I've thought very seriously over the years about hs'ing. I have lots of hs'ing friends who all spend their school years differently--I know radical unschoolers, families with heavily scheduled curriculums, Oak Meadow users, Calvert, etc etc. The spectrum as you can tell, and when we almost pulled our boys out 2 yrs ago, we were planning (and I bought) mostly the well trained mind curriculum. We used it over the summer with our boys and while it worked well for one of them, the oldest was less thrilled with it (actually it was my first introduction to how we would possibly butt heads a LOT of the time). Anyway, I have all 3 boys right now in a small Luthern school that has almost no homework, lots of recess time (even for 3rd graders), a ligitimate snack time, and really tiny class sizes (6 kids total in 3rd, 12 kids total in 1st, etc). Whats the problem I'm facing? Well, for starters my second child is very advanced, and unless we grade-skip him they're not meeting him where he is--he complains every.single.morning about how boring school is. I volunteer for a full day there each week and I can see exactly how bored he is. My 3rd grader is not quite as advanced but I can tell he's getting lazy b/c he really does not have to work that hard. Couple all of that with the huge expense for sending them there plus their asking me pretty much every.single.week to homeschool next year, and I'm rethinking trying it again.
My issues with the WTM approach that we attempted a few years back was that I felt like it basically recreated school at home. I am not a trained teacher nor do I have a strong desire to replicate being a teacher with heavily scheduled (30 min time slots) days if we're going to be at home. Basically I guess that approach didn't suit my personality though I totally think its an awesome way for kids to learn. I recently read in a book that "homeschooling seems to be a natural extention of the parents personalities and parenting styles" and will reflect that when done to the delight of the parents. Meaning, if I'm more open to following my kids interests and allowing them more freedom with their days, then trying to homeschool with a school-in-a-box approach may not be the best fit. I loved reading that reflection, because it helped me to understand why I didn't feel like I could see myself spending 10 yrs with a WTM curriculum. Though again--on paper I think its a fabulous curriculum and I could see myself definitely using some of it--the boys loved SOTW.
I am not on the other spectrum of radical unschooler though I've often thought unschooling is the most similar to our parenting styles--we limit TV, internet and other electronic use pretty heavily here, and I know my kids, and they actually do well with some degree of structure. But I adore the notion of spending more time framing school around my kids interests vs doing school in a box. My kids have well defined interests so that seems easy to do.
I am a HUGE fan of lots of physical activity for kids. Heck, even for adults. I am very active as is my husband so the apples aren't falling far from their trees. Our boys are happiest when they get lots of activity. They are also pretty "good" athletically--my 7 yr old and 9 yr old can run as much as 6 miles straight without stopping (they were in a race recently which they won which is how I know this), they are big into sports, but otherwise will play outside for hours straight running, biking, making up games, etc etc. Knowing this, though I have searched, I can't seem to find another hs'ing family who incorporates as much physical activity into their days as I would like to and I know my boys would like. I was thinking this morning of packing a bookbag and walking into our woods nearby--which my boys will end up running the trail half the time--then finding a good spot, sitting down and doing some work, then hiking/running back home. That will mean though we'd need easy-to-take work with us, such as math books, snacks, etc. Seems like it would take up a lot of the day. Ideally I'd like to have my boys outside for a minimum of 4-5 hours every day--maybe an hour in the morning, hour after lunch, then they'd have practice or just outside time in the evening. But how in the world would we cover enough academic material while trying to do that!!!, lol. Thoughts?
I'd like them to learn another language--specifically Lithuanian--which my mom speaks and I speak a little. I'm having trouble envisioning them learning it to mastery though without someone like a tutor who is fluent (my mom refuses to do any teaching). Can they really learn another language without a native speaker in our house?
Math is another one--they like it, and their school uses Saxon right now. I was thinking to keep that going b/c they are already used to it and it gives me one less thing to decide to buy--however they hate the approach of doing problems while being timed. Do any of you know why they get timed like that? Is it only for taking tests more quickly or is it for learning mental math to mastery? Is hs'ing Saxon math the same as the bought-for-a-school Saxon math?
I have so many more q's but I'll start with these lol. And I will have a new baby in the fall. So I'll be newly teaching a child in K, 2nd and 4th. Am I crazy?!?! Thank you for reading this far and for responding if you are able!!
So you will be homeschooling three kids and taking care of a baby this fall?
I only have two kids. My son is a brand new 7 and my daughter will turn 5 in the summer. We are very relaxed homeschoolers (very close to unschooling on the spectrum). We have a fairly well set rhythm for our days but not a formal learning schedule. Here is a loose picture of what our days look like:
- Wake up 7ish and eat breakfast.
- I-pad time from 8 until 9ish -- read books/listen to stories/do math games/listen to brain-pop, play with puzzles or monster physics etc. The iPad is choke full of stuff for them to do but by design, I have not put all-out games on it. I wanted to use it mainly as an educational portal. They love the thing.
- Before I leave for work @ 8:00ish (I work part-time) I set the ipad alarm for 1 hour. Around 9 (or when the alarm goes off), while I am gone, my son does his Singapore math workbook. I do no math instruction, he does it all by himself. He has learned to read instruction and follow examples. My daughter draws, plays. She is going through a heavy Lego phase. She has many interests and has no trouble keeping herself busy.
- 9:30 - 11:00 their sitter takes them outside (we live in an apartment). They ride their bikes, roller blade, play ball, dig, catch bugs, whatever.
- They return home around 11:00 have snacks and lunch around 11:45.
- I come home at 12:00. I check my son's math work for errors. Dd goes to sleep. During dd's nap, ds does something quietish either in one of the bedrooms or with me. He generally listens to his audio books on his ipod. I recently put Story of the World 1 on it and he has been listening to that over and over. He may decide to just read also. Or he may want to draw. It is his time to do whatever he wants. Note: we have no TV. So the thought of watching something in the day time has never occurred to them.
- Dd wakes up around 1:15 and they have snacks and go outside again until about 3. Then they come home and play some more, help with cooking, water the plants. They just keep themselves busy with their own ideas. They get along really well. Sometimes they draw. Other times, they build a fort. The come up with tons of fun games.
- Dinner for them -- at 5ish. Their daddy comes home around 5:30 and they make bread together (we make bread daily because they love fresh bread -- we knead enough dough for a week and keep it in the fridge). Around 6ish, with their fresh pieces of bread, they retire to their play/bedroom to watch some of their shows.
-Ds reads to me before bed-time. DH reads to them. We make up stories and tell them. We sing. Then it is time to go to bed. EXCEPT it is not. They come out, ask for water, go to the bathroom, want another hug, their back needs scratching... you know... it goes on and on and then they are asleep, phew!
This is basically how our weekdays. The kids do take a few outside classes. They have an art class once a week and my ds has taekowndo twice a week. And on the weekend, they go to a really good art studio that allows them to work in many different mediums (from crafts, to drawing, painting, sculpting etc.) They also sporadically play soccer with their friends.
So, when does the learning takes place? Through out the day: one, the ipad and ipod deliver a ton of information in many forms. Two, they are constantly asking questions and my son reads. Three, they play all the time. They test the outside world. Experiment. They work in the garden. They plant seeds (yesterday, for example, they planted apricots in a pot even though I told them it was a tree... I, along with them, am curious if it would grow!). They have made strawberry soups and other snacks. They are very very curious about everything. We read together a lot. My son now reads to his sister. At a second glance, sooooo much happens in each day that is difficult to quantify. It is just that, so much of what happens is determined by them.
My advice is, evaluate what you want and decide what your minimum threshold is. Remove all obstacles (I, for example, view TV/shows in the day time as an obstacle while others here don't.) to self-directed activities. Have available things you know they are already interested in or will pique their curiosity. After that, set them free.
For your oldest, I don't have a 4th grader so I am not sure how that will go or what the challenges are. I hope someone else chimes in :)
We are unschoolers who use a bit of curriculum and would have (do have!) no problem fitting 4-5 hours of outdoors time into our days. We used Singapore Math or similar and found it very efficient. Readalouds, discussions and podcasts (we do a lot of driving) have given a pretty broad literature and general studies education. Science and social studies curricular learning is done in chunks in an interest-driven way and fits into blocks of maybe 2 hours once or twice a week. We do music daily, and some outside activities (Spanish, chamber music ensemble, gymnastics, art class). My kids have all been advanced learners with clear interests and I find that their learning is very efficient. Something that might take several weeks of 45-minute classes at school to introduce, explain, practice, discuss, do assignments, study for tests, review and evaluate can be pretty thoroughly learned by them in a single 20-minute conversation or from reading a single short non-fiction book.
Second language learning has always been a challenge for us. Rosetta Stone plus regular exposure to the language through conversation -- once a week or so -- seems like the best possible mix, but in our case it has been hard to maintain both halves of that equation. And Rosetta Stone is an expensive experiment if it doesn't work out. We were lucky to have it provided by our umbrella school.
Mountain mama to one great kid and three great grown-ups
Yes Emaye, I will have 3 school-aged kids and a new baby this fall (so 4 kids total). I'm less worried about making 4 kids work though than making sure I can create the kind of homeschool that I want my kids to have. My older 3 are pretty independent however they do fight a lot (sigh--competitive boys). Thanks for sharing your day. It seems like your academic parts are history (SOTW), math (awesome that he is doing it independently--I wonder how well my 9 and 7 yr old would do with working through their academics by themselves), and reading. I think I'd probably want to add in language arts and like I mentioned language. My second has already been sold on wanting to become a paleontologist when he grows up (for the last 2 yrs anyway), so judging by the need for college for any of their choices of career paths, I'd want to prepare them for some things colleges would require. My boys play creatively just like yours do though and I love that and want to keep nurturing it.
Moominmama I'm glad to hear you are finding it easy to fit in as much physical activity as I'd like to see us having without neglecting some academics. I also agree I can see us flying through some things that I know my kids pick up quickly. I really wish I could see "into the future" for next year, I'd be over the moon if we could finish what I felt was important academic stuff for ALL 3 boys by noon and have the entire rest of the day for anything else. That would be so cool. Though I'm not a fan of school-in-a-box, ironically I have read some reviews from other parents who said Calvert was simple and to the point (and you can leave out what you don't want to use) and they finished it quickly. I just want to cover some bases as like I mentioned I know at least one or two of my boys will most likely end up in college based on their dreams and desires even at this young of an age. But I'm betting Calvert can't really be directed a lot towards an interest driven work--like dinosaurs or history for my one child. I really just don't know though. I do know I want to make my life as easy as possible starting out.
I was thinking that for language I'd probably just need to scour the area to find us a Lith-tutor. I think it would be one thing worth outsourcing for, the boys have always wanted to really learn it (they really love Spanish at school) and since its part of our heritage that makes it more special. Has anyone heard of the Pimsleur approach?
If you give them sometime to deschool and provide level appropriate work, then they probably can. I'd start out a little easy to just get into it and build their confidence and a habit of working independently and then up the challenge. My son started math at a level that was relatively easy for him but the object was to establish his work habit including his ability to seek information out on his own, look at examples and reason his way to answers. I also wanted him to feel competent.
It seems like your academic parts are history (SOTW), math (...) and reading. I think I'd probably want to add in language arts and like I mentioned language. My second has already been sold on wanting to become a paleontologist when he grows up (for the last 2 yrs anyway), so judging by the need for college for any of their choices of career paths, I'd want to prepare them for some things colleges would require.
Yes and no. That is what is obviously academic but everything that happens in the day added together makes an unquantifiable portfolio of what the kids are learning just by talking, experimenting, watching documentaries, reading, playing, building, cooking... there is just soooo much more. They have the luxury of time to explore most aspects of their interests. This is the beauty of relaxed homeschooling. I understand your worry about raising college prepared kids. I also want my kids to go to college but I have no doubt they will be able to :)
I really wish I could see "into the future" for next year, I'd be over the moon if we could finish what I felt was important academic stuff for ALL 3 boys by noon and have the entire rest of the day for anything else. That would be so cool. Though I'm not a fan of school-in-a-box, ironically I have read some reviews from other parents who said Calvert was simple and to the point (and you can leave out what you don't want to use) and they finished it quickly. I just want to cover some bases as like I mentioned I know at least one or two of my boys will most likely end up in college based on their dreams and desires even at this young of an age. But I'm betting Calvert can't really be directed a lot towards an interest driven work--like dinosaurs or history for my one child. I really just don't know though. I do know I want to make my life as easy as possible starting out.
I tried it (just the audio). I liked it and felt it was a comfortable way to learn. Is there a kids' version? The one I used concentrated on daily (adult) life situations like ordering in restaurants, asking for directions etc.
I just have a minute but wanted to suggest that you look into something. It sounds like you are a Christian family and that you enjoy the classical education approach of WTM. We follow a philosophy called TJed (Thomas Jefferson Education) which I think of as a more flexible (more toward unschooling) classical education approach than WTM. I personally think it's brilliant and think some of the concepts might really click with you, based on what you said in your first post. I am in my first year of homeschooling my 7 year old (I have two younger children as well) and I have loved following TJed this year. You can check it out at http://www.tjed.org :)
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