The secret behind developing an educational program tailored to meet the needs of each individual child is simply getting to know the child! And part of knowing the child is respecting him for who he is and developing his talents and interests.
Here are 14 ideas to help you incorporate essential skills, while appreciating the individual needs of each child.
- We like to think of our mini-units as open-ended investigations — encouraging our children to research and learn on their own. The one who does the work is the one who is learning. So if we as teachers and mentors are the ones pulling the information together, we will learn quite a bit! But how about our students? As much as he is able, allow your child to do his own research. Provide him with access to information and the necessary tools and skills to learn anything on his own.
- Keep your time frame open ended. We tend to get stuck in standardization.
We cannot anticipate the opportunities that God will provide to address immediate needs; opportunities too rich to pass up simply because our schedules say, “today is the day we work on multiplication, study the Roman empire and dissect a frog.” Sometimes the best academic lessons are those that happen serendipitously. And sometimes the best homeschooling days are those that veered seriously off the beaten path.
If you believe that there is no basis of knowledge that all must learn, that a child will learn best when something is most relevant to him, then you can take advantage of this quickening in his curiosity by using it as a vehicle for practicing his skills. Yes, we can always set a wide subject content before him, but do spelling lists, for example, really need to be generated from a generic workbook?
- Don’t force connections in the name of getting all of the subjects covered. Remember subjects are a convenience to those who must teach a large number of children, keep those students all on the same page, and cover a certain amount of material each year. Again, if we are providing a wide array of content, the “subjects” will be covered. But do use those areas of interest that the topic provides.
- Scour your favorite book lists and “books about books” for those really good reads that cover the topic.
- Has someone else created a unit on the topic? You may not be interested in the entire unit, but can glean ideas from others.
- Incorporate language art skills. Spelling, writing and vocabulary can be practiced on any topic of interest. Your child can copy his favorite passages from the books he is reading on the topic. He can narrate back to you what he has read. You can pull some passages from the book he is working through and dictate them to him, practicing spelling and grammar.
- Are there any real math applications? While we strongly recommend working systematically through a math textbook that develops skills upon skills, there are always opportunities to tie the math our students are learning to the topics they are studying.
- Is there a history-related component to the topic (there almost always is). If your child keeps a timeline throughout his learning years, he can place the event in the appropriate slot. Look for biographies that give the flavor of the time period.
- Is there a geographical component? Use a map to find locations where appropriate.
- Is the topic science related? Incorporate an experiment and have your child practice the scientific method. Perhaps a science kit will illustrate important principles.
- Art and music tend to get overlooked in our busy homeschool schedules. Look for ways to incorporate art appreciation. Is there an illustrative and appropriate craft? Is there a musical element?
- Don’t go overboard on the entertainment. Similarly go lightly on the multimedia options. One or two interactive games or a short video will suffice.
- Take time to follow the bunny trails when appropriate. Following an interest through to its exhaustive conclusion is a satisfying way to learn. Keep supplying your child with what he needs to pursue that interest. (It goes without saying — he will not need to spend an inordinate amount of time investigating skateboards.)
- Have your child keep a notebook. Not only will this document all that he has learned, it will be a valuable reference.