Homeschooling forces you to work on patience. You have to find that balance in educating your child while keeping “schoolwork” engaging and something they want to do. Sure, I could force them to follow a certain schedule or complete an activity the way I had planned out so methodically; but then really- isn’t that part of the reason I decided to homeschool in the first place? So their education isn’t a set amount of paperwork, activities, and lessons squeezed into a 6 hour day where my kid follows along or fails.
When I feel myself thinking, Argh! Why won’t they do what I want! I remind myself they are doing what they want. And that’s a pretty good description of how education can be.
Yes, even with a classical approach there is room for self-directed learning. In our household we’re working on finding a balance between utilizing structure while giving our children freedom within those boundaries.
I include as much of my children’s particular interests and passions as I can into their education. The majority of Mira’s education has been based on dinosaurs. You can see my original post on adding them in here. These prehistoric creatures are still playing an active role in Mira’s education today in ways like reinforcing our Latin work and laying the framework for Mira’s understanding of history and timelines by studying prehistory. (Here are a few of the activities and lessons I’ve pieced together on prehistory.)
Stella is obsessed with pigs and the color pink and in her early learning stage there are plenty of ways to incorporate them into her activities and games.
Lyra’s attention span is increased dramatically by anything puppy-related.
But aside from interest-led education, my children are starting to shake things up in another way. They love switching up the roles of teacher and student. It started with Mira drawing out simple worksheets for Stella to do. It could be as simple as writing lines across a paper for Stella to practice her name on or cute dot-to-dot drawings for Stella to connect. I was amazed with the joy they both seemed to find in “playing school”.
Things picked up when Stella’s All About Reading program arrived. Mira begged to do it with her. Since Mira is quite an advanced reader for her age, there are many parts to this program that Mira can teach to Stella with minimal assistance from me. I just hand over the zebra puppet, sit back, and watch the bonding and learning taking place before me.
Stella would often plop onto the couch with us when Mira and I were doing our Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading lesson. One day, shortly after starting All About Reading, she asked if she could do Mira’s OPGTR book too.
Initially I was going to say no. Mira started OPGTR at an older age and I assumed Stella would down the road. But then Mira’s head popped up and said, “I CAN do the lesson with her!”
How could I refuse the “pllleeeease” elicited by two such adorable kiddos?
I’ve been reevaluating my view of the old one-room school house filled with children of varying ages for this exact reason. Impractical? Hardly! Children assume roles and added responsibilities just by seeing where they can fit in and help out. Mira is building confidence and loves to help her younger siblings. Her younger siblings in turn now go to her for guidance and are witnessing Mira’s joy in helping others. I already see the fruits of this behavior reflecting in Stella’s increased desire to help Lyra.
And possibly the most important part to all of this is the awareness in each child that education and learning is a group effort. The student, the teacher, the helpers- everyone has an crucial role to play. And when one of us succeeds, we all do.
This is a picture of Stella on a recent nature walk. While aimlessly walking the trails, Stella stopped and ran up to this sign. She looked at it for a minute and then quietly said- “Mommy that says No.” Before I could respond she loudly proclaimed, “I read this! It says NO!” Her exhuberent yell echoed around us- but that was nothing to the deafening cheering of all of us in unison as we celebrated together and cheered for such an important milestone reached.
Teacher teaches student. Teacher learns from student. Everyone takes something from the experience.