Developing Gifts and Interests
Through Personalized High School Electives

by Joy Marie Dunlap

Enrichment Courses
       In addition to core subjects, college preparation, Bible, and practical life skills, think about what kinds of courses would best enrich your teen's future in other ways. It is just as important to develop at least some of a child's natural gifts as it is to prepare him in academics and life skills.
       What special talents does your teenager have which need to be more fully developed? What is he motivated to do in his spare time?
       Our teenage sons have both expressed a desire to further develop their drawing skills, so I have put together course materials and plans for a course in both pen and ink and pencil drawing (including charcoal). I have located excellent drawing books on landscapes, people, perspective, and shading techniques.
       Include your child's special focus in the course you design. Our sons especially want to develop the ability to realistically depict wildlife, so I have chosen several books on drawing trees, plants, and wild creatures as a special emphasis in the course.

Allow Room for a Special Emphasis
       Over the course of many years of home schooling, you can detect each child's special interest areas. Over time give that child more and more opportunities to delve into favorite topics and develop special talents. By high school those interests are often narrowed down in the student's mind, and the ones he cares about most become obvious. High school should be a time when a student can study and develop these special areas in a concentrated way.
       While our oldest son has shown an interest in many different topics and skills through the years, music has emerged as one of his keenest interests. He practices the piano faithfully every day without ever needing a single reminder. Now that's a drive! When he was in 9th grade, I found him poring over my college music theory books. That was when I decided to give our son a course in music theory (even though this is not an essential course in high school), using those textbooks as well as the thick volumes on orchestration, instrumentation, and harmony which he checks out of the library to read for fun in his free time.
       Because our son has such a drive to study, play, and produce music, I have allowed him to make this a special emphasis in his high school education at home. He practices the piano an hour a day and hopes to add the flute to his practice times soon as well. Music theory and other research studies in music, which he designs himself, use additional time in his schedule.
       What is your teenager's special passion in life? Find ways to give him time and opportunities to develop that passion as an emphasis during the high school years. Write down the books read, videos watched, skills learned, and special field trips and activities. When there are enough of these to make up approximately 150 hours, document it as a high school course. Or create several courses in your teen's special interest area.
       While only one fine arts course is usually expected in high school, our son's high school plans and completed courses include four years of piano, a course in music listening and appreciation, a course in music theory and orchestration, and (the Lord willing) instruction in flute as well.

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