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Overview: Learn how to create a child focused approach to homeschooling so that you can nurture your child’s love of learning.

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I used to be a 4th grade teacher. In my last year of teaching, I had a student reading at a first grade level. To help this child, he had an IEP that allowed me and special services teachers to modify his reading assignments to a third grade level, but it wasn’t enough.

He still struggled with the reading assignments at a third grade level. Heck, he still struggled with reading materials at a second grade level.

This student needed me to meet him at the level he was at, build his confidence at that level, and then challenge him as we moved up in levels.

But I wasn’t allowed to do that because the state test could only be modified to a third grade level so he “needed practice at that level for the test.”

I left teaching that year because I wasn’t able to tailor my instruction to meet my students where they were and move them forward in a way that built their confidence.

And that is why I am so passionate about a child focused approach to homeschooling.

 

What is a Child Focused Approach to Homeschooling?

A child focused approach to homeschooling is an educational plan designed specifically around your child’s needs, passions, skill levels, and natural rhythms. It’s all about designing a plan that flows with your child while still encouraging them to challenge themselves so that they can build self-confidence and a growth mindset.

Child focused homeschooling allows a child to put effort into the things that matter to them to gain skills that will lead to a productive life. Putting effort into skills that children are passionate about leads to life satisfaction and joy. 

Why would a child put effort into something they don’t enjoy? Putting forced effort into skills that have no meaning to them creates resistance and resentment. 

Yes, they need to learn the basics, but helping a child understand how the basics help them build skills and understanding of their passions creates a meaningful desire to put effort into learning those “boring” skills. 

They don’t have to be experts in the basics. They just have to be good enough to apply it to their talents and passions so that they can build those skills.

Childhood is about finding their interests and flowing with those interests. It’s about letting them learn until their desire wears off and trusting they will hone the skills that bring them the most joy—and then teaching them how to use the skills that bring them joy to create a happy, successful life that brings them purpose.

Child focused homeschooling teaches you how to capitalize on your child’s interests so that they can learn the things you want them to learn, nurture their self-confidence, and walk into adulthood knowing exactly what they’re good at, what makes them happy, and how they can turn that into a career.

 

Understanding How Children Learn

One of the first steps in creating a child focused approach is to understand how children learn. To make it simple, children learn easier and faster when they have…

  • intrinsic motivation to learn that topic or skill
  • hands-on learning opportunities
  • an experiential environment
  • multi-sensory opportunities
  • and a brain that is developmentally ready to learn that topic or skill

 

Understanding Your Child as a Student

All children learn in different ways and at different times. The main thing I want you to leave this post learning is this…

Being behind or ahead are arbitrary assessments based on standards that are NOT developmentally appropriate.

Your child is NOT behind, nor are they ahead. They are right where they are meant to be.

John Holt once said…

“Of course, a child may not know what he may need to know in ten years (who does?), but he knows, and much better than anyone else, what he wants and needs to know right now, what his mind is ready and hungry for. If we help him, or just allow him to learn that, he will remember it, use it, build on it.”

 

But what about learning gaps?

This is such a complex question that many parents ask, but it has such a simple answer.

WE ALL HAVE GAPS IN OUR LEARNING!

Learning is not linear, and it’s impossible to know everything. We can always learn and improve ourselves.

I see gaps as learning opportunities. You can capitalize on these places in the environment to help encourage your child to learn more.

Parents (and even teachers) get so worried about a child being behind, especially with reading, writing, and math, that they forget that their children are learning exactly what they need to be learning at that moment based on their desires and what’s important to them.

Instead of focusing on your child’s weaknesses (or gaps), focus on their strengths because those strengths are what will carry them through to success.

For gaps that are a big concern for future learning or life, like certain math and reading skills, we can address this by using the environment and more importantly, being a little patient.

Start by adding more exposure to this skill through real-life experiences. Children need to have a meaningful reason to learn something. Through real life experiences, we are showing our children why this skill is important which will motivate them to learn it.

Bonus points if you can connect that why to one of their passions. By showing them how reading, writing, and math can help them learn more about their passions, can spark a desire to learn those skills.

Remember, reading, writing, and math are just tools to help you learn more about the world.

It’s more important to teach your child HOW to learn and seek the knowledge they need instead of teaching your child a bunch of random facts and skills that they may never use in their life. 

Focus more on the how to learn rather than the specific skills.

 

Understanding Yourself as a Teacher

One of the most important pieces to any education plan that most overlook is understanding yourself as a teacher.

Being a homeschool mom means you wear many different hats. I thought I knew myself pretty well until I became a homeschool mom. I’ve learned more about myself in the first year of homeschooling than I ever thought possible.

Knowing more about yourself can help you plan your days, plan your lessons, and understand why you act/teach the way you do. This comes in handy when you begin to clash with your child’s personality.

Many times we’re triggered by something our children do, and more often than not, we project our feelings onto our children when they do something that triggers us.

Fear is another friend that likes to push its nose into our homeschooling. How many times have you stayed up all night worrying if homeschooling is the best choice for your family or if your child is behind or if you’re really qualified to teach your child?

When these worries, fears, and triggers pop up, take a step back and ask yourself why.

Why are you afraid that you’ll mess up your kid?

Why are you worried that they are behind other kids?

Why is their refusal to do a task triggering you?

Often times when we ask why enough, we get to the root cause of that worry, fear, or trigger. Once we determine the root, we can begin to heal it and stop projecting it onto our children.

 

A Child Focused Approach to a Homeschooling Environment

Your environment is more than just your homeschool room. It also includes the experiences and resources you provide your child.

Your homeschooling environment is the secret weapon to getting them to learn what you want them to learn…

You know, those boring reading, writing, and math skills. As I mentioned in the previous section, your child needs a reason to learn something before they can focus on learning a particular skill.

By adding that skill to your homeschool room and the experiences you provide your child, you’ll develop intrinsic motivation to learn that skill.

You are in control of your environment.

Your environment is in control of WHAT your child is motivated to learn.

Your child is in control of WHEN and HOW they learn.

 

A Child Focused Approach to a Homeschool Routine

Your homeschool routine is just as important as your environment. There are two things I recommend to homeschoolers for their routine.

First, create a routine around your child’s natural daily rhythm. Spend time observing your child without any planned activities to determine when your child is tired, hungry, active, and focused. Use this information to create a routine around their natural rhythm.

Second, use your child’s natural rhythm to schedule a 4-part homeschool day. You might schedule your parts in a different order based on your child’s natural rhythm. Schedule morning time and table time when your child is naturally focused. Schedule Tea Time in the afternoon when your child is hungry and needs a break, and schedule Outside Time when your child is very active and has energy they need to get out.

 

Part 1- Morning Time

Morning time is how you signal to your child it’s time to start the day. Keep it short and simple. For us, we do a read aloud, mad libs, and a logic workbook page.

 

Part 2- Table Time

Table time is the main part of your homeschool day. We do reading, writing, math, and unit study during this time.

I break up my kids for reading, writing, and math. I’ll 15 minute lessons per child per subject. I have child 1 come over for their reading lesson while the child 2 plays. Then they switch.

After child 2 finishes reading, we’ll switch to writing and do the same. Child 1 first while child 2 plays. Then child 2 does their lesson while child 1 plays.

 

Part 3- Tea Time

This is snack time. It goes best in the afternoon when your child starts to hit a slump. Sit together at the table for snack or head outside for a snack picnic. We like to do art projects, listen to a read aloud, or read poetry while eating our snack.

 

Part 4- Outside Time

Simply get outside and play. If you observe your child’s natural tendencies for a week without any scheduled activities, you’ll start to notice a pattern. You’ll know when they’re tired, focused, and active. Schedule outside time when they’re most active during the day.

 

Teaching Life Skills and Mental Health

Life skills and mental health are overlooked in most public schools, but they can also be overlooked by most homeschoolers.

In my opinion, these skills are more important than reading, writing, and math. As an adult, if you suffer from mental health issues or don’t know how to manage your money, you’re going to struggle in this game of life.

Spend time every day teaching your child these important skills.

 

Life Skills Suggestions

  • Money Management
  • Sewing
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Canning
  • Time management
  • Executive Functioning Skills
  • First Aid
  • Grocery Shopping and Meal Prep
  • Cleaning and Laundry
  • Basic auto care
  • Personal hygiene
  • Nutrition
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Communication skills
  • Entrepreneurship skills
  • Safety (fire, internet, survival, swimming)
  • Basic homes maintenance
  • Citizenship
  • Community service

 

Mental Health Skills

  • Meditation
  • Gratitude
  • Journaling
  • Religion and/or spirituality
  • Emotional intelligence (check out our Emotional Intelligence Curriculum for early elementary)
  • Character development
  • Confidence
  • Resilience
  • Making and managing friendships

 

Nurturing Learning Habits

Learning habits come naturally to young children. Once adults start forcing learning experiences onto their child is when their natural curiosity starts to disappear.

Children are natural born learners with innate curiosity, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. It’s our job to nurture these skills by creating a child focused environment and following our child’s natural learning timeline.

If you watch a toddler, you’ll see all of these skills at work during their play and even when they’re learning important milestones. We don’t explicitly teach children how to walk or talk. They instinctively learn through trial and error and perseverance.

We don’t teach preschoolers how to ask WHY a million times a day. It’s just a natural tendency that adults usually downplay. Instead, allow the questions and encourage your child to explore to seek the answers.

Here’s a list of skills that are ingrained in your child from birth that you need to be mindful of to nurture instead of imposing adult tendencies. These skills are already within your child. They don’t need to be taught. Instead, they just need to be encouraged.

 

Natural Learning Habits

  • Curiosity
  • Questioning
  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Hypothesizing
  • Trail and Error
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience

 

A Child Focused Approach to Homeschooling Curriculum

In this section, I’m not going to share child focused homeschooling curriculum options. Instead, I’m going to share how most homeschoolers use curriculum wrong.

Most homeschool parents choose one or two curriculums and then follow them step by step and day by day.

Even though that’s how the curriculum designer intended you to use the curriculum…

It’s not at all the correct way to use it.

We all have our own unique learning timeline. The experiences we have are what shape that timeline. For example, if you grow up in a family that puts a huge emphasis on reading then chances are you will be an early reader without much effort.

Curriculum is more like a road trip map.

When you sit down to plan out a road trip, you most likely have one destination in mind…

The end destination.

But all the pit stops along the way are mostly unknown. You may see an interesting billboard and decide to check it out or hear about a quiet little diner that you just have to stop at.

A homeschool curriculum is the same. It is a map to get you to your end destination, but all the pit stops (or rabbit trails) are unknown.

If you follow a curriculum step by step and day by day, you’re missing most of the learning opportunities.

Rabbit trails are usually where most of the learning happens.

Having a homeschool curriculum is a good idea because it helps you get to your end destination, but taking a break to explore the topics of interest your child suggests or spending more time on a skill that your child struggles with makes learning more meaningful.

And not to mention learning gaps. When you stick to the curriculum instead of ensuring your child fully masters a skill before moving on, you create learning gaps.

 

Interest Led Homeschool Planning

When it comes to planning, I always start with the curriculum. When choosing a curriculum, you want to make sure it starts where your child is in that particular skill or topic. Then you just start. Follow the curriculum day by day until your child develops an interest.

Maybe your curriculum is about US History. As you’re going through the curriculum, you realize your child has a really strong interest in Harriet Tubman, but the curriculum only spends 2 days on her.

This is your pit stop. Put the curriculum aside and do a mini-unit on Harriet Tubman. Let your child guide you with their questions. When the interest starts to fade, head back to the curriculum at the point where you left off.

The same goes for an academic-based curriculum as well (language arts and math). For these curriculums, it’s more about stopping to deepen the understanding of a skill rather than learning about an interest.

For example, if your curriculum has your child learning the 6 times tables for a week but at the end of the week, you notice your child hasn’t fully mastered them yet then you stop the curriculum. Plan games and other hands-on activities that help your child master the 6 times tables before moving on with the curriculum.

Last, be sure to add time into your day for your child to discover and explore their passions.

Passions are your child’s compass that guides them where they ultimately want to go. Passions take time to build, tinker with, and finally get right. Then they guide your child on a long and winding road to where they ultimately want to be.

Most adults spend the majority of their lives working in a job that they despise then try to find a little bit of time during the weekend for their hobbies. This leaves most adults feeling unfulfilled and depressed leading to a mid-life crisis.

Instead of wasting all that time and heartache, children should spend the majority of their time discovering and exploring their passions. Allow them to take their passions as far as they want. When you allow this, your child should leave the nest with a strong understanding of who they are, what they want, and an understanding of how to get there in a way that supports their mental health and happiness.

 

Get Started With the Homeschool Starter Kit

Creating a child focused approach to homeschooling is more than just child-led learning. It’s creating a lifestyle around your children’s natural tendencies, unique learning timeline, personality, and passions.

Ready to get started? Grab the Homeschool Starter Kit which will walk you through my step by step process of setting up, planning, and implementing a child focused approach to your homeschool.

Traditional education is failing 66% of students. It's time to do something about it!

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