The Mr. Gelston approach to independent work is designed to complement a family’s homeschool philosophy. Some families pursue a passion-based learning approach, while others look to a more formal structure.
Goal of Independent Work
Mr. Gelston takes the view that there is no such thing as teaching, only learning. As educators, our role is to launch kiddos to become as responsible for their own learning as possible over time.
The choice of using Khan Academy is based on transitioning from the traditional role of a teacher to one where the educator shares the process of progressing through the material together as a team.
In our lessons, kiddos have the choice to work on new material or review covered material. Learners are encouraged to choose their own topics within the context of not missing needed “gap” material. We typically start at the top and go in order through the list of topics per course.
When covering new material, learners are given a chance to try out the topic first to see if they can figure it out. From there, we take the approach of continuing until the “light bulb” goes on, utilizing various pedagogical techniques. In Khan Academy, we work through the initial level of questions to achieve “practiced” status, only. The leveling up of these topics is then covered during “Mastery Challenges” independently.
Independent Work Time
During independent work time, the requested requirement is to complete the mastery challenges before the next lesson. Khan paces out the leveling up in the mastery challenges and cannot be completed in one sitting. Hence, there are new mastery challenges every day and the need to sit down to them 3-5 times per week.
Completing the mastery challenges is not a time requirement, rather it is a completion requirement. Avoiding the mastery challenges is self-defeating. Unpracticed material is forgotten material. Getting the question wrong is fine, as it gives us a chance to review that material. We are in no rush. Our program is naturally accelerated based on our learners and individualized attention.
Mr. Gelston reinforces the need to cover mastery challenges as both a reward for completing the attempt and also as part of a strategy to reduce struggles with learning. Our policy is never to punish for non-completion of independent work. Our job is to reduce anxiety around learning. In time, kids will naturally learn to work at their own pace.
What is the Parent’s Job?
That is up to you and here are some thoughts for you to consider. Please don’t struggle with your child over independent work. We ask that you praise their sitting down and attempting the mastery challenges. Be supportive of “failure.” If your child gets the question wrong, try the problem together and show that it is okay for you to fail, too. Don’t get mad at the question. Remember to throw in some love and hugs, as appropriate. Review the hints to the question and try to figure it out. It is okay if you can’t figure out the problem. That is why we are here. If you are watching and your child got a question right, encourage them to explain it to you and throw in some more love and hugs. Parental approval and love is a powerful reinforcer.
Gifted kids need to do their work physically. Having a consistent, functional workspace is important. Gifted people love doing things in their heads and there are a few who can. Mr. Gelston has not worked with anyone who can learn math that way from start to finish. Our brain and nervous system go through the whole body and we learn in every part of it. Many procedures in math require going through details that are best written down. Learners are encouraged to use their own styles. In time the physical process is transferred to a mental process.
Going Beyond the Minimum
Your child is welcome to work on their own to learn new material. Khan Academy has videos and answers to questions built into the program. Khan is currently adding Review sections with guided instruction and fact sheets.
In our meetings, we also encourage looking beyond Khan Academy for information. We search the internet to find help and add resources.