homeschool planning / homeschooling / self-directed learning

structuring an academic education of a just turned ten year old

“If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face

like sunbeams

and you will always look lovely”.

Roald Dahl

    June 2015 286

My gal has a warm smile with dimples, the kind of face people say is ‘cute’. She’s heard it so often she doesn’t like to hear it. But there really is something about her that epitomizes cute. And most of it comes from within.

As she’s become more aware, her clever side has taken to a sometimes sarcastic edge. And plenty of complaining. So I dedicate this verse to her:

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just,

whatsoever things are pure and lovely, whatsoever things are of good report…

think on these things”.

Since she’s only been ten for two days, I share how we structure an academic education for a nine year old. Happy 10th Birthday Rachel!

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Who she is…

She’s fun. She’ll make a game, a cheer, a song out of everything. Why do something without a party? You have no energy to spare? A little too tired? She’s got enough energy for all of you. She’s a fun one, so why do work, when you can part-ay?

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She is stylin and she is creative. She found a pink leopard print duct tape and it has found its way all over her room in unconventional, yet cleverly styled ways…a frame around the Selena Gomez poster, on her nighttable pull, anywhere and everywhere. Left to her own devices, she’ll knit, or paint her nails with her nail studio kit, prepare her room as a spa and charge dollar massages (I won’t tell her that she’s undercharging).

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She’s smart. Her ‘smartness’ translates into the logic and math world—her favourite is strategy games, but though she’s played chess for some time, she’d rather play poker, Bang, or Stratego en masse. I wasn’t expecting to see writing smarts along with math smarts, but she can zip off a cinquain as quickly as her older sisters. She taught herself to whole word read when she was three. So long phonics program–some kids are faster than your compartmentalizing attempt at deciphering the English language.

She likes to learn with others. She’s not the kind of kid that wants to take the book to her room and read. She likes groups. Even more, she loves an audience. When she performs experiments, she loves to explain the process to her younger brother. She’s got her own YouTube channel and makes her own videos: how to videos on everything from decorating her room to Rainbow Loom tutorials.

She’s a salesgirl, a lawyer, an ad exec. A charmer. Warm and vivacious. Her goal is to make you happy, and herself, so she can find a way to get what she wants. This can be a frustrating character trait for the straight-shooter, but it may pay her well when she’s older.

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Things I’ve learned about teaching my ten year old…

1.      Group work was meant for some kiddos, like this kiddo. She wants to be a contributor. She enjoys the energy of working together. Which means I need to incorporate spelling games into spelling. Poetry turns into a poetry party, everyone sharing their ideas. I need to let my nine year old teach my six year old science with her chemistry science kit—yikes!

2.       Rewards and consequences motivate. Some kids are internally motivated for their own good satisfaction. And some aren’t. One of the easiest ways to reward is to rotate between the tough stuff and the fun stuff. Switching back and forth between harder study tasks and easy ones works well. Switching from individual work to group work. “You need to get these things done before we go to youth group”, motivates. If you don’t do what I asked, there’ll be another task for you.

3.       Don’t amuse the negotiations if I really need something to get done. Hard to recognize, but arguing with our kiddos isn’t effective. If we really think something is important, don’t try to convince them. Just tell them it is what it is and they gotta get to it. In a parenting culture that amuses our children’s whims, I am likely not popular for saying it. But them getting what they want all the time isn’t helping them learn to just get to their work for the sake of doing it. I’m all about them feeling listened to, but they need to learn that they also need to just do what their asked without complaint too.

4.       Just cause she’s four years younger doesn’t mean she can’t engage the same things. Often I’m asked how I can combine subjects like history or current affairs with all four kiddos. Easy. Sit them down in the same room and read to them, then discuss the reading with them. Sounds simple. But how do I differentiate the grades? I don’t. What would be the reason? Nine year old brains can grapple with much more than the grade 4 curriculum suggests. A fourteen year old brain isn’t light years from the nine year old. Each of them learn things at their level. Expecting them to read an equivalent amount or write the same numbers of words in an essay might be unrealistic. Expect little from your child, and they will meet your expectations. Expect a lot, and they’ll show you the brightness of their brain they were born with.

5.       Just cause she’s extraverted doesn’t mean she doesn’t need downtime. Probably one of the main disadvantages of the North American lifestyle that we project onto our children is to ‘keep busy at all times’. The quote, we are human beings, not human doings, applies to kids too. Want them to process their worlds? They need to be quiet, on their own, exploring and creating, entirely unprompted by their parents, peers, or screens. My kiddo is a kinder, more contented kiddo when she has her own personal space each day.


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