Neurological scientists have discovered that a child’s brain continually develops neurological pathways during the tween to early teen years. Consequently, the brain is best suited for development prior to the pruning stage of development, which begins during upper teenage years. Think about pruning a tree of dead overgrowth and stems that stop growing. The brain, likewise, prunes areas of the brain that are not being used. Neurologically, the elementary student is prime for exploring endless activities, unlimited topics, and an assortment of learning styles.1 I am learning to trust both God and our children in tailoring their education plan.

Fortunately, as homeschool parents, we can break the traditional schooling mold by offering our child time to become a self-taught person—the key to lifelong learning. By reducing or eliminating the need for most textbooks, workbooks, and made-for-school assignments, homeschooling parents can give their children large spans of time for pursuing interests and growing in their God-given abilities. A child can cover science, math, and language arts through an assortment of interests. For example, a science course can be any combination of astronomy, chemistry, botany, animals, electricity, geology, or computer science.  Thereby, we can reinforce our child’s natural inquisitiveness and encourage his dreams.

My daughter loves to read and write. She is only 14, but for the past two years she has been writing several fiction novels. This year, I have her working with a college student who is earning her master’s degree in English. The two of them meet bi-weekly to discuss characterization, plot development, and writing skills. Since my daughter’s novel is about a girl with a rare illness, she is going to meet with our family doctor and a counselor to research patient care, in order to make the story realistic. This is not a carefully crafted school assignment. It is so much better; it is a real-life experience of mutually working with another writer!

When students discover knowledge for themselves, what they learn lasts a lifetime. Through the development of genuine self-esteem, children pursue interests that delight and intrigue them, as they become who God created them to be.

We need to help our children identify their God-given passions. To stimulate their inner drive to learn, try some of the following ideas.

The Great Outdoors—The majority of us spend way too much time inside, using electronic devices. Every child needs a few hours daily to explore God’s marvelous world, regardless of the weather. Nature is a place for children to take leaps between what they know and what could be. Learning through exploration of nature is conducive to testing hypotheses. Encourage your children to self-direct their time outdoors.

Nature Journaling—Nature journaling is a worthwhile experience that heightens perception and awareness. Your child will naturally gain insights and skills related to science, drawing, creative writing, natural history, and journaling, and his observations will teach him more about God and His creations as well. I keep this book handy: Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth. I purchased an art paper-quality sketchpad, colored pencils, drawing pencils, and an art eraser for my children’s use. (Hint: Use of watercolor pencils provides the option of a painted effect.)

Entrepreneur—Learning about creative ways to earn money can be fun and can provide good training for the future. One of the serious problems facing the U.S. today is that we have too many takers and too few makers. Parents can have fun teaching children to produce needed products and how to market them. I learn a lot from Entrepreneur magazine, which showcases successful business owners and provides many ideas about selling products online. Many gift shops at tourist sites sell homemade products, and so do most town square shops in smaller cities.