Helping Learners Do Hard Things

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As a private school classroom teacher…

As a classroom teacher I’m used to parents and students “trusting” that I am the “expert” and they should do the work outlined – somewhat because “I said so”. But more importantly because I have always put a lot of thought, effort and research into my lessons and assignments and have never been one to just give students busy work. My goals have always been to help them develop as learners, the same as I would my own children. Ultimately I hope to inspire learning among those I teach through the relationship we develop, and I recognize that everyone learns differently. This didn’t always happen because kids are kids and work didn’t always get done. 

Missing work dilemma

When work wasn’t completed in the classroom, it was added to a packet of missing work and students were kept in at recess and lunch to finish. If  the work really got backlogged it was sent home over the weekend, but it absolutely got done, because just “not doing it” wasn’t an option. Our school didn’t give zeros, instead we wanted the students to have the knowledge they needed to build a proper educational foundation, and build grade level by grade level with as few gaps as possible. I found that when work wasn’t finished in the classroom it was due to a lack of interest in a subject, or because a student struggled in that area. One on one attention, when at all possible was an AWESOME solution to this chronic problem. I spent many recesses with students and work packets! I also worked HARD to make my lessons as appealing and engaging as possible to AVOID this problem in the first place. 

The homeschooling difference

In Homeschooling there are no missing assignments, because I simply don’t move on until the assignments are complete. Homeschooling “incompletes”  still exist in theory and are for similar reasons because not every assignment is What’s the Weather?  or Mapping Major League baseball teams

Everyone DOES learn differently and that is so very important to recognize. Some learners thrive when given a challenge, and others feel overwhelmed before even trying. The thing is, even when we choose homeschooling to provide our children with an education unlike that of traditional school, that doesn’t always mean avoiding hard things. The desire to avoid work happens even in the best of homes and classrooms! 

I don’t have a magic wand (because if I did it would be doing the laundry) but I do have some suggestions. 

Outlining expectations

Clear expectations and routine are essential in any learning environment. It can be as simple as:

 From time A to Time B is learning time… you may choose from these 3 activities. 

Or it can be, Math is at 8 am, Science is at 8:30 am… Math is always done in pencil on graph paper, with one digit in a square. In Science, You are expected to read then draw a picture of what you read. Your picture must be in color.  

It is important the expectations are age / ability appropriate. Can your Kindergartener copy their own math problems? My son had vision issues that made his writing HUGE, one digit was never going in one traditional graph paper box. We made special “graph” paper for his work. 

When you are sure your routine and expectations are appropriate, keep encouraging what I call “best work”. Because everyone learns differently, best work looks very different among learners as well. Encourage communication. Why is or isn’t this particular item “best work” – does it need to be re-done? Why or why not? You can read more about
and Giving Grades HERE

Your learner should be helping to make the  decisions about routine and best work. This helps avoid the “teacher/ parent” being the authority as I was in the classroom. It’s even ok for your learner to NOT enjoy every assignment… unfortunately it still needs to get done. 

Why it matters

Would your boss (Or a future boss for your child)  let you off the hook if you didn’t want to do “IT” – whatever “IT” might be? Ultimately we are educating our children to enter into the world, our lessons and strategies need to match that in a loving, supportive manner. So when a not so desirable assignment comes along, rely on those routines, expectations and philosophies of “best work” giving your learner the confidence to stick with it, even when it is difficult, or something they don’t want to do! 

Because I’ll tell you what… I don’t WANT to do the laundry…but 1.) can’t afford to always buy new clothes every day and 2.) No one wants option 2 :-)! 

To help facilitate an environment in which learners don’t avoid hard things here are a few tips:

  • It’s ok to help, just make sure your child is doing MORE work than you are. Don’t let them rely on you for things you know they can do! Encourage them by saying, “I saw you  do that just last week, I’ll sit with you, but how about you give it a try first.”
  • Use language that encourages mistake making as the key to learning. Celebrate mistakes! Say things like, “I love how you created your own unique animal when  (insert mistake here). 
  • When emotions run high, take a break. There is no learning going on when anyone is upset, but go back to the task when things calm down or learners will quickly learn how to get out of the “hard, frustrating” stuff. This may be the PERFECT opportunity to whip out a random Homeschool Holiday activity. They help build relationships and provide educational value! It doesn’t HAVE to be Find a Rainbow Day to study rainbows! Just go for it! 

Educating little humans isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. Take some time to pause and celebrate! Get out in nature, read together, and ultimately pat yourself on the back you ARE doing a GREAT job!

If you enjoyed this article – feel free to check out our other great HOW WE HOMESCHOOL at the HAPPY HIVE as well as the NEWSLETTER ARCHIVES.

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