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Encouraging Autonomous Activity and Learning

by Beverley Paine

Because children who have been at school for some time, or even years, are used to being directed or supervised constantly, we need to help them adjust and learn how to be self-directed - and this takes time. Be prepared to spend the rest of this year helping your children tackle this if you're going to continue homeschooling as a result of isolation due to COVID19.

Someone said they were looking for 'quiet' activities the child can do on their own - off the top of my head I thought of puzzles and solitaire games and it can be easy to ease a child into doing these if you are prepared to sit and help.

Online programs such as ArtVenture that are easy to follow might help too, and if the child is interested could lead to other self-directed art endeavours. Again, set up the paints and paper and sit through the first few lessons, creating your own art work along with your child.

You might like to create some 'challenge cards' - we have a set of LEGO ones that my granddaughter likes to get out occasionally and will build on her own. I'm about to create some more challenging ones using images from Brickmasters and the LEGO Masters FB pages - but simple ones can be found from links through Pinterest.

You could make nature study 'challenge cards', or junk box challenge cards - you'll need to set up a craft corner with the materials needed on hand. The main expense would be different types of glue, sticky and masking tape as most of the other materials can be found outside or in your recycling bin. Again, ideas abound on Pinterest.

A learning centre approach to home ed works too, but again you will need to model how to use it, so will need to sit and help your child learn how to use the materials and work through the projects. I find open shelves and trays with everything visible and within reach is essential for independent work.

If we sit with our kids and work through activities for a couple of hours a day (and it doesn't need to be in go, it can be spread out over the day) this often satisfies their need for attention, and I've found they usually are happy to play with their toys or with each other for the rest of the day. I'm usually within sight, available, and keep an eye out for escalating conflicts which usually only require a moment's intervention. But it did take a while for us to develop this rhythm.

I have a series of articles on my website about preparing the learning environment, and there is also my booklet Learning Materials for the Homeschool. I find that collecting (over time) a range of interesting materials, kits, games, puzzles, books, etc means there is always something that the kids find interesting - but it's all for nought unless I put that time in with them everyday, doing things with them too.

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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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