Julie at Bravewriter posted a question from a mom of a highschooler on her Facebook page today and I realized it might be helpful to say more about what we are doing here.
Despite the occasional panic, mostly I’m okay with what we are doing.
The focus has really been on helping Freya become more independent and in charge of her own learning. Getting the right balance of letting her go and helping her out is HARD.
We’ve tried things
A grade 9 science class that carries official credit, through an online school. It was a lot of work, with set times to be online. We didn’t think the learning was worth the effort.
Different ways of organizing time and number of subjects. Experiment, experiment, experiment.
Math contests to get a bit more conceptual and problem solving challenge into the math side of things. (I think we might do these again.)
We’ve focused on her interests
Music, art and drama take up the bulk of her time. These are things she might do as extracurriculars if she were in school but for us, they are the core.
Freya practices piano and singing every morning, often for almost an hour. She does scales, sight reading, pieces she knows, pieces she’s learning. No one has nagged her to do this in years. She does it on holiday. She takes piano books away with her. Playing the piano improves her mood and she sometimes does more later in the day.
She takes art classes, sings in a choir, and usually does some kind of drama thing. Drama used to be more of a focus but has become secondary to music and art lately. It is still important but it’s not the big thing.
She likes history and art history so we use that for a lot of other things. I plan to use those to get more writing into her regular activity for example.
We do things with other teens
Classes don’t always work though if there is something that she is interested in, we make a space for it. Someone did a Pride and Prejudice class last year, for example. The year before I organized a class on King Lear to complement a local production. She has asked for a Comparative Religion class which I’m organizing for later in this year.
I did organize a monthly teen group in which the kids got together and presented to each other about something they were working on. The idea was to provide some kind of deadline/structure for pulling together their learning, practice presenting what they know, and practice asking questions and giving constructive criticism. They also had social time.
The content for this was not organized the way a class would be. This also meant that they learned about the interests of others in the group and sometimes learned a bit about something they might not otherwise explore.
Her choir and drama activities are also with other teens of mixed ages.
I enable a reasonable amount of social activities — driving her to meet up with other teens to hang out, go to movies, and so on.
We’ve found a structure that works for her
At the end of her grade 9 year we got to a point where I wanted her to finish a few things before she went to camp — math, latin, and something else. We made a plan that involved doing each of these subjects every day and crossing off sections as they were done. Things got finished.
When we talked about it later in the summer, Freya told me that she’d liked that way of working. She knows what she needs to do every day. She’s got a limited number of subjects on the go. So, in her grade 10 year we used that system.
It works reasonable well and we’re sticking with it. It does mean getting really clear on what few things are important though. (Hence the occasional panic.)
What this means going forward
As I said in my previous post, I want her to do more writing, perhaps on the model that she uses for music.
I also recognize that doing things like book reviews and whatnot for us isn’t working very well. I have always had a problematic relationship with literary analysis. And let’s face it, it works better if you can discuss things with others.
I’ve signed her up for 2 Literary Analysis classes with Bravewriter. I like their model. The online part is asynchronous so as long as we commit the right amount of time, it doesn’t matter WHEN she logs on and participates. And it starts with discussion, moving into an essay-type thing at the end.
A couple of years ago, she really wasn’t ready to devote the right time and effort to Bravewriter classes. This year, I think she is.
Those are each a month long with a month in between. I’m thinking we’ll get her to choose a history topic and use that month to write an essay on that, following the same kind of pattern as she did in the literary analysis class, and producing things along the way like an annotated bibliography, outlines or freewrites, etc. I’ve got Jim Cullen’s Essaying the Past as a guide.
She’ll continue with her math as that has been going well. We’ll figure out which language she wants to work on. She’d started learning German but that might need a bit more structure than the self-guided learning using on-line resources was providing.
In the next week or so we plan to have a family discussion about the big picture stuff I raised last time so we have a clear vision to guide those smaller decisions. This is based on other work I’ve been doing using the principles in The Path of Least Resistance.