Thursday, January 12, 2012

Discovering and Following Interests: A Balanced Approach - Part One

You hear so much about interest-directed learning these days, don’t you? When I first began homeschooling, the concept was still very new. Most homeschoolers still followed a traditional education model, and there were a few of us who went off the beaten path and used unit studies. At our house, we used unit studies based on what fascinated our children. We were renegades, and we have had a wonderful experience along the way as we followed their interests.

We have been blessed with three children, and our homeschool journey—following their interests—has been all over the map. I don’t know about your children, but my children are as different as can be! My husband and I both anticipated that they would be intrigued by things like engineering (we both received degrees in engineering); so just imagine our surprise when we discovered that they had other interests!

As I look back now, the thought that keeps crossing my mind is that the gifts and talents our children have discovered within themselves probably would have remained undiscovered in a traditional school setting. Through the blessing of homeschooling, we have been able to show them the wonders of this world and capture their imaginations. Who knew that animals, plants, computers, and baseball would open so many doors! Well, the Lord certainly knew, and that has been such a reassurance as we homeschooled over our 18-year adventure.

But in the beginning . . .

When we began our journey, we were goal-oriented: focused on diplomas, degrees, and completion of standards set by the world. Slowly but surely, the Lord showed us glimpses of interest and natural gifts that had gone unnoticed when they were in school. The curiosity of children is an amazing thing, and their response to your interest in their curiosity grows like a rapidly opening rosebud—almost fast enough to see the miracle happen moment by moment.

Each child—each and every child—is uniquely gifted. In the rush to meet the expectations of the world of academia and extended family, it is so easy to overlook this very simple truth: each one is uniquely gifted. Just because he looks exactly like his dad doesn’t mean that he will also enjoy working on cars as much as his dad does. Just because she has my eyes and dimples doesn’t mean that she will be a nonstop reader like I am. It took a bit of homeschooling for us to learn this, and it’s been quite an adventure to explore their gifts and talents as part of the homeschooling process.

Children come into this world with insatiable curiosity, a magnificent imagination, and creativity as unique as their fingerprints. Creativity is one of those gifts that I believe God has given us since He created us in His image. It also can open the door to all of the treasures and abilities that He placed within us. Some children will be more interested in the great outdoors, while others will want to read any books within reach. Still others will struggle with handwriting while taking your breath away with their pencil sketches along the margins of their copywork. There are many kinds of interests that can lead to the discovery of gifts and talents. Some interests will take you around the world and back again, only to discover that what they were most interested in at the age of five (fireman) is exactly what they will pursue as they reach adulthood.

As your children grow, pay attention to the things that hold their interest or attention. At first glance, their interest might be so unique that it is quickly overlooked. A child who loves to go look at the animals in the pet store with every trip to the mall may have more than puppy love. The seeds of interest in animal science might be ready for cultivation.


Amanda B.

Next week, we'll have Discovering and Following Interests: A Balanced Approach - Part Two.  Don't miss it, be sure to subscribe via email or RSS Feed!

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