Stir Up a Little Homeschool Enthusiasm
By Vicki Bentley
Knowing your child’s interests can help you to stir up some enthusiasm. Learning is more interesting when it becomes relevant to real life or is tied to something about which he is passionate (even if it’s just the “fascination of the week”). In The Christian Home School, Gregg Harris refers to this as “delight-directed” learning; Marilyn Howshall expands the definition in Wisdom’s Way of Learning and Robin Sampson explains more in The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach.
Focus on His Fascination
What does your child do when he’s not doing schoolwork? Consider his interests and find ways to capitalize on those. For example, a friend taught her son to alphabetize in an afternoon by teaching him how to organize his favorite baseball cards alphabetically—it would have taken her weeks using her standard language arts lessons, after he had slithered to the floor from his chair in frustration.
Your roller-coaster enthusiast might become more interested in physics introduced in the context of amusement park rides and the science behind them. The budding storyteller or novelist can be inspired to learn editing and revision, literary style, vocabulary—not to mention word processing and keyboarding—as he develops his own composition. In a room makeover, let the child pick his own paint and then calculate his room’s square footage, and the amount of paint needed, then the total cost of the project!
For an older child, consider including him in some of the decisions—what science or history topics does he want to know more about? Would he prefer to write a report or do an end-of-section project? What foreign language sounds interesting or useful to him? Even a younger child can tell you what he knows and what he wonders about a topic.
One parent built a themed study around a student’s interest in visiting Scotland. The high school student researched flight information, currency types and exchange rates, places to visit, the history and government of Scotland, customs and dress, literature and culture, and more.
Food for Thought
Another creative homeschooler spent several years in various studies arising from baking a red velvet cake! The ingredients list—flour, eggs, cocoa, salt, etc.—became the study topics. Where does flour come from? How is it milled? What are various types and how do they differ? What are the health and finance ramifications of industrialized milling? Where do we get red food coloring? (Can you say, “beetle juice”?) Egg research evolved into a small business selling eggs and raising chicks, and chocolate became “food” for research as this homeschool family investigated the history and processing of several varieties of chocolate. A year or two later, they ate cake.
Think Outside the (Curriculum) Box
Lighten things up a bit with fun and games in your homeschool. Read up a bit on learning styles and try to include some work that is “up his alley,” so to speak. It helps to dangle the occasional “carrot” of a fun family project for closure—such as a medieval feast to finish a Middle Ages unit—or a few off-the-wall holiday celebrations, such as Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
Most importantly, be excited about being with your children as they learn—your enthusiasm can rub off on them!
(This article was adapted from the Early Years email newsletter, April 2013.)