This year, my teens have been studying chemistry at home. Well, we have included a few others from our homeschool support group in our journey because it makes it more fun for them and, honestly, having them share the costs makes it cheaper to buy cool science lab gear. Continue reading Science Labs
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
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.
Maybe it’s just me and my warped sense of dealing with children and their issues, but I was reminded today that I’ve had great success in the past with curing a child’s issue by giving them more of what they don’t like.
For example, years ago, one of my children whined and complained and dragged her feet when it came time to do her math. I tried a variety of solutions and none of them worked. Finally, out of desperation, Continue reading Don’t Like That? Great, Let’s Do It More!
Once again this year, I learned of the death of a homeschool parent/friend. The first time this happened, I learned of it when a man contacted me, trying to figure out what his son had been learning and where to go from here. He’d left the homeschooling to his wife. She’d kept the records, purchased materials, took care of lessons, etc. while he’d been busy earning a living to pay their bills. But then, in the midst of their grief, he realized that he didn’t have a clue Continue reading Don’t Wait; Start the Transcript Now
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?
This year, we tried Florida Virtual School (aka FLVS)–the online public school program run by the state of Florida–for a couple of courses for my teens with mixed results. Well, they have both earned good grades in the classes taken, but we’ve all learned something about public school courses–not just how to take them but their quality and the huge impact they’ve had on our homeschooling.
Continue reading Virtual School Lessons
Every year around this time, I ask my kids about what they’d like to study next year. The answers have varied a great deal but they’ve always made our studies more interesting for both the kids and me, and I know they learn more when they are fully engaged in what we’re studying. It can take a bit of creativity and work to figure out how to include their interests, but the rewards have been great.
For example, one year my son who was about ten years old at the time, asked if he could study Star Wars. My initial response was, “No, we can’t study Star Wars. Continue reading How Do You Use Kids’ Interests?
We’ve done a lot for P.E. this year. Most of it has come from activities done with our homeschool support group in casual group activities. Some from things we’ve done on our own for fun. In this area, we’ve had a lot of variety this year mostly because of our homeschool support group that’s grown more organized, with more volunteers, over the years.
Our group’s soccer meets twice a month usually for at least an hour and a half, though often it’s closer to two hours. A homeschooling dad coaches, having them do warm-up exercises, a variety of drills, and then they play the game. The coach volunteers his time so soccer is free to members of our group; our group offers a variety of similar activities for free because we ask all of our parents to volunteer in some capacity over the course of the year. I really appreciate this as our funds are limited and I’m not a sports person who’d feel comfortable teaching a variety of sports. Soccer is casual, with no uniforms or requirements other than coming dressed in appropriate clothes for running the field. The kids’ skills have greatly improved over the years, and now they’ll often start up their own casual soccer game at park meetings.
Similarly, another dad in our group ran a Golf Club and a Tennis Club that each met monthly. In the Golf Club, we’ve met at a public golf course and the kids have learned to use the driving range and practice putting on the putting green. They’re working up to playing a round of golf together. Clubs purchased from a thrift store have kept this sport inexpensive and I like the idea that my kids will have a working knowledge of golf, even if they aren’t passionate about the sport, so that if their future involves someone who wants to chat about business over a golf game, they won’t be totally out of their element. Likewise, for the Tennis Club, we’ve used rackets bought from the thrift store to minimize the cost. When a neighbor was cleaning out his garage, he gifted us with a ball holder and a plethora of tennis balls; in my experience, it really helps to chat with the neighbors about what the kids are doing. A mom in our group ran a fitness club that met twice a month the first half of the year with calisthenics and lessons in nutrition and other aspects of health. Now a teen is running a twice-monthly basketball fundamentals clinic. Since he’s being scouted by college basketball teams, he knows his stuff and has helped the other kids learn a lot. When all of these activities are put together, the kids have had some form of organized physical activity at least once a week, sometimes twice, for one to two hours at a time.
In a local public high school P.E. class, which is usually about 45 minutes long, a good portion of the time is used for changing clothes, showering, and taking roll. So two hours a week of organized physical activity is about what a public school P.E. course would offer. With the activities listed above, my kids are doing close to that amount of activity, but they do a lot of other activities as well.
My son wanted to learn archery, so together, he and I went to a 4-H training session and became 4-H certified instructors (well, Junior Instructor in my son’s case). Together with some other moms in our homeschool support group, we started a 4-H Archery Club for other homeschoolers. The 4-H group gives us insurance, some equipment, and a place to meet free of charge. We meet twice a month at the local fairgrounds and have been teaching about 20 students, ranging in age from eight to eighteen, to shoot with bows and arrows at targets.
If you throw in the biking, running around at the park, swimming, and other activities, along with some lessons in health and safety, we’ve done a lot more than the 120 hours that are usually cited as the minimum for earning one high school credit. If you add in all the P.T. (physical training) my son’s been doing with his Young Marines group and the workouts he’s done on his own, he’s definitely earned more than one credit in P.E. this year, but one credit of P.E. seems enough for the year to me.
Three years ago, a mom in our group started a Shakespeare Club geared to kids of a wide variety of ages–from kindergartners to high school students. At first only our two families were involved, but I loved the idea of doing Shakespeare together. I’ll admit it–I hated Shakespeare when I was in school. I couldn’t understand much of what he wrote and dreamed of finding an interpreter to turn his words into English that I could understand. But as an adult, Continue reading Shakespeare Club