Monday, July 23, 2012

Homeschool FAQ: motivating a 13 year old to 'learn'.

Focus on practical work and activities, let him take photos and encourage him to write captions. They don't have to be long, just adequately descriptive. Create albums or blogs for each project.

If he is interested in anything particular (don't judge it as non-education - just use whatever he is interested in!) perhaps he'd like to share 'how to' information with others: publish in either a home ed magazine like Stepping Stones (HEA) or Otherways (HEN Vic) or Learning Matters (HBLN WA), and/or create pdfs or powerpoint presentations or videos for YouTube, or leaflets or brochures for his friends...

Converting learning/education into something that is personally interesting and real and will be useful for others (or the self in the future) provides the motivation that is lacking in a traditional approach to education.

It might be an investigation into how they made the props for the movie The Dark Knight Rises or Transformers, or how they did the special effects (perhaps he might like to create his own 'mythbuster' experiment/video to expose the trickery behind what we see on the screen). Or it could be making his own skateboard, electric powered bicycle. Or it could be experiments in the kitchen, creating a series of adventurous recipes in true Masterchef style. Whatever this young person spends his time doing, use that!

It doesn't matter what we're doing with our time, we can't help learning something. Our job as parents is to provide our children with the resources and help them learn how to use the tools that will help work safely and productively, communicate with others about what they are doing, and expand their horizons. There are so many ways of doing that: a traditional school or classroom approach is just one.

Beverley Paine
Homeschool Australia
Unschool Australia
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Homeschool FAQ: where to start with a five year old child?

At the age of five learning should be anchored in everyday living and play still. I think you will find that if you do this and introduce lots of board, card and dice games plus a range of different activities exploring the natural world, how things work, an excursion into the community talking about what you experience, you'll have a busy and full curriculum that will meet your five year old's educational needs in a stress free way. Most children this age love playing 'school' by doing a few pages of maths and spelling, writing a few words on pictures that create or labels to describe displays or things they've made, or doing educational computer programs or apps.

Home education is a lot easier than most of us think - we don't need to model what schools do in exactly the same way they do it - we can make it up as we go along to suit the needs of our individual children and our family circumstances. And once you get into the swing of learning at home it becomes easier to identify the maths happening in deciding what toy to buy at the shop, baking, building a tower with construction toys; or the science in making 'magic' potions from random ingredients from the pantry or garden; or the technology in building balsa wood models or dolls' furniture, etc.
 

Beverley Paine
Homeschool Australia
Unschool Australia
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

What is a Home Education Curriculum?

Thanks Alyson for asking for a discussion on 'curriculum'. I've started a new topic. :-)

I take curriculum to mean a 'course of study', a deliberate action with education as the intention. The education could be aimed at a specific outcome, but it is impossible to learn one thing and not learn a dozen or more other things at the same time (most of which we are unaware until we come to use the knowledge, understanding or skills later and wonder how come we know them!)

I use the terms 'learning program/plan' and 'curriculum' interchangeably. However, I do see the 'curriculum' as the overall plan and as such it is broader in its scope and time-frame.

A home-grown (rather than purchased or downloaded) home education curriculum talks about and is responsive to the family's values as well as beliefs about the role of education in all of our lives (not just the children's). It is tailored to the emerging personalities, talents, interests and abilities of the individuals within the family and the particular circumstances of that family. And it is responsive to the community and society in which the family immediately lives: although both would cover the essential things all children need to learn, the home education curriculum of a a rural family living a homesteading lifestyle would naturally be different from an inner city family. Both would be flexible and adaptable, changing as the needs of the individuals grow and develop, as well as to the changing social environment.

Because a home-grown home education curriculum embeds family values and beliefs, it creates a firm foundation on which confidence can grow. I have met hundreds of families who, after homeschooling for a week, a few months or even a year or two, experience doubt and insecurity about what they are doing with the children. Often this is remedied by buying a different 'curriculum', new books, online learning programs, etc. Instead of these materials adding value to the family's educational plan they become the 'curriculum'. The same thing can happen if we implement the state or national curriculum - unless it 'fits' our world view and family's specific needs, sooner or later we end up doing things that don't work that we feel we should or must do or we're 'failing' as home educators. Personalising your home education curriculum helps to avoid these issues. 

Most of us end up with a home-grown curriculum running through our heads if not recorded on paper or the computer. Thinking about what we want from an education for our children when we start homeschooling or unschooling and putting our thoughts and those of our children down somewhere so that we can revisit and review them regularly (I would do this annually), helps build our confidence as educators. And it has been my experience that we're less prone to radical shifts in direction, saves us money in the long term, and is less stressful overall because it is naturally more consistent and stable. A home-grown, personalised curriculum is a foundation stone.

Within this kind of curriculum we can feel confident to explore education, create and implement more specific and detailed unit studies or learning programs, add resources to cover specific content or skills, etc as the need emerges.

Beverley Paine
Homeschool Australia
Unschool Australia
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