Control. It is very difficult for us as parents to give up control, especially to our children.
What if they decide to play video games all day? Even though I've been a delight-directed homeschooler for years, I have to fight against the urge to take charge of my kids' education.
Giving up control also goes against everything we've ever been taught or experienced ourselves in the American education system. From the location to the schedule to lesson plans, it was all set in stone for us, and it's natural for us to think we have to do this with our kids as well. And it's easier to do what comes naturally, isn't it?
However, when we think about our goals for our children, we want them to be self-motivated and independent. How will they learn either if we are running an education dictatorship?
That's why I'm writing this post.
The foundation of independent learning is the child's ownership of their education.
You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him memorize his multiplication tables. Children in a traditional school setting are often quite passive, sitting at a desk, listening to lectures, doing worksheets. The teacher does all the planning and choosing and directing. The student is about as involved in their own education as a patient is involved in their surgery while on the operating table.
But how do you give a child ownership of their education? What steps can you take to move them in the direction of being responsible for and involved in the planning of their future?
It doesn't have to take place all at once, but you can move your child incrementally into independent learning.
Part of that process is using your child's natural interests and abilities to motivate and inspire them. When they can pursue topics and skills that spark their curiosity, they are more likely to take charge and move forward on their own. That is the idea behind delight-directed homeschooling.
Instead of thinking about education as a structure, think of it as a framework that supports your child's interests and goals for their future.
Start now with these four pillars of independent, self-directed, and delight-directed learning:
I'm a morning person. I like a sunny window nearby, as well as a hot cup of coffee. I get more done when I work in solitude for long periods of time, and take breaks when my brain and body tell me they've had enough. Why shouldn't I give my kids the same courtesy, and the opportunity to explore their own rhythms and preferences?
You probably know when your kids are most alert, compliant, and productive. You are aware that adequate rest, exercise, and healthy eating play a part in your child's behavior, but it becomes obvious fairly quickly who is a morning glory or a night owl in the family.
They also probably have a space somewhere nearby where they go to think, read, write, putter, or be alone. It might be in their room, on the living room floor, or under a tree in the backyard.
It is difficult for us to let go of the idea that learning needs to take place in a classroom, at a desk, with the walls decorated with educational posters and a chalkboard at the front of the room. These are not really the tools of learning. Your child's mind, hands, and attitude are the necessary elements for learning to occur.
Begin to give your child the opportunity to choose when and where they will do school-related work. They will need clearly defined goals, but as long as these goals are being met, choosing their own learning environment could be the morale boost they need to take charge of their education.
Learning styles have advocates and critics, but when I say 'learning styles', I am talking about the methods we prefer for receiving and interacting with information. Visual, audio, hands-on projects - we all learn with a mix of these methods, but one or two tend to come out on top.
I remember what I read, or hear read to me. I see the words people say in my head, and I remember what they look like on the page. Obviously I am going to prefer to use books and audio-visual forms to acquire information.
Confession: I do not enjoy crafty-schooling. I do NOT want to make Alice In Wonderland costumes or learn about Germany by baking Pfeffernusse cookies or construct a scale model of the Taj Mahal from toothpicks. I would be so nervous and aggravated by the task that I wouldn't remember what it was exactly I was supposed to learn. My Taj Mahal would look like Kansas after an F-5 swept through, and I'd feel like I 'flunked'. When I see a new homeschool book filled with hands-on projects, I nearly break out in hives.
But if one of my kids was a crafty, hands-on homeschooler, I'd need to set aside my aversion to arts and crafts, and find ways for them to learn that involved those kinds of projects.
Sometimes we as homeschool parents get caught up in cool new educational methods that sound interesting, but we forget to stop and think if it is a good fit for our kids. Our verbal kids don't want to write long reports, they want to talk about what they've learned. Our hands on kids don't want to spend time reading, they want to read as little as possible so they can get down to the business of doing.
Half the battle is just taking the time to get to know our kids, and getting to know them involves allowing them to make choices so we can find out what they are drawn to, and how they like to learn.
Give your kids a list of topics in a particular subject area, and let them choose their own approach for studying those topics. Do they want to read books, use an online program, watch a DVD, give an oral presentation, do a reenactment, build a model or paint a picture? They'll be more excited about it when they've been given a choice.
Which leads to the next pillar. . .
Many homeschool parents sit down at the computer or with a homeschool catalog and shop for curriculum and resources. When FedEx or UPS drops off these boxes of homeschooly goodness, we say to our kids, "Here are your school books!" After all, that is what most of us experienced year after year - someone else making all of our reading and learning choices for us, so why shouldn't homeschooling parents do the same? Don’t we know what is best for our own children? If we are excited, won't they be excited?
It's true that our attitudes are contagious, and our kids will be affected and influenced by them. We also have more experience in the realm of shopping for bargains and sticking with a budget. However, if we take over and control our child's education, when will they learn to be independent and responsible? How do they learn to make good choices if we make all their choices for them?
Instead of hoarding all the cool homeschool catalogs, let your kids look through them and circle the books and materials that look interesting. Talk to them about your homeschool budget so they can make more informed choices, then let them choose at least some of the curriculum they will be using, as well as the subject areas they will study.
One of the purposes of school 'work' is to demonstrate progress. We want students to:
- show that they understand the material
- explain and apply it in real world situations
- and grasp why it is relevant to every day life.
Take the same list of goals you and your child created for the week/month/semester/year, and plan how they will show their learning progress. If they like completing workbooks, use workbooks. If they just want to pass a test, that's a valid choice. But if they want to film a video, give a PowerPoint presentation, start a blog as their digital portfolio, organize a debate, do a reenactment, or complete some hands-on experiments and projects - open the door of academic freedom and let them do some exploring. They will be learning the entire time. And what's more, they will be doing all the work.
Begin introducing these elements little by little into the framework of your homeschool and watch your children construct their education and their future.