Am I Doing Enough?

“Help! I feel like I’m not doing enough, that my child isn’t learning enough. How can I be sure that’s not a legitimate concern?”

 

I saw this question and thought: A lot of homeschoolers have this worry. Most aren’t professional teachers. Their child isn’t spending nearly as much time on lessons as the public school students do. Lessons aren’t as consistent as the parent would like them to be. The child doesn’t seem to get the lessons as much as he should–he has too many questions, has to re-do too many problems, etc. And no one’s letting us know on a regular basis if the child’s doing well–it’s not like we’re getting weekly progress reports. So of course we worry.
 
But should we? How can we be reassured? How can we know if there’s really a problem?
 

Continue reading Am I Doing Enough?

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What If the Kids Aren’t Doing Their Work?

I saw this question again today online. Parents debated what to do with homeschooled kids who weren’t doing their work. Could doing chores instead of lessons be the homeschool version of in-school suspension and help get them back on track with lessons? Would it be better to have them write a paper on the reasons for learning and getting an education? Should they be denied fun activities and events until they toe the line?

Sometimes kids don’t want to do Continue reading What If the Kids Aren’t Doing Their Work?

Why We Need Homeschool Support Groups

Fourteen years ago, we joined our first homeschool support group. In those intervening years, I’ve seen many groups come and go. I’ve seen a few moms go a bit crazy and try to wreck groups; sometimes they are successful, while other times they aren’t completely successful but their drama still chases a number of families away. I’ve heard a number of moms say they’d rather avoid homeschool support groups because of such drama. And I’ve seen a lot of newer homeschool moms who feel they don’t need a homeschool support group because

Continue reading Why We Need Homeschool Support Groups

Learning Place Value

A week ago, my husband brought home a dice game called Farkle. The game is simple enough that our 5-year-old was able to play along but the scoring uses big numbers. It takes 10,000 points to win. Which made it perfect for using an abacus for each of us to keep track of our scores. We have simple ones that we made Continue reading Learning Place Value

Kindergarten–week 3

Kindergarten in our house is nothing like the super academic structure of the average modern public school. We don’t do a lot of sitting at desks or tables. I don’t force lesson times. We sometimes go for a couple of days (or more) without any formal lessons.

Does that mean there’s no learning going on? Not at all.

Some peeks at the learning that happened in our homeschool kindergarten today include:
I woke up this morning to our youngest excitedly telling me Continue reading Kindergarten–week 3

School Violence

Several students and teachers died about a week ago at a public high school in the next county over when a former student took a gun to the school. Guns are a huge problem; right? Of course. But it’s so much more than that. I heard nothing about it in the local news, but I know someone who works in a local middle school who talked about an ambulance coming to his school Tuesday for a student who’d been beaten by several with pipes. Are pipes now a problem, too? And then, that same day, a fire was fought across the street from the school–with the assumption that a student may have started it. Fire is a problem, too?

Or maybe it’s just a problem of discipline–or the lack thereof. Schools aren’t allowed to do anything to students with some kind of ESE diagnosis. So kids know that those with issues face no consequences. Does that play a role in why those with mental health issues go crazy so often in our society? A large percentage of parents who taught their children to question all that their teachers do and to rise up in rebellion if they disagree with the teacher. Is that a way to teach respect for authorities and rules–including rules about proper behavior in society such as not killing people just because you’re upset?

Cheryl

PTSD: Post-Traumatic School Disorder

PTSD. Post-Traumatic School Disorder. If it’s not an official variant of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it should be.

There are times when I’ll be going about my business and someone says something that sets off my Post-Traumatic School Disorder. Like tonight. Someone asked whether colleges might give students grief about using religious curricula and a helpful woman Continue reading PTSD: Post-Traumatic School Disorder

The Second Time Around

My youngest is 4 years old. I can’t say that I’ve done a lot with him as far as homeschooling. Well, maybe that’s wrong. I have, but it looks nothing like what I did with my older kids who are now teens. Partly, that’s because I have enough confidence now to take our own road and not feel that I have to copy the school system. Or perhaps more precisely, I know that my husband has enough confidence in what I do with the kids to not worry if I don’t have lots of worksheets to show him. Partly, it’s Continue reading The Second Time Around

Help! My Child’s Not Reading Yet

Q: What do I do if my relatives are urging me to quit homeschooling and put my young child in school because she isn’t reading yet?

A: A couple of decades ago, one child greatly affected my views on teaching children to read. This boy was about 8 years old when his parents brought him to the tutoring company where I then worked full-time. He was enrolled in a local public school but hadn’t yet learned to read. In fact, he didn’t even know the letters of the alphabet–he didn’t know their names nor their sounds. Experts at the school had told the parents that he was ineducable and would never learn to read. Continue reading Help! My Child’s Not Reading Yet

A Typical Homeschool Day?

New homeschoolers often want to know what a typical homeschool day looks like. I understand that they are trying to get a feel for how other people do this thing called homeschooling. And realistically, as an experienced homeschooler, I like to read about how others do it, too. I know each family does it differently. Some try to copy schools with highly regimented schedules. Some set clear schedules for when each subject is done, but we’re a lot more relaxed than that. In fact, it’s hard to pick a typical day for us since they vary so much. So let me describe three from this past week for those interested.

One day.
This morning, the kids are up around 7:30 (which I aim for daily but don’t always achieve). After breakfast, we spend the morning at a park for a homeschool support group meeting. This particular time, the teens spend part of the time playing a board game and plan some activities with other kids; there’s definitely plenty of socializing going on there. Sometimes during the school year, the teens will participate in running activities for the kids in the group through our homeschool support group’s Student Council. Other times, they’ll take photos to use in the yearbook that we’ve helped make for four years now. Often they’ll get a game of soccer, or kickball, or tag, or whatever going, definitely making it P.E. time. Our littlest guy plays on the playground equipment, uses chalk on the sidewalk, and gathers twigs for some sort of game that he plays with friends. At the same time I participate in the adult part of the meeting (looking over at the kids regularly); the adults discuss topics and share ideas, go over announcements about upcoming activities and events, and more. There’s a table where people place items they’d like to give away; it’s one way we help each other out. And we chat, getting some adult time and helping each other through our homeschooling journeys.

We come home for lunch and shortly thereafter several other families arrive for an SAT prep co-op class for the teens; the other moms and kids watch my littlest while I work with the teens. After they leave, we eat snacks, do a few chores, and then the teens work on assignments in their rooms while I work on dinner.

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Another day.
The kids get up and we get started as they sit eating breakfast. We usually start with math as it seems to work best first thing in the morning. Otherwise, we don’t have a set order for doing lessons in, but generally go to whatever subjects we didn’t spend time on the previous day. We certainly don’t have a schedule with set times for each subject. In fact, we don’t spend a certain amount of time on each subject; generally, we aim to do one lesson and then move on. I record the time spent on each subject for the teens to help me figure out credits earned; after math, I usually glance at the list to see which subject we’ve spent less time on as I decide what to cover next. This particular day, though, we start with music appreciation as it’s easier to do while they are eating breakfast and we’re in a hurry today. For music appreciation, we use a lot of internet resources that we can listen to and discuss while eating.

Soon, other families arrive for our chemistry co-op class. We have rearranged the furniture in the dining room to make space for more kids. There’s a side table set up with a triple-beam balance that I bought used from eBay for a fraction of the cost of a new one, along with vials of substances, glassware, and a variety of other science equipment. Setting the class up as a co-op makes it easier for me to buy equipment because I split the costs, and the kids like having friends along for lessons (which makes for less friction over lessons). It also helps me have time to work with the teens without interruption while the four-year-old is kept busy by the other parents or the other younger siblings.

Most of the time, the four-year-old tends to sit alongside us doing lessons. For example, when we do math, he likes to try to draw on the bottom half of the large whiteboard, often copying the problems we work out on the top half because he wants to be part of what’s going on; other times, he sits with a calculator and diligently uses it to figure out the answers to simple addition problems. Sometimes he’ll ask to work on his own lessons though mostly he does what he’s interested in with lots of playing, listening to books, looking at books, and sometimes watching educational videos.

Chemistry meets for an hour and forty-five minutes once a week. Most of class time is taken up with group activities, hands-on activities, and labs, but there is some instruction, review, and a test. The kids have assignments to do over the course of the week, including some projects and a meeting with our STEM Club later this month.

We break and have a quick lunch. One of the chemistry students stays and eats lunch with us. After lunch, my kids work on assignments on their own while I tutor the other student in math. His mom and I worked out a deal in which I teach him math and she teaches my kids Spanish; she’s a native Spanish speaker and I have a degree in math. So far, it’s working well.

After math tutoring, another group of kids arrive for the Spanish co-op. We thought about having my kids privately tutored in Spanish but other people were asking to join and we figured that conversation worked better with various people, so the Spanish lessons became group lessons. While they work together on Spanish, I work on a project with my four-year-old.

When Spanish is over, I make snacks for the kids and we sit down and do some English–discussing a couple of grammar assignments and then we continue reading through “The Man in the Iron Mask.” I read it aloud since they are eating and we discuss as we go along. Previously we had been listening to it on audiobook, mostly while driving places, but when Hurricane Irma was threatening, we switched to the book version; in the aftermath, we’ve alternated between the two versions.

Then I take the kids to the library. The teens volunteer there once a week for two hours. They’ve been volunteering there since they were each 11 years old.

We have a day like this once a week, but I don’t consider it typical since our other days look nothing like it.

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A third day.

This day the kids are dragging, and we don’t actually get to work until closer to 9 a.m., about an hour later than I aim for. I pop a load of laundry into the washing machine and have the dishwasher running before everyone is actually in the room together, dressed and ready to start the day. We do math and chemistry lessons together, then everyone goes their own way. Some chores are done. Some reading is done–not necessarily reading that’s assigned. The kids spend a lot of time doing what they want, though I do interrupt at times to remind them of deadlines for various assignments. We do a mixture of using textbooks and assigned work along with letting the kids explore their own interests–sometimes with help and direction from me on the latter and sometimes without.

In the early afternoon, we get into the car and drive to the HTML programming class taught by another homeschooled teen. This is the second series of computer classes he’s taught; he’s clearly gotten better organized and has put a lot of time and energy into these classes. (The first series was good, too, though there were some hiccups in the beginning. This one works well from the start.)(My kids have organized and/or taught some classes before, too. It’s a great way to learn leadership skills as well as improve their own learning.) After an hour and a half, we head home again, listening to some more of our audio book along the way. I pause it periodically as we discuss the action, terms used, what we predict will happen next, and so on. We’re coming near the end of the book and I’ll look for a movie version of it that we can compare and contrast to the book, plus I’ll have them write a paper on it. Otherwise, I don’t usually give assignments on the reading; too many assignments on reading seem to destroy the love of reading.

Cheryl