Ever since I can recall, I have always been fascinated by people’s interests and what has led them to where they are!
In fact, it actually spilled into my planning and choices of how and what and why I would choose certain materials for my children.
I was always naturally drawn to books that talked about finding strengths and interests of your children, of instilling wonder, discovery and curiosity.
You can find a steady selection of such books sitting on my night stand where I am educated by some technique or some new insights into the very notion that each individual has inborn gifts.
Not a blank page
Simply put, a child is not a blank page to fill up, a child comes into this world with a temperament we’ve see even in the womb. Ask any pregnant mom and she will tell you that she can determine patterns of behavior early on in her unborn child.
Once born each child already expresses their very own unique set of expressions, behaviors, preferences, and desires. This comes with them from the very beginning.
It seems then that what is most natural, what comes from the instant of creation, is something to observe and nurture.
When a child feels a sense of success, a sense of purpose they can accomplish amazing things and achieve new heights they often do not even recognize in their own potential.
So you may ask me….how do we foster these gifts? How do we encourage them, or even detect them?
Unique Gift from God
From the time your child is born you are the privileged witness of a unique gift from God.
We all know that sense in ourselves that we desire to know our purpose, our part in the chain of humanity. It is no mistake that you have preferences and gifts and in a unique combination that will never ever be repeated in this world.
I believe it stands to reason that it is our honor and calling to help facilitate that gift in each child who has blessed our lives.
This does come into play in a big way during the formative years of childhood, the time when a child’s “job” is to be a student. How often do we stop to ask them and ourselves what indeed does that calling mean? It means that they become a student of knowledge, to be a contributing citizen for the common good, yes, of course. But more than that their “job” is to explore and discover their own unique gifts.
I should pause here to say that these gifts are not just for them. Yes, each child can benefit from self recognition and a sense of purpose. However, it is not for vainglory but instead to glorify the creator.
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” – St. Augustine
St. Augustine had a keen mind and gifts, but one can easily take from reading his Confessions, that there was a longing a tug in his heart to find his life’s purpose. When he rejoiced in his gifts for mere self-satisfaction, things went awry. His peace came upon his mission, his purpose to use his gifts for the glory of God.
I know that it is amazingly trying and perhaps overwhelming to think that each homeschool mom has to spend time personally tailoring their curriculum for each individual in their care. Daunting right?
Just the Essentials
It is possible, when you pare down the curriculum to the essentials that are aligned with the dignity of that precious gift in your care. Who else can do it better? You are perfectly designed to do this, yes as a mother or father you are graced with that gift of time together.
This idea, playing to each child’s strengths is new though, contradicts the status quo. I know that we all want our children to be prepared for the world.
So yes, begin in the early days with teaching the grammar of our culture, learning to read, to write, and to compute/problem solve. However, during those early years expose your child to these necessary academic things but also include things outside the “classroom,” which will yield much fruit in terms of finding each child’s gifts.
When your children express an interest, take time to notice it, and share in the experience with them. Draw the family into these interests.
We are looking at the child in their totality. To just checking off tasks, or take classes because they are part of the curriculum, seems to make very little sense.
The Child has Dignity
However, much of what is available and determined as appropriate materials to use and teach each child is not designed with strengths, gifts, or interests.
I have found that Montessori methods tend to approximate this in that they allow the child to interact with their environment in a positive experience to encourage curiosity and mastery. I have heard some critics that think that the down side is perhaps the methodology is too formulaic, contrived. Perhaps? But it is definitely worth the time to read the book that describes her method, called The Montessori Method (the link is to a free ebook of the book), to see the ideas behind these techniques.
I also think that a Charlotte Mason type of learning works too for this very same reason, in that the child is first and foremost an individual who needs to learn how to express their individual selves. This methodology pulls down some of the brick walls that a traditional curriculum is designed around.
There are others I could mention too, however, I believe most curriculums only get part way there in playing to a child’s strengths.
It all begins with the child.
I hear you. Not that the child does whatever they want, no!
It begins with the child in mind and the ability to play to their strengths, helping them learn ways to know themselves, and then turn around and share their gifts with the world. The “world” can be just their immediate environment, perhaps that is their calling, or it could be much bigger, wider, and impactful.
As a homeschooler, you get the freedom to choose how, when, and what you do to play to each child’s strengths.
Much comes from self-knowledge. We all are on that train for our entire lives, nothing stays the same, and we are constantly adapting to our current environment BUT in the process we are all learning more about ourselves each and every day.
Let us do this more and often with our children.
I am so happy I was able to homeschool my seven children. I played to their strengths and it has plyed out BIG time in all thier lives, to the benefit of our family and those whose lives they touch!
You have that gift too! Savor this precious time together.
Now, it’s your turn. Have you played to your children;’s strengths? How? Comment below…
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