I’m going through the children’s schooling today and need to write to clear my mind. There is so much I want to teach them, that I become overwhelmed by it. How can I fit it all in such a short time of being their teacher? One solution is to ask, “What does this child need?”
Homeschooling is a tough decision, but once you get into it and decide what you think education is (or should be), the path becomes more clear. And once you figure out what you’d like for this child, this unique child, it can be so much fun! Sure, there are the hair-pulling days, but they are usually when we have lost perspective.
How do you figure out what this child needs?
1. Ask: what do I most want him or her to learn?
I have written down a list of “non-negotiables;” a list of “musts.” These are the things that we want to be sure to include in our homeschool, and I keep them in mind when working on any academic plans:
- A love of learning. If that is too abstract, then…curiosity. Too abstract? Then…a knowledge of how to find answers.
- Family and community consideration. Helping others.
- Biblical knowledge.
Now, ask the child what she wants to learn. She should feel secure enough to answer honestly. You may not be able to include her whole list this year (we didn’t make it through War & Peace the year our 11-year-old requested it, for goodness sake), but try to fit in her top five.
2. Considering the child’s personality and interests, create a mindmap (or jot down some thoughts)
Write a paragraph or create a mindmap on what motivates this child. Include what path she wants to take. What is her learning style (auditory, tactile, visual)? By the time you’re done, you’ll have an idea of what your child could, or should, study this year.
Here is an example from our homeschool, as a mindmap and as a written paragraph from my journal that year:
Our daughter, the second child, needs to be able to move, her hands need to be occupied, and she needs to feel free. She does not learn well from audio or video. She learns best through doing, making, moving. She works well independently, and does not want or need to be micromanaged. She is patient with herself and does not mind failure [in trying]. She is passionate about caring for things, from people to plants to animals. She needs to be outdoors much of every day.– written in my journal
3. Make a list of books and subjects to cover this year
Now that I have the child’s personality and interests in mind, I create a list of book titles and subjects I would like to see us cover this year. Since she is interested in music, according to our mindmap above, and she is wiggly, and since I want to cover classical music with her, we will learn in an interactive way (through an online program such as Classics for Kids, or by enrolling in the local youth orchestra).
This is only a “wishlist,” if you will; I’m not obligating myself to covering all of it. Quickly, without over-thinking, I write down a list of books and subjects I’d like to cover with her: music appreciation, fine arts, musical instruments, Spanish, Plutarch, Shakespeare, world culture, Plato, Pilgrim’s Progress, Anne of Green Gables, cooking, sewing, physics, chemistry…I could list for the next hour and still only have written a fraction of what I want to teach her before she graduates.
I wrote in my journal how we will combine this child’s interests and personality with academics:
This is her 7th grade year. She will: attend ballet classes, be in the local youth orchestra with an instrument of her choice, do science through nature study, math through flashcards, history will be taught through books over teatime and we will attend local history events and visit local historical attractions. She will read through a selection of classics (she may choose which book of the offered selection). She wants to begin a business this year of her own crochet designs.written in my journal
I also add in the items from my “must” list (#1, above). We will read the Bible together; I will find community volunteer outings (such as playing an instrument at the local nursing home – they are such considerate listeners to beginning players), and visiting family in other states (learning about other cultures as we travel). Our plan won’t look like a syllabus from a brick-and-mortar school, but it will be what this child needs.
Note: Don’t worry over what she’ll need in the future; do this exercise each year or each semester, or if you’re still overwhelmed, decide by month or even by week.
A Parental Benefit of Homeschooling to Your Child’s Personality and Interests
When we follow a child’s interests, and spend time with her, we the parents will also inevitably learn. We will read books together that we parents never read as children, and we’ll learn about things we never thought to learn. I have knowledge of history, mechanics, fabric design, math, and literature that I never had before homeschooling our children. This is an exciting and useful side benefit of homeschooling!