As we’re busy teaching the basics to our kids — how to read, write, figure out sale prices at the grocery store, and all the other important skills for living — it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. While teaching the how’s of life, we can’t neglect the why’s. One of the greatest advantages of homeschooling is the ability to put academic lessons into context in real life, including pursuing the natural gifts and interests of our children.
I have written about delight-directed learning before, both here and at The Homeschool Post. This approach has served us well through the years in our homeschool journey. I have watched as my oldest daughter entertained ideas like becoming an astronaut or a teacher during her early elementary years, to honing her natural creative skills such as writing and graphic design. She just turned 13 and feels pretty sure that she wants to be a writer. She has written numerous short stories and is working on a novel as well. She has illustrated her own picture books and learned how to effectively use a desktop publishing and design program to make images (sometimes for my blog!) and artwork.
Two of my daughters are too young (7 and 5) to know what they want to be when they grow up, but that doesn’t mean we don’t encourage their dreams and begin to recognize and refine their talents.
So how can we as parents encourage our children in the pursuit of their purpose, namely using their God-given talents?
Provide the Tools
One of the essential things we can do as we pursue purpose is to provide the proper tools. It can be something as simple as a library card and frequent visits to the library (depending on your child’s age and ability to read independently) or an entire curriculum based on your child’s interests. For instance, we like to use lapbooking and unit studies because they are flexible depending on interest and age/ability, plus they allow for a lot of creativity. If your child is an artist, they’ll need good quality art supplies. If they enjoy music, you may need to invest in musical instruments. A scientist will need a microscope. Most of these tools become obvious once a child identifies his/her interests.
Since my daughter wants to pursue writing, we have provided the following tools:
Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Dr. Seuss
These books provided not only good reading material and history lessons, they also gave her an inside peek at how these writers grew up. (In the case of Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder, they happened to make great supplements to our study of classic books for girls, too.)
A laptop ~
In order to use her design program and to use OpenOffice to write her stories, we picked up a good deal on an older, used laptop. It’s nothing fancy, but it doesn’t have to be. She is able to learn computer skills, typing, and responsibility for her own work. It’s portable, which is another plus. She doesn’t even need an internet connection to do her word processing and design work, so there are no worries about security.
A library card ~
Big Sis loves going to the library. I think just being among all the books there is inspiring to her. She has learned how to look things up in the database and request resources through inter-library loan. She is responsible for her own card and keeping track of due dates on the books. It’s a simple thing (and free!), but it means a lot to her so we make it a priority.
Through my research, I’ve discovered some great homeschool resources for kids who like to read and write, including these:
- One Year Adventure Novel
- Reach for the Stars: Young Author’s Fiction Workbook
- Learning Language Arts through Literature
- Learn to Write the Novel Way
Provide the Guidance
Kids grow and change so fast. Interests can wax and wane. It’s up to us as parents to know the difference between a passing fad and the real deal. Some kids are late bloomers, too, so it isn’t always easy to tell what their particular bent or gift might be. We need to help guide them by asking the right questions, listening, observing, and really knowing our children well. We need to recognize the difference between a child who gets too easily discouraged or distracted and one who really has no direction at all. Sitting down together and brainstorming goals and topics of study can help with this guidance.
Provide the Moral Support
One of the most important resources for me as a homeschool mom is prayer. I need to be in prayer all the time so that I recognize opportunities to encourage my daughters and gently provide a sympathetic ear when they get discouraged.
It also means providing a challenge once in a while, but not so much as to crush their spirit. It’s not about putting the pressure on, but about building confidence in their abilities so they aren’t afraid to try and grow.
Everyone reaches a point when they begin to question why they’re here, what they should be doing with their life, and the best way to pursue purpose. If we are ready to provide the tools, guidance, and support that our children need, they have every chance of living successful and fulfilled lives — whether they become a doctor, a writer, teacher, or stay-at-home mom. I firmly believe God has a purpose and destiny for each of us and that is the legacy I want to pass along to my daughters.
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