Amidst all the color-coded hour-by-hour homeschool schedules flooding social media, I want to offer a different take on how to help your child organize their day if you have a child who paradoxically craves freedom and needs structure.
I created for my eight-year-old twice-exceptional second-grader a pie graph showing the amount of time (out of a 24-hour day) he can spend exploring/reading/playing/learning what he’s passionate about, vs. the amount of time I would like him to focus on practicing and developing specific academic skills (writing, math, grammar, spelling).
Need For Structure
The structure comes in the form of a weekly learning journal that shows him the concepts we’ll be working on. We choose the topics together, based on what we’ve covered the prior week. The order in which we visit the subjects is up to him. Together we decided that this type of work was best done immediately after lunch, when he’s already downstairs at the kitchen table and isn’t engaged in creative projects or silent reading. However, he gets to choose daily whether he completes his academic practice in one sitting or takes 15-minute breaks between subjects. Breaks can include making popcorn, throwing the ball outside, walking the dog, etc.
Need For Freedom
The freedom comes in the form of a prepared environment, free of screens or other electronics (including no audiobooks Monday to Friday). He has a big selection of books (fiction and non-fiction at all reading levels) and spends hours a day reading. He has lots of LEGOs and spends many hours building crazy contraptions. He can whittle, draw, do experiments, ride his bike, play Hot Wheels, explore the neighborhood, and cook. We do daily read-alouds in Spanish and English, read a bit of poetry a couple of times a week, listen to beautiful music in the car, and he knows I’m available to have conversations about random questions that pop into his mind. (Before quarantine, we also spent time in museums, at a STEM maker-lab, with our Montessori learning community, and enjoying nature with friends).
Freedom and responsibility are the yin and yang of the elementary years; they’re the rhythm of the delicate and ever-evolving dance between parent and child.
“The emphasis on freedom is for the development of individuality. The emphasis on discipline is for the benefit of the individual and of society.” – Maria Montessori
2 thoughts on “Craving Freedom and Needing Structure”
My children (all twice-exceptional, all with Montessori schooling from pre-K through at least lower elementary, the youngest home-schooled) are all grown now, but your essay really spoke to me. My children struggled with the competing needs for freedom and structure, and we’re always happiest and most productive when these needs were balanced in the way you describe. I really love your chart, too.
Thank you, it’s so reassuring to know that it’s normal for 2e children to need this balance.