This is a time when forgotten skills are awoken to help us survive, and hopefully thrive, under challenging circumstances. From, cooking to yoga, we all are reaching back to our prior lives to reinvent what is normal. For us, how we teach our children at home is evolving as remote schooling continues. At first, remote classes were engaging, but soon both of my daughters yearned for more. Luckily, I taught at the University of Oregon where we explored student-led instruction with the students driving the goals for the course. For my courses, Micro Economics, students chose topics and I guided them to use Economic principles to answer their questions. Here are some examples:
How can we migrate to renewable energy faster?
Why are tuition and books so expensive?
This was more challenging than traditional methods but the rewards were great. True, my ratings improve but, more importantly, many students embraced Economics. Fast forward to today, my kids want more. Teaching is a stressful endeavor. We feel pressured to make sure our kids meet goals, deadlines, and milestones. What I learned, from my students, mentors, and daughter’s teachers is a simple truth, there are no set milestones. Milestones create walls when we need to create paths.
The first major project was HarmoniousWorlds.com which I talked about in a prior post. This project, a website outlining rules to a game they created was spawned by asking them how to resolve a dispute over the game. They saw the need to define and write down all the rules. This gave them ownership and well-defined goals. They pushed their language and math skills to make sure they could explain the game to their friends. When crafting posts, they took photos and consider how to best present the material to a general audience. The trick was to make sure they were not blocked in achieving their vision without taking over and marginalizing them. While my eldest embraced the project and quickly took command my youngest had difficulties once the initial rules were created.
In the prior post we created a curriculum that, after the initial set up, was not engaging for our youngest daughter who was just beginning to read. So, we focused on helping her achieve a long time goal of hers, creating a graphic novel. She picked a topic (for example, enchanted forest) and we created sentences, mostly using words we knew she understood, based on that topic. It was her job was to read each sentence and create a drawing based on it. We framed this as working together to create a book rather than an assignment. After several days she had a book of sentences with pictures that she drew. She then used this as reference material to create her own stories and even wrote her own sentences that we would have to draw for her. While these examples sounded like organized plans, they were not. Both grew organically with the children contributing as much to the plan as us. The truth is all kids want to learn. As parents, we can choose to guide them rather than educate them. Both paths are challenging. For us, working to help our daughters meet their goals made homeschooling more fun it brought us closer together.