In this post, I want to talk about how to become a student of your child. This doesn’t have to be scary and I’ll walk you through the process!
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One of the most exciting aspects of homeschooling for me is being able to teach my girls in the way they each learn best.
The concept of differentiation was a big focus of mine when I taught elementary school. I desperately wanted to meet each student where they were, but in a class of 25-30 students, that seemed nearly impossible.
Once I began homeschooling Little Miss, my dreams of differentiating my teaching to meet her needs became a reality.
I naively thought that between 8 years of teaching experience and the fact that my ONE student just happened to be my child, that this homeschooling thing would be a piece of cake. I was wrong.
Even though I’ve known Little Miss her whole life, I wasn’t prepared to be her teacher. At least not initially.
It took time, patience, and allowing myself to become a student of my child for me to be an effective homeschooler. And even so, I still learn something new about her every day.
What does it mean to become a student of your child?
When I use the term “become a student of your child,” what comes to your mind? For me, I think of a parent sitting back and observing every facet of your kid as a learner, as a human, as a collaborator, etc. It also involves talking to your kids and asking them about their preferences or trying something new to see how they respond.
You probably already know your child pretty well in the parent-child relationship and maybe even in a sibling relationship, but have you ever stood back and watched your child as a learner?
Does she prefer to learn by reading the material first or by hearing it read? Does he like to show mastery by taking a quiz or test, or maybe by creating a project? How does she respond to challenges? What time of day does he learn best?
These are all essential things to know if you plan to tailor your child’s education to his or her needs.
When should you start?
While being a student of your child is a daily thing, I would recommend an initial study period before you begin formally homeschooling. I understand that might not be possible if you’ve already started homeschooling, and now you realize you needed to become a student of your child first.
Maybe you pulled your child out of a traditional school setting mid-year. I might suggest deschooling and using that time to learn about your child as a learner.
Maybe you’ve been homeschooling for a few years, and things just aren’t working. Take a break mid-year for some time to study your child.
I fully intend to spend a little time every day to observe my girls as learners. Kids are humans, and as humans, we change pretty regularly. What your kids prefer this month might change next month or even next week.
I also think it’s a good idea to take a day or two to observe your child if you notice significant changes in their attitude toward learning. I’d much rather take a day or two off from the scheduled plan, get to the bottom of the problem, and come back rejuvenated than continuing in something that isn’t working.
What should you look for?
Now that you’ve decided to become a student of your child, what exactly should you look for as you observe? I have a few ideas for you.
Do you know what kind of learner your child is?
There are many different viewpoints about learning styles. However, their validity in the academic world has come into question in recent years. Some experts feel that there are three primary learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Others focus more on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.
So why does it matter? Whether those in academia view learning styles as relevant or not, I know that we all have preferences of how we learn. I want to make sure that I’m allowing my kids to receive instruction in a way that makes sense to them.
Not to mention, I want to make sure my kids can express their learning in a way that suits them. If a child struggles terribly with writing but is an incredible artist, how would you have him show what he learned from his latest read? Maybe let him create a poster or diorama about the book on his own, but work with him on a written report. We’ll touch on this a bit later.
It’s also important to remember that kids can prefer multiple learning styles, even in different subjects. That’s where the observation comes in!
How is your child motivated to learn?
Some kids love textbooks and workbooks and work on their own to get the day’s work completed.
Others might need a little more “stealth” learning in the form of gameschooling, learning with apps, or watching documentaries.
Still, other kids might prefer to learn from living books.
Take some time to try something new as you become a student of your child. Put away the math book and pull out Sum Swamp instead. See if addition and subtraction are less of a fight that way.
You might be surprised to see what motivates your kids!
Whatever motivates your child to learn, bring that method into your homeschool regularly. I’m not saying that you should only teach in that manner, but there’s something to be said for bringing a spark of joy to the learning.
What are your kids interested in?
Sit down and talk with your son about the video game he’s been playing recently. Watch the chimpanzee documentary with your daughter and discuss it with her. You won’t know the interests of your children unless you make an effort.
Once you know your child’s interests, incorporate them into your homeschool. Create some math story problems around the characters in the video game. Take a field trip to the zoo to check out the chimps and talk to a zookeeper.
As homeschoolers, we can use our kids’ interests to our advantage and incorporate them into the learning.
Relationships are the most crucial part of being a parent and also the homeschool teacher. You are with your children all day. Every day. You want your relationships to be healthy and positive.
When your child is an adult, and you look back to your homeschool years, what will matter most- the binders full of book reports that nearly killed you both or your relationship?
I would bet it’s your relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when you, as the mom and teacher will have to be the “bad guy” and insist that a certain particular or assignment be completed.
Your child has to learn to write a coherent paper, even if they’re not a strong writer. They have to know how to read and add and count money. But those things don’t have to become a knock-down, drag-out fight.
Also, keep in mind that your child will learn skills when he or she is ready. Just because the math book has addition before the shapes and measurement chapters, you don’t have to complete them in that order necessarily.
It’s ok to let your child lead a little bit and use her strengths to get some momentum going. Sometimes taking a break can make all the difference in your child’s confidence. Use that to your advantage!
There’s so much more I could say about how to become a student of your child, and I’m still learning more all the time.
Here are a few additional resources that you might enjoy as you work to become a student of your child.
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Have you worked to know your child better and used that information in your homeschool? Let me know in the comments!