to foster healthy growth and learning in social settings. Although Online G3 was initially founded to provide my daughter and a small group of local gifted individuals with such an environment, the concept of weekly online live classes with daily discussion forums—both related to the courses (assigned as homework) and for social means—proved appealing to gifted students all over the world.
Gifted students often feel as though their needs are conflated with isolation and strict, rigorous classes that provide minimal emotional and social support. Support of the individual and support of the community go hand in hand, strengthening each other when both are given opportunity to grow. I wanted to offer students rigorous classwork that satisfied their learning needs, without sacrificing social opportunities to interact with other members of the gifted community through forums and live online chats.
Online G3 has been a way to give not only my own daughter but also many students in the broader gifted community a means to find their own identities as gifted individuals in an active, diverse community that inspires friendship and support daily. And although Online G3 is a far cry from my own schooling as a gifted child, it has become a way for me to reconnect with that child and reflect on my own giftedness. Without this unique opportunity to give back to the gifted community, my own ties to my gifted identity would have never been so deeply strengthened.