Monday, August 12, 2013

Homeschool Goals 2013-2014 -- Engaging Your Learners!

Each year it seems that God lays something on my heart to focus on with my children-- my homeschool goal for that year. One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the refining it is for me! 

This year my homeschool goal is simple: Engage. 


                                           


One simple word, but yet full of meaning and conviction. 

From Dictionary.com:

en·gage  

/enˈgāj/
Verb
  1. Occupy, attract, or involve (someone's interest or attention).
  2. Cause someone to become involved in (a conversation or discussion).



So, let's break it down.

Attract

Have you ever been so excited about a topic or a curriculum only to be met with your child's glazed over eyes? Shocking right??? How on earth can they not be excited about Shakespeare or Martin Luther?!?!

Well, something along the line drew us into the topics and subjects we are excited about. Something ENGAGED us. Our ears perk up when we hear those topics and we seek them out. 

A love of the Rennaisance or the Reformation is not innate. It must be cultivated. I must demonstrate my love and passion, and then BE PATIENT with them as they develop their own loves and passions.

To attract my kids I need to be patient--they are turned off by my frustration. Yeah. duh. I know. 

Not everything is going to be fun and exciting...but I definitely need to make MY attitude attractive. 


Involve

Include Their Preferences

I don't always involve or include my children in WHAT we are studying. And I don't necessarily think that is wrong. We have to study Bible, math, grammar, spelling, writing, reading, science, history, etc. There are subjects I have deemed important for whatever reason. But I can involve them in HOW we study these subjects. My kids are crafty. I am doing what I can to give them every opportunity to color, cut, and paste to their hearts content. If it involved glue and scissors they are engaged! I involve their preferences when possible. It is amazing how art paper and colored markers will engage my daughter in writing spelling words. Or placing a mini chocolate chip at the end of each section of my sons reading page. Often, it is the simple things.



                                              


Discuss

I also need to involve them in the learning process. It's not just about "teaching" them or teaching "at them" or "to them." To engage them, I must elicit response and discussion. Engage the material. Talk about it, dialog, narrate. Make retellings and narrations a part of the learning process and not just a task to be checked off. My kids remember much more of what we discuss than just what we read. 

Narrower and Deeper

It is because of this fact that we shifted our history and science focus this year. Instead of a mile wide and and inch deep, we are going for a narrower and deeper scope. I would rather cover less, and have them ENGAGED. I am fully prepared to cross weeks off of our history plans because maybe the Pilgrims and Squanto caught their interest and we camped out there. I want them to be excited about what we are studying...in order to do that I need to allow them a higher level of involvement. 

Seize Learning Opportunities

I am a planner. I love plans, lists, charts...but the best homeschool plans are plans that can be changed. When we read The Red Sales to Capri, my kids were enthralled as we researched the Blue Grotto in Italy. It was so much fun. Mr. Popper's Penguins gave my kids a great interest in Antarctica and penguins. They may never be that interested in that topic ever again-- seize the opportunity-- take time to deviate and actually learn! 

Slow Down.

Engaging doesn't happen when you are box checking. I like to "complete" things. I hate skipping anything so I get how hard it can be. But in order to engage...a lot of the time less is more. Not less time invested, not less time learning...just less time doing that which is not sticking and more time engaging in that which is being embedded in their hearts and minds. 


Teach

I know this seems silly. (and yes, I know this wasn't in the definition!) So, duh, of course we are going to teach, we are homeschooling! What does teaching have to do with engaging? Well, maybe I am the only one to experience this but... You just deliver this wonderful math lesson (it's fully scripted so of course it was awesome!) only to present the worksheet to your child and then see their glazed over eyes staring at it like it is written in Greek.

ok, so of course you sweetly smile at your eager little learner and reteach the lesson in your most gentle and patient voice. 

No?

Yeah, not so much here either...All to often, I get FRUSTRATED when my darling little learners don't get it the first time. We know how to do it, I just explained it-- why don't they get it?!?!? 
This attitude is ridiculous--I know that. They are LITTLE and chances are this is NEW. 

Reality Flash: They may not get it the first time. (Why is that so hard for me to remember!?!?!)

Sigh. 

You mean we actually have to TEACH? Not just read the script and expect immediate retention? So, you can see why the whole "teach" thing is not such a given for me! ;) This year, I want to teach...not read scripts or lessons, but engage my learner until they...get this... learn. 


Enage. It seemed so simple right? I guess it is. It just takes time, patience, and flexibility. All things homeschool moms have an abundance of right!?!?! ;) 




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