The fundamental thing that we want in an educator is someone who really cares and truly believes in the genius in each child before they care about what they want them to learn. Helping them develop the skills they need—foster independence, creativity, critical thinking, being a team player, communication, and grit-such soft skills that cannot be measured by any metrics and no definitive path of how to achieve them. This requires a certain degree of freedom and experimentation. As children gain more independence over their school work, we need to understand that children and young adults make their own seemingly random plans, with details that change each moment that we cannot possibly keep up with at all times - and often are not even aware of their existence in the first place. Thus your children are best equipped and 100% responsible for communicating these with you.
Does this mean it's not organized and chaotic? At times, yes. As they learn organizational skills, there will be constant chaos in the studio, in the schedule, in their work area, and even in the stories they tell you.
So what is the most important thing for an ROA parent to know about self-driven learning?
It is that it calls for a reframing of what it means to support your child along their educational journey. It is a transition from ‘How was your day?’ to ‘What did you choose to do with your day today?’ It requires amplifying the voices of our children and de-centering our adult voices.
Over the years, we've witnessed pride of ownership from every Learner of work that they've done all on their own effort and perseverance. They can happily tell you all about the lessons they've learned along the way. One day, without a doubt, they will use that wisdom and experience to help other peers to navigate through similar struggles by sharing their stories.
Testimony from a peer who successfully navigated the same challenges others are facing can be more powerful than advice from any adult.
As a guide and as a parent, I've seen both perspectives and can unequivocally say that I would have robbed them of this precious opportunity had I not grounded that rescue helicopter or turned off the lawn mower and allowed my child to struggle.
It's all about the long game.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Your Learner could come home stressed about a conflict, challenge, or project. You try to get information about it from them to help but they are struggling to communicate the details with you. You look on Journey Tracker. What your child is saying is still confusing. Something isn't adding up and you become frustrated. If only you had more information you could help them. What are you missing? Possibly the point.
It's not your project. It is 100% the responsibility of Learners to navigate their own projects, their work, and their conflict. Rescuing, protecting, and nagging them will be counterproductive to what they are learning and developing.
During the revolutionary war, teenagers in America captained ships. Most started real-world apprenticeships at age 13. Your child will find a way to finish their work, to earn that badge. Letting your child fail, miss a deadline, not earn a badge, or suffer the consequences of misunderstanding, not reading/following/listening to directions, or simply being lazy or distracted can be incredibly hard to do and witness. But they are powerful learning moments. When I myself witness this, I try to look inward and realize what is bothering me is usually rooted in my own personal fears, insecurities, control issues, or lack of patience. However, we must resist the urge to step in and solve challenges for them or shield them from the consequences in order for our Learner-driven learning to work.
They will eventually use the tools that are available to them: Their brains, books, the internet, or other resources, reaching out to peers, and finally reaching out to a guide for Socratic help if they have tried everything else. They are capable. They can do this. They just need a lot of time to practice, a lot of patience and and a lot of trust from you.
Encourage them to do these things. Cheer them on!
If you step back and let them struggle, you will slowly but surely see the magic happen. Though this doesn't happen overnight. It's a process.
It will take time. The older they are when they first join us, the longer it will take. But it will happen. Have faith in them. They are far more capable than you think.
However long it takes them, we will encourage and support you on your journey as a parent and we will always serve as a reminder to hold to the promises you made to your child at the beginning of the school year to never interfere or attempt to solve a problem for your child. It's the very foundation of our Learner-driven community. It is a precious gift from you to your child. Are you ready to trust them?
"Behind every child who believes in themselves is a parent who believed in them first."