Monday, October 8, 2012

How We Homeschool

I thought today I might write something a little more descriptive about what homeschooling looks like in our family.  I’ve come to learn that for each family homeschooling means something very different and very few families do it exactly the same way.  I think a lot of “how” a family homeschools has a lot to do with “why” a family homeschools. For us, specifically, we home school because Light has very different academic needs than most other 6 year olds. Along with those different academic needs, he also has some asynchrony in his development, meaning that he is not at the same level across the board. In some ways, he is 6 going on 4, especially when he is upset, anxious, nervous, mad, scared or with large groups of people. But, in some areas, he is 6 going on 25. It just did not seem possible to find a school that could accommodate his asynchrony — challenge him where he needs it and have patience with him when he needs it.  So, we’ve decided the best place to meet his needs is at home.

Light is also a kid who doesn’t like to be told what to learn, how to learn it or when to learn it. He has insatiable curiosity in some areas, yet in some very basic academic areas, he has very little interest. It is nearly impossible to motivate him to practice something that he doesn’t find meaningful. This has an impact on how we handle homeschooling as well. We can’t push him to do things that are not inherently interesting to him without having a huge amount of things available to him that he wants to do.

So, we don’t have a boxed curriculum that is Grade 1 or 2 or whatever. We have pieced together a variety of things from a variety of places and have put together a program that seems to be working for us for now.  Here is the nitty gritty of what we have:

·      Scholastic Grade 4 workbook
·      Spectrum Math Grade 2
·      Spectrum Science Grade 3
·      Spectrum Language Arts Grade 3
·      Science Fusion Curriculum Grade 2
·      Geometry Text Grade 10
·      The Story of the World and Activity Books
·      Chester Comix for primarily American History/Government
·      The Cartoon History of the Universe
·      A chemistry activity set for up to age 10
·      Too many novels and non-fiction books to count. All of various reading levels.
·      Online games: DragonBox+ for some math work, BBC typing game
·      Many games and puzzles
·      Arts and Crafts
·      Piano lessons
·      Karate class
·      Tennis lessons
·      Cub scouts
·      Private tutor/educational specialist 2 hours per week
·      Various documentaries on his current interests

We don’t do all of these things everyday. We don’t assign days for Language Arts/Math/History, etc.  We don’t do “school” from 9-3. We are working on a rhythm to our day. I would say, though, that on average, we spend about 3 hours per day actively doing structured school. 1-2 of those hours are during naptime for Happiness. The rest of the structured school happens in smaller sections throughout the day, or when Rob gets home from work.

In the car, we do a lot of talking. Yesterday we talked about synonyms, homonyms, antonyms, palindromes, etc.  We do math equations in the car. When we grocery shop, we talk about nutrition. We live learning.  Or, we learn living. Either way.

For Light, learning is a critical component to his day, well his life actually, but it can’t be all structured or all my idea. So, I suggest ideas and provide interesting outings, activities, books and games.  He is involved in daily tasks and helping to run the house. He loves to cook for himself and to bake. We need to do more of that.

I resonate with the ideas of unschooling very much. 
And, I love the educational ideas of Sir Ken Robinson

But, my need to be in control or have some sort of way to assess learning prevents me from embracing it whole-heartedly. So, we may go a few days without any type of structured school and then I get panicked, so we have to get out a workbook! I am hoping to let go of more of that need to control and really follow the interests of my children and see where that takes us. I think as long as I can make sure that Light has mastered grade level standards for his age, I can relax and go with his flow. But, sometimes he needs a little push to get motivated.

Unschooling to me is maintaining that intrinsic desire to learn. That innate curiosity that babies have, young children have, that we as adults had and hopefully still have. It is not grounded in extrinsic rewards or validation. The satisfaction comes from the learning itself. These ideas are wonderful and I try to embrace them when it comes to homeschooling. That’s why it pained me so very much to implement a “reward sticker chart” for Light to use to earn Dungeons and Dragons figures. Remember when I wrote that it was hard for him to do anything that wasn’t his idea? It was hard for him to care to take the time to learn the basics? Well, he got a sticker for each workbook page of “basics” he did. Once he reached 15 he earned a figure. It pains me even more to report that it worked. Yep. He cruised through 30 pages of 4th grade work in order to earn a figure. Well, he cruised through the first 15 pages. Then 10 pages and the last 5 pages were less motivating. I’m curious to see if the stickers continue to work.

My primary concern right now is finding social outlets for him. He is going through a major separation anxiety phase and so dropping him off for classes or leaving him with friends is very difficult. He is with friends during karate and cub scouts, but we are having very few play dates. He doesn’t get invited places; he wouldn’t go anyway. He likes people. He gets overwhelmed with more than one friend at a time. He just started talking about his birthday party this year. He says he just wants a family party. I can understand that, but it also makes me sad for him. He was completely stressed out at his birthday party last year. All of the kids from his kindergarten class came, plus siblings and more friends. I’m finding this to be a tricky area for us. He’s very content to stay home or go to a museum and then come home. He doesn’t seem to miss the after school play times, but it’s so important.  Anyway, I’m working on that. His academics will be fine no matter what. But, we need to focus on his heart and his social well-being.

So, our week looks something like this:
Monday: Tennis
Tuesday: Piano and Cub Scouts
Wednesday: Karate
Thursday: Educational Specialist
Friday: Open

We have something scheduled everyday except Friday.  Rob and I go to a SENG parent group on Tuesday mornings for the next 6 weeks. 

On Thursday morning we see an educational specialist, for lack of a better term. He deserves his very own post. That will come next.  But, on those days, I don’t ask for much more structured time from him because he is pretty tired afterward.

Both Light and Happiness have a lot of freedom and flexibility in their days. I ask for piano practice a few times during the week. Happiness isn’t in any classes, yet, but dance is in her near future.

Light spends his free time organizing books, reading, talking about roller coasters and playing with his Dungeons and Dragons figures. Or doing geometry and hanging out with me.

Happiness spends her free time playing princess, reading books, talking, painting her body and hanging out with me.

I spend my free time…  Oops, that was some wishful thinking.


  1. :) I'm laughing at your wishful thinking comment at the end. You sound very busy.

  2. This sounds so much like us. I loved reading this - thankyou!