Homeschooling: It Can’t Always Be Child-Led

As homeschooling parents, we have to remember that even though we are homeschooling for the sake of the child, we still have to provide a healthy balance between the wants and needs of the child and their education. That’s why child-led learning may not always be the way.

Homeschooling - It Can't Always Be Child-Led

Parents make the deliberate choice to homeschool their kids for many reasons, and one of those reasons might be after noticing that the traditional setting did not meet the child(ren)’s level of success, and the gradual frustration was only intensified even after constant and intentional conversations between the parents and the administration.  So, we pulled them from school. We want our children to flourish and succeed, but how does that look in the home setting? 

Down the Path of Child-Led Learning

Maybe it’s the guilt of all the years in a highly structured and time constrained environment that we feel may have smothered and hurt our kid’s spirit that logic gets thrown out the window. We clearly want the best for our kids, but unintentionally may make the mistake (usually during the first years of homeschooling) of allowing the children to fully dictate what and when they will school, as opposed to the parents creating an environment that focuses on the child’s interest and abilities within the natural and safe boundaries found in a child-centered home.

In my humble opinion, child-led may cause unintended disruption to the home routine, and negatively affect the schedules of the other individuals, including the main home-educator’s “free” time.

Example: They may want to watch television all day long, but they need to have limits on electronics because it negatively impacts their mood when they overextend their viewing time and affect their school work and honestly the home’s energy.

Example: They may want to continue playing that online game, but they need to finish their work assignment (s).

We can definitely meet our kids in the middle and create a more harmonious balance between what they want (aka child-led) and what they actually need while meeting their educational goals and respecting the time outside the ‘scheduled’ home school hours and the general home rules.

Routine, Routine, Routine

Children thrive on routine. They like to know which task should be completed, at that time and the duration of said task. Honestly, adults love routines as well, especially with all the responsibilities we juggle, we need it. But, often, child-led learning doesn’t support structured:

  • Wake-up/Bedtime Times
  • Naps (if applicable)
  • Meal Times 
  • Dedicated School Hours
  • Quiet Time
  • Chores
  • Theme Days (Baking days, park days, library days, project days, field trips, etc.)

Adapt the Learning Environment

We wish the kids to enjoy learning and choose to enhance their own education with deep dives into their current interests. But we have to set them up for success; child-led learning often doesn’t provide that support. You do not need an entire room, but a dedicated clean space is optimal like a dining table.

  • Provide a clean and comfortable space –  clear area – clear brain
  • Find an easily accessible home for school books and tools – creates a more fluid workflow
  • Remove or at least minimize distractions: remove the extra toys and unnecessary electronics, turn off the television – out of sight, out of mind
  • Add sensory elements (if applicable): Essential oils add a level of calmness in our home, and soft music makes math easier to compute here as well. 

Find a Curriculum that Best Fits Your Child’s Learning Style

The number one advantage of homeschooling is the opportunity to customize your child’s education to their special interests and learning styles. We recognize that arithmetic, reading, and writing may not be everyone’s favorite subjects, but it’s absolutely necessary to perform well (based on their level of success) in these subjects because, in their adult lives, those skills will be imperative to their personal achievements no matter what field they decide to focus on.

This is the area where we can effectively meet them in the middle by creating an individualized learning plan that caters to their abilities and interests while the parent provides structure and nurturing to the child’s learning. How do we go about this?

  • Include the child in decision-making
  • Make the “child’s voice” and preferences a priority
  • Adjusts and tailor activities toward their unique needs
  • Ask them for their opinion and feedback.

These suggestions will give your kids a sense of control and empowerment. They can do the hard things.

We have to strike a balance between challenging and supporting our kids. It is our responsibility to guide them, encourage their individuality and support them, but in a way that increases joy, patience and bandwidth for us parents as well.

Lorraine Quinones

About the author

Lorraine is a mom of 3 and has been homeschooling for over five years. Most days she loves homeschooling but on other days, she really depends on her secret stash of dark chocolate candy bars to get through the day.

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  1. Great article! I agree that there needs to be a healthy balance between letting our children investigate their interests but also leading and guiding as well. As the parents, we do know what’s best for them, even if that makes them unhappy at times.

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