Mom Tips: Personalizing education for your kids
Do you have a son who loves dinosaurs? A daughter who likes to build with Legos? A budding musician or entrepreneur on your hands?
Kids learn best when they're interested in the subject matter. And while there are certain subjects and facts that you probably consider essential -- things like nouns and verbs and math facts -- it's entirely possible to incorporate your kids' interests into their lessons.
How? With a little creativity.
Take the dino-loving boy. Use his interest in dinosaurs to make language, math, science and social studies lessons come to life. If you're studying nouns and verbs, write sentences that include the words, "Tyrannosaurus rex," "slashed" and "gobbled." Encourage him to write (or dictate) a paragraph about his favorite dinosaur. Go to the library and check out dinosaur videos and books. Leave the book lying around the house; a true dinosaur fanatic will flip through the books, even if he's reluctant to read standard texts.
Help your son make a list of dinosaurs and their weights. Graph the information. Make comparisons. (A T-Rex weighs as much as…A car? A house? Two blue whales?) Grab a tape measure and some chalk and head outside. Create a real-world size comparison chart of dino lengths.
Break out a globe and point out various locations where dinosaur bones have been discovered. Talk about the process of fossilization. Head to a natural history museum. You'll see dinosaur bones, but you'll probably also see a ton of other interesting exhibits as well, which may stimulate your child's interest in another topic.
My oldest son, now 13, is a passionate fisherman. Rather than insisting that he place his passion on the back burner, we've found ways to integrate his passion into the curriculum. Recently, he wrote an English essay about musky fishing. (The assignment was to write an essay about why your home state is a great place to visit.) He's given speeches about fishing, learned a ton about habitat and geography by reading fishing books and magazines, and now writes fishing-related content for a website. (A gig that has greatly improved his spelling and writing.)
My second son, age 11, was never very interested in books. He did, however, enjoy drawing. So we read aloud to him while encouraging his interest in art. We brought home comic books and graphic novels. Today, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is his favorite book series. He's even created a few comics of his own.
The beauty of an online education is that you have the time, space and freedom to customize your kids' education. Whenever possible, find ways to incorporate their interests into the curriculum. Encouraging their curiosity and passion will help keep their love of learning alive.
Jennifer L.W. Fink is a freelance writer and mother of four boys. Her homeschooling journey began over seven years ago and has included just about every possible permutation of homeschooling: full-time homeschool, combination homeschool/public school, and full-time institutional school. She blogs about boys and education at Blogging 'Bout Boys.