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Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting them to learn independently

I recently wrote about 5 homeschool battles I have stopped fighting. One of these battles was trying to teach teenagers.  I mentioned that it was important to teach them a love of learning before they turned 13, because if you did, they would take over their own instruction.

Since I received a request for more information on this point, I thought I would oblige.

Developing a love for learning is a wonderful thing.  It means that your kids can't wait to open their books when they get up in the morning, and are avid researchers who like to report their findings back to you.  I think the key is not so much to develop this love for learning but to not squash it. Children are naturally curious and enthusiastic learners.  We as adults then to have them put aside what they want to learn in order to steer them toward what we think they should learn.  This makes them begin to resent learning and they will rebel against it.

Of course, not all of us want to be unschoolers allowing the children to lead their own education.  There are things we feel they should learn, and it is our job to make sure they learn it. But we can find compromise and balance that will get us what we want and give them what they want.

For my own children, what I did was have them learn from my checklist in the morning, and after lunch, gave them 3 to 4 uninterrupted hours to explore their own interests. They taught themselves to cook.  They played games.  They researched random things on the internet. They read voraciously, and my son taught himself to build computer and create websites... all this happened before the age of 13.

By allowing them to learn on their own, and observing how they learn, I was better able to formulate their high school curriculum to fit how they seemed to learn and their interests.  I was able to gather their curriculum, and create a syllabus with daily checklists so they stayed on task.  They were allowed to move faster if they pleased.  They were allowed to slow down if they needed it as well, and they were encouraged to ask me for help.  They rarely did.  I also allowed them (within reason) to let me know when something wasn't working, and we would find another approach to learning the subject matter we were attempting.

For the most part, this really worked. I let them explore in their younger years to make them eager learners, and they rewarded me by continuing to be eager learners.  However, we did have our hiccups. Sometimes they would proverbially pat me on my head and say "sure mom, I'll get you that term paper right away", or they would just try to skip over whole chapters because they found it boring.  It was my job then to push back, and offer consequences and rewards as appropriate to get the work done.

In addition to the philosophy that I have laid out above, I also kept a bag of one-liners that I used to encourage them and/or keep them in check.

~ Only boring people get bored.  Find the excitement in it.
~ The only person who will get hurt by you not trying your hardest is you.
~ I already graduated high school and went to college.  If you take my advice, you can do it too.
~Do I look like Google?  Look it up.
~You are awesome
~I love you.

I hope that helped.  if this needs any more explaining, please ask. Sometimes I assume that you already know the stuff that is in my head.



Happy Elf Mom said...

I love it. So you had a structure but then within that, you gave the children the freedom and time to learn as they chose. Which is good because sometimes you don't know what you want to learn about if you don't know what-all is out there. :)

Ahermitt said...

Ahermitt said...
Precisely. I have always loved the idea of unschooling, and allowed free exploration as much as we feasible, but had to have structure to some degree if the goal was college. I realize college is not for everyone, but in my family, not at least attempting higher education is unthinkable.