Involving Your Student in the Planning Process

So I was getting a little stressed out.  I never planned to be homeschooling.  In any form.  When I found out that we had to “qualify” for pre-k here in Texas, and that we wouldn’t qualify, I thought, ok well, I can teach pre-k.  It’s not like I don’t have the experience.  Or we could just put our kids in a private pre-k.  But that was before.  Before either of our kids was born.

The journey we’ve taken the last three years with Becca has been incredible.  We never expected all the challenges that come with being her parents.  But we wouldn’t change a thing.  Even the homeschooling first, second, and third grade curriculum at age three in the middle of the summer because she doesn’t ever want to shut down or take a break from learning.  I wouldn’t change it, but it is definitely enough to stress ya out.  Believe me, ya’ll.  I was about to lose it.
And then I saw a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Colleen (from Raising Lifelong Learners), about this class called Bloom.  It’s made for homeschooling moms and actually says in the title that it’ll help me find my SANITY.  And boy.  I kept seeing her post that Alicia from Vibrant Homeschooling was doing this Bloom registration for her class, and I kept seeing the word SANITY.  But I kept telling myself I’m not homeschooling.  Not really.  I mean I call it unschooling, but seriously, I’m NOT a homeschooler.  I was fighting it tooth and nail.  Not the homeschooling itself, but the title.  The “stigma.”  The looks.  The comments from, well, everyone who isn’t a homeschooler.
But then I gave in.  And realized that whatever label I put on it, I am teaching school at home.  And I realized I was flailing around out there in an ocean, looking for a life raft.  So I decided to grab the next one that floated by, and I joined the Bloom class.  After only completing two classes (of eight) so far, I’m already breathing sighs of relief.  Sanity is possible!!!  Talking with the other ladies in the group, watching the videos, getting encouragement, all of it has really started making an impact on how I focus on teaching.
And, I realized that I know some things about Becca.  She does NOT thrive on specific curriculum guidance.  She needs to have the flexibility to follow any little rabbit trail she comes across.  A daily lesson plan might be much more comforting to me as a former public school teacher, but for her, it would never work.  Because she sees a random cardboard box, and that makes her want to research how cardboard boxes are made.  And we might spend all day on that.  Or we might see the moon in the daytime and spend the rest of the week learning more (and more, and more, and more) about the moon!  I seriously know more than any mom of a 3 year old should ever know about the moon, ya’ll.  It’s kinda scary.  But, I guess if my daughter is “someday gonna put a Texas flag up there on it,” I should know all this stuff.  (Her words,not mine!)  I also know that she is very opinionated.  Once she feels like she knows everything she wants to know about a topic, she is done with it.  And I best not bring it back up.  Not because she’ll misbehave or throw a fit, but because it’ll be pointless – her mind will be somewhere else and I’ll be wasting my breath.
Realizing these things about her was a huge breakthrough for me.  I knew these things, but somehow sitting down and thinking about them not as flaws but as character traits that impact the way she learns has made a huge impact on the way I approach teaching her.  So I decided to sit down and make some lists of things that she might want to learn about this coming school year.  (If you follow my Facebook page, you’ve seen a preview of this a few days ago – here’s the backstory behind the photo I shared.)  I made a list of items from various subjects that I felt she might be interested in… but I wasn’t sure.  So I decided I’d just ask her, and then we could sort of go through the lists little by little and cover those topics.
I’m always so fascinated to see how her brain works.  When I went to talk to her about the theme topics, we were in her bedroom, and I sat on the floor. She was all over the room all the time.  As she got more excited about the topics she wanted to learn about, she moved faster and faster.  She was eventually spinning in circles next to me.  (Enter her Proprioceptive need for input…aka Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD)  She read the lists aloud over my shoulder and would say “yes, I want to learn ___” or “no, I know enough already about ____.”  When we were talking about science topics, she kept going.  “I want to learn about ____ and I want to learn about ____ and about _____ and then what about _____?”  We ended up with an amazing set of lists of theme topics she wants to learn about, art projects she wants to create, and some physical stuff she wants to try, too.
It was a super productive meeting time, and she and I both left the room really excited about what all we’re going to learn about together in the coming school year.  Then she hit me with a curveball.  She basically asked me if we could start “tomorrow.”  We talked about it, and agreed that this summer we will definitely do some things on her lists, but we’ll wait and pick up on the more “schoolish” things  (math, according to her is “kind of schoolish”) this fall.  I’m totally fine with that.  Until such time as she’s actually behind in a skill for her age, I will totally let her determine what she wants to learn, and when she wants to learn (which of course is everything / every minute of every day).
I honestly don’t know how long this homeschooling thing will be right for us.  I hope and pray that we can get her IQ tested next year and then advocate for the school district we are in to advance her to the appropriate grade level for her skills once she hits age 5 and should start kindergarten.  But that may not happen.  And it may be that we need to continue some form or combination of home, private or charter education to ensure that all of her needs are met.
We have to take each day at a time, and I have to be ok with the flexibility of all of it.  This isn’t something that I can really plan ahead.  I have to learn to roll with the punches.  (Which is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done thus far…)  But here’s the SANITY portion of this!!!!:  By letting her select and tell me things she is interested in learning, my curriculum won’t fail.  And I won’t spend tons of money on themes she isn’t interested in!!!  I know I’m guaranteed to have a happy, intent student who is eager to learn about the selected topic.
I would highly encourage other moms (homeschooling or not) to  talk to your kids about what they want to learn.  Don’t just assume they are interested.  Ask them open-ended questions.  Start the discussion by simply saying – what do you want to learn?  And then sit back and be ready to listen.  REALLY listen.  And then be prepared to follow through!
Share some feedback – I’d love to hear from you!  How do you involve your kids in their learning process?  Do they get to help select their curriculum if you are homeschooling?  Do they get to select topics of extracurricular study/activity if they are in another school setting and learning additionally at home?  What works for you?  I’m always eager to learn from others and get new ideas!!  This was a first for us, and happened to be very successful, so I wanted to share.

Author: Mrs. H

I am a SPED Teacher who is mom to three beautiful children, a wife to a fabulous man, and blessed beyond compare!

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