Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Creating an Atmosphere for Exploration *Edited*

Bruiser received a new kiddie-camera for his last birthday. All of the boys have long held interests in photography and drawing. I have tried to be as supportive as I can - and this has been made easier by the use of digital photography. Gone are the days of having to wait to develop the film to find that none of the pictures are worth keeping! While a part of me - the old-fashioned part - laments the loss of "real" film (the old 110 or 35mm film, you know), allowing them to use a digital camera has been a blessing as they explore new methods of seeing the world and new areas of interest. Increasingly, I am finding some pretty good shots, and almost always from an angle or perspective I would not have considered.

One of the best aspects of homeschooling is the freedom to allow our children to explore these new interests and try out new things while still "getting it all in" on the school front. This freedom comes from the fact that their interests are usually easily incorporated into their schoolwork.
Want to start a business? There is a lot of math, writing, reading, and critical thinking involved there. Want to try out photography? Let's take a look at "classic" photos, read up on professional photographers and what they have done and try to do something similar, but with our own "twist." Is Lego creation your thing? Well, therein we can explore architecture, building structure, a slew of math principles, history, and on and on. (There is a HUGE list for Legos!) 

But how to encourage without overtaking? Often I find myself listening to my children's enthusiasm for something new and as I dive in, they are tip-toeing in to see if the water is warm. If I push too hard, too fast, and the boys' interest level is not as high as I thought, they are more likely to give up on the new idea because they get overwhelmed by all the details. It works better if I give them time to see the whole forest before I point out individual trees.

It is so important, then, to

listen to my children to hear where their interest lies and where they want to go with it
and to
avoid getting more excited about their new interest than they are.

I love the details of planning a business out - but when my boys say, "I want to do x, y, z to earn money," they're not too interested in supply and demand charts. That often has to be eased into after I see that they want to have a second day of sales and that they want to see their sales increase.

I also need to temper how much I - and they - spend on a new endeavor 
until that interest level has been confirmed. 

Is this a one-time discussion or something they are trying to achieve day after day in whatever way they can, regardless of what supplies are on hand? If my children are unwilling to try something new until the "right" items have been purchased, I am not often reassured of their interest. My thought is: if they really want to try something, they will find a way to make it happen regardless of whether a class is offered, the right (i.e.: expensive) equipment is purchased, etc. When Maestro went camping this summer, he was told he could try out fishing. We didn't have time to get a pole for him to take along, so instead he took some hooks, floats and fishing line and made plans to try to fashion his own from what was on hand. Not only did he save himself the packing space, but he reassured me that perhaps a good pole might be worthwhile on his next birthday.

For some time now, Maestro and Smeagol have also been very keen on creating cartoon/comic-type drawings. For the most part this is something I enjoy watching them grow in. Both have extremely active imaginations and, in truth, the expressions on their comic book characters are so clear and easy to interpret that I can't help but laugh! They draw things constantly. So it is worthwhile to buy a new sketch pad for them every week as they fill page after page with doodles, drawings, etc.

Now that I've seen their interest in comic-style drawing has remained high, 

I can encourage a deeper understanding and appreciation of the craft.

In this case, the boys need to learn more about storyline development - there are a lot of fights involved in their comics somehow! This would also include (from the homeschool perspective) editing work, looking as grammar, spelling, etc. These skills will all transfer over in their appreciation of the work others have done as well as in the papers they are later required to write.

As we move from day to day, drawing to drawing, our children learn and grow through their interests. They meed new people by sharing their interests with others. They find new angles and new perspectives on life. It is worth that time during the day - and knowing that I have the leeway to take that time makes homeschooling worth the effort. Knowing that they would miss out on the time to branch out in this way if I put them in the local school, as the teachers struggle to make sure each child lives up to academic standards and art, PE and music are shoved to the sidelines, makes it worth that time and effort for our family.

Ah, you say, but not everyone can afford to home school. What about those people?

That will be the subject of Friday's post, so be sure to subscribe for tips on how to integrate pursuits-of-interest with the day-to-day of the traditional classroom!

**Edit - I started to write a follow-up post about engaging children's minds toward exploration when the child is in a classroom all day, but as I got started, I saw that there are really very few changes that I would make if my children were classroom-based. So I'm not going to write the aforementioned traditional classroom post! It would just be a copy of this one, or nearly so. All that said, then, enjoy your time with your children. As you know, it is fleeting and the next thing you know, they're 11 and not 2, and time has passed and so have the moments of exploration and excitement of those earlier ages - and as new moments arrive with each passing year, you'll be all the more ready to grab them and shoot for the stars!** 

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  1. Such good wisdom and advice! I know I can often get too excited about their interests, instead I need to let them feel things out first. Great post!

  2. This is the same as an adult deciding she wants to scrapbook, and spending lots of $$ on scrapbooking materials, only to find a lack of interest after a few weeks. Perhaps if you can instill in them the wait-and-see-if-you-like-it attitude now, it will save them from this type of thing!

  3. I have spent SO much money on projects and hobbies I *thought* I wanted to get into and then didn't have the drive to continue with! It's a great point. Perhaps I should also find ways to let them try things frugally at first before we jump into warmer waters.


I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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