How Do I Go About Teaching an Obscure Topic?

Jan 10, 2018

One of the biggest perks of homeschooling is being able to take the time to explore special interest subjects that students are interested in. Being able hone in on strengths, work on weaknesses, and study at a pace that keeps learning progressing without being stressful are gifts I don’t take for granted as a homeschooling parent.  However, what if the subject my child desperately wants to study in depth is not my forte? How do I teach and challenge my child in an obscure subject area?

Set Learning Objectives

Teaching an Obscure TopicThe first thing to consider with obscure topics is what your goals are in the subject. Is it a particular skill that the student wants to acquire? Does the student just want to gain knowledge that may lead to more in-depth study in later years? Is this a hobby or perhaps even a step towards a potential career or calling? How will you and your student know when the goal has been met? Taking the time to create some objectives that are measurable and specific will help lend direction as you create an educational plan. Josh Kauffman’s TED talk HERE on “How to Learn Anything” may be helpful as you work on these objectives!

Tips to Get Started

  1. Find the experts.  Who has the skill or knowledge your student wants to acquire? Spend some time brainstorming and researching. Are there local persons you can ask for help or insight? The homeschool co-op my family belongs to found a local doctor that was willing to teach high school anatomy to students. Don’t be afraid to ask professionals in the subject to be a mentor/teacher/etc. You might be surprised! Even if you don’t find someone willing to work with your student directly, he/she may have resource recommendations that can lead you to what you need.
  2. Look online! Are there online classes (such as those at Excelsior Classes) available in the subject? How about YouTube channels run by experts in the field? Podcasts? Blogs, documentaries, or special interest groups online?
  3. What are the best books on this subject? Look for things written by professionals or well-respected experts in the field of interest. Be sure as you research to ask local persons, as well as those you interact with online, what resources they recommend. You can likely find a good list to start your learning!
  4. Don’t be afraid to volunteer in a related subject.  As 13-year-old Logan Laplante details during THIS TEDx talk on “hackschooling,” he discovered as he learned about his special interest in skiing that he needed to learn to sew to understand the design of ski clothing, so he got an internship at a factory to build those skills. Sometimes taking advantage of an opportunity in a related area can help students learn about their main interest through interconnected fields.

About the Author

Jenny Cutler graduated in 2005 with a B.A. in Education, and in 2012 with a Master’s Degree in Multicultural Education, both from Eastern University.  Jenny taught in both private and public schools until she had her first child and decided to stay home with him.  She ran a tutoring business during her first few years as a stay at home parent but found teaching online to be an ideal fit for her, and she made the switch in 2014.