We can provide the “richest” education, whether that be classically-, literature-, or otherwise-based, and yet fail to provide an education specifically designed for each child — a non-generic, personalized education.
If we don’t allow our children the time to develop their strengths and interests, then even the best education will have nothing to work with. What will they hold upon graduation? Or after college? A regular nine-to-five with a commute, a mortgage, and an all-too-frequently unused kitchen? Boredom. I have heard it said in such circumstances that homeschooling worked because “he ended up just like everyone else.” But is that our goal? Shouldn’t we aim higher? Shouldn’t we take advantage of this incredible opportunity to not only provide a first-rate education, but also an education that allows and encourages him to be all that he can be?
- What if we allot time every day for him to find and practice his craft?
- What if we give him a chance to get in his 10,000 hours?
- What if instead of college being the norm, our children only go to college if they need to be professionally trained or specifically degreed to do that thing they already know they love?
With a personalized education the sky is the limit. Then the classically-, literature-, or otherwise-based education we provide them with will have something upon which to act. We will have provided our child with the skill-based education [science] necessary to accomplish his life’s work [art].
In other words, a fancy education is still a generic education if it doesn’t touch the heart and soul of the learner — the flame within that fuels his future.
Here are 10 tips for providing a personalized education:
- Pray. I truly believe that each child is unique. I truly believe that to value a child’s God-given uniqueness, I must, must, respect his individuality. I also truly believe that the only way for me to do that is to speak directly to his Creator. There is no greater authority on my child than God. During this homeschooling career, I have never ceased to be amazed at the things God has brought to my attention as I seek to His guidance for each child.
- Forsake your idols. We have to put the child first — not our preferred method that is going to fix all of our problems, not our favorite guru, not the opinion of others — the child.
- Start young. Introduce your child to a wide variety of interests at a very early age. While his skills are being developed, read widely, experiment, get outside, visit sites and interesting locations in your area, listen to music, look at great art, draw, create, build, play — think broadly.
- Feed his interests. Many times the interest is right there — we only have to see it to feed it. When questions come up, find the answers together. If a current study has sparked a rabbit trail, follow it. If one book has turned into a personal favorite, find more like it.
- Value his free (but productive) time. We tend to put more emphasis on table-time: reading, writing, math…the things we can see, the skills we want to see developed. And certainly, without those skills, our child’s interest will not have the necessary ingredients to take off. At the same time, however, we need to value our child’s productive time — that time he spends playing with Legos, or making a booklet about bugs, or learning a new song, or creating a new object, or drawing a new picture.
- Keep records. If you had to record what your child was doing each day in a way that any school official could understand — and not just those activities commonly accepted as “school” — you would be amazed at the real learning that is taking place. Try it during the holiday season, or a scheduled week off. Observe. Then record each learning activity. If you would be hard pressed to equate what you are observing to “school,” then perhaps consider gradually upgrading your child’s activities.
- Keep a flexible schedule. Of course, you see what all of this individuality means. You may have two or several different trails. That homeschool curriculum plan totally laid out for you will need to be tweaked to serve each path. And there will need to be room in the schedule to get in those 10,000 hours.
- Keep to his pace. A generic education, even a good one, tends to push and pull the child along rather than letting his current skills and needs set the pace. No, we can’t dawdle along. But there is no reason to worry about algebra when a child is having problem with addition facts.
- Think tutor.
“Tutoring is simply teaching what a child needs when he needs it. That’s an efficient teaching method. And research shows it to be absolutely the best method.” — Dr. Ruth Beechick
Really we are tutoring or mentoring our children when we are blessed with the opportunity of educating them at home. We are not serving as taskmasters but encouragers; not forming or molding, but training them in the way they are already bent.
- Keep the payoff in sight. The payoffs of a non-generic education are great: Children who love to learn — not only during their “school years” but as school and real life meld, for their entire lives. They will never be “bored.” And they will realize the joy of doing what they were made to do.