I had dinner with some homeschooling moms the other night. We shared similar philosophies on education and parenting, so it was good to commiserate with like minded folks.
We each expressed our own thoughts on things that are unbendable in our homeschools, and talked about things that will help empower our kids in their learning. We came up with 7 ways to let kids take charge of learning.
1. Let kids decide when to complete the work.
Gasp! If we allow them to do this they will never finish their work— right?
Deadlines for work can still be given but loosen up those controls a little bit. Kids are capable of determining if they work best in the evening or early morning. We all have our best times of day, so trust that your kids know this too. I’m best in the morning. Two of my children were not. Highschoolers can be given a much more liberal time frame. I give my highschooler his assignments for the entire week, each Monday. How he completes the assignments is his business. As long as they are completed and on my desk by Friday, I’m good. He may choose to work longer hours on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so he can take Thursday and Friday off. Good. This is the perfect time to let them decide and to help them prepare for their college schedule — which by the way they will have to manage themselves.
Sleep Schedules & teens
There have been lots of studies about teens needing more sleep than adults and how their bodies are on different schedules. Believe it or not, sleeping late as a teen will not impact their future ability to rise and shine for college or a job. As a college student, I scheduled all of my classes for the afternoon, so I could have the mornings to sleep or study. Fun fact, there is no scientific correlation that kids who sleep late or who have alternate schedules will be any less successful in their adult years. Managing sleep and wake time with studies is just another way to let kids take charge of learning.
2. Let kids decide where to do school work. Learning can happen anywhere.
If children can work independently, let them go to the couch, bedroom, or out under the maple tree. Quieter work like reading can be done snuggled under covers with a flashlight. It doesn’t matter where learning happens. You don’t need a designated space for your children to learn. In fact, some of the greatest creativity was born under a tent table with a big bowl of popcorn!
3. Let kids decide how to complete the work.
Does it really matter that your child completes every workbook sheet? Maybe they prefer doing an oral report, a timeline or a diarama to demonstrate what they learned. Maybe the civil war reenactment is a great place to sum up your lesson. Strive for understanding rather than completion of the assignment.
4. Let kids decide what to study.
I just heard another audible gasp. Kids are much happier and more engaged when you allow them choices in their learning. Some states mandate the subjects to be taught but how the subjects are studied are up to the parent. Remember that civil war reenactment mentioned above? That may be all the study they need to really dig deep into a topic. Think outside the box with what learning looks like.
5. Let kids choose curriculum.
This is always my first piece of advice to new parents who are looking for curriculum. The kids must be involved in choosing. In my early homeschool years, I bought a glossy, photo heavy phonics program for my oldest child. I loved it. My kid, not so much. It was busy and confusing and overwhelming, and eventually we settled for a much simpler black and white, less photo heavy book. The content was similar but the format was not, and my kid’s choice was the better choice.
6. Let kids choose learning opportunities from various grade levels.
I just had to send another letter into my district when I advanced my kid a full grade level. The district freaked out because they had no idea what to do when I stated we were skipping a grade. Kids will learn at various grade levels all through their lives. Let them choose books that they are interested in, rather than the texts prescribed for their level or grade. They may be on target for reading skills, a grade “behind” in math, and several grades ahead in science. Be okay with it. At the end of the day it all comes out in the wash. All children should be learning by abilities, not by a set age or grade level.
7. Let kids choose field trips and coop classes.
I have spent too much money on classes I thought the kids would like, to not let them choose. When kids are fully engaged in their learning, they participate and learn to love learning. If your child is unsure about a class, ask the instructor or teacher if you might sit in to get a feel for the structure and requirements before you drop a bundle of cash. Kids are much more apt to hang in there and enjoy their choices when they feel empowered to do so. Parents can set limits on what needs to be taken to fulfill subject requirements if needed. If you have to fill a physical education requirement, the choice of activity can be up to the child. It’s a win – win for everyone.