Develop Lifelong Passionate Learners in Your Homeschool

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your children just powered through all their studies with total passion?

In your dream world, you’re thinking?

Here’s how to infuse their studies with more passion and delight – and less struggle.

 

The fusion of Unschooling and Homeschooling…

Twenty or 30 years ago, there were two movements within the larger homeschooling movement… homeschooling, and what was known as unschooling.

Unschooling was a very hands-off approach, where you basically let your child decide what to learn, or what not to learn. I personally think it’s dangerous to let an immature child decide what they’ll learn.

Then there was the more “conventional” homeschooling… which really wasn’t conventional at all back then. But at least it was more parent-directed.

If you had college in mind for your child, you had to cover the expected college prep courses (and still do).

A core curriculum is important, even if your child’s not headed for college. Because it equips them to understand and converse about the world we live in.

Certain functional skills are also essential to make it in the world – like money management, household maintenance and cleaning, driving a car. So those should be in every curriculum, even if your child thinks they’re optional.

Beyond that, every child is blessed with unique gifts and abilities. Certain things “turn on” their learning switch and get them excited about studying for hours on end.

And that’s where the real fun begins – because that’s where their passions, motivation, and giftedness lie. As well as a potential future career. It ties into who they are as a person and their natural bent.

 

How to discover and guide this “delight directed learning”

In many ways, discovering it is simple. As long as you lay a strong foundation and pay attention…

The best way to tease out their unique interests is to expose them to many topics via reading and events while they’re young. And by young, I mean all the years leading up to age 10.

When I was ten, I heard about tornadoes and hurricanes for the first time.

I devoured every book I could find in our small town… saturated my brain with every bit of knowledge I could dig up from encyclopedias and the school library. I was fascinated and hooked, even though I had to do it on my own time. To this day, I’m still kind of a “weather junkie,” though I never pursued it as a career.

Books can open up whole new worlds. Museums, parks, camping, and special events can too.

Even if your resources are limited and you don’t have the money to travel, everyone can access a public library, be an “armchair traveler,” and read about almost anything. Uncover every opportunity you have access to. Tap into the skill sets of the people in your personal network. Attend free events close to home. You never know what’ll come of them.

Now, for some detective work…

 

The best “detectives” pay special attention to these things…

  • How do they spend their personal money?

From about the age of 7, my third son spent his own money at neighborhood garage sales buying up defunct radios, TVs, and other electronics. He was especially interested if they (a) didn’t work and (b) cost less than 25 cents. He took them apart to see why they didn’t work, and tried to put them back together again – often successfully. He stashed wires and parts literally everywhere, and eventually majored in electrical engineering, graduating with honors. An early hint…

  • What do they instinctively pick up to read whenever they don’t “have” to read for school?

If they love to read about the financial markets, or starting a business, or economics, that’s a hint. Or maybe it’s sports, or biology…

  • If you offer them an “a” versus “b” topic to study, what do they choose?

Get past the idea that you have to cover everything in every textbook. Ask your child if they’d rather study horses or dogs, and hit the library. You never know what new passion they’ll discover.

  • What learning style do they exhibit…visual, auditory, or kinesthetic?

It may influence what they have fun doing. One of my twins was very visual, and learned well in a “conventional” way, from books and textbooks.

His twin brother was highly kinesthetic. He learned best when doing projects – like a relief map of westward expansion across the U.S. Whenever we discussed anything, he paced the room. It drove me crazy… I always thought he was in another world. But when asked what I’d just said, he could (usually) tell me. He just processed information when in motion!

  • Which personality type are they? This influences their interests more than you might think.

An outgoing person who’s always thinking about people, psychology, or sales is on the opposite end of the spectrum from a meticulous melancholy who digs into highly technical topics like computer science. Think “Outgoing Jane” would love computer science? Maybe, but not very likely… She’d have to endure way too much “alone” time.

Likewise, a hard-charging child may enjoy starting or running a business, while his laid-back sibling may prefer not to.

  • If a younger sibling needs help, what subjects will an older sibling rush to tutor, and which will he avoid like the plague?

Someone who loves a particular subject is often willing to “help” someone else learn it. (The more like-minded people, the better, right?) One of my daughters loved math from a very early age. She was always eager to help her sister with math. With writing? Not so much.

  • What special clubs, classes, and associations do they want to join? What magazines will they pay their own money to buy?

One of my sons loved aviation when he was young. He was determined to become a pilot. He found a couple aviation magazines at the library and spent his own money to subscribe to them…

For years, he was a walking encyclopedia of all things airborne. He knew every stat about who-knows-how-many airplanes. It was a very sad day when he learned his eyes would prevent him from flying. But it provided him with hundreds of hours of delight-directed learning for many years.

 

Solve this riddle, and you’re only partly done…

Once you recognize areas or topics your child is passionate about, how you proceed will be different if they’re eight versus 16.

At age eight, their school day isn’t too long and demanding. So you can easily “schedule” time for them to pursue their passion. But don’t ignore the basics, like math, reading, and chores… Consider this dessert instead of the main course.

Encourage them to invest in their own education by spending their own money on acquiring subscriptions and materials for their delight directed subject. It’s good to learn to develop yourself and your skills anyway. And it’s a first step in being a lifelong learner.

Providing access to people who are knowledgeable about their topic is one of the best resources you can contribute.

In high school, it can be trickier to fit in, what with college requirements and testing – unless you can find a way to make it a part of your curriculum.

Brainstorm with your teenager how to make it work. Ask him for ideas of what “broad” subject (aka, college requirement) it could be part of.

You have three basic options for fitting it in:

  • Make it a whole course in your college prep curriculum, or a special “concentration” within a course
  • Create an internship to work in that field (develops sales skills too – see story below)
  • Utilize museums, universities, or other venues to intermittently learn more about it

Take zoology, for example: You could create your own Zoology curriculum… create an internship with a veterinarian… audit a free online (or local) university course – for an example, check out MIT’s Open Courseware program at http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm.

My electrical engineering son asked for a job building computers at a local shop when he was 14. They turned him down flat. Instead, he sold them on interning for them full time for two weeks, in exchange for priority consideration when (and if) they had need of an employee in the future – assuming they liked him.

About three weeks after his internship, a major order came in and they asked him to work as many hours as possible to fill the order. He worked there at least one or two days a week through the rest of high school. And has kept in touch with the owners for years. Plus, that job became a stepping-stone for others…

Part of your role as a homeschool parent is to help your child discern his passions and unique giftedness.

May these ideas provide a foundation for discerning what your child loves, so his days may be filled with the joy of learning about this amazing world.

Let Your Voice Be Heard!