Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How Much Say do Your Children Have

In my experience, there seem to be a lot of homeschoolers who give their children little or no say in their education. Outside of children who are severely developmentally delayed, I don't understand this refusal to accept their input. Apparently, some even believe that children simply don't understand what learning styles and are, therefore, are incapable of choosing materials that will work with their learning style or help improve their ability to learn in ways other than their preferred learning style. I don't find this to be true (with my kids) and feel that it falls into the category of 'underestimating kids' (something I have already posted my feelings on), but you're free to believe whatever you choose.

Personally, despite the belief that I am a major control freak (a belief held by many people), I allow my kids quite a bit of say in their education. It's not like I hand them the Rainbow Resource catalog and say, "There you are! Choose whatever you want." However, I also don't choose everything myself and tell them, "This is what you're doing and what you're using. I don't care if you like it or not."

I have a list of subjects that are not negotiable, they have to do those subjects. However, I always take into consideration their needs, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and preferences while I look for possible materials. Once I have a list of possible materials, that I think they'll like and we can afford, I ask their opinion. I let them read the descriptions. We try out samples, if available. We try out trials, if available. They compare the options and tell me what they think of them. Then, I take their opinions into consideration when making the final decision. They are free to add in other subjects, as budget allows. They get to help determine how many activities/projects/labs they will do, and what those will be. They often get options for the kinds of assignments they do.

If they don't like the curriculum we're using for something, they can tell me. I welcome their input on what they do and don't like about a curriculum, since that will help in the search for a new one. Sometimes, they may be expected to use a curriculum they don't like for the rest of the year. Since the school budget is spent early, we can't switch to something else I'll have to buy midyear. If I can piece something together with what we have at home, what I can find at the library, and free resources online, they can use that for the rest of the year instead. However, if I can't piece together something that I feel is high quality & up to my standards, they will be stuck with whatever it was I bought that they don't like. If there is something we're using that they don't like, we'll spend that year looking for other options. I might do all the preliminary research, but they actually help quite a bit.

As for understanding learning styles, it really isn't a difficult concept. My kids have always known, even before we discussed learning styles, what types of learning activities & materials would work best for them and which wouldn't. After a discussion about the need to improve in their weaker learning styles, they had no problems helping to choose, and even suggest, materials & activities that will give practice in their weaker styles.

I determine the minimum number of History courses they need for high school, but they choose the topics for each year. I set the minimum of Science courses, and some specific courses, but they get to choose what parts of Science to study for the rest of their courses. I insist on foreign languages, but they get some say in which ones. If they would rather focus on photography instead of Art History, that's fine. They're still doing an Art class. If they prefer Music History to learning an instrument, that's fine. It's still Music class.

I see no reason to ignore their input. Their opinions matter to me. Their plans for the future matter to me. Their interests matter to me. If I wanted them to get a generic, homogeneous, one-size-fits-all education, I would have left them in public school. I prefer to tailor my kids education to them, their needs, their plans, etc. I have a list of what I require, but also allow some flexibility in how to achieve those requirements. I prefer to have my kids' input on their schooling. They are people, with their own personalities, their own ideas, their own preferences, and their own thoughts. I will not ignore that just to have more control over them.

Dea's Art class for 9th will be Photography. She has a natural talent for it (in my opinion, anyway), and an interest in it. Why force her to do Art Appreciation or Art History when I can let her focus on a interest of hers? Why say that Photography has to be a hobby instead of a class?  She's decided to start taking an online Astronomy course. I told her that she could count it for school, if she finishes it with the required 80% or higher. She's taking it because she wants to, not because she has to. If she wants to count it as school (meaning 3 Science courses for this year), I'm fine with that, as long as she gets the minimum grade I require for credit.

How about you? How much say do your kids have in their education, and why?