So often, I think we get caught up in children’s deficits when it comes to education. As a homeschooler, I definitely take it to heart if I think one of my children is having a tough time with something, whether it be remembering the times table or using proper punctuation. Whatever it may be. We might respond by spending a lot of time drilling that particular area, in an effort to eliminate that deficit.
How do I say this without sounding cavalier? I do care that my children, all children really, have ample instruction to have a solid grasp of the basics. But I think too much drill on those weaker areas comes at a high cost. One, if a given subject area is a struggle, chances are the child does not love it. Therefore all that extra work means forcing the child to spend more time on a dislike. Two, putting all that emphasis on a weakness may lead the child to doubt himself/herself. Three, it takes away time that might have been spent pursuing a beloved activity.
This summer, my daughter attended two art camps. She immediately looked at home in this studio. She glowed. She flourished. She shone. It was like seeing her fully alive. Art camp is definitely a place where she excels.
This is a child who is frequently creating all kinds of things in her free time. I think she is fortunate to have a little more free time than the average nine year old. Homeschooling two children takes less time than teaching a classroom of twenty or thirty students. It just does. My children, as a result, usually have time to spend on their chosen hobbies before the school bus rolls into the neighborhood each afternoon.
Watching my daughter’s experience at art camp, I could clearly see that she was in her element. She was happy. She was using her time doing something she loved. She was comfortable. She was confident. Like I said, she positively glowed.
I vowed to make more of an effort to help both of my children pursue those interests that elicit that glow, that passion.
Does that mean we stop studying math facts, parts of speech, punctuation and the like?
No. Not at all.
It just means I will be careful not to put too much focus on areas of weakness. I will not steal my children’s opportunity to become experts in those things they truly love.
After all, do you learn better about topics that you chose for yourself or topics that someone else has decided you should learn? I know how I would answer that.
It always seems to come to this – a balancing act. Balancing what I think they need to know with the things they want to learn. Being careful not to extinguish that natural drive to learn and do.
In the few months since that initial art camp, I’ve kept my eyes open for those times when both my children seemed to come more fully alive. I’ve devoted time to helping them pursue those interests, and it has been a joy.
Just some food for thought.