The secret behind developing an educational program tailored to meet the needs of each individual child is simply getting to know the child! And part of knowing the child is respecting him for who he is and developing his talents and interests. In the midst of academic basics, scopes and sequences, record keeping, and chores how you do you create an environment that allows your children the time and freedom to pursue their interests?
- Schedule “Productive Free Time.” Productive free time is that time of the day when children are free to pursue their own interests – as long as they are in some way productive. No passive activities such as watching TV or playing computer games. This may take some encouragement at first if your children are not used to productively managing their time, but the payoffs are wonderful! To get your children started, make a list of those areas in which your child expresses an interest. He can always add new interests to the list as they arise. Help him gather any materials he might need – special paper or tools or books from the library.
- Avoid Over-Scheduling. Organized activities have their place, but homeschoolers have a tendency to be over-organized! Over-scheduling prevents our children from having time to explore on their own, to find their own interests, to pursue the passions that may one day find their way into their life’s work.
- Expose your child to many different potential areas of interest. Some will fall by the wayside, but some will ignite a spark. One of the easiest, most cost-free, and most reliable ways to do this is simply give your child a book about a subject. Pretty soon you’ll notice one book follows your child around the house. That’s when you know your child has a new interest!
- Employ the “coffee-table strategy.” In our home the gathering place is usually the living room. Perhaps Dad will sit down to relax for a few minutes enjoying a much neglected book while dinner is being prepared. The next thing you know children will occupy the other sitting areas. Maybe they will bring something of their own to read. But often they will choose a book from the coffee table, strategically placed by yours truly. There are usually several titles to choose from. Most of the books are selected from a variety of book lists and previewed. They might cover astronomy, or fishing, or woodworking, or Queen Victoria. They always spark a conversation. Frequently they spark a new interest.
- Share your interests. You can apprentice your children to work along side you as you pursue your hobbies and interests. At the same time, you’ll be building wonderful memories!
- Let your older children help you plan their next year. The upper level years have plenty of room for “electives.”
One of the blessings of homeschooling is really getting to know our children. They have been designed for a specific purpose, a purpose that was known to their Creator long before they were born. As parents, we can use this opportunity of educating our children at home to help them find and develop their gifts, to nurture them according to the way they are already “bent,” and encourage them as they pursue those giftings to God’s glory. This requires much more than your “typical” generic education! It requires time and investment. But what higher calling do we have as parents, than to “train our children in the way they should go?”