“It’s all very well, letting children follow their own interests, but my daughter only wants to do one thing. She’s not interested in science or maths or writing… All she wants to do is cook and how’s that going to satisfy the educational authorities?” a hypothetical mother asks.
What would I do if one of my girls only wanted to cook, and wouldn’t consider learning anything else? I might try an idea I picked up at the very first homeschool conference I ever attended.
“Let’s pretend your child’s one interest is frogs.” Jane’s words spill out quickly, one after another. She has so much to say and only a couple of hours to say it. She chalks the word, ‘frogs’ on the centre of the blackboard in large letters. “’Frogs’ is just the starting point. Let’s see where that can lead us!” Jane does a little thinking out loud as she bounces about in front of us. Soon she is associating frogs with maths, science, geography, history, writing, personal health and development, creative arts… Her excitement and enthusiasm are contagious. We start offering ideas too. Before long the blackboard is full of words. Jane has drawn a mind map.
“A mother I know,” says Jane, “presented a similar frog mind map as her homeschooling plan for her son’s registration, and it satisfied the Board of Studies. It covered all the key learning areas.”
But back to my hypothetical one-interest child… What if I constructed a ‘cooking’ mind map? I might add such words as these…
maths: fractions, multiplication, division, measuring volumes and masses, temperatures and time, shopping and money…
science: chemical reactions, pasteurisation, freezing, dried foods, plants, fruits, vegetables, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, food chains, food production, farms, organic food, GM foods, genetics, making a vegetable garden, visiting markets, garden centre
history: food associated with different periods in history, eating customs, historical TV series
geography: food of different countries, different cultures, cooking shows set in different countries
personal development: nutrition, digestion, care of teeth, issues such as the low fat industry, sugar, obesity, exercise, hygiene and safe food handling, safety in the kitchen, first aid for burns
foods associated with the liturgical calendar, feast days, saints, family celebrations, cultural celebrations, historical celebrations
creative and practical arts: trying new recipes, famous chefs, cooking shows and filming, presentation and customer service, photographing food, cooking techniques and tools
English: writing, cooking journal or scrapbook, recipe files, cooking words: glossary, reading, demonstrating
Now these ideas are just a start. I’ve only been thinking for a few minutes. I bet there are many more that could be added.
Once my mind map is constructed I wouldn’t use it as a homeschool plan that I’d present to my child. Instead I would use it as a starting point for finding appropriate resources to enrich her environment, to show her some possibilities she might be unaware of. I might find some books…
I’d search Youtube for cooking shows set in different countries such as Jamie’s Great Italian Escape. How about the TV series Supersizers for a look at food in British history, or the series A Taste of History?I could make a list of places to visit. I’d search our library catalogue and also our own bookshelves.
Once I had a few resources on hand I’d start strewing them, tempting my one-interest child to spread her wings and set off in new directions.
But of course, my child might not like any of my strewing ideas. She may very well just want to keep on experimenting in the kitchen in her own way. So will all my work go to waste? No! At the very least, I might discover something I’d like to explore… like all those cooking shows for example, and the great sugar debate too… and maybe I could construct and plant a vegetable garden… and later I could always share what I found out, if anyone is interested in listening.
After Jane tells us how the frog plan satisfied the Board of Studies, she adds, “But by the time the mother was ready to put the plan into action, her son was no longer interested in frogs, so she didn’t actually use it.” She laughs. “The boy had satisfied his curiosity and was ready to move onto new things.”
Maybe some kids just like to concentrate on one thing at a time. They’ll move onto something else when they’re ready. Perhaps having only one current interest isn’t a problem at all. What do you think?
PS I haven’t read all the books or viewed the Youtube videos. They are only suggestions and I am not personally recommending them. They still might be good though.