The Art of Learning

I posted a picture on Instagram today of Pete working on some math problems. He's been learning all the tricks for adding with nine and eight and memorizing his double facts. We stopped by the Dollar Tree for some wrapping paper this morning and the cashier asked him why he wasn't in school -- he just giggled. #oops

He could have answered -- "we homeschool". Yep, but it's a bit more confusing than that because each of my boys go to school two days a week {alternate days}. We like to call it hybrid homeschool. It's where you learn at home with mom part of the time and you learn at school with other kids and a traditional teacher {whether that's a co-op or public school alternative learning situation} the other couple days.

Pete goes to school on campus two days each week and spends the rest of his time learning at home.

That's what I want to talk about -- the home part.

Don't Make School Into Another List of Things to Be Checked Off
I'm a list-maker. I'm self-motivated. I'm kinda obsessed with finishing things and closure. I'm learning to value process and challenge. So when it comes to teaching my own child, I usually start off making a nice tidy little list of things to do...things that can be checked off as we go.
Spelling words? Check. Handwriting page? Check. Math problems? Check.

And my boy over there?? He's like "When is this gonna be over? I'm so outta here." And mom's like "Come can do this! Just one more page!"

It's taken me two months to realize that he's often learning more from the time he spends working on his chosen projects than he's learning from my force-fed lessons. And the force-feeding is making him a little crazy.

Children Need to Feel Ownership
So we have made two major changes. One -- I'm letting my six-year-old direct his learning to a much greater extent. Two -- I'm writing my lists AFTER the learning takes place.

I still want him to complete his Foundation Tasks first thing each day {spelling words, silent reading, handwriting, and math worksheets}, but after that there is freedom for interest-led and inquiry-based learning.

We're calling it the Bucket Method {shout out to Rachel} -- when he's writing in his journal he's filling his writing bucket, when he's playing Monopoly he's filling his math bucket, when he's drawing a new wireless mp3/speaker device with voice recognition he's filling his science bucket. And I give him lots of time to innovate.

Because Innovation Takes Time

"One of the best gifts that a parent can give their child is time -- completely free and unstructured time to discover and pursue their passions. Children need time to do absolutely nothing, to let their minds wander, to reflect. In doing so, they will often stumble across the things they love the most. And these things will often lead to a lifetime of creativity and authenticity and happiness." --Laura Kyle in Teach Me to Be Happy 
  • Give them free time.
  • Don't do the work for them.
  • Let them dig really deep into a project. 
  • Give them complete ownership of the learning process and the product.
  • Let them ask the questions, find the answers, gather materials, do the experiments, try the things.
A couple days ago, I handed him a bag of craft sticks {the larger popsicle sticks} and gave him permission to use the glue gun. I said something about building a bridge and showed him a couple pictures, but his brain took him somewhere else and I let him travel there. He built a house for his rock cat named Benny and loved every single minute of it. And I wrote that down in his science bucket {structural engineering anybody?}.

Interested in more information about learning and motivation? Check out my ebook!