The benefits of Peer Led learning
By Chelsea Reis
Earlier this year, I came across a Facebook post promoting a nine week, online short-story writing course for home educated kids and teens. What surprised me was that the facilitator, Emilie Nyguen, was a 14 yo home educated teen herself! I was immediately drawn to the idea that my 8 and 11 year-old, life- long home educated boys, could learn the art of spinning a yarn from a fellow-homeschooler, as it both presented a structured opportunity for peer-led learning and an alternative to using one of the larger, online learning platforms that my boys have tried with varying levels of enjoyment and learning benefits. And at around $5 per week, Emilie’s course offered great value for money.
From the first session, Sol and Rinan felt engaged, included and comfortable – Rinan choosing to communicate using the chat function and have his video and audio turned off. The small group size of six or so students created an intimate environment where everyone could get to know each other through fun, word-based games and by discussing the development of each stage of their stories.
Emilie provided a detailed workbook detailing content for each session, and which she gave practical examples from her own writing. Sol and Rinan usually managed to write or scribe dot points or a paragraph or two during the sessions, and then used the handout during the week to work through each stage of their story. Often, they diverged from the structured format, getting pulled into an aspect of the story they were drawn to, and then almost miraculously the sections would knit together and fill the body of the story out.
During the course, Sol and Rinan extended their story concepts and used planning tools like timelines and story-boarding to create structure, developed back stories and narrative perspectives for their characters, practised how to introduce, explore and resolve conflict, enhanced their use of descriptive language and used editing to finesse their final pieces, which Emilie printed and bound.
As a parent, it was incredibly rewarding to see their enthusiasm, confidence and skills in language and story construction grow in a way that is integrated with who they are and where they are at on their learning journey.
In her own words, Emilie’s motivation to develop the course comes from (insert section from Emilie).
Sol and Rinan enjoyed the course so much, they chose to do it a second time and are currently in the throes of completing their second short stories – which are, unsurprisingly, more complex, descriptive and lengthy!
In Sol’s words, the gains from the course for him were many. ‘It feels great when I finish a new story. It’s also fun to hear about how other people’s stories are different from each other – it’s cool to hear how many diverse story ideas there are!’ Sol also found the combination of social and writing time in each session worked well for his learning style -‘When we had a lot of writing to do, it was great to have a little bit of a break and chat and play fun games together’. Another key benefit Sol identified is the fact he is now a twice-published author at age 11. ‘I’m proud to be a young, published author and have my first short story featured in Otherways and the Cairns Home Education Home Grown Kids Magazine!’
While Rinan likes to keep his writing under wraps, he and Sol both have plans to continue to extend their writing repertoires. Who knows if they may continue their current interest in writing into adulthood. What I do know as a home educating parent is that if my children are supported to follow their interest rather than sticking to a set curriculum, gaining skills in a specific learning area is only one of many and varied benefits that happen when my kids can follow their passions at their pace and in a way that suits their individual learning styles.
Otherways 173 (Aug 2022)
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