It’s not unusual for a homeschooled kid to have interests in areas about which their parent has no clue, skill, or talent. That’s no excuse for not nurturing their gifts or allowing them to explore their interests. Particularly as kids hit the middle and high school years, it’s important to provide opportunities for them to develop their natural talents and gifts.
You never know what may lead to a future career. However, even if a kid’s interests don’t lead to their life’s calling, it could become an enjoyable hobby in adulthood.
Helping your child explore his interests doesn’t have to be an insurmountable hurdle.
Sign up for classes
There are almost always opportunities for outside classes, whether it be through a homeschool co-op, connections within your local homeschool group, or classes available to the community at large. So far, we’ve done or will be doing:
- art classes – drawing and watercolor
- music classes and private lessons
- cake decorating
- ballroom dancing
Find a mentor
If there aren’t specific classes, you may be able to find a mentor for your student. If your child is interested in photography, find out if anyone you know is a photographer. Even someone who considers himself just a hobbyist probably has information and tips to share. If you have a budding musician, is there a grandparent who can show him the basics? (Or, in our case, two very talented grandparents?)
I loved the time Josh spent with his best friend’s dad at the forge learning basic blacksmithing skills. That’s cool stuff – and something I’d have never been able to teach him. As a matter of fact, I had no clue that anything like that was even available locally.
Look for online sources
I know that YouTube should be used with great caution, but there is a lot of good information out there. Josh has used YouTube for guitar and drum tutorials. Brianna has used it to learn sign language, to improve her knitting, and to learn how to make sushi rolls.
There are tons of art and music tutorials online. There are also a growing number of sources for one-on-one tutoring in courses like foreign languages and writing available through Skype and similar services. It goes without saying to use caution there and thoroughly check out the tutor and his or her credentials, right?
Read a book
I know it’s pretty old-fashioned, but if you can’t Google it, there are these really old-school sources of information called books. Sometimes they even have pictures – no videos, though. They’re at this place called a “library.” It’s sort of like a big, walk-in internet.
Oh, wait. I’m talking to a homeschool audience. Y’all know all about libraries. Take back your overdue books and pay your fines while you’re there.
Most of what I learned when I was spending more time drawing came from some good library books on sketching.
Watch a video
While you’re at the library, check out their collection of DVDs. They’re a great source of information, as well.
Provide the tools
It often amazes me what kids can learn on their own, given the right tools and some free time. As much as possible, make sure they have access to the tools needed to follow their interests – art supplies, yarn and knitting needles, a camera (it doesn’t have to be anything expensive for dabbling), musical equipment. I know the musical equipment can get expensive, but Josh’s first electric guitar was a $20 garage sale find.
If possible, spend some time learning alongside your kids. Take a class together. Read a book. Watch a video. Experiment. You’ll both learn something and have some great bonding time in the process.
Let them tinker
I recently took the hard drive out of an old desktop so we could take it and have it recycled. (I learned how to remove the hard drive by watching a YouTube video.) Josh asked me yesterday if I’d taken the rest of the parts to be recycled yet because he wanted to tinker with them. I haven’t and I’m excited that he wants to mess around with it. We’ve done that with non-working VCRs before, too. We just replaced a TV because the picture was going out. I’m hoping he’ll want to tinker with that, too.
I’m the hands-on learner type, so I’m all for my kids experimenting with things they can’t hurt to figure out how they work.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few obvious suggestions. What would you add to the list for helping kids explore their interests when you know nothing about what they want to learn?