Child-Led Learning: What we do in September

 Culturally, this time of year signifies the start of school, the beginning of a new grade with new classes, teachers.

What does that mean for homeschoolers? Many homeschool families have “started their new school year” with lesson plans, new books and/or curriculum, and maybe a new or returning to a co-op or supplemental classes.

What have I done?

I sat down with each of my children, individually and asked them what they wanted to learn or work on.  I have done this periodically over the years.  My oldest is 14 and is eager to do what he needs to in order to meet requirements to attend college and has asked me to do more academics with him.  I wrote down what he said, we talked and I shared some of my ideas and we came up with a general plan.

I have purchased an Academic Planner Calander for many years. The one I have liked best has a page for the full month and opposite it is a blank page and this is where we right monthly goals.  Then the calendar also has a double page for each week, with a block for each day and one empty block, where we right weekly goals.  I have used this planner book in the past (way back in the beginning) to write down not only what we wanted to do, but what we did each day (not every day) so that I could see that learning was really happening and in the beginning, I would equate what we did with school subjects like math, science, etc.

Over the years, I have used my calendar book regularly and at times, hardly at all.  I even skipped buying one year and the next year, I purchased a different planner book but this year I am back to my original version with those blank pages to write down their ideas, interests and goals.  Several years ago, I aimed to meet with each child monthly as well as weekly and did that fairly regularly for part of one year.  I am not the most consistent person, nor do I tend to live on a schedule or with set plans.  In the processes of unschooling myself, I have discovered that I prefer to have a loose idea and be able to go with the flow.

I have realized that right now, my children prefer to have some kind of plan.  Even my 10-year-old daughter, asked for more structured activities this year.  I think the balance of having some structure and a lot of free unstructured time over the years, has helped them to identify what works for them.  As they get older, they get more of a sense of what they want to do and to learn and what they need from me to help them in the process.

My oldest, Harrison,  who is 14 1/2, just completed the course work for driver’s ed.  (Wow- how did the years pass so quickly?)

He attends a once per week co-op and is taking classes in Photography, Alice Programming, Debate and a Team Challenge class.  He is going to read literature books and we will have a discussion/ book study together.  He has also been using Khan Academy for math and we meet about weekly for help/ discussions.  We are also working on Biology this year and there are many videos on Khan Academy on various science topics as well. Although the Math part of Khan Academy is more extensive with videos, and lessons, and practice.  For exercise, we attend the YMCA together and use the exercise room.  (Several area YMCAs do have homeschool PE classes and some other classes- you need to contact each branch to see what they offer)

Abby is my 10-year-old.  She has been dancing since she was 4 at Dance to You. She is now taking 2 days of dance that meet for 2 hours each- taking several classes.  She loves animals and especially dogs.  We have had a family dog for the past few years and she has done dog training classes with her as well as being the primary person responsible for her care.  She loves reading about dogs and is learning about different breeds.  Inspired by my sister, we are continuing the idea of learning a new dog breed each week.  She also wants to learn about other animals and for this month, she is exploring all the wild cats and is going to learn more in detail about several of them.  She has learned to write and spell to being able to write on her own over the past year. She keeps several diaries and has enjoyed reading many diary type books like the Dear America Series.

And I can’t forget my 3 1/2-year-old.  I did finally ask him what he wants to do.  Not that he doesn’t let me know on a daily basis!  Learning with him is a continuous process and I am really enjoying the years of early exploring again with him.  We were outside and I was pushing him on the swing and I suggested we take a walk and find leaves- he liked the idea and off we went.  We have books all over our house- and having older siblings, he aspires to do everything he sees them doing.  He would not really sit down for a full story until less than a year ago.  Finding outlets for all his energy is our biggest challenge!  We have enjoyed trips to Romp N Roll and  Sky High Sports.  He is just recently been able to really use the Wii Fit to play many of the games on his own. We all take turns exercising with the Wii Fit.

He really enjoyed finding leaves! We looked up in the various trees in our yard and walked around our house.  We then went inside and I showed him how to make a leaf imprint by putting paper over the leaf and then color over it.  He loves glue and so I suggested he could glue some leaves on paper too.  I began working on my own leaf projects and he created his own.  I somehow forget how much he really likes doing artwork of all kinds.  He is a very busy and active and loud little boy, yet give him some glue and scissors and paper (and he loves tape) and he is very occupied and happy for a long stretch of time!  It was fun to take the time to work on this with him. And this time, I made room on our bulletin board. Yes, we have a bulletin board in our kitchen- which I find funny as I identify myself as more of an unschooler.  And I hung up several of his pages of art work!

Are you an Unschooler or follow more of a Child-Led Approach?  If so, Feel free to share what your days, weeks look like or even describe one day in the life at your house.  I know that I love hearing others’ stories and adventures and need inspiration from others and so sharing your story, will help others.