A Conversation with a mother who home schools

After talking to a friend of mine the other day about teaching her third grader, she asked me to archive our conversation so she could remember it and possibly share it with others. We talked about learning as a process of inquiry.  What tools should teachers and children use to assist them in the learning process?  It was as if a lightbulb was going off over her head as I was talking, “You should write this down!” she insisted.  “Do you know how many people who home school would appreciate this?”

I replied that although I have been teaching and specializing in the instruction of reading and writing for twenty-one years, there are few people interested in why we teach the way we do?  She told me she wanted to know more.  I am so grateful this friend took the time to listen and ask questions about learning.  I find so very few people I talk to want to understand the intricacies of the why of learning and prefer to spend more time on the how of learning?

This is the end of my Slice of Life post and the beginning of my teacher rant.  

Do we give our students enough time to wonder about something before we launch into teaching?  I strongly believe we need to continue teaching our children how to wonder.  In a culture surrounded by quick fixes and quick answers do we give space to children to go through the process of growing and idea, developing it, researching it, finding different ways to solve, sharing or publishing or archiving their findings?  Realistically, we don’t have time nor should we try to go through all these steps with everything we learn.  But, If I were able to home school my child I would consider some of these ideas.

Here’s some theory.  (Jump below for the practice)

Inquiry is an entryway into all learning. Children need adults to help them balance their learning in a variety of core areas.  But as we approach any core area: math, reading, writing, science, social studies aren’t we wondering about something?  If we give each learner space to enter into the learning making personal connection and setting goals the learning will be relevant and meaningful.  What does this look like?  If we are following a curriculum we need to add the human element.  We need to consider what each child brings to the table.  This includes learning strengths and weaknesses and interests.  Once we can help a child enter into the learning motivation will take hold.

Teachers need tools to facilitate the learning process. Core curriculum requirements for each state guide decision-making in this area.  There are many organizations who support the development of best practice to engage the core curriculum and the child.  But how do we choose which one is best?  If you belong to a local school district they make those choices.  There are programs to provide a roadmap for teachers to bridge the curriculum to the child.  After doing the research necessary to provide a well established educational plan for a child, the teacher can feel isolated if he or she does not have a group of supportive, positive, informed community members.  Blogging teachers, universities, professional think tanks, and educational publishers can provide the much needed trouble shooting during the process of our own inquiry into teaching.

Students need tools to engage in the learning process. In order to authentically interact with one’s environment, a student needs to engage.  The way a child learns best will determine the best way in which to engage.  Does this mean we should not try to help all learners engage in traditional ways to survive in our society? No.  As long as our culture uses standardized testing to measure students achievement and ability, we will have to continue to balance the need for our children to participate in this way.  However, the standardized assessment is only one way to measure learning and does not replace the learning.  This is where our culture has become unbalanced.  While we argue about the amount of standardized assessment appropriate we are losing critical time that should be spent on the learning.  Tools to engage students in the learning will depend on the student.  Some children understand better with a pencil and words, some with a picture and words, some with a digital presentation.  Spending time looking for tools to show a student’s strengths sounds like an important undertaking.  Yet, I don’t see any curricular programs being pushed to sell that!  How do you standardize getting to know a person.  You don’t.  But it takes time to do it.  Students will be more likely to engage in inquiry when they feel valued.  We must spend time finding multiple ways for children to engage in and express their learning.

Here’s some practice (Very simplified)

Reading Fiction: If a child were entering into an inquiry about character and events, said child would choose a book (with guidance) to study the development and changes of a character across the events of a story.

1)A child might choose to draw each event and discuss the effect the event had on the character in a caption.  An abstract thinking child might make a quick timeline.

2) A verbal child might record his or her thinking using a dictation tool in google docs.

3.)A child who processes after the whole text or in bits and pieces.

During this process the teacher and child are constantly discussing the way the child engages in the process with the least amount of resistance (unless stamina is the goal).  The flow of this learning should be smooth, otherwise there may be a problem with the text, the tools, the task that may need tweaking.

Reading Non-Fiction If a children were entering into an inquiry about the adaptations of a shark, said child would need assistance with finding the appropriate source of information with the support of a teacher.  After the appropriate source is found, a teacher and child can decide the best way to glean informational text, vocabulary, images, captions, video watching and rewatching to record the learning in a new way.  If the child is not motivated to share the learning in some form, reflect with the child about how this process will help learning for the future.  Archive the progress in the form of an interview to be shared with a friend.  Create a purpose for the child to engage in the exchange of information.

Shannon, I hope this helps.  I would love to continue archiving our conversation through this blog.  If you and other parents who home school are interested.



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