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Learning Centre Approach Encourages Self-Directed Education

Adapted from Chapter 6.10, "Getting Started With Homeschooling Practical Considerations"

© Beverley Paine

There is a lot of evidence to support the idea that we learn better if we are in control of the learning process. We all have different learning styles; we all respond differently to different teaching environments; we are different ages, with different attitudes and interests; we respond in different ways emotionally when working with other individuals and groups. We found setting up learning centres, or as they are now known, self-access centres, a very useful way to homeschool our children, especially in the early years.

Depending on purposes, space limitations and personalities and needs of the children using them, learning centres can be developed in all sizes and shapes, with activities limited only by the creativity and ingenuity of you and your children. Don't forget that the children can help you design and make your learning centres. There is no need for you to do all the work, and plenty of educational reasons for them to help!

To be most effective in contributing to an organised individualised learning program, each centre needs:

  • A title and instructions . These should be displayed prominently and discussed with the children before the centre is used. The instructions explain what the children can do at the centre, and what will be done with anything created as a result of the activity. These may include rules relating to how and when the centre can be used.
  • Necessary equipment, furniture, and materials selected on the basis of purpose of the centre.
  • Several learning alternatives the children can choose, either written or drawn, on easily accessible and understandable task cards. These should be related to an objective or objectives; be diverse and range from easy to difficult and from concrete to abstract in order to accommodate varying interests, abilities and learning styles; be highly motivational to encourage the children to work independently (e.g. games, animals, videos); changed periodically to facilitate new choices; and provide opportunities for the children to apply what they have learned.
  • It is also helps to have self-evaluation or assessment activities to enable the children to check their own progress in the centre. This may take the form of separate evaluation task cards, a folder or perhaps a poster style check-list to mark off finished tasks.

You will also need to consider the following:

  • the availability and cost of materials needed;
  • storage and accessibility of supplies, materials and equipment;
  • where the centres will be located and the suitability of the site in respect to noise, independent activity, and type of activity; and space for display and type of display. As reasonably permanent features of your homeschool, learning centres can intrude on daily living and are difficult to 'put away' if visitors arrive or stay.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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