Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Discovering and Following Interests: A Balanced Approach - Part Two

While following their interests, we pursued a unit study approach. When studying baseball, for example, they learned about American history, geography, the art of Norman Rockwell, the science of the sport, and human anatomy. Unit studies allowed me to keep their education well rounded, stretching their one area of interest into a balanced academic approach.

I will never forget the time when our children were young, when I first realized I had completely overlooked an interest of one child. In my rush to get him to learn his times tables and make it to every baseball practice, I had not seen the obvious. I was telling him goodnight one evening, when I noticed the rows of jars that lined his windowsills, filled with all kinds of cuttings of plants from our tropical jungle of a yard in Florida. He had quietly been bringing in clippings and finding containers for them to see if they would take root. I asked him to tell me about the jars, and his face lit up like a candle on a dark night. How had I missed this in the midst of the day-to-day family life pressures? I learned all kinds of things that night, and so much changed.

I began to watch for signs of interest and paid attention to their passions. One child would be taking apart everything in the house: computers, DVD players, VCRs, and all things involving electronics. He had to know how they worked, completely. Not just from something in a book or on a video—he had to tear it apart to see what made it tick. We let him take things apart, and we finally learned to buy electronics at the local thrift shop and garage sales. He eventually taught himself how to program computers. He is now majoring in computer science in college, and his first app is just about to be published. He is in his element and racing along the learning edge at the speed of light.

With three children, we followed all kinds of interesting side roads. But these pursuits have made the journey SO worth the time and effort! We now have two college graduates (one is a veterinarian and one is a tree farmer), while our youngest just began his college career as a baseball player, majoring in computer science. Not one similarity in any of their interests, gifts, or talents, but oh, what a great combination of characters! J

At times, their interests will be so obvious that you can’t miss them—a love for dance, a passion for soccer, an insatiable curiosity to see the world through a microscope, an endless series of tree house designs, a never-ending stream of questions about heavy construction equipment. Notice these and build from them into other areas of connected interest. For example, from an interest in tree house designs, you can introduce them to home design, how a blueprint works, observing the construction of a new home on a daily basis, talking with an architect, etc. And yes, you still need to build the tree house.


Amanda B.

You can still read  Discovering and Following Interests: A Balanced Approach - Part One .  Don't miss our final Part Three next week!


  1. I would love to do unit studies but I am very insecure about covering all subjects and than missing some special gift one child has while we're studying another subject. It seems a little overwhelming. How can I get started on Unit studies and calm my performance worries?

  2. Our unit studies come with everything you need and are already planned out for you, so you don't have to worry about how to get started! All you need to add is Phonics and Math, and you’re set. Once you have it, you are ready to go and can use the entire study, or just pick out the parts that best fit the needs of your children. For some ideas on where to start, go here, and scroll down to where it says "Where do I start?"


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