I always struggle when I try to explain our homeschool. It’s child-led…kind of. I spend a great deal of time inspiring and setting an atmosphere of learning. I don’t really have a fixed schedule but we do have a rhythm or pattern to our days. We don’t have set curriculum. We tend to use classics, not textbooks, but it’s not a free-for-all.
One thing we do that I absolutely love is mentor meetings. Twice a year our children set goals. Many of these goals would not be identifiable as education goals, but we don’t really separate out the spiritual or life skills type of goals from typical school subjects. After we’ve set these goals we meet with each child individually every week. We encourage and congratulate and record their achievements. I note what I need to do to help or encourage, then I ask them how I can help. Their answers to that question are amazing and surprising. Last week I had one daughter ask me to teach her how to read music. It makes such a difference when it’s their idea! I’ve been asked to help negotiate computer time. Sometimes they need supplies for crafts or science experiments or recipes. Sometimes they need help finding a book or help figuring out how to break down a goal so they can see where to start.
For the younger children I prayerfully set goals for them. These are general ideas for how I want to use our time together. Time with the 2yo might be singing and playing, but she loves her mentor meeting time. Frequently I’m inspired as I sit and listen to them chat away. Are they talking all about the leaves and rocks? I will be looking for books at the library next week about rocks and leaves. Sometimes they’ve moved on completely by next week! Are they are dressed up and ready to dance? I try to incorporate more kid-friendly dance music into the week. Although they generally can’t make their own goals and don’t quite have the attention span or memory to keep them, they will not be denied their time with mom.
With my elementary-aged children we are practicing setting goals. Their goals can be too grandiose or too small. Sometimes I help them adjust at the time, but mostly I let them try. Frequently they can do more than I think. Sometimes they can do more than they think. We adjust the goal later as we learn. With the little ones, their goals change completely or a new interest comes along. They are learning how to make and keep commitments. Sometimes we suggest they make goals in areas where we see a need; they don’t always take the bait.
Mentor meetings are invaluable with my older children, who are more independent. With my older children, they have all sorts of amazing plans for their time. I am frequently amazed at what is going on with all of that computer time, or what my children have made or created or planned. As they are used to the format, they come prepared to a mentor meeting. Sometimes they arrive with lists of what they need help to accomplish or what they want to do. At this point we don’t always provide everything they want, but sometimes encourage them to think of ways to get to where they want to go.
This year with one child in public school and one child in college these goals have taken on new meaning. I am glad the goals have never been solely traditional education -based. I love the time to reconnect with the children who are out of the house more and to see what they might need. It’s interesting to see how their goals and interests are not always related to their classes. I love the glimpse into their minds!
My children also know about some of my goals and how I’m doing! The accountability is good for me too. Seeing me work on my goals encourages them and watching everything they are doing inspires me.
Mentor meetings aren’t always official looking. In desperation I have spoken to older kids in the car as we drive to see where they are and what they need. Sometimes they are in the privacy of my room, and sometimes we are right in the middle of it all. I generally try to record the progress we are all making to see how far we’ve come. It’s the key to our homeschool and a wonderful way to individualize their education and encourage life-long learning.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.