Innovative Homeschooling: An Alabama Mom’s Approach to Education for Gifted Learners

Christal Gamble Banks realized her son Cash was different when he started reading at age 2 and completed square root calculations at 3 years old. Through testing, Christal and her husband learned Cash is gifted or neurodivergent, which made his preschool experience unique.

“His teachers were wonderful. However, his preschool classroom was doing one letter a week, and they were doing very basic counting. Cash quickly realized that he was bored. He wanted to sit in the corner by himself and read,” Christal said.

Cash’s teachers tried everything, including recommending him to the gifted teacher, however, the solution was to give 4-year-old Cash extra worksheets to pass the time. Cash was about four months into preschool when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the schools.

“His Pre-K teacher said, ‘I know you got it. There’s nothing more I can do for him. Don’t even have him login for class.’ It wasn’t that she didn’t like him. She just knew that she didn’t have enough work for him. So, my husband and I talked it over even before then, and we knew at that point that we were going to pull them out of the public school system and homeschool.”

A self-professed “nerd,” Christal tried to learn everything she could about homeschooling before taking the leap. She joined social media groups and forums to find out what other parents were doing and where they got their curriculums from. With the tools, resources, and community she needed, Christal found her very own “parent heaven” in homeschooling.

“I’ve got a kid that can study courses that he loves, on different levels by instructors that he gets to choose. He gets to dive really, really deep into subjects he’s interested in. That’s the biggest thing. And we travel often. So, it’s all of this parent heaven, which is crazy, because I see so many parents struggling with things with their children, not just in public school or private school or even homeschool.”

But most importantly, Christal loves how homeschooling has allowed her son Cash to thrive.

“He’s engaged in everything. He’s a very active component of his own homeschool education. We do a lot of social-emotional learning, and it’s good for him. I like having a happy child that’s well-adjusted, has friends. He’s outgoing. He’s social. He’s polite. And I know he’s got a great future, all because of how we took control of his education early on.”

Christal enjoys letting Cash have a say in his education. Around May, they take time to discuss what schooling will look like for the next year. This past school year, Cash, now 9 years old, opted for classes in computer technology to learn coding languages and create virtual reality worlds; he has been taking intensive Spanish three days a week via zoom and self-paced algebra courses through Mr. D Math.

“I think one of the misnomers for homeschool is that you’re sitting there with your children all day teaching when we only do maybe two or three subjects together. I do take control of his history as well as his English Language Arts. Those are my strong points, and I like teaching them. We also do handwriting together. So, it’s all those things together, my strengths and different curriculums, that make up homeschooling for us.”

Cash loves to focus the summer on education in the science, math, technology, and engineering fields and Christal helps him find programs aligned with his interests.

“Summer breaks for us often include the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids program with the National Society of Black Engineers. We do swimming, which is paid for by a local grant. We also have a very active 4-H chapter which is heavy on STEM. They have a drone club, and the assignment for the summer is to both construct and fly their drone by the end of summer. So, Cash’s summers are completely full.”

Christal wanted to be a resource for other moms to find the tools and information they need to homeschool their children, so she started a blog about Cash’s homeschool journey called Mama’s Sweet Baby.

“I didn’t want the next parent that saw similar characteristics in their child to go through as much trouble to have to dig and find these things. So, the blog is all about resources primarily geared toward a gifted learner or advanced learners, but they’re good for any homeschooler. One thing about neurodivergence of any sort, is that a child can be really good at one thing, but maybe at grade level or below level on something else. My hope is that some of the resources I provide about homeschooling and school choice will help another parent not struggle so hard to get where I’ve gotten over the years.”

Christal is also part of a group of Black quantitative homeschool researchers. She believes homeschooling is one key to helping us unlock the true potential in our children, as she’s seen with Cash.

“We want these creative thinkers, these independent learners. These are going to be the people that get us out of the problems that we see in the world. My kid has passions that are conservation, environmental science. He continues to do projects in regards to river cleanups and alternative forms of energy. He’s 9. It’s mind blowing what they will do on their own, with just the resource they’ve got and without someone saying, sit down, let’s learn about XYZ.”