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JoyKM

Beginner Self Teaching in 6-8

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What are some academic subjects that a 6-8 grader can self teach or resources that make a topic self teachable?  (For instance, your child self taught vocabulary/roots-prefixes-suffixes using a particular workbook).  I am not trying to get a child that age to self teach everything—just starting out with some small things. It would look like them working on one or two assignments in the morning while I’m working with younger kids, then we go over the their work for a few minutes before doing a math lesson.  

Edited by JoyKM
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What are the subjects that they already do as a part of school?

I would start there and hunt tasks in those subjects that they can do on their own.

We study world language, so my kids do their foreign language sentences and/or vocabulary on their own. We home school bilingually so I do Language Arts (in the second language) 1-1 on alternate days. So when Boy A doesn't have a Language Arts class, he sits down and does Language Arts stuff during that same time, only he should be able to work independently and only interrupts me if he needs something.

We do IT as a course so they can do their coding drills (on paper), do their pre-class reading and take notes, they can also research specific questions without me. (I require that The Boys read and take notes on some IT stuff before I lecture/teach on a topic), and Chant/Recite through their memory work using charts and info graphics that we make as we go.

This year, I have a course for them Autodidactic Studies---it's literal purpose is to require that they learn something on their own and preferably not from a video. I prefer that they read words, charts and/or diagrams and puzzle it out. It feels like it engages their minds more. I discourage them from watching a video when a book or a diagram is available.

For AS they come up with a list of specific skills, concepts, etc that they want to learn in AS and I try and help them with resources, and structuring their time. They have to demonstrate progress at a thing and they move on to a new topic/skill or concept ONLY by learning what they set out to learn.

For example, Pal picked Juggling for one of his AS skills. I got him a juggling kit and he had to read and study/practice with a book. He learned some basic juggling tricks and techniques. Once he had the fundamentals, he's free to read books or watch videos of more advanced combinations or stunts to inspire and expand on his juggling repertoire. Same story for guitar, chess, etc.

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We have done a LOT more self-teaching during these years than I'd intended due to work schedules. For example:

-STEM-oriented kid did Life of Fred math by himself--worked well until we got into algebra

-I had them read SOTW chapters by themselves, then fill out the chapter tests from the test booklet to check their understanding, with the understanding that even though it said "test," they shouldn't be anxious or considering it high-stakes; just think of it as a worksheet.

-They are very comfortable studying the vocab words from Vocab from Classical Roots by themselves (using Quizlet tests) and filling out the exercises. I choose to check the answers myself, but the answer keys aren't super pricey, so in theory they could even self-correct.

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Do you guys find that your kids can self-teach in areas where you, yourself, aren't very knowledgeable? or do you mostly stick to subjects that you'd be doing for school anyway?

My son tends to think that he can teach himself anything he wants as long as he has a book. I love this about him but have found that he also needs supervision. I mean, he is actually very good at gathering and consolidating information, but he'll sometimes have little misunderstandings, or get the wrong idea about something he reads. I worry that if I just let him loose on a subject which I didn't know much about, I wouldn't be able to make sure he was on the right track. He's little still, so I also don't know whether this question changes as kids get older.

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That's a good point. I've moved further away from allowing self-teaching (with no/infrequent checks) of subjects that I'm not confident in. We do online classes for science (my Achilles' heel), and at least if they're not understanding it, they have an expert teacher who can clarify, as opposed to me, who can't really help at all. The online classes have really helped in that realm. I prefer to have the self-teaching be subjects that I'm more confident in, so I can assist if necessary.

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I see a huge difference between self-teaching and working on assignments independently.  My kids work on assignments independently all of the time in middle school.  But, I don't consider what they are doing as self-teaching.  I provide a lot of oversight and assistance even for subjects I don't teach them directly.  For example, I don't know any French.  But, I help put together a study plan; I help them grade their work; I find resources to help them understand topics that are causing confusion; I am there.  Self-teaching, to me anyway, suggests they are handed a book/a curriculum and told to go and do it on their own without any supports.

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2 hours ago, egao_gakari said:

That's a good point. I've moved further away from allowing self-teaching (with no/infrequent checks) of subjects that I'm not confident in. We do online classes for science (my Achilles' heel), and at least if they're not understanding it, they have an expert teacher who can clarify, as opposed to me, who can't really help at all. The online classes have really helped in that realm. I prefer to have the self-teaching be subjects that I'm more confident in, so I can assist if necessary.

Online classes make a ton of sense. When the shutdown started, my son had just started taking piano lessons. His lessons were cancelled because of COVID, so I agreed that he try to work  through the rest of his piano book alone. Pretty quickly, though, I realized that he didn't really know how to read the bass clef -- I don't either, but he was loudly insisting that it was exactly the same as the treble clef and the melodies he played were coming out super strange. I am all for experimental music but I also want him to learn the basics of piano, so I signed him up for Zoom lessons with his teacher.

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1 hour ago, Little Green Leaves said:

Online classes make a ton of sense. When the shutdown started, my son had just started taking piano lessons. His lessons were cancelled because of COVID, so I agreed that he try to work  through the rest of his piano book alone. Pretty quickly, though, I realized that he didn't really know how to read the bass clef -- I don't either, but he was loudly insisting that it was exactly the same as the treble clef and the melodies he played were coming out super strange. I am all for experimental music but I also want him to learn the basics of piano, so I signed him up for Zoom lessons with his teacher.


Yep. Some kids can self-teach, and especially with Youtube, you'd think it would be easier than ever to do so. But I've found that my own kids really can't do so unless they are following very specific directions, like "study this Quizlet and then fill out this vocab worksheet."

If you use a math program that has a problem set for practice, you can definitely teach the math lesson, then set the child to work the problem set while you teach another kid. Depending on the child, though, you may need to set a 10-minute timer to check back in on the one who's supposed to be working independently. 6th grade with both of mine was that way. While I was training them to work independently, I couldn't actually get any other work done. I just had to sit with a book, and get up to check on them every 10 minutes. Easily distracted. We eventually worked up to 15, 20 minute stretches, and now that they are about to be 8th/10th, each of them can focus for about 45 minutes if it's something they enjoy doing. More like 20 at most for a subject they find tedious. My rule is that it's fine for them to take short breaks whenever they need breaks, but summer doesn't start until they've completed all the things I planned for them to complete during the year. They've experienced that rule this year--supposed to finish by May 17 according to my schedule, but they are both still finishing up a couple of subjects now.

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2 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

I see a huge difference between self-teaching and working on assignments independently.  My kids work on assignments independently all of the time in middle school.  But, I don't consider what they are doing as self-teaching.  I provide a lot of oversight and assistance even for subjects I don't teach them directly.  For example, I don't know any French.  But, I help put together a study plan; I help them grade their work; I find resources to help them understand topics that are causing confusion; I am there.  Self-teaching, to me anyway, suggests they are handed a book/a curriculum and told to go and do it on their own without any supports.


That's a very good point. I still consider it self-teaching if they are basically completing the work independently but I'm checking their progress... I guess true "self-teaching" would be self directed, as in "I want to learn to dance" and then they go off and find videos, etc. and teach themselves to dance. My kids have never really done anything like that. I think it's a relatively rare child who would have the maturity to carry that out, even if they wanted to.

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34 minutes ago, egao_gakari said:


That's a very good point. I still consider it self-teaching if they are basically completing the work independently but I'm checking their progress... I guess true "self-teaching" would be self directed, as in "I want to learn to dance" and then they go off and find videos, etc. and teach themselves to dance. My kids have never really done anything like that. I think it's a relatively rare child who would have the maturity to carry that out, even if they wanted to.

I can see the difference. In surfing around online there does seem to be a cohort of parents who feel that giving their kids books and saying “go” is the best way, but then you hear of the grown kids lamenting how they didn’t really get the information. Their parents wanted them to and wanted to think they did, but the student was lost.  There has to be some kind of follow up which shouldn’t be cut simply because a parent is busy with other things or younger students.   To me I would never be comfortable with a completely hands off course for academics—that seems good for hobbies or special interests.  Whatever it’s called, I don’t want to do the instruction piece for a few small subjects—just the follow up and accountability.  😅  I’m looking for decent workbooks or written instruction pieces that allow kids to read, learn, and report for clarification. 

I was thinking along the lines of “Our Constitution, Then and Now” for a once a week citizenship session. It has a reading, then a set of questions. Stuff like that but for Grammar and Vocab. 

Edited by JoyKM
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My son did Exploration Education science completely independently in 5th-6th grade.  My daughter did From Adam To Us pretty independently as well.  

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1 hour ago, egao_gakari said:


Yep. Some kids can self-teach, and especially with Youtube, you'd think it would be easier than ever to do so. But I've found that my own kids really can't do so unless they are following very specific directions, like "study this Quizlet and then fill out this vocab worksheet."

If you use a math program that has a problem set for practice, you can definitely teach the math lesson, then set the child to work the problem set while you teach another kid. Depending on the child, though, you may need to set a 10-minute timer to check back in on the one who's supposed to be working independently. 6th grade with both of mine was that way. While I was training them to work independently, I couldn't actually get any other work done. I just had to sit with a book, and get up to check on them every 10 minutes. Easily distracted. We eventually worked up to 15, 20 minute stretches, and now that they are about to be 8th/10th, each of them can focus for about 45 minutes if it's something they enjoy doing. More like 20 at most for a subject they find tedious. My rule is that it's fine for them to take short breaks whenever they need breaks, but summer doesn't start until they've completed all the things I planned for them to complete during the year. They've experienced that rule this year--supposed to finish by May 17 according to my schedule, but they are both still finishing up a couple of subjects now.

I think most people need to have a teacher, or at least a mentor, even when they're adults and capable of doing a lot of self-teaching. I mean, I've always loved to learn on my own, but I also need someone I can ask questions of along the way. Same with my kids -- they love taking in new facts and ideas, but they definitely need guidance!

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My kids didn't do a lot of self-teaching in middle school until I hired a writing tutor.  Since they were meeting 1:1 it was on them to do their assignments every week.  Otherwise they weren't really capable at that age to do much self-study.  But it all kicked into gear in 9th grade.  

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10 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

I see a huge difference between self-teaching and working on assignments independently.  My kids work on assignments independently all of the time in middle school.  But, I don't consider what they are doing as self-teaching.  I provide a lot of oversight and assistance even for subjects I don't teach them directly.  For example, I don't know any French.  But, I help put together a study plan; I help them grade their work; I find resources to help them understand topics that are causing confusion; I am there.  Self-teaching, to me anyway, suggests they are handed a book/a curriculum and told to go and do it on their own without any supports.

 This exactly.  

Independently, my rising 6th and 8th graders do:

- typing lessons

- readings for history, art history, science, literature.  We then discuss these readings.  The spine books we read together out loud so that we can pause for discussion frequently and I can clarify, provide context, etc.

- Vocab study for foreign language.  The language itself they study with DH, then he assigns them workbook pages and vocab review pages to do independently.  

- Some parts of research or writing assignments.  These assignments are multi-day and involve lots of work with me, but I can certainly assign tasks and then work with siblings in the mean time.  

- AOPS math.  I serve in a coaching role here, but for the most part, our math time in now quiet as opposed to when I used to give lessons and then pages to complete.  

 

I don't define any of those as "self-teaching," because even though they are obviously learning independently from me, I am still setting out the program, choosing and modifying resources to fit needs, setting the schedule, checking for undersatnding, etc.  This is a much higher level skill than simply completing reading assignments with some degree of attention to the material.  

The only things my kids have truly learned independently are skills related to their own hobbies.  My son built a functional RC model airplane using Youtube videos and discussion with a local model shop owner.  The only help I provided was to sometimes aid in narrowing down search terms to help him find exactly what he was looking for.  He is now teaching himself how to play Dungeons and Dragons from youtube videos.  My dd uses youtube tutorials for polymer clay sculptures, art/drawing, lettering, journaling, cooking...  Both have used youtube to learn dance moves.  

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DD13 doesn't self-teach any of her school subjects, though she is a writer and writes for fun on her own as well as manages a job writing for a website on her own (she earns about $100/month as a writer!). Her brother was self-teaching almost everything at this age. They are just different people.

For dd13, though, I have a morning and afternoon meeting. In the morning, we go through each of her assignments for the day and make sure she knows what is expected and has all the materials she needs. We also plan what time we'll meet to do any shared lessons. I "share" lessons with her if I think they are subjects that are especially challenging for her; for example, when we studied the Byzantine Empire last year, the book was challenging and I thought she would read it superficially if we didn't read it together; also, I wanted to incorporate her younger siblings into the study. So we always read that together. She also had direct instruction from me for foreign language and math every day at 1 pm. I've found she can *do* math along, but she'll forget it. She needs to talk with me about it a lot for it to stick. Her older brother AND younger sister are both more independent in math. Kids are different.

Then, around 3 pm, we had afternoon meeting, when I would read her assignments and make comments. That is when we also talk about her plans for the afternoon: did she need to finish music practice? Do chores? Have art or science homework that was more hands on that couldn't be finished earlier?

This system led to our most productive year yet. Her younger sister doesn't need quite as much supervision despite being two years younger.

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On 6/25/2020 at 7:22 PM, JoyKM said:

I can see the difference. In surfing around online there does seem to be a cohort of parents who feel that giving their kids books and saying “go” is the best way, but then you hear of the grown kids lamenting how they didn’t really get the information. Their parents wanted them to and wanted to think they did, but the student was lost.  There has to be some kind of follow up which shouldn’t be cut simply because a parent is busy with other things or younger students.   To me I would never be comfortable with a completely hands off course for academics—that seems good for hobbies or special interests.  Whatever it’s called, I don’t want to do the instruction piece for a few small subjects—just the follow up and accountability.  😅  I’m looking for decent workbooks or written instruction pieces that allow kids to read, learn, and report for clarification. 

I was thinking along the lines of “Our Constitution, Then and Now” for a once a week citizenship session. It has a reading, then a set of questions. Stuff like that but for Grammar and Vocab. 

I gifted each of the boys this set of language reference books. The vocabulary builder included in that set is really good for vocab building. The font is  annoyingly tiny though so you may want a page magnifier, but aside from that it's a good read. They can read through the sections a bit at a time and there are a few quizzes and what not in the book, but they may or many not be necessary for your kids to complete.

I have nothing to recommend for grammar.

When The Boys were younger, I printed and read The US Constitution in Plain English (PDF online) and then followed that up with a side-by-side comparison of the US Constitution.  Every semester, I require that they read the actual US Constitution in full and we discuss it a bit. We have Our Constitution Rocks and they have read the entire book--it's not perfect, but it's an easy to digest read. I also have a college level textbook on the US Constitution that they are working through on their own. It has questions/prompts in it and additional research bits. There are a number of  workbooks out there on the US Constitution for grades 5+ as well so I suggest hopping on Amazon and poking around.

Some schools post PDFS to their website, so you may be able to find extensive samples of a US Constitution workbook online before you shell out the cash for it. When I look over worksheets, I always try and think about how useful they are 3+ weeks after they're filled in. In my opinion, if the worksheets included have no repeat/re-read value then you're probably better off not completing them. A good worksheet should provide not just something to help you recall what you read, but also help you record salient points about a topic as well.

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