This evening, I sat at a table with two other people. As a group, we were conducting interviews. A teenager stood before us. He was asked questions. Some of these were questions whose answers he should know well–the answers he’d recited with a group at least once a week for months, if not years. Some of the questions were typical interview questions of the “How would our organization benefit if we put you in a leadership position?” sort. The young man to my right Continue reading Leadership Skills (Day 3 of our “school” year)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Opportunities Missed by My Teens Because of Homeschooling
I was reading another woman’s blog about the things her teens had missed out on because of homeschooling “Opportunities My Teens are Missing Because We Homeschool High School” . I know Annie’s point was that what originally seemed like missed opportunities haven’t really mattered in the long run for her kids, but as I looked at her list, I compared her list to my own children’s experiences. Continue reading What Are My Teens Missing Out On?
“We’ll just tell him no,” my husband said. “He can’t join the military; it’s too dangerous.”
“You do realize that when he turns eighteen, he can join even if we say no?” I countered.
For years, our son has been enamored with the military. In addition to all the books he reads on history of the military and history of weaponry, I’ve found library books hidden under his bed with titles like “How to Survive Basic Training.” I have to admit that I’m not thrilled with Continue reading When You Can’t Just Say No
About seven years ago, I volunteered to join my homeschool support group’s Board. I was, I believe, member number thirteen. I had volunteered to help with supplying information to people contacting our group. It was a small job, or so I thought, just a way to help out a bit. But within six months, most of the other members of the Board dropped out. A few announced they were leaving as they moved out of the area or their children graduated, but most just disappeared without word. Eventually, we’d hear that a family crisis had hit and they’d moved to help relatives or a family member died and they’d suddenly left town to help settle an estate and no one knew when they’d be back. Soon, it seemed that I was Continue reading You’re the Leader?
This afternoon, I watched my teenage daughter lead an art club that she dreamed of, planned for, and pulled off. Seventeen other homeschooled students (not counting younger siblings who played nearby in the park) participated. They listened as she explained her plan and made art together, and at the end of the hour and a half club, they each shared their work with the rest of the club. (We were surprised when even our two-year-old sat and drew for most of the time, rather than playing with the other toddlers. Then he stood and showed his scribbles to the group for his very first presentation.)
She wanted to get together with friends to do art, but she didn’t want a class where everyone would end up with a cookie-cutter drawing; she envisioned learning techniques, sharing ideas, and then creating individual works of art in a nurturing environment. Since no one else was planning something of that sort, she designed it herself and ended up with a monthly club that she hopes to include in a 4-H art project she’s working on.
This is a moment that reassures me that our homeschooling program is indeed a success.