Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Homeschool Plans

Yesterday I sat down with each of the older kids and we made a big list of things they want to cover in our homeschool year, or a Things I Want to Know list. I actually do this with them periodically anyway, but since it feels end-of-summery/beginning-of-schooly to me (even though we don't really follow the official school schedule), I was kind of in the mood to revisit this little project.

I do this with them because I think it's important that the kids have a voice in what they learn--it's one of the reasons we wanted to homeschool in the first place. I want them to get practice and experience in deciding what their values are and going after them, and this is a way we can do that. I still chafe at the word unschooler and really can't quite call us an unschooling family (partly because nobody, including unschoolers, can seem to define the term), but the kids are very self-directed. I view my role as resource provider/guide/chauffeur/perspective-adder/question-asker/context-pointer-outer/connection-maker. We are relaxed in how we do schooly things, and I do not step in their way until and unless they demonstrate that they need guidance or help, which is consistent with my views on discipline issues.

Making a Things I Want to Know list is also a great way for me to get to know them a little better. Even though I have very talkative children who seem to want to fill me in on every single thought they have, there were some surprises on their lists, glimpses into thoughts and ideas that I'd not yet seen or been privy to. So it's fun for me to find out what they're thinking about. And it's also a way for me to give them my ideas on how we can accomplish their goals, so that they see me as that resource/idea provider, and not merely as "Mom." :o)

We're going to do a new thing with these lists, too. After I'm done with this post, I will copy their lists out onto giant pieces of paper and we'll hang them on the walls somewhere. I know for sure that Morgan will love this idea; Ryan, I'm not so sure about, but we'll give it a try. Having their goals posted in a visible area will help the kids keep them, I don't know, present in their daily lives. I made sure to stress that we can add and subtract from the list as necessary, that this is not something they are locked into by any means. Having the lists posted on the walls is a way to introduce them to methods for staying organized (see this interesting link for ways to introduce GTD to children) as well as good practice for keeping track of your goals and pursuing your values.

So you're probably wondering what's on these lists we made, huh? Well, here they are! Each kid's personality really shows, and you can tell what kinds of things they're interested in.

Morgan's List
  • Learn German, French, Russian, and Greek
  • Chess Class (at co-op)
  • ASL Class (at co-op)
  • Read more Little House on the Prairie books (as read alouds)
  • More read alouds: Harry Potter and Narnia books
  • Library Trips
  • Writing practice, specifically focusing on holding the pen/pencil properly (she still tends to grip it with her fist)
  • DreamBox Math
  • Play with math blocks (Cuisenaire rods)
  • Dog Art Class (her term)
  • Drawing Class (at co-op)
  • Piano
  • Arts and Crafts projects
  • Dog training (we don't have a dog, but we thought we'd read some books maybe)
  • Go to the zoo and the park
  • Go hiking on mountains
  • Independent Reading: Junie B. Jones books, Nate the Great books, Ramona books
  • Cooking
  • Science Fair (at co-op)

This was the first time I'd done such a list with Morgan, and now I'm wishing I'd done this a year ago. With the exception of me making some specific suggestions for her independent reading books, she came up with all of that on her own. Surprising to me: that her interest in languages extended beyond French (which Brendan kinda sorta knows) and German (which I kinda sorta know); that she actually wants to learn how to hold a pencil properly; and that she wants to go hiking. Cool! And I'm pretty sure we can make most of her goals happen over the next year or so.

Ryan's List
  • Use Math Blocks
  • Watch Cyberchase
  • Money (he means earn some, but that also entails math, heh!)
  • Doctoring
  • Cooking
  • Hunting
  • Exploring
  • Being a Janitor and a Babysitter (At the same time? AWESOME.)
  • Spying
  • Detective Work
  • Building Models
  • Poetry
  • Read alouds: Continue with Sherlock Holmes mysteries (a Ryan-Brendan Saturday morning tradition)
  • Audiobooks: The Lord of the Rings and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • History at our House: European History
  • Learn about architecture
  • Peopleguy Tours (I'll write about this very soon)
  • Filming Movies
  • Writing his book about the Atlanta Falcons (for real)
  • Writing on his blog and sending email
  • Growing plants
  • Being a veterinarian
  • Learn about liquids (and other states of matter, I guess?)
  • Weather Systems
  • Grilling (the cooking kind, not the interrogation kind)
  • Hike Red Top Mountain
  • Go to Civil War sites in Georgia
  • Chess Class (at co-op)
  • ASL Class (at co-op)
  • Robotics Class (at co-op)
  • Make a robot to help do stuff around the house (Wow, I'd love it if he can do that!)
  • Sewing for Robots (they'll need clothing, apparently, to do all that housework, as opposed to House Elves)
  • Science Fair (at co-op)
  • Get history books from the library
  • Carpentry
  • Learn the skills needed to run a good conference (for real, he said this)

As those of you who know him in real life can probably imagine, he rattled this list off at high speed, as if he'd only been waiting for me to ask the question! It's also twice as long as Morgan's, and he could have kept going, only the baby woke up from his nap, so we had to agree that he could add stuff later. His peopleguy focus is very apparent, too. He wants to learn to do Real Things that Real Peopleguys Do. He doesn't want to learn about doctors--he wants to be a doctor. This is how he does. (Anyone have an apprenticeship he can join? He really is a hard worker!) Surprising to me: the desire to be a janitor (but a welcome surprise!); his interest in poetry; that he remembered to add math; and his strong need to know how to run a good conference. He's prepping for his CEO days, I guess.

I really enjoyed making this lists with my kids (but then again, I'm a list-y kind of person), and I already know I'll love being able to see their lists around the house. It will help me remember to take them hiking and go to the library, and it gives me an idea about which movies and documentaries to get from Netflix. Also, I really need to figure out how to turn this peopleguy stuff into a home improvement advantage for me!

I'd love to hear more about how other homeschoolers (and afterschoolers and regular schoolers) talk to their kids about their learning goals. Any good ideas?


John Drake said...

Ryan's list reminds me of Phineas and Ferb. "Whacha you going to do today?" "Run a great conference" Great stuff Jenn.

Lynne said...

Until Morgan turns . . .7(?) I can help with the dog art classes. After that, she'll undoubtedly surpass my skill level. (Drawing dogs was my favorite, favorite thing to do until I turned 10, or there about.)

Miranda Barzey said...

Yay! Both of them want to take ASL class! I'm so excited!

You could probably use Ryan's interest in running a conference to helping you with MiniCon. Maybe not collating papers, but something else perhaps?

This totally gives me ideas for Christmas presents.

Sarah said...

This is amazing, Jenn! Your children are so motivated and curious... it's wonderful to see. I'm going to recommend that my parents ask my younger siblings (ages 13, 11, and 10 now) to do lists like this. They all go to private schools which have rigidly grade level-determined curricula, so they don't get a lot of free time to pursue their own interests, but it would still be interesting to see what their biggest goals are.

Tenure said...

Ryan's interest in poetry caught me off guard!

Marbel said...

Great idea!

Jenn Casey said...

Thanks for your comments! It occurred to me later that this is a natural extension of our morning routine.

For those not familiar, I ask the kids "What is your work going to be today?" and/or "What values are you going to pursue today?" and then we talk about our goals for the day.

A Things I Want to Know list is the same idea for higher level goals that span over a longer period of time. It's the work and values they'll pursue over weeks or months.

I think this idea could be used for kids in regular school, too. It suits us well, but I think all kids would benefit from practice identifying and pursuing their goals, academic and non-academic (which is why I didn't mind if the kids put both kinds of things on their lists).