What happens when kids take ownership of their learning?

What if there was a way for your children to be more motivated in their learning AND to take on more responsibility in achieving their learning goals?  

In our home, we have found a simple way to do just that. 

It may look like a page out of a typical school diary, but this weekly chart is not merely for writing down homework assignments.  


On Sunday evenings, we print out our charts for the following week, and the kids decide 3 things:

1. What they would like to learn.  

Some of these topics include ones we have agreed upon together, and some are purely the interests of that particular child. We try to make these goals as specific as possible.  Instead of just doing some “maths” for the week, they write down exactly what they hope to accomplish in their maths study.  Instead of doing “photography” they will decide on a specific skill that they want to work on (usually based on a class or video they have seen) and they note the platform they will use in order to achieve that goal.  

2. When they would like to learn it:  

The children decide which days they would like to work on that particular topic/subject/skill. It could be everyday or perhaps just Tuesday/Thursday or Monday/Wednesday/Friday.  They simply cross out the days that they are not planning to visit that topic.  Throughout the week, this will act as a checklist to keep them on track to accomplishing their goals.  If they prefer, we have some fun stickers on hand for them to use when completing their daily task.

3. How they will demonstrate their learning at the end of the week.  

This step keeps learning fresh and prevents children from doing their work just for the sake of checking a box.  They will need to have a think about how they will show their learning and can do it in countless ways.  For science, it may be a lab report or a slide show explaining the steps and findings of an experiment. For maths they may choose to teach the concept in the form of a video tutorial or simply take the test at the end of the chapter.  For reading, they might create a word cloud that includes words, phrases, and quotes that describe a character in the book they are reading.  

Confused? I’ve created a quick video explaining this process:

Although very simple, these learning charts have created a sense of self-discipline that empowers children to have a say in both what they learn and how they go about learning it.   NOTE: There may be a tendency to turn these charts into a check-list of sorts and demand that that our children “complete” the tasks. This is not the idea behind these charts. The idea is for your child to have the freedom to dive deeply into their learning. I always make sure to tell my children that I’d rather them study one subject all week in a deep and curious way, than to simply have them check off all of the boxes.

At the end of the week, the children show me what they have learned and then do some reflection:

Some sample “Show Your Learning” work.
  • Did I enjoy learning particular skill or content?
  • Could I have dived deeper? Did I need more time to finish a particular task?  (It’s all about finding the balance between being challenged, but not overwhelmed.)
  • Am I satisfied with my learning outcome? Was it my best work?
  • Were there any distractions that I can deal with next week to better achieve my goals?  
  • How can I better match my gift, passions, interests with my learning outcomes?  

Benefits:

  • More motivated: Since using this system, our children have been much more motivated to learn, largely because they have more of a say in their learning.  The more autonomy that a child has in their learning (what they learn, how they learn it, when they learn it, etc.) the more engaged they will be.  For more information on autonomy in learning, visit this post.
  • Self-Knowledge: The children will get to know themselves better, and you will get to know your children better. What is interesting to them?  What natural talents do they have? How do they learn best? Where do they learn best? For more information on discovering our children’s unique gifts and talents, visit this post.
  • Responsibility: They will take on the responsibility of how to communicate their learning at the end of the week.  This brings a sense of ownership to learning.  Ultimately, our children will not succeed if we, as parents, are the ones pushing them every step of the way.  
  • Flexibility: With 5 children, I’m always looking for ways to foster independence in my children so that I can be available for the kids that may need more help that day. These goal sheets allows them to move onto their next objective, if I happen to working with someone else, then return to it later.

Here is a FREE pdf with 35 Ideas for how kids might demonstrate their learning.  They are mostly applicable to reading/literature, but can be adapted for many other disciplines including history, science, and perhaps even maths!   

Note that many of the ways to demonstrate learning which involve writing can be adapted to include drawings, digital formats, or video/audio recordings for those children who would rather not show their learning in written form.  

Please feel free to reach out if you have any specific questions about how to implement these learning charts in your family! Remember the goal is deep learning that aligns with the personal interests and goals of your child.

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