Gifted children are intense, and so are their individual interests. Often referred to as rabbit holes, these passions can be taxing on your patience and your wallet. Fortunately, though, all is not lost. Rabbit holes are excellent tools for learning, and budget-friendly options abound.
In case you aren’t sure what happens when your three-year-old is obsessed with minigolf, let me set the scene.
It’s 6 AM. You’ve just finished your morning workout. The house is mostly dark, save the dim light from the barely rising sun. It’s also quiet, because thankfully, the children are still sleeping. If you’re lucky you might be able to sneak in a shower before anybody wakes up.
You move with cat-like reflexes, a veritable ninja of the dawn. And then it happens. You forgot about the elaborate golf course your son has meticulously laid out in the living room.
Eleven books. An empty shoe box. 26 wooden alphabet blocks. A sock.
Your desire for uninterrupted bathing bliss is your downfall. You move too quickly, and then: a crash the likes of which have ne’er been heard this side of heaven. Suddenly, you are lying rather uncomfortably on the living room floor. You amuse yourself for a brief moment, counting the cobwebs dancing in the burgeoning morning light. Until your head throbs, and your midlife pains starting aching. And then of course – a voice from upstairs:
For the past month and a half, my house has been in a state of perpetual disarray courtesy of a three-foot-tall landscape engineer. I cannot move throughout my house without tripping over his latest golf course. There are welcome signs, course maps, and various sets of directions littered throughout as well.
Fortunately (unfortunately?) this is not my first rodeo. He’s the youngest of my brood and the last one to develop an interest like this. We call them rabbit holes: a long, multi-faceted path of discovery which leaves no stone (and no question) unturned.
We’ve had all manner of obsessions, some easier to support than others. But by the grace of God and a whole lot of patience, I’ve learned to embrace these fixations as a part of life with gifted people. They are the perfect opportunity for something beautiful and good.
The Beauty of Rabbit Holes
Think about your own experiences in education: how likely were you to dive headfirst into subjects you didn’t love? Not very, I’d wager, and our kids are really no different. Getting my oldest to do her math is like wrestling a wombat into a sailor suit. It’s unpleasant, and we both end up rather bruised.
Enter the rabbit hole. She loves reading, and she loves quirky stories even more. After years of ignoring various recommendations from friends and colleagues, I procured a set of Life of Fred math. She finished both the elementary and intermediate books in the space of one weekend. Now math is something she enjoys.
My son’s mini golf obsession hasn’t just taught him about physics. Through experimentation, practice, and trial and error, the little guy has garnered lessons in landscape design, engineering, and entrepreneurship too. His sisters are more amenable to writing assignments and presentations when they involve a particular passion; they see the potential for delight in a myriad of topics because they’ve discovered it on their own.
The Joy of Discovery
When education became more about rote learning and less about real-life application, generations of young learners bore the stultifying brunt. Pursuing a rabbit hole to its ultimate conclusion restores that sense of discovery and wonder. Learning is no longer about absorbing facts and repeating them, but about the exploration of every possible avenue.
Rabbit holes offer an educational advantage, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to provide the discovery your child seeks.
8 budget-friendly ways to support your child’s passion
Nature centers. Animal shelters. Science centers. Art schools. Where would your kiddo spend most of the day if left to his own devices? Inquire about the volunteer training process and age requirements at that facility and let your child take it from there.
Chances are, your local library has way more than just books and DVDs. A growing number of public library branches offer clubs, presentations, and classes that are low-cost or free.
Got an older teen who’s just not that into traditional school work? Check out apprenticeship options for various trades. In many cases, an apprenticeship can take the place of a high school or college education and pave the way for fulfilling employment down the line.
Some gifted kids work well with a trusted mentor, an authority in a particular discipline or field. Regular meetings and discussions can spark a child’s creativity and provide meaningful outside feedback for projects in which your child is engaged.
Sure, you can visit and take in the sights of a museum, but you can take part in a bunch of fun activities there as well. Check the museum’s website for details on educational programming, or scope out a local Smithsonian exhibit near you.
There is so much free stuff online. From STEM to the arts and everything in between, a cursory Google search will turn up a host of fun, mostly free resources to support the interests of gifted kids.
There are literally thousands of open-access university level course available and for free. Check this directory to search by discipline, institution, language, and course provider.
While I admit it can be frustrating to navigate a living room obstacle course at 6 AM, the joy of discovery and experiential learning my children take part in is worth the extra patience it takes. I want to raise my children to love learning. I want them to see it as a process they can embark on with joy. A child’s passions and their subsequent rabbit holes are absolutely worth supporting. Thank God for budget-friendly options, no?
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