Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Teens: Nuturing Independence

In my last post about teen homeschooling, I shared my philosophy of teaching to the latter end.  In re-reading that, I've realised that I've listed many ideals to which I will probably discover the reality of as we continue our journey through the high school years.  Maestro is still a young teen, and only just starting to find his feet in many ways.  He still comes to us for a lot of advice and direction, voluntarily, which is wonderful.

Last weekend we did have an interesting discussion about his choice in career preferences and how he seriously wants to start finding out about what he needs to study in order to get a job in that field.  It's a path we knew he was leaning towards, and he's already taken steps to learn as much as he can independently with what we're currently able to provide.

But how much should we open this up so he becomes MORE independent?

This month's Homeschool High School Carnival topic is:

Nurturing Independence in High School....  To what extent do your highschoolers collaborate in planning their studies, how do you encourage your highschoolers to take the reins of their education, what tools do you use and how is this input communicated?

Well, as this hasn't really happened as yet, I can't speak from experience.  I can only share the thoughts I have on the subject, and what little I've discussed with my spouse (fondly known as 'Papa' on this blog).  We still have plenty to sort out as far as an actual plan of action goes, and may even change tact / refine thoughts along the way.

I do think that listening and heeding to our children's natural interests is very worthwhile.  If a child enjoys something, they'll willingly learn more.  It may be a very worthwhile task that we spend time writing down a little list of all the things the children enjoy learning and doing.  This could be done as a one-off and added to when new interests arise, or (my preference) write it out anew each year, using the previous list as a reference but giving more detail if possible.  If this could be done as a family activity, then everyone can share what they feel are good character traits which may also be added.  What's happening here, then, is practice in writing up a character reference which could be taken to job interviews.  I had such a folder (and still have it) of all the activities I did in my teen years, certificates awarded from camps, letters of references from friends and work experiences, AMEB exam results .. you name it, it's all in one big display book.  I have already started something similar for my children since they started dance and music exams, but I'd like to add those annual goals and reflections to help hone their independence in that way.

On the opposite side of the coin, there are some prerequisites that we know from experience will enable them greatly in the adult world, and these may well be areas that they don't enjoy so much.  Are they going to be able to get by as adults if they don't do all those things?  Well, yes, maybe .. maybe they can make enough income to pay other people to mow their lawns and weed their gardens.  Maybe they can hire a cleaner to come through the house once a week or fortnight.  But, chances are, that's not going to be a reality.

I know I gave examples of regular housework then, but I also see nurturing independence as nurturing the willingness to keep on learning and expanding on their talents.  I don't want my children to settle for the most comfortable seat, especially so early in their lives.  Keep striving to be better, and that's the part which falls to Papa and myself.  We still need to set reasonable goals and expectations, and to follow up so that they're encouraged by our interest.

Now, what do you do with a teen who is already learning so much at a greater rate of speed than you thought they could?  I currently have Maestro half way through Geometry, and he only started it at a few months back.  We'd covered a lot of it back with Singapore Maths 6, so he has those fundamentals. Well, I keep pushing him on to find where he's needing to slow down a little and learn something new.  I do the same with my music students; they can learn some pieces quite quickly and master the technique, but then they need to add in the emotion, learn to evaluate their playing by listening to others, and learn a little about the composer.  Keep building laterally as well as moving ahead to new skills.

Actually, if I may, I'd like to divert a little more here.  I must say that with all the resources homeschoolers have available to them via forums, blogs and numerous websites, I find that there is a plethora of materials to be found to extend learning.  I wish I'd had those resources available to me as a teen, but I didn't.  Instead I did have some wonderful teachers and mentors in our church community who did encourage us to study up on (for example) Noel Whittaker's finance book (after having him as a guest speaker).  We also did a long study on Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.   Now, we have many classical books which encourage good thinking in our teens, and good habits, which is where I'd still require that learning from my children in order to get them to develop a better sense of independence.

So, how would I encourage them to take the reins with their independent learning?  Well, again, this is the plan.  We're going to be making appointments with the tertiary institutions where Maestro wants to study.  We'll be discussing what their requirements are and the sorts of students they see do well (positive role models are great incentives). We'll aim to get him some work experience in that field, as well as following up on any opportunities the arise with other homeschoolers (as happened with the Film Making course earlier this year). From there, we plan to make some goals. These will be goals we will oversee and keep in check, but ultimately require him to take ownership of ... which I'm assuming he will if he really wants it.  I'm already asking Maestro to do a better job with presenting his written work, so he'll have it if needed to see how he works.  He needs to know that tertiary papers get better grades with good presentation and well set out thoughts (something we're working through with his IEW curriculum).  Of course, good knowledge in how work is presented on computer is necessary also, which is something we'll need to ask of the tertiary institution.

I'm hoping I've written enough to cover this topic.  I think much of it is covered just by the way we work as a family and are happy to discuss all these sorts of things regularly.  Some of my ideals may change in the actuality, but that's to be expected.

Please ... jump on over to 'Living Without School' to find others who have written for this High School Carnival topic.

edited to add:
I found this blog post this morning: Successful Teen Homeschooling: Two Vital Factors.  You may like to head over and be inspired there also.

Until next post!!



Ganeida said...

Wow. I don't think I've ever been an *intentional* parent; I'm a little too flakey for that. However we are finished in a week!3 years of homeschooling been & done. And my child, the one who said no to doing her OP or any sort of exam & No to going on to TAFE or UNI ~ even for music ~ rang the TAFE last week because she has been offered work teaching music & the schoolwould like her to get her teacher's aide quals. The irony is killing me! ☺ On the other hand the girlismanaging very nicely without my hand holding.

Catherine (Alecat Music) said...

Hello Ganeida! Thanks for dropping by.

I hadn't thought of calling myself an 'intentional parent' but I guess I am. I know I enjoyed being steered to find new areas to learn, so I hope I can do the same .. not with a forceful hand, but ready to give suggestions if they want it.

It also depends on the child, doesn't it? Maestro responds well to suggestions, and Mariposa can do the same but with a different set of interests.

Anonymous said...

Could you please get rid of the black background, it is extremely difficult to read.

Catherine (Alecat Music) said...

Thank you for letting me know. The host site for my backgrounds must have been down and therefore was creating the black background. All seems fixed now, but I've defaulted the background to a lighter colour in case it happens again. :)