Intentional homeschooling, to us, means setting an intention for each day based on my kids’ current interests, questions and passions. Following this child-led learning approach means that each day has a unique flow to it. I try to to provide structure to our day, to help keep us on track and in a learning mindset. Here is what a typical school day looks like for us.
Start with an Opening
We like to start our child-led learning endeavors with a calm, joyful start to our day. I’ve tried formal openings like circle time or tea, but my boys love to move around. Sitting still isn’t really their thing. What works for us is starting with something fun that we do together. This might be art, LEGO, playing trucks or even going on a bike ride. I devote around 20-30 minutes to this. I find that if my kids aren’t feeling very motivated, starting our day outside really helps.
Intentional Homeschooling: Discussing the Day Ahead
During opening, we usually start talking about our intention for our homeschool day. I will generally throw out a few ideas. I try to keep an eye out for what they’re playing with over the weekend and use these as starting points for learning. Generally, the kids will take these ideas and build on them, creating a collaborative project that everyone is happy with.
Getting our Work Done
Once we determine what we’re doing, I let them follow-through on their own intention for the day, where they want to work on and the tools that they need. They generally will work pretty diligently for 45 minutes to an hour, requiring some support, mainly talking things through and telling me about what they’re working on. My older son loves it when I take videos of him explaining his projects.
Integrating Math, Writing and Problem Solving into Intentional Homeschooling
Intentional homeschooling and child-led learning, doesn’t mean that we miss out on primary learning subjects. While they are working on their big idea, I will introduce some invitation to play opportunities. For example, my son’s most recent idea is building a restaurant. While he’s building it with LEGO, I ask him things like how many people can fit and how many tables he will have, how many bricks wide and long it will be. Then, I put together opportunities for him to create a blueprint, making sure all the tables will fit. We work out perimeters and area, making any changes in size to the build.
I find that they don’t mind doing math as long as we are working on it together. That way, when he gets stuck, we work through it together and it doesn’t feel as overwhelming.
After this, we generally take a break and I work with his brother for a bit on his project. When I get back to the first child, I ask him to tell me about his restaurant. While he is telling me about his build, I jot down a few note.
At the end, I show him my notes. I ask if they look accurate. If they do, I ask him to use the notes as a basis to write a five sentence paragraph about it. Once this is done I consider us done with our core work.
Incorporating Science, History, Art into Child-Led Learning Projects
Various projects are history-centric or science heavy, but If I feel like we haven’t covered these sections enough we will do some read alouds our experiments to include this knowledge in fun way. Afterward, we will discuss.
I try to get our core work done by 11 or 12, so after lunch is dedicated to free time. I try to plan one outing each afternoon, whether it be a nature walk or a play date with friends. It gives us something to look forward to once we get our work done and provides us opportunities to socialize with our friends (me too!).
Intentional Homeschooling, A Day In the Life
So, that’s what our day generally looks like when we follow our children’s lead, integrating learning opportunities thought the day. Just like adults going to work, some days we are all more motivated than others, and that’s the beauty of homeschool with a child-led approach. Some days my kids do two days worth of work because they are so into the project and some days they’re tired and we take it easy. Listening to your child and honoring their needs helps build trust and gives them a sense of ownership over their day and that type of empowerment will show through in the quality of their work and intrinsic motivation.