Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Interest-led learning

The best thing about homeschooling--well, except for the time we spend together as a family, being able to read wonderful books together and, of course, being able to count household chores as home ec.--is the ability to fine-tune your child's education to fit their specific interests. In our family, this has looked like an entire year's worth of math geared towards the theme of a veterinary clinic, an ongoing study of the flags of the world and a rather in-depth and involved investigation into the science of the submarine.

None of this was scripted--not in the earliest stages, at least. Each of these things that has contributed to the uniqueness of our own homeschooling journey came about primarily because one (or more) children developed a deep interest in a topic that held enough mystery for all of us that we decided to give it a go. In most of the instances when I have followed my children's lead, I've had to be especially creative in crafting resources into usable materials. For instance, when Jo was especially anti-math, but extremely pro-animal science, I did a bit of legwork and wrote a math text of my own for her. It was nothing more than a spiral-bound notebook that I titled "Country Doctor Case Files" and filled with scenarios and story problems that forced her to add, subtract, estimate, weigh, measure, multiply and divide. Each of these skills were ones that she had the ability to do, but not the desire. Seeing the problems presented in the context of something she was most definitely interested in gave her the chance to see that those skills were important--and so was her passion for all things hoofed and pawed.

Most recently, I've found myself dabbling in the world of lapbooking--again, following my children's interests. While I am not a huge fan of the genre I call "Cut! Color! Paste!" just for the sake of cutting, coloring and pasting, my children seem to get something out of lapbooking that they really enjoy. I think it's an outgrowth of the fact that we are a very oral-driven family. We read a loud for a good portion of the day, and the children have found wonderful ways to keep their hands busy. Coloring, drawing, playing with Lincoln Logs or Legos, knitting and sewing are all activities that have become the norm around here. Lapbooking seems to take the coloring and drawing bit and fuse it to the reading; more often than not, they are asking for lapbook ideas that go along with what we're reading about. In that sense, it's sort of a glorified extension of the Dover coloring book collection we already have in heavy rotation.

In addition to the lapbook addition to our family homeschool routine, we've also been hearing from Jo that she would like to pursue piano lessons. Her best friend is a very gifted pianist, so perhaps the interest stems mainly from the desire to have yet one more thing in common with R. I don't know. She says that it only makes sense; her life's calling--stated since she was 7-- is that she wants to be a missionary in Chile with Christian Veterinary Missions. Of course, she says, she will have to be able to conduct some sort of worship service, right? Hence, the piano lessons.

The main concern I have here is that, to date, Jo has showed no sign whatsoever of having a shred of musical talent. She comes by this honestly; both dh and I played instruments in middle and high school, but neither or us rose to the cream of the crop, if you know what I mean. While Jo adores classical music (right now, of course, she's a Tchaikovsky fanatic), I have no reason to believe that she's any more talented in this discipline that either of her parents.

(Logan, however, appears to be a different story. This boy is nothing but recessive genes, I tell you!)

Since we first began this homeschooling journey, our family has been dedicated to following the talents, interests and gifts that each child is called to. So far, that has never steered us wrong. A steady diet of wonderful literature, thought-provoking culture and history, new ideas, sound doctrine and ample opportunity, coupled with the fact questions are enthusiastically encouraged has produced children who are not afraid to try new things and, if need be, to fail.

This is why--despite the fact that owning a piano was certainly never on my list of things to do--we're scanning Craig's List and checking out our options. Another interest has called. We owe it to our children to answer, if at all possible.


Dawn said...

That was an interesting post. I really need to look into lapbooking, I keep hearing about it. Thanks for setting up a Sonlight blog ring- that will be fun to be a part of.

Steve Sensenig said...

I have no idea what your piano budget is like, but I would suggest that you consider a digital piano. You will not have to put any money into maintenance of it (i.e., tuning), and the best part is that you can plug in headphones and practice without disturbing others. Plus they often have a few other "fun" sounds on them that make the piano seem more interesting to some children.