Saturday, September 6, 2014

From School at Home to (pretty) Relaxed and (very) Eclectic

Recently, with some other homeschool mama friends,

(and not just any homeschool mama friends, but the ones who listen and share the real stuff, and make you feel a little more normal and a little less worried about how you're educating your child/ren. When you homeschool, you NEED a group of friends like this. It's essential. I'm SO grateful for my supportive circle of awesome mamas) 


we were talking about how much time to put in each day.

Now, we all have different homeschooling methods, but to some degree, we all think about this. How much time on academics? How much free time? How much screen time? How much exercise? How much time 'should' we dedicate to all the different parts of our childrens' learning?

So, I've been thinking about this all week, and realizing how much we've changed and how much I've learned...

See, when Lu and I started homeschooling, he was 8 years old and officially in the third grade. But we had ALL this time to catch up on from the years he went to school, and especially from the last two years, during which he spent six hours a day at school. We were hungry for time together. We NEEDED time together, a lot of time. 
And it showed in our schedule. 

That first year, 
we averaged eight hours a day!
of planned homeschool activities.
And we loved it!

It was new and exciting. Lu loved the pace at which we were learning, and I loved the planning and organizing of my child's education. 

I wanted to get everything "right". Not only was I spending eight hours doing the actual "schooling" with Lu, but I was also using all my spare time to educate myself and prepare "classes".

We felt very "scholarly". It was kind of like we were "playing school". 

If I was taking my son out of school, 
then we had to be "better" than school. 
I had to prove that I could do this.

As time went on, we got used to being homeschoolers, and schoolwork just became a natural part of our day. I learned that I can't plan EVERYTHING, and that there's little point in looking at high school textbooks now when there will still be plenty of them around when we actually GET to high school. And that we probably won't even use text books anyway. And that unplanned spaces are essential to finding passions. 

And that learning happens ALL the time.

With those unplanned spaces, Lu learned that he loves cooking and 60's rock. And that there are a million cool things to do with his dad's tools. And that if he has an interest, we can follow it.

So now that we're more or less in 6th grade, we do three hours of academics and at least one hour of exercise and art, plus some light/fun reading before dinner. 

This is the time it takes to do the work that we have decided, as a learning team, is important to have as a base - math, science, and history. Those are the subjects we dedicate the most time to. Language arts, geography, typing, and some others are regularly done, but in short 20-minute sessions, and not every day.

Even though we don't spend the hours and hours doing the grammar, vocabulary, and spelling worksheets that we used to do - Lu's writing is fine because he reads a lot.

Even though we didn't stick to the very excellent math program we worked with for two years, because it was fastidious and dense, Lu's math development is on track, because he enjoys it now.

Even though we don't follow a particular science program, Lu's science knowledge is vast because we pull from all kinds of resources and watch loads of awesome documentaries.

This is the pile of "paperwork" that Lu did this week in school, but it's just a small part of what we did. The rest happened outdoors, in the dance studio, in the workshop, in the garden, in the kitchen, at the karaoke party we went to, at the lake, at yoga class, at the market where we have lunch on Tuesdays, at the restaurant we go to on Saturdays to eat pie and play ping-pong, during our weekly potluck with the neighbors, when we watch a documentary with lunch, or when we play Scrabble.

I don't regret having spent all that time on academics our first year. We were happy and we learned A LOT. But every year since, we've relaxed more and more in regards to schedules, grade levels, tests (what? tests? what are those?) and curriculum.

Here's a "Language Arts" assignment that Lu came up with.

I know that he wants to learn how the world works. I trust that he feels responsible for his education. And I trust myself enough to follow what we feel is right for us.

If you're just starting your homeschool journey, PLEASE don't worry about 'how' you're doing it. Try different things, or stick to one thing, or change your mind every five minutes.

Be extra organized or be a messy confusion.

Be a "School at Home-er" or a "Radical Unschooler".

It doesn't matter.

AS LONG AS EVERYONE IS HAPPY most of the time,
you're probably doing just fine.

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