Not everything that homeschoolers study is easy to translate into a high school credit. For instance, what do you do if your child learns best by living, instead of studying textbooks? What if your child soaks up knowledge like a sponge, without being directed in any way? Can you still put that activity on a high school transcript?
I once heard a mom say, "My son's interested in something that's not a real academic course—he's mapping the moons of Jupiter." Another mom once told me, "I really need to teach my child music because all he ever does is play bluegrass, and bluegrass isn't real music." I almost laughed out loud! Bluegrass music is music, and mapping the moons of Jupiter is astronomy, and both of these students were engaged in what I call "delight directed learning."
Delight directed learning is when a person pursues learning about a topic because they take great delight in it, and not just because it's a required course.
When you're looking for resources, parents have unlimited choices when it comes to delight directed learning. Make sure you include curriculum that covers all the basics for sure — you can't skimp on reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. But you also want to look for curriculum that will encourage your child's passion! If they love art, music, or science, remember to buy those! If they ask for microbiology, or economics, or Russian History, follow their interests and get it for them.
Use a Light Touch
Don't, however, take those passions and turn them into a "school subject." I remember one mom who wanted to encourage her student's delight, and so she turned it into a homeschool course—complete with assignments, worksheets, and tests. Strangely enough, her student lost interest in the subject when it became a dreaded "class" that he had to work on! How can you encourage a passion in your child without making it into a school subject? It's actually very simple and consists of only three steps: find a mentor, don't work ahead, and follow behind.
Find a Mentor
Encourage them in their interests by finding mentors through clubs and colleges. You may need to Google a specific term such as "ornithology clubs" to find a group, but you will find many options to choose from. You can find mentors by contacting small, friendly colleges to find a helpful professor. Ask around at church and other community groups to see if you can find an adult with the same interests. It took a LONG time asking before we found a mentor in economics for my son. The first two we tried weren't a good fit, but they eventually led to a great professor who really took my son under his wing. Ask yourself: if you had that interest as an adult, how would YOU find a way to meet like-minded people?
Of course, that also means that you have to go with your child, drive them, wait for them, and all the other inconvenient things that happen to parents that encourage their children's interests. Sorry about that! I got to be good friends with my barista during those years of my life! You can also search curriculum catalogs and see what books and curriculum your child seems to love. My son actually ASKED for Sonlight American Government when he was young, just because he was interested. Let them look in the catalog. Watch videos, and listen for clues about how to get involved while your child is just enjoying the content.
I've been following your column/blog/FB/emails for several months now, assuming I was preparing myself for homeschooling high school in 2 years - little did I know, my son would decide to come home from public school 3 weeks ago, so I've been thrust into this position all of a sudden!
And, I must say, without your cyber-support, I'm sure I'd have had a panic attack or worse. I was headed that a way when I received an email about "Credits and Grades and Transcripts, OH MY!!" I watched it, joined the Silver Club, typed an email, upgraded to the GOLD Club, and suddenly - I was at peace...everything began falling into place. I realized my stress was coming from the fact that I was trying to change my method of homeschooling just because of age level. I was going to a textbook-and-test-on-Fridays school instead of the literature-based approach we've always enjoyed.
Somehow, it all fell into place. Watching a couple of webinars helped me focus my thinking and get back on track. I'm looking forward to talking with Lee on Wednesday and having a sounding board for ideas and other options re: homeschooling high school.
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