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The all-day learning window

Recently I wrote about “the 15-minute learning window,” a way that homeschoolers have learned to tap into “teachable moments” and condense learning into smaller packets. It works really well with subjects that you feel your child needs to work on but is not really driven to learn at the moment.

Horse drawingThen the other day at our house, I watched a great example of a complementary phenomenon unfold before my eyes. Instead of doing anything else she was “supposed to” do, my daughter spent much of an entire day working on one subject diligently. We had no need for the 15-minute approach: she was so totally self-directed, all I had to do was sit back and watch.

How did this happen?

A month ago, I was thinking about our year and wondering how I could tap more into my daughter’s interest in horses. She’s a very obsessive learner, which means it’s easy to get her to do things having to do with her current interests, but very difficult to get her to do much else. But she loves almost anything horse-themed, and I was thinking it was too bad there wasn’t some sort of horse-based curriculum.

Any seasoned homeschooler reading this will know that this statement begs the question: have you actually googled that?

I did google it, and came up with a hit for an “Equine Science” curriculum from Winterpromise. This is a Christian homeschool curriculum company, and though we don’t teach a Christian curriculum, this package looked great and another search told me that their curriculum is known to be accessible to other homeschoolers. I usually avoid packaged curriculum, also, because she never uses enough of it to make it worth the money. But I had a hunch this one might hook her so I decided to try it.

So far, this curriculum is perfect for my horse-obsessed girl. She happily did the first week’s assignments, which included reading history and science materials, answering scientific questions about the equus species, and doing some horse anatomy drawing. The next day, we were watching a documentary assigned for my son’s documentary-making focus group at his homeschool program, and she asked, “Can I go on to the next week in my horse curriculum?” Then she happily planted herself in front of the video—reading, doing activities, and watching the video all at the same time. (This is a girl who thrives on multi-tasking!)

Happy kid, happy mom.

This is the very best thing about homeschooling: When your child finds something she really loves, she doesn’t have to stop doing it. It’s not like her equine science class ended after 50 minutes and she was forced to go on to math. She just kept doing the thing she wanted to do, and spent a happy afternoon learning.

A former homeschooling mom told me that after she sent her kids back to school, never again did they come home from school asking to learn more about something they were studying. The 50-minute chunks they were fed in school were like junk food—they came home feeling full of learning, but were starved of intellectual nutrition. I don’t think that this has to be the way school works, but it certainly is one of the predictable results of presenting a rigid curriculum that has no time to stretch with a child’s fascinations. If only all kids could have days like the one I gave my daughter simply by letting her do what she wanted to do. It was a beautiful scene to watch and enjoy.

Posted in Education, Homeschooling.

6 Responses

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  1. Sarah Tan says

    This is a good one. “Any seasoned homeschooler reading this will know that this statement begs the question: have you actually googled that?”

    My 3-year-old goes to preschool, but they are unable to stretch him fully as they are still learning the letters while my son has gone beyond that. He does a lot more learning at home on his own with an iPad and youtube.

    He loves dinosaurs, and I wished I had read this when he was still obsessed. He still revisits the topic from time to time, but at the moment, he has moved on to outer space and animals.

    So I googled ‘dinosaur homeschool’, and there is really a lot of resources for this topic! Duh, why didn’t I think of that?

    • Suki says

      I have found resources for all sorts of cool things. Teacher sharing websites like Curriki often have ideas, as well, so you don’t always have to pay for it. Don’t worry about missing one obsession…. there will be many more!

  2. Viva Harris says

    A horse curriculum sounds awesome! I would have loved that as a kid. It’s so great to be able to find material that makes your child want to learn. College can have the same issues as traditional grade schools- sometimes there are two years of pre-reqs before the student gets to do any self-directed learning.

    • Suki says

      You’re right, but I think that there is an enormous change that is brewing under the surface and is going to break through within the next few years. Colleges are going to have to respond to the changes in their student bodies, which are starting to include more and more kids who have non-traditional schooling: Homeschoolers who have followed a completely different path (they’re already dealing with this, as many universities already have special application procedures in place), homeschoolers who accessed college-level classes at home and are ready to go straight into upper-level classes, schooled kids whose schools allowed them to do hybrid learning so they also have some college-level learning under their belts, and students who decided to stick close to home and finish the basic ed requirements at their community college before going off to university. All of these things are rapidly changing what new university students need.

  3. Kris says

    As a parent just beginning to research how to implement homeschooling, this blog post was extremely helpful. I can “see” how my daughter especially would be like your daughter. She CAN focus on something for a long time, but only if it’s something that has truly captivated her. Forcing it rarely works. Thanks for sharing!

    • Suki says

      I’m glad it rang true to you. Allowing kids time to follow their passions is the one thing that many homeschoolers share, no matter how different they are in other ways. Some kids are not focused on academics and zoom through it to get to their creative or active time. Other kids have one academic area that they are really fascinated by, and they are able to spend more time on it (and often to do other academics in ways that apply to their areas of interest). However it works, all kids benefit from not having to follow someone else’s idea of what they should be learning just because of the age they are or the day of the week it is.

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