How To Fuel Your Child's Obsession - How We Designed an Interest Based Unit Study


Doesn't the word OBSESSION have a negative connotation?  

In general, an obsession is not a good thing, but in homeschooling it can be wonderful! 


My youngest is six.   He LOVES facts.   I know this is common for this age ~ and this is why I feel the Classical model of education is working so well for us.   We are just filling this little guy with facts and he loves it!  He embodies the meaning of "The Grammar Phase"!  He cannot get enough, whether it be about baseball, space, math, or animals.  It seems that we have been obsessed with several things this past year.

I want to tell you about my son's obsession with orangutans and how I facilitated his learning about this cute animal.

It all started when we took a visit to Zoo Atlanta last year. 

I told the children I wanted them each to pick one animal they liked best and we would study it in depth after our zoo trip.  

My son chose the orangutan and my daughter chose the giant panda.  This included me getting them a book about this animal, and GMan suckered me into this adorable stuffed animal, whom he dubbed "Sylvester".    (A friend of ours is a member of the zoo and we got in for free, so I thought I could buy the stuffed animal! I can justify just about anything! ha!)

The first thing we noticed (at the orangutan habitat) was how it was spelled.  You would think (by the way people say it) that it would be spelled with a "g" on the end, but it wasn't. 

I challenged my son to memorize the spelling, and he had it down flat before we left the zoo that day.  He also remember several of the facts we read at the habitat.    The book he chose from the zoo shop was a DK Watch Me Grow book.  They are GREAT for young readers.... just enough information they can read on their own, and the books do not talk down to them.   Would you believe you can read this book for free online at We Give Books?    Not only is it a cool site (take some time to explore it!) but it shows you what the series of books look like. 

I can't tell you how many times my little guy read this book and he STILL sleeps with Sylvester.   All of his learning about the Orangutan is cemented in his steel trap of a brain.    We didn't do much written work at all - maybe a little coloring and a word search with orangutan words.   Most of our learning was reading and watching on the computer.   

Some additional extensions on the subject I also found include:  


National Geographic Animals - lots of videos, pictures, and interesting facts
National Geographic Coloring Book - I never knew this existed - it's a great resource!

Animal Planet Animals - while this article is entitled "Surprisingly Human", it provided a good chance for me to talk a little about evolution and creation with my six (and nine!) year olds.
The Sumatran Orangutan Society - a great page with lots of other links for exploration - we talked about WHERE Sumatra is, what continent it is on, etc... Lots of geography here!

As you can see, we developed this into a full fledged unit study for my six year old, all based on an animal he found at the zoo.   Now, how's that for fueling an obsession?   

I'm sure your children have obsessed on something recently.  What was it?  And, what did you do to encourage their obsession?