We’ve been homeschooling Trevor for four and a half years now, and we’ve tried a lot of different things. Now that we’re designing a middle school curriculum, we decided that he needed to take more responsibility for his own learning.

This year, we’re combining the best of what has worked in the past, and giving Trevor a bigger say in both the topics he studies and the methods in which he does so. I’m sharing, not only what he’ll be studying this year, but how we came up with the plan, what we’ll be doing to follow through, and how we will be holding him accountable. There’s also a free printable planning sheet for you and your child to work on together if you choose to try this planning method out.

 

Creating Your Own Middle School Curriculum Gifted Children via www.RaisingLifelongLearners.com

 

Giving the kids more of a say in their education can be difficult for a Type-A mom like me. I like to do the planning, control the materials, and have an idea of what the outcome will be.

Can you relate?

If you’re like me, make sure you take some time to ease into the transition. So how do you do it? What is the best way to plan and give up some of that control?

 

Have a Brainstorm Session

Take your child out for some one-on-one time. Trevor and I went to Starbucks for coffee and a planning “date.” We pulled together a list of topics and projects he wants to do. Not surprisingly, most center around STEM themes.

You can do the same…

Use the printable below – or a fresh notebook – and brainstorm topics and projects that sound interesting to your child. Talk about the ways your child could learn about the topics in which he is interested. Make sure you are letting him lead the discussion.

 

Learning Contract and Planning Sheet via www.RaisingLifelongLearners

 

Trevor’s topic range from anatomy, advanced meteorology, robotics, computer programming, to American history, medieval times, and the history of Catholicism.

 

Prioritize

Next, have your child take a few minutes to read over the brainstormed list. Which of those topics is he really passionate about? Have him star those or number them in the order in which he’d like to learn them.

Now, remember that all kids are different. If I were to do this with my daughter {and I will in a few years if all goes well}, she would need me to separate the brainstorming and planning days. She needs time to reflect and ruminate on her choices, weighing the pros and cons. Trevor is more like me – he gets an idea and wants to do it NOW.

Several of Trevor’s topic choices are easily integrated into the family studies. So I’ll be pulling in anatomy with some body system activities for the littles and extended reading for him, and we’ll study some of the history topics along with the history of our church together.

 

Creating Your Own Middle School Curriculum Gifted Children via www.RaisingLifelongLearners.com

 

Plan

Once you have a list of topics that will make up your child’s homeschool studies, work together with him to gather resources for the year. Look over the materials, and figure out together what your child will need to do each week.

Then work together to come up with a way for him to keep track of his progress.

The core of our middle school homeschool curriculum will be computers, programming, and robotics. Trevor will use several books as his study guides and lesson plans.

 

 

Develop a System of Accountability

Following through on commitments is a valuable life skill for kids to learn. As we move them on through their homeschooling years, ultimately we hope to cultivate a philosophy of lifelong learning, right? We want our kids to want to learn. We want them to know how to learn.

Help them develop good habits now. Whether you help them organize their materials in baskets, a system of drawers, on a bookshelf, or at a desk, they need a system that works for them.

Trevor will be using a cart that once served as workboxes. He’ll have each of the supplies, books, and equipment he needs organized in different drawers. The top of the cart will hold a supply caddy and the monitor he’ll use when he builds the Raspberry Pi computer system he’ll be working on.

We’ll go through Trevor’s programming books and the activities that come along with the computer kit, and break things down. First, we’ll come up with an overview of what he will accomplish for the year. Then, we’ll divide that in half for semesters, and in half again for quarters. Finally, we’ll break it down into weekly chunks.

It’ll be up to him how he accomplishes each week’s tasks.

Each Sunday, we’ll meet and look over his planner. We’ll chat about what he has accomplished, how he’ll change things up for the following week to be more productive, and what worked and what didn’t. We’ll also work into the schedule times for him to share his accomplishments with family and friends, and he’ll meet regularly with a family friend who is a computer engineer and can serve as a mentor.

 

Creating Your Own Middle School Curriculum Gifted Children via www.RaisingLifelongLearners.com

Make a Commitment

I want my kids to take their learning seriously, while still appreciating that learning is a lifestyle choice. So, once we have everything planned out, Trevor will be signing the printable I made {and you can download here} to serve as a learning contract.

It’ll stay in his notebook as a reminder of the commitment he made to me when I agreed to let him make more choices in the direction of his education.

I’m looking forward to this new phase in Trevor’s homeschooling both because he will be more responsible for his learning and I will have regular one-on-one time with him each week when we check in with one another.

What about you? How do you encourage your older children to take on more responsibility for their own education?

Colleen Kessler

Colleen is an explorer, tinkerer, educator, writer, creator, and a passionate advocate for the needs of gifted and twice-exceptional children. She has a B.S. in elementary education, a M.Ed. in gifted studies, is a sought-after national speaker and educational consultant, and is the founder of the popular blog and podcast Raising Lifelong Learners, as well as Raising Poppies, a community of support for parents of gifted children. She lives in northeast Ohio with her four bright and quirky kiddos, patient husband, and ever-changing collection of small reptiles, mammals, and insects.

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