Encouraging Delight Directed Learning
How can you encourage a passion in your child without making it into a school subject?
- Find a mentor
- Don't work ahead
- Follow behind
Encourage your child in their interests by finding mentors through clubs and colleges. If your child has an interest in birds, you can search for "ornithology clubs" to find a group, but there are many. You can find mentors by contacting small, friendly colleges for 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 for economics. The first two we tried weren't a good fit, but they eventually led to a great professor who took my Alex 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, this also means you have to go with your child, drive them, wait for them ... all the inconvenient things that happen to parents who 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 for books and curriculum your child seems to love. My son ASKED for Sonlight American Government when he was young, just because he was interested. Let your child look over the catalog.
Going back to birds, I know that National Geographic can be a good place to start. Watch videos and listen for clues about how to get involved while your son is just enjoying the content.
Don't work ahead of your child by preparing tests or worksheets. You don't have to assess them with tests, just record what they are doing and discussing. Allow them to write school papers on the topic of their choice. If they produce some high school level writing on the subject they love, then you can include it in the documentation of the class. I tried to give my children their choice of writing topics. Toward the end of the year I would have to say, "Ok, but this time NOTHING on economics or American history!"
Follow along behind your child as they enjoy their interests. Try to capture what you can for class documentation ... writing, drawings, work experiences, records of group meetings, etc. Grab samples of what they do for fun, without forcing them to do anything. When the year is done, you can group all the experiences together and compile it int a course description.
In my Comprehensive Record Solution
, you can see examples of the "Self Directed Courses" my kids did in our homeschool. Critical Thinking, Public Speaking, Occupational Education, and Russian History were on Kevin's record. My other son had self-directed courses in Economics, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Business Law, Psychology, and Principles of Marketing. It's possible for kids to learn things JUST because they love them. And parents can pick up the mess they leave behind and turn it into a wonderful course description to explain what their kid has accomplished!
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Please note: This post was originally published in August 2008 and has been updated and revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.