curriculum includes all those student activities, academic and non-academic
When thinking of advocacy in homeschooling, images of religious causes come to mind. In modern homeschooling, despite a secular approach, advocacy, be it environmental, cultural/ethic-specific, or political is a huge part of the philosophical and practical. At least for the homeschooling parents. But what about the kids?
Several years ago, I discovered Meatless Mondays (or Meat Free Mondays, as its known in the UK). Moved by its mission, in a nutshell is to raise awareness of the climate-changing impact of meat production and consumption, I started a campaign at my school. Pumped up and stoked to offer my students an active opportunity to make change, I was surprised that their initial resistance was based on a fear of vegetarianism. You’d think I was asking them to eat nails. “No meat!”, some almost cried. Of course this was optional, there were no incentives and we were only talking about one meal on Monday, lunch. As the weeks passed the protests ceased. In fact, most of the students admitted to enjoying the change and the challenge. On the superficial level, they noticed a difference in how they felt, their energy level, their openness to try new foods. Still some of them had a sketchy understanding of eating meatless. Their solution to no hamburgers is double orders of fries or pizza. On a deeper level, they began to sort out the connection between consumption, supply and demand and the impact on the environment. What they all realized was the power in action as a means of advocacy. It was one thing to discuss the impact of mass farming but it’s another to experiment with a solution that they could contribute to. In essence to walk the talk. They were empowered and they constructed their own meaning of all they were learning. Most of them went back to eating burgers on Monday, because that was not a practical or really heart-felt way for them to advocate. But all of them looked at other organizations, individual and collective strategies to make a positive impact.
The environment and vegetarianism aside, today there are a myriad of opportunities to speak up, stand up and change-make. While kids are learning the importance of advocacy, are we arming our children with the ability to communicate their perspectives while being respective of others? Are we allowing them the space and opportunity to define their own understanding of the issues so they can design their own solution? Here are a few things to keep in mind as your children raise their hand to calls of action.
Define advocacy and action
Advocacy invites all participants to plead for, recommend and support that which they are passionate about. Are you allowing your child to develop their own beliefs and passion projects? Within education, advocacy and action occur when authentic learning has been made and the child is urged to share and apply their learning in a tangible way. Don't be surprised if your child iterates their interests and efforts multiple times. Reflection and articulation are key components to the process.
Consider service learning that they choose
Project-based learning extends beyond robotics and independent research projects. Service learning is a great way to allow students to step into their interests in a community-building and purpose-driven way. Depending on the project or assignment, students can develop essential life skills like civic responsibility, collaboration and empathy. While as a family, you may participate in specific acts of service, by allowing your child to choose projects or volunteer programs, you allow them to take ownership of their learning and their social responsibility.
Encourage speaking and listening and taking time to reflect
I'm a huge fan of debate clubs like Model United Nations (I was the coordinator of a regional team in Japan) where kids stretch their analytical skills, dive deep into real world application and get inspired by the process of co-creating policy and practice. I must admit, I am happy to put on my lawyer hat and indulge in verbal ping pong of citing precedent and offering creative problem solving. What my students most valued from the experience was the ability to listen and reflect on what the "opponent" was saying. Their position was strengthened when they had better insight into the opposing argument.