“Why Do I Have to Learn This?!”

This is a guest blog post by Shell Higgs. She is a freelance writer with many skills up her sleeve. She cannot cook or juggle, but she does specialize in writing about parenting, technology and education.  You can follow her on twitter @higgshell or visit her blog at techeduchat.

To this day, I don’t know why I had to learn long division. While the actual process was taught to me, the motivation to learn and remember it was neglected, so I immediately went straight back to doing division in my preferred way.

We’ve all heard the words “why do I have to learn this?” usually accompanied by a groan. The lesson has struck them as being boring or difficult, and generally not applying to their life at all. This is where great learning goals are worth their weight in stress-free gold.

[clickToTweet tweet=”A clear learning goal answers the not just the what and how, but also the why of the lesson.” quote=”A clear learning goal answers the not just the what and how, but also the why of the lesson.”]

The why is a vital but often missed step. By revealing why the child should learn the subject or skill, you allow them space to assign value to the lesson. It connects the lesson to their world, community, belief and self-knowledge.

By framing your learning goals in a WALT/WILF/TIB format, and displaying them prominently, you can provide children with the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. It should be stated that this format doesn’t limit bonus learning from additional branches of exploration, it merely directs children to the high point of your intention. It might just be a springboard for a whole new project!

Here’s how it works.

WALT: Write learning goals that work. WALT is We Are Learning To…

In one short, snappy sentence, explicitly tell the children what they are supposed to be learning. Make sure to include an action verb.

We Are Learning To: ‘Explore narrative structures in classic literature’ or ‘Learn about bees and what they do’. If another person asks your child what they learned today, they don’t have to try and uncover the point of the lesson, they know exactly what they learned today.

WILF: Action verbs, explicit statements and links to the child’s world. WILF is What I’m Looking For…

This is your success criteria. How will the child know when they’ve learned the lesson, especially when the goal was to do something unquantifiable, like ‘explore’? What I’m Looking For: ‘Able to draw a narrative structure diagram’ or ‘Able to label a honey bee diagram and explain bee roles’.

By letting the child know exactly what success looks like, they are able to self-evaluate, and clarify their learning if required.

TIB: Learning goals assist students to become invested in the lesson and take ownership of their learning. TIB is This Is Because…

This is your opportunity to link the lesson to the child’s world and what is important to them. If the lesson is about physics, link it to how much they love skateboard tricks. If the lesson is teaching teenagers to be safe online, link it to their desire to connect.

A good TIB statement is a powerful learning tool. Even when you aren’t quite sure how to link it to them specifically, a little explanation goes a long way. This Is Because: ‘Knowing the narrative structure means you can write your own stories’ or ‘Honeybees are vital to propagating plant life on Earth’.

It’s not necessary to write a WALT/WILF/TIB for every lesson, or even change them every day. Some learning goals will carry across a whole week or even a term.

 

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Teaching Is Not a Performance – It’s a Conversation

I had a friend in graduate school who used to irritate me by asking the professor one too many questions. Usually, the questions were of an open-ended sort.

“Doesn’t this seem a little fatalistic?” she asked of Yeats’ The Second Coming, for example. This grated on my nerves.

“Why do you ask so many questions?” I said. Me, classroom-hater, classroom fanatic.

“Because I’ve always believed,” she responded, “that education is a two-way street.”

We tend to forget that when it comes to educating children, I think. In spite of the constant reminders about educating literally meaning “to draw out,” we tend to sometimes think that just dumping a bunch of information into kids and then seeing how quickly they can regurgitate those facts is somehow teaching them.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think. – Albert Einstein

I remember being terrified of teaching my own children when we first began to think of homeschooling. Perhaps it was because I tend to be an introvert and the idea of standing in front of a group and teaching them seemed, frankly, intimidating.

It wasn’t until I realized that homeschooling isn’t like teaching a classroom – you don’t have to work hard to get and keep their attention, it really doesn’t take very long at all and it provides you with ample opportunities for your own intellectual stimulation and perhaps a side profession.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Homeschooling works because it is intimate, individualized and introspective. ” quote=”Homeschooling works because it is intimate, individualized and introspective. “]

Homeschooling is Intimate

One of the biggest advantages homeschooling has over a classroom setting is that it is intimate. Like a conversation, it is a shared experience between the teacher and the student, a mother and her child, a father and his son or daughter. There is time to ask questions and have them answered. There is time to read a story, explore the segues, learn something as an accident.

Homeschooling often is learning just by the way, as a side effect, just for the heck of it, just because it is so darn fun!

None of this is possible in a classroom or in a performance.

Homeschooling is Individualized

My son recently moved on to multiplication while my daughter needed more practice with subtraction, so I kept her there. The thing is she’s older than him. This is not a big deal with us because I don’t stress about their grade levels.

In a classroom where they would be expected to be in lock step with their peers, this would be a problem. But who cares? They’re learning to mastery, they’re learning to their interests and I’m giving them free rein where they want it and where they excel.

The same daughter who needs more practice in subtraction is reading way above her grade level. She has practical skills unmatched in children her age. She is creative, curious and incredibly smart. Individualized education serves her well.

Homeschooling is Introspective

I can learn anything I want. In today’s world where information is everywhere and very little stays hidden for very long, it’s not gathering information that counts as education as learning how to process it. Where’s the time to process in a classroom? Where’s the time to think?

One of the tenets of our homeschool is giving the children enough time to be bored, to make their own fun. Homeschooling gives them time to introspect, to piece together what they learned in the day, ask good questions and we even have time to find good answers.

As a homeschooler, I never have to worry about giving a good performance. I only have to engage enough to have a great conversation. Because that’s what teaching really is. And that’s what will always remain the enduring beauty of home education.

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Three Reasons Introverts Make Good Homeschoolers

You don’t need a Myers-Briggs personality test to tell you when you are an introvert. You just know it. You’re not shy, you’re just an introvert.

Here’s why introverts make good homeschoolers.

Introverts keep it simple

Introverts are exhausted by noise in their environment and tend to be minimalists to a large degree. Noise can be visual or audio or just plain excess. When it comes to homeschooling, this can be a task to get through because the sheer volume of curriculum choices makes it a daunting task.

Introverts by nature will want to keep things simple. While it may be a task you don’t look forward to much, keeping curriculum choices simple is an advantage you can capitalize on as an introvert, especially if you tend to be an INTJ or an INFJ.

As a result of this trait, introverts tend to focus on what matters most. They seem to have an uncanny ability to filter out what does not add to their lives. This is a uniquely helpful trait for a homeschooler.

Introverts tend to be self-reliant

Extroverts like the energy of crowds. And while a like-minded homeschooling community is priceless, an introvert knows that the one person she cannot let down is herself. As an introvert homeschooler, you will be less likely to depend on outside influence and more likely to build a custom curriculum that works for your specific family needs.

Much of homeschooling can be boring to someone who needs more stimulation, but it is perfect for the introvert who sees the beauty of the small, everyday things.

Introverts can spot a mistake a mile away

Susan Cain in Quiet mentions that one of the good things about being an introvert is that you are driven to speak up only if things are bothering you. So unlike an extrovert who is more vocal in general, if you care about something deeply enough, you will be motivated to fix it.

This is an invaluable trait in a homeschooler. Since you are especially attuned to your environment, anything that isn’t working can force you to change. This makes you flexible, which is a good thing.

Ultimately, as an introvert, you are primed to succeed as a homeschooler because you recognize that homeschooling, indeed all education, is not a performance but a conversation.

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Winning at Homeschooling: It’s Not Enough to Plan – You Must Also Prep

The winter doldrums are here. As I wrote in my previous post about feeling some homeschooling burnout, sometimes I really just depend on habit to carry me through.

Habits, I notice, are easier to engage in if you already have in place systems which support those habits.

One most people can relate to is exercise. On days when you don’t have the motivation to work out, your habit keeps you going, but if getting to the gym is too onerous and you haven’t made it easy to get a workout, then you won’t do it. If eating healthy is your goal and you have junk food lying around your house, you haven’t perfected your systems. And you are setting yourself up for failure.

The same goes for homeschooling.

You can have your goals and a list of the curriculum you plan to teach for the year, but if you haven’t done the prep work that comes with homeschooling, it will be much harder to get it done. Not only will it feel harder and take longer, without sufficient prep work, you won’t know if you’re going to get it done on time.

I’m not talking about planning

I love stationery as much as the next homeschooling mom. But I am not referring here to a planner or journal. Filling out a year with what we’re going to accomplish each week just does not work for me.

I enjoy the segues, the rabbit trails, that are part of every good education and I hate walking on a pre-prescribed straight path, even if that path has been chosen by me. There is too much beauty and diversity in this unschooling world to stick to a lesson plan or any such predetermined schedule.

If we let go of the spontaneity & internal motivation that drives our homeschool, we lose control over our education.

So here’s what we do instead.

A strategic meeting

Recently, I was listening to a seminar about goal setting. You know, right, that I love integrating business ideas into our homeschool? Well, here’s one that I thought was pretty straightforward. A sticker chart.

Oh, I hear the groans already. But bear with me.

What is a sticker chart, really? It is a visual motivating incentive given to an individual with the hope of accomplishing a goal.

It is the same as giving yourself check marks on the calendar on days you work out, or having a no-spend week to get back on track with the budget or doing The Whole 30 to jump start your weight loss goals.

So I had a strategic meeting with my children to set some learning goals.

I told them where we wanted to be in 3 months, what actions I needed them to focus on to get us there and what small tasks they needed to accomplish to get us there. Each time they accomplished a task (they had their own options as to how to do so) they received a sticker.

There were small wins and big wins – at the end of a line, say, they received a small party. At the end of the year, they got to pick what we did for the big celebration.

The chart hangs on our fridge. It tells a story within 10 seconds of seeing it. And the children love it.

The planning in our homeschool included learning each child’s gifts and challenges and taking these into consideration when picking books and activities; the prep was giving them free rein over their choices when it came to accomplishing our common goals.

Without one or the other, our homeschool would fail.

Prepping our curriculum, daily tasks and our plan in this way keeps us engaged, motivated and free to indulge in our creativity as we learn. It also teaches us habits of intrinsic motivation and other ways to gamify our education so that it truly becomes our own – habits that will in the future be helpful no matter what the children do.

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