There have been a lot of sad, dark, sick, days in our years homeschooling. Maybe more than most because of the severe depression that I seem to deal with every couple of months. In this time I have found that my children have not only learned that Christ can be a source of life in dark times, but they also continue to learn academically. I am going to share with you what works for us and in doing so, I am in no way judging those who run their homeschool differently. We have developed a style that works marvelously, simply out of need.
“Let children get at the books themselves, and do not let them be flooded with diluted talk from the lips of their teacher. The less parents ‘talk-in’ and expound their rations of knowledge and thought to the children they are educating, the better for the children. Children must be allowed to ruminate, must be left alone with their thoughts.” -Miss Charlotte Mason
In one of my other entries I wrote about “gaps” that everyone has in their education and how human beings can’t possibly know everything. All I needed to do was teach my children how to think on their own and find answers to satisfy their curiosity. Now, I have a 3, a 5, and an 8 year old. So there is still a lot of one-on-one, working-together, learning going on, but we are headed towards the children being independent learners. It has been our goal for the last two years or so, to lead our children into becoming independent learners, right down to the lesson planning. This will be our oldest son’s first year keeping his own book. The fact that we are doing a unit study, rather than working through a text books makes it even more exciting!
I have to be honest and let you know that this is an idea I have heard other moms do. I think there’s actually a cd for sale(from the same company I bought the student planner from) that “teaches” moms how to raise an independant learner. This isn’t something I’ve been interested in listening to yet, as our method works pretty well. The key to having my children learn what they should be learning, unlike unschooling, is to first get organized and plan out their education, with them. Chris and I got our long term goals, short term goals, summer break goals, and budget/curriculum preferences down on paper. We take them one by one out for frozen yogurt and go over what we want for them and ask if there’s anything they would like to add. Are there any areas they would like extra help in? This is done at the beginning and middle of the “school” year. We have not kept records so far except when we “test out” at the end of the year with a specialized test I order. We get evaluated for the state, the testing is so I can be sure we are learning and reaching our goals. As they get older I will keep weekly/monthly grade records, but as of now we don’t move on until they’ve aced what their working on. There’s no need for grading and record keeping if we work towards mastery. That will change later when we begin to prepare for college.
Once I am organized, I fill in my notebook, but not the teacher plan book yet. I just began using one this year that is too pretty to scribble in, so I do all my messy pre-planning in another book. I try not to be too precise because it is a waste of time in our home. I have the subject we are learning, the days/weeks we are learning them, and the resources we plan to use and need.
Then in a filing system I keep all worksheets that I have come across divided by grade and subject… for example, “Insects- K, Ist, 2nd, 3rd”, “Solar System-K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd.” I never “plan” worksheets. They are just extra. We use them if I feel they need something extra. Most of them I find and copy out of Mailbox magazine, online, & library books. They are helpful when we just need a little something extra to enhance what we’re working on, or when we need something to show for what we’ve learned.
Next I prepare the big tupperware tubs.. one for science and one for history. And all of our activities, experiments, books collected especially for this “year” are kept in here. It makes it easy for the kids to know what’s where.
Finally I have the workboxes. I used to use plastic magazine holders(the kind that stand upright), but they were too much of an akward shape and too small. So now, in addition to having their own space on the shelf, each kid’s workbox is a bag with handles, kinda’ like a reusable shopping bag. They are filled with standard school supplies(glue, scissors, pens, pencils, ruler, 2 notebooks) and then each of my sons gets special-personal items added in. My oldest has his prisma color pencils, and the youngest has thick crayons, for example. I also keep workboxes for subjects… our math box is filled with cool manipulatives that even I find appealing.
We have a loose schedule. The kids know that we have a time of reading, independently and journaling, a time for independant work, and then one-on-one time with mom… which we are working on getting down to very little. We read as a family and it’s for “school”, but they don’t know that.
On days when I am particularly sad or I have to put “teaching” aside for a day, the kids don’t get the day off… or we would never get done. They have our system set up and in place and they feel comfortable getting to work. When we are all working towards a goal, they don’t need to ask each day about what’s going to happen. They know what needs to be done by the end of the week, month, or year and they know how we do it. The 3 and 6 year old may not get as much done when they work independently, but it’s only because they are not readers yet. And even if they played all day, they are still learning more than they would in “school.”
The boys know that there is a time for the Lord, a time for each part of school, a time for eating, then a time for being with their friends(while mama’s at the gym). They know the schedule and they like it. They know that if they don’t make progress towards the goals we set together, they will need to bring their work with them and get less time with friends. Obedience plays a huge part in the whole process. Also, enjoying what they do is a key element (which is why we don’t do many worksheets). Now I’ll be honest, they don’t love memorizing the times tables, but it’s not so bad because they planned it and they are accomplishing their goals.
This is how it works in our home. I don’t like filling them with information, unless they ask me for wisdom or knowledge. I don’t need to tell my three year old how to draw and color a rainbow… what’s the point of doing it if I am going to tell him what to do every step of the way? Do you want to know the result of doing “school” this way? My kids end up smarted than me. Others who let their kids self-teach have kids who are smarter than them. It’s an upside and a downfall.
If you would like to know more about an official method of self-teaching, there are experts who have designed programs for families to do in order to learn it. Joanne Calderwood is the pioneer, I think. Just google her. She has a pretty nice blog too.
So that’s how I get to be one screwed up mama and still raise amazingly smart, educated children. Now, my little ones have not gotten their one-on-one time with me yet so I am off to spend that time learning some alphabet blends.