3 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Take Ownership of Their Own Education
Learning vs. School
Learning can be so exciting… but “school” can be a serious bore. As home educators, we desire to not just doll out assignments for them to complete. We want them to love learning, self-educate, to discover what they were created to do, and to pursue their calling with passion and diligence. In order to do this, it is important to get them involved in living out their education.
What’s Their Bent?
Helping our kids dig deep and discover their interests will help them immensely, moreover it will help them to grow and learn more than we can ever dream of teaching them. Most importantly, it will make them feel unconditionally loved and valued just as they are.
With all of the career options in the world, it is imperative to weed out the choices that will burn and stress out our kids. This might mean we stop ourselves from pressuring our kids with our ideas are for them, or it could be to release them from pressure to follow a certain path, because they want to make us happy. We have to release them from outside pressure and give them the freedom to be who they are. If we help them discover who they were created to be, they will flourish.
Tune into your child to see what they are interested in, and then facilitate opportunities for them to explore the subject matter. Remember, that kids change interests and don’t fall into the trap of clinging on to one idea. Give them the flexibility to drop interests and pick up new interests. This is how they, and we, will find out what their inmost interests, talents, and aspirations are.
Include Them in Planning
As much as possible, include your kids in your education planning process.
When homeschooling younger kids (preschool and lower elmentary) it is important to present activities and books that encourage them to dream, learn, and wonder. At this stage, encourage playing, building, and imagination. Allow them to dig into things that they are passionate about, for as long as they remain interested in it.
Read as many books as you can get your hands on. Read to them, have them read to you. Talk about what you are reading. Follow their interests and have them help choose a portion of the books you read. Please note, it is a good idea to maintain authority to choose books that they don’t think they will like, in order to broaden their horizons. They will be pleasantly surprised when they enjoy a story they didn’t think they would like, because they judged book by its cover.
Invite them to own their education by asking them what they want to learn about, and give them previews of the fun projects you have planned. Have them help collect and organize supplies. They will look forward to what you have planned with excitement.
For upper elementary, middle school, and high school, some subjects like reading, writing, and math aren’t negotiable, but the curriculum you use can be switched up to suit their personalities and learning styles. Rather than sticking with one homeschool method for the entire family, consider using an eclectic approach so that you can customize their education.
Bringing your kids into your planning sessions and showing them what you are considering, and asking for their feedback on subjects and curriculum choices will make them feel valued, vested, and take ownership in the process.
Don’t forget to continue reading aloud together at this age. It is a great way to go on adventures together and will deepen the bond between you. As kids grow and they become restless or become more independent, reading aloud together will bridge relational gaps, and help keep you close. There is no such thing as outgrowing reading aloud together.
Check back in with your student to see how they feel about how the curriculum choices you have made. Ask them open ended questions to understand their thoughts and feelings about what and how they are learning. Is the curriculum working out the way you both hoped? Are they enjoying what they are reading and the work they are doing? What about the schedule, do they feel stressed out trying to get everything done, or do they feel like they have enough time to really settle in to their lessons?
Sometimes hard work just has to be done and they won’t enjoy the subject matter, but when this happens, is there something that can be done to make it more enjoyable? This doesn’t necessarily mean switching up the curriculum if it is teaching them what they need to know and it isn’t giving them anxiety. Could something be done to make it more appealing? It might help to change where or how they do the work. Would it help to move to more comfortable place in your home? How about a cup of tea or playing certain music while they do the work? Maybe a reward once the work is done each day is in order.
If the curriculum turns out to be torture for them, don’t hang onto it! Sometimes we make them finish a curriculum they hate because we have spent money on it. At times this is ok, but try to be discerning about truly negative impacts it could be having on your student. If it is damaging or discouraging them from learning, or if it is damaging your relationship, toss it.
Work together to find something that will suit them better. We all have bought curriculum that we thought would be great, that ended up not working out. Don’t feel guilty about it, consider it a badge of homeschooling. Remember you can list this stuff for sale in the used homeschool curriculum marketplace and make some of your money back.
Above All Else
Remember that relationship is the most important thing in your home. Be on guard about anything that steals peace from your family.
Your kids are valuable, remind them of that often and invite them to always share their thoughts and feelings with you. Give them permission to give you honest feedback about what they like and dislike about their education, and make accommodations when reasonable, beneficial, and necessary. They will learn the flexibility and tenacity to chase their dreams based on how we respond to what they share with us.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself! You are so important to your family. No one can replace you. Take some time today to rest and be mindful. Enjoy your family today.