The Independent Learner

cheeseburger paradiseOne of my goals in homeschooling is to help train my children to learn things on their own with minimal help from me. The hope is that we will not squash the love of learning out of them and that they will maintain a curiosity that inspires them to learn and keep learning.

This is one of those nice-sounding goals that I think I put in the application to exempt my son from mandatory public schooling here in Singapore. And it really is one of the goals…but in recent weeks this idea of independence has taken on a new meaning. My #1 son is quite naturally independent, to put it mildly. He’s 6 1/2 going on 18 and thinks he doesn’t really need his mother to tell him what to do. The other day he told me he likes to teach not to “be teached…uh, taught.” Alas, he is just like me…doesn’t like to be told what to do, likes to figure things out by trying first rather than listening, learns more when he is the teacher rather than the student. So now the parenting dilemma is to help him find the balance–not to deny his personality (which shows great passion and leadership potential) and yet bring it under control so that he learns to be teachable.

This week I changed my strategy a little. Rather than sticking to the timetable and dictating what subjects came first and at what time, I gave #1 a checklist of what needed to be done and let him decide the order. His checklist includes: getting dressed/tidying the bed, chores (dirty clothes delivery/trash), and school subjects for the various days. On the same page there is a list of the books/worksheets he’s to use and how long he needs to spend on each subject. Some of these things require my help but most don’t. Copywork seems to be the thing he despises most out of all his assigned schoolwork, so I have employed ‘desperate’ measures to help him overcome his dislike for writing. First, I read aloud to him while he writes. Reading always helps calm him, so as long as he can focus, I am glad to do that. Second, I have allowed him to use a pen (and correction fluid!) rather than a pencil. He claims that it makes him remember to be more careful in his writing because it’s troublesome to blot out the mistakes. I have had to fight back the feeling that I am letting him get away with too much, being the control freak that I sometimes can be. He does much better work without Mom breathing down his neck.

Nugget nirvanaBesides making for more peaceful school days and helping #1 to be more responsible for his own work, this has given me much more time to work with #2. He’s doing simple math and phonics work, but I’d been so inconsistent I had not been seeing much progress. Now he’s showing progress (and interest!) in learning to read and recognizing numbers, and to my surprise even in writing and drawing. Today he was very engaged in the Chinese lesson with the tutor as well. I’m quite pleased with the phonics materials I printed from FREE from Progressive Phonics. #2 even picked up the first lesson book and was reviewing the previous lesson on his own yesterday.

We took a long time to get into this workable routine after a month off in April. Now I’m afraid to stop for a break at the end of August…it could take us til October to get back on track. We are hoping for a short holiday and I need some planning time, so we’ll have to see how it goes. For now I am grateful for answered prayers in the form of new ideas and better attitudes.

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