A Tale of a Wandering Mind
A dragon swoops over the roofs of a mountain village, roaring in fury. Several men in glowing metal armor run toward a chrome spaceship, blasters in hand. Metal rings on metal as a pirate battles a mutinous crew member atop the rolling deck of a ship.
If your child is anything like how I was when I was little, these are the scenes spinning through his or her imagination day to day. Unfortunately for my mom, though, my imagination was my top priority, with schoolwork somewhere far below.
Because of this, she was faced with a problem: she didn’t want to discourage my imaginative play, but she needed me to focus on actually learning what she was teaching. If you have an imaginative child (and most families I’ve known have at least one), then you may be facing the same issue.
The Joy of the Fantastical
This dilemma is difficult to challenge. A child’s imagination is a wonderful thing, and the last goal you have is to squash it. Instead of locked onto a screen, they go outside and build forts out of couch cushions or tiny villages out of sticks and leaves.
Not only is this a delight to watch, many child behavior researchers have discovered developmental benefits in children who play imaginatively. This includes skills from learning to think creatively to developing better hand-eye coordination. And when children play with others, a gold mine of social development is introduced, including ways to teach your child what God says about treating others well.
But how can imaginative play be balanced with school work?
Thankfully, my mom figured out some ways to keep my wandering mind from leaving my schoolwork, and they can help you as well.
5 Tips to Encourage Focus and Have Fun
Be Willing to Get Creative
If you learn nothing else from this post, let this be the key takeaway. You know your child way better than I ever could. Because of this, you have the best starting point for keeping him focused. So study his habits. Does he focus better in the morning or the afternoon? What motivates him to do things he may not want to do? You can use your mama intuition to find creative ways to help your child engage with each subject.
Schedule Play Breaks
One of the beauties of homeschooling is that you can let your child take breaks. This can be a golden opportunity for her imagination to let off some steam, so to speak. And again, you know your child best. The number of breaks and how long those breaks last is up to you and what you know to be most beneficial.
What About Math?
Chances are that if your child loves to exercise his imagination, he sees math as an evil anti-creativity monster. (I know I did!)
But math, as crazy as it sounds, can also be fun.
To make it fun, though, may take some time, with a lot of trial and error involved. One suggestion I would give is to tweak some of the word problems. Maybe instead of a train getting from point A to point B, plug in a spaceship. Another tip would be to find math curricula that are themselves creative and engaging. If one of them doesn’t work, no big deal—just try another one. In addition, talking through problems out loud is a great way for more audible learners to get a grasp on the numbers.
Bring History to Life
Sometimes the endless dates and wars can get confusing, and the importance of historical events can get lost. To avoid this, figure out your child’s favorite way to express his imagination. Maybe he loves role playing or writing or verbally telling stories.
With this in mind, assign him to act out a skit or write a story based on an event in history. Have him research what happened and when, and include those details in what he creates. Another way to bring history to life is to assign engaging books for your child to read (or for you to read to him, depending on his age). Radio dramas are also wonderful ways to add color to historical events.
Work Together with Your Child
Depending on how old your child is, sit with her to keep her accountable and focus—especially if the subject she’s working on is one that she struggles with. If you have a large family, though, being able to sit with her for a long time may not be realistic for you. Do what you can and trust that God has your child in His hands.
Always, the goal is to help your child learn, while also helping her steward that amazing gift of imagination. To tame the wild dragons, not just put them in cages.
Jillian Hicks is an IAHE intern and homeschool senior. She enjoys the gift of being able to pursue her passions and interests through her home education. In her spare time, she loves to read, play the piano, sing (only when no one else is home, of course), and develop story concepts. This coming year, she plans to enroll in the Author Conservatory to learn how to write Christian YA and middle-grade fiction for publication.