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

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Calendar Math

Our 3 1/2 year old likes to count but he keeps skipping over fifteen. And he’s been asking questions about what we will be doing in the near future. So I decided it was time to pull out the magnetic¬† calendar I previously used, several years ago, with his older siblings . Little did I know the thrill this would give him. He loved putting the number magnets in counting order (and didn’t mind when I Continue reading Calendar Math

Homeschooling During a Hurricane

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the freedom to set our own schedule based on our own priorities. This freedom is so important when disaster looms.

This past week, the meteorological tracking models predicted that Hurricane Matthew was about to strike very close to our home in south Florida–so close that if they were wrong by even a few miles, we’d be at ground zero. We’ve been through a few hurricanes previously. When Wilma hit, we had furniture piled against the front door and we pushed against that furniture for what seemed like forever as we battled to keep the storm from pushing our front doors open; we later discovered that a couple of our neighbors had not been able to prevent theirs from flying open. During Frances, a huge tree in our backyard was partially uprooted and hung over our house, threatening to crash into it until we found a neighbor Continue reading Homeschooling During a Hurricane

What A Preschooler is Expected to Learn

There’s a site I’ve recommended for years when new homeschoolers want a list of topics that they “ought” to cover. I just skimmed over the listing for preschoolers again as I was comparing their lists to what my three year-old already knows. I was rather surprised to find it now contains a section called “technology.” When I first found this list, long before my now 15-year-old was old enough to officially be homeschooled, there was no such section. I don’t believe preschoolers need to know how to do any of the things listed. I think technology can wait. But then again, if the preschooler is the youngest in the house, and you need to keep him quiet sometimes while lessons are happening with his siblings, the preschooler will definitely be more familiar with technology than his older siblings were at even in their elementary grade years. Sometimes practicality trumps theories.

http://www.worldbook.com/typical-course-of-study-for-preschool.aspx

Cheryl

Scheduling…

A homeschooling mom tried to explain to another how to manage to cover all the various subjects by showing her a copy of a detailed spreadsheet. It had lots of columns and too many rows to see at once; I think it even had color coding on it. I’ve been homeschooling for years and that spreadsheet looked intimidating; I can’t imagine how scary it looked to someone just starting out. Well, maybe I can. I rather imagine looking at that as a new homeschooler and thinking, “Forget this. There’s no way I can keep to that list. Maybe I do need to just put my kids into school.”

Honestly, many of us veteran homeschoolers don’t follow insanely-detailed lists and yet our children are still getting a balanced education. Continue reading Scheduling…

Setting Up Our Portfolio

It’s that time of year again.

Summer 2016 031
A general subject log

Time to set up my children’s portfolios for the new school year. By Florida law, their portfolios must include titles of reading materials, a log of educational activities, and samples of work–though the law dictates little beyond that of how much detail to keep, how to organize it, etc. Over the years, I’ve worked on finding ways to simplify our record-keeping so I can keep track of what we’ve done without it being a burden. Fast and easy is what I want, and I’ve found that the key to fast and easy is putting in some time to set it up, so that it’s fast and easy the rest of the year.

Continue reading Setting Up Our Portfolio

What Counts for P.E.?

Could I count Zumba classes or maybe even walking as P.E.? How about bowling or swimming?

I see questions like these online periodically. Perhaps they are followed by responses that declare that they won’t count unless instruction is involved or that give some other warnings of what it would take to actually count for a high school credit.

Perhaps it’s because I spent quite a number of years attending and later teaching in a wide variety of schools. Maybe it’s because my husband still works in schools. Whatever the reason, these sorts of questions always make me think Continue reading What Counts for P.E.?

The Freedom of High School

Or:  Thinking About Science Next Year

“What kind of labs are you going to do next next for chemistry?” a mom asked me.

“Uh? Hmmm….” I hadn’t thought through yet what science my kids were going to take next year for 10th grade.

“I assumed Chemistry came next after Biology,” she added.

I thought about that. No, actually, when I was in high school, Continue reading The Freedom of High School

A Day of Homeschooling

What does a day of homeschooling in our house look like? Every day is different. So I’ll share now and then about a recent day.

Today’s learning was driven by two things: Our writing club and getting ready for the county fair. While we generally work on math (high school geometry for my teens) daily, we did no math at all today. Since we school year-round, I don’t worry about skipping days here and there. I’d rather them miss a few days here and there than take a two-month vacation and come back having forgotten all they learned.

Instead, we began the morning with writing. My teens began with editing some pieces written by others in the writing club. Continue reading A Day of Homeschooling