I have four daughters, and they are all very different. They are individuals who have different interests, different personalities, different strengths, and different weaknesses. And I have found that I can’t homeschool them all in the same way.
One of the great strengths of homeschooling is the ability to tailor instruction to your individual child. But in order to do that well, you have to learn some specific things about your child. Here are a few to start off with.
1. What motivates your child?
My two oldest daughters are night and day different. One is a bookworm and a bit of a tomboy, the other is an artsy girly-girl. So it’s no surprise that different things motivate them. It’s fairly easy to motivate my bookworm—she loves to read so much that she checked out the library’s entire shelf of Civil War books when she was studying that period in history. But there’s no way my girly-girly would do that. She would be much more motivated to learn about the Civil War if she could dress up in a hoop skirt and give a video presentation.
You can probably figure out what motivates your children by paying attention to what they choose when given a choice. What do they do in their free time? What do they order off the menu at a restaurant? For birthdays, what do they want?
Whenever you have the opportunity to incorporate your child’s interests into their schoolwork, do it. Let them make a video of themselves reading or doing a science experiment. Let them dress up as a story character, write silly sentences in English, or create and decorate their own multiplication tables. When your child is interested and engaged in what he or she is learning, that learning is going to stick.
2. What is your child really good at?
When I was in school, I never particularly enjoyed studying grammar, but I was really good at it. It made sense to me. Unfortunately, it didn’t make sense to a lot of my classmates. So those grammar lessons were excruciatingly slow. I got bored while my teacher explained concepts over and over.
If your child is really good at something, it’s okay to speed up your instruction. You can even skip over lessons if you’re confident that your child understands the material. Remember that you are in charge of the curriculum.
3. What does your child struggle with?
Our children aren’t perfect. Each of them has unique struggles. Maybe you have a struggling reader like I do, or your child is barely passing math class. Maybe you have a horrible speller or a child with illegible handwriting.
Don’t be discouraged. You as a homeschool parent are in a unique position to help your children through their struggles. You can slow down instruction and customize it to get more senses involved in the learning process. And you can tweak assignments and many other things to help your children learn best.
4. How does your child learn best?
A lot of homeschoolers will talk about learning styles. There are basically four types of learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and read/write. As I wrote in a previous blog post “Learning Styles and Multisensory Learning,” knowing your child’s preferred learning style isn’t essential for homeschooling, but it is helpful. Paying attention to your child’s learning style can help you figure out how to help your child understand difficult concepts.
Not every homeschool is the same because not every child is the same. Learning how to motivate your child, recognizing his or her strengths and weaknesses, and paying attention to his or her individual learning styles will empower you to help your child learn best.