When I signed up to homeschool my kids, I had 5 yrs. of teaching middle school on my resume. From my experience in the classroom, I felt a huge disconnect between textbook and student and was VERY determined that I wouldn’t bore the brains out of my own kids with dull textbooks. My goal was to make their learning meaningful. Period. While there have definitely been years with “life happening” and our school took a more textbooky route, my heart has always been to create a meaningful, customized learning experience for all of my kids.
MAKE A PLAN
As soon as the final 4th of July boom has made us collectively “Ooooh!” and the smell of sulphur has drifted away in the Oklahoma breeze, my mind shifts to school planning for the new year. My goal is to make education meaningful for my children … each one of them. While this is absolutely the most difficult thing to pull off for 7 kids – I try. Some years have been extremely challenging and I’ve failed, but I keep pushing ahead.
LOOK TO THE PAST
Mid-summer, I sit down with each of my school-age kids and discuss the past (previous year), present, and future. We discuss the subjects they did well in as well as the ones that were a struggle. We talk about what they wish they never had to study again as well as their favorites they’d like to study more. The goal is for them to play an active role in the process by seeking their input. “Owning” their education as much as possible even when they’re young is my desire for them.
LOOK OPPORTUNITIES TO CONNECT LEARNING WITH THEIR PASSIONS
So, this is the key – we look outside of “school” – trying to unearth opportunities to connect what they love with what they must learn. What do they enjoy? What are their passions? The goal is to customize their learning to make it meaningful to them as much as possible. In order for this to happen I look outside of “school” for opportunities for enrichment, mentorship, and other opportunities to grow in a knowledge area or skill.
For my older son, we used most of his elective credits in high school for his passion for political activism and leadership. He attended local, weekly PAC meetings, volunteered for political campaigns, founded and led a student civic activist club, and organized and led student groups to visit state legislators regarding pending legislation. I was able to combine these experiences along with reading, writing and even debating on these topics to give elective credits.
For another son, I’m in the process of trying to customize his love of nature/wildlife into courses that will allow him to take a deep dive into his area of interest. I’ve looked for clubs/organizations within this area where he could learn from more seasoned folks with the same passion. Whenever I can integrate a content area/skill that he dislikes or is weak into the broad field of his passion, SCORE!
For example, I found a wildlife club that holds weekly meetings which are led by the student club members. This leadership role is something that doesn’t come natural to him and he would never seek out a class on public speaking/leadership. However, if he gets to talk about his first-hand knowledge of how he’s experimented with particular types of lures to catch the big kahunas, he’ll be all about it!
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
Especially with my older kids, we look beyond the next school year. College? Employment after high school? Gap year? As parents, we probably know our kids better than they know themselves which plays a huge role in how we help guide/steer our kids down a path that prepares them for what lies ahead.
However, listening to my kids is absolutely essential – how they perceive their trajectory taking shape and where it’s leading. How do they feel God is wanting to use their natural passions/abilities and interests? Additionally, I encourage them to take aptitude and career assessment tests online to give them even more insight. Even though I think he’s good at math, he may not want to study art. I have to let go of my own agenda at times – I have to get ME out of the picture and listen to THEM.
You can download a printable that I use when talking with my kids as I try to assess opportunities to connect passions to learning. I hope it can be helpful to you as you walk through helping your student connect with his passions in a meaningful way.