Saturday, February 12, 2011

Homeschool Schedule

I've been asked about our homeschool schedule.

First, let me say that there are almost as many homeschool schedules as there are homeschool families.  No one way is the right way.  That's one of the joys of homeschooling; you can adjust and customize to meet your and your kids needs.

Second, I subscribe to the idea that public school kids get less than one and half hour of new learning every day. The rest of the day is taken up with lunch, standing in line, waiting on others, getting ready, moving from one area to another, cleaning up, problem kids, recess....  There really is research that shows this.  So, we only average about two hours of book work a day.  We meet the rest of  the minimum education hours (plus some!) required by state law, through more experiential, hands on, and creative learning.  (As an aside, I'm not knocking school teachers.  They do so much with so little.  I have a huge advantage in that I'm tutoring only five children, who I know very, very well and I don't get a new crop of kids each year.)

Third, I have five kids ages 13, 10, 7, 4, & baby.  Because of their various ages, disabilities and learning styles, they each have different needs and learn differently.  Each is unique and the range of what we are learning is broad.  That means that I'm not able to easily sit them all down to do a lesson together.

Fourth, I don't believe that I am teaching them.  They are learning.  I just facilitate and help.  The best teacher can't force learning into a child's head.  I try to provide a broad range of supplies, books, equipment and other learning helps. (And a LOT of duct tape.)

So, with those four points in mind, I'll explain our schedule:  We don't have one.  No, that's not really true.  But, it's flexible and fluid.  Each child's schedule is somewhat different.

The baby, obviously, doesn't do any special homework.  :-)  He just does what babies do.

My four year old, goes one day a week to a special-education pre-school through our local school district.  While there she gets speech therapy.  At home, she is learning to read using "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons."  We also use several basic pre-school and Kindergarten type work books.  She does homework in the morning while her seven year old sister does.

Sometimes one of her big sisters will help her.  This is a good way for the older girls to review things they learned.  And, I can observe what the older girls have mastered.

Cute four-year-old daughter doesn't do homework every day and she probably only does a half hour when she does.  I don't force it when she isn't interested.  But, I do find ways to work with her at other times.  We count things.  We make rhyming words.  We find letters on milk cartons and cereal boxes.  We talk about why leaves are falling off our trees.

Pre-schoolers can be the hardest or the easiest to teach.  They are naturally curious about everything.  They require a lot of one-on-one if they are doing book work.  But, when you just slide teaching into everyday life, it's pretty easy & a lot of fun.

My 7 year old likes to get up, eat & start homework because she knows that she can't play Wii or Webkinz until homework is done.  She's in first grade and still requires a lot of help.  Most kids do until they can read independently.  She does Math-U-See, which is a video driven program.  And she is learning to read with a mix of Headsprout (online) and "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons."  She has eye tracking problems, so I don't push her finish a complete lesson at a sitting.  Sometimes, she just can't.  As long as she is making progress, I'm happy.

My 10 year old is lazy.  She also is bright with an above average IQ, but several learning problems including dyslexia.  And, she has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism.  When she learns something, she learns it.  A lot of repetition just irritates her.  So, while her older sister uses Saxon Math, which has *lots* of repetition, this daughter uses Math-U-See.  MUS uses lots of manipulatives and while it does do some repetition, there isn't as much of it.  There's just enough repetition to keep the idea fresh, without boring her.  

Anyway, her schedule is to avoid doing homework as long as she can.  She needs me to help her quite a bit.  I will read & write for her while she does the thinking work.  She usually does her homework in the afternoon when the two smaller girls are done.  A lot of extra noise bothers her.

My 13 year old knows what she needs to accomplish each day.  She's pretty self motivated and does what she's supposed to.  She tends to spread her homework out all day long.  She also does quite a bit more "bookwork" than the younger ones.  Some of this is because of her learning style.  But, a lot of it is simply because she's older and in middle school.

Often, she waits until evening to do Latin after the "littles" are in bed & it's quieter.  She doesn't want people to know that she likes homework, because that makes her "weirder than [she] already [is]."  I'll catch her through out the day doing odd projects, like building a catapult.

A few tips.  1)  Most text books spend part of the time reviewing material that was supposed to be learned the year before, but forgotten over the summer.  We don't take summers off.  And my kids don't tend to finish a text at the end of the year.  So, I've let my kids "test" out of some work and skip initial chapters.  This is especially true of math.  2)  I use WA state standards to make sure we cover everything we need to.  We actually learn lots more.  I think it's good to let kids follow their interests when they are interested.  3)  Don't stress too much.  Some times it takes a while for a new topic to get through.  Try another tact, if one doesn't work well.  Sometimes, you need to back off for a while.  Eventually the learning will happen.  :-)

Anyway, I know it's not really a lot of help, but it is what we do.  Good luck with whatever your educational journey includes.