Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our Homeschool Land

The time has come, the Walrus said…

to write a bit about our homeschool day :-)

(and no, I'm not referring to myself as a Walrus! I'm ever-so-briefly channeling Lewis Carroll.)

I've been living in Homeschool Land almost a year and a half now, and I finally feel like I can write about it with a teensy bit of confidence. So, here goes…

Up 'til now, I have kept away from describing our homeschool methods in any detail, or talking about things such as the maths books we use, or any sites/curriculum I like, because in the past, the days have changed so quickly—what the kids have liked to use one week has sometimes been completely different the next.

But we seem to have found a sort of groove, and I recently realised we'd actually been in our groove for some time. We could almost be said to have a Routine!

I also realised that my kids found their groove and made their Routine, kind of by themselves.

The past couple of months, I have been to-ing and fro-ing about what sort of homeschooler I wanted to be. One moment it felt completely right to be "unschooling," and by that I mean we'd just live each day as we needed—if art had to happen, or a story written, or books read all day, then that was our "school" day. But on another day, I'd suddenly get the urge to schedule the day or week, get things done that I thought were important and I'd worry that I wasn't fitting in all the "lessons" the kids "needed" to learn. So I'd have a little panic that I didn't know what I was doing, would madly browse on-line schools and curriculum packages, and strongly suggest the kids pull out their workbooks and complete some pages for my own peace of mind.

I thought I might be a going a bit Mad.

It felt like there were two competing Me's, arguing over what they wanted their homeschool to look like.

Left shoulder angel was saying, No plans! Down with workbooks! No schedule!

Right shoulder angel was saying, Yes to plans! Up with workbooks! We want timetables—when do we want them?—Now!

It was pretty confusing.

So, I decided to check in with the kids (who are much more reliable than shoulder angels). "What sort of homeschool do you want?" I asked.

My son talked and talked his ideas through. The summary of what he said was this: "I'd like a schedule please. I'd like a timetable. I'd like to use workbooks, too. But," he added, "I don't want to work as long as a school day."

My daughter came down later in the morning, having spent time in her room with her toys and her books and got a quick run down of the options (imagine: Homeschooling Methods 101, told in 3 minutes)

She said, "Can I not have a plan, please? Can I not do workbooks? Can I just do what I like? "

"Of course!" I said. Both kids were thrilled.

And to myself I said—Aha. That explains the shoulder angels. I had my son and my daughter in my ears, already whispering their learning styles and I somehow, silly me, thought it was me not being able to make up my mind.

So my son and I wrote out a timetable for him. It goes a bit like this:

He does a page of maths (in a workbook) and english every day. He writes in his journal on Monday mornings and uses his english workbook on other days (unless he has a burning desire to write a story or continue his novel, which he then does instead). We do Science (right now it's Biology) on Mondays too. History happens on Wednesdays, and my son has reserved Thursday and Friday mornings for any special projects he has, or unfinished work. Every fortnight on a Friday afternoon he and his sister go to Writers Workshop (run by me). And he practices piano or drums every day (or is supposed to!).

He has band on Mondays, tennis on Tuesdays, music lessons on Wednesdays, and jazz combo on Fridays. And he just asked to join an art class on Thursdays. We visit friends or have homeschool group a few times a week too! Hmmm—are his days full enough?! Plus we make sure we have time to play and play, walk the dog, make comics, fly planes, play Poptropica and talk (and talk).

He's so happy with this new arrangement—he sits down to work around 9-ish and knows what work he wants to get done. He tries to get the "set work" done by lunch. Sometimes he takes a lot longer than he planned, and he's trying to fix this. (My lovely daydreamer is learning a lot of time management skills as a result.) We do rambling Science labs and History browsing over a whole afternoon, and have set aside the two days we're definitely at home for that.

As for my girl. Her day yesterday was completely different from her day today. Yesterday saw her sewing little cat figures out of felt. Then she constructed a house for her toy dog to live in, and she drew comics. (My girl loves art and draws/makes/creates constantly). She did a bit of addition on mathsisfun, then completed a bunch of activities on Time4Learning (an online curriculum that we had tried out over a year ago and I'd forgotten about. She asked to go on it again about a month ago—now, she is addicted and has been doing maths and language arts on it every day for two weeks). Then she went to art class with her friends.

Today, my girl read her book (The Secret Garden) until 10 am. She did maths and learned about folktales on Time4Learning, then decided to write her own folktale, called "How the Bat Got its Wings." And then games were played with one of her many, many animal toys, and because tennis was rained out, we popped in to see some friends.

We all do our Science together, because the kids both love it. My daughter also loves doing activities on Aha Science, which is another online resource.

My daughter listens to the read aloud in History, but doesn't write summaries or go into it in depth like my son. (My son reads the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History for fun and is writing a book about Greek Gods—he loves ancient history!)

Both kids are very happy. They love homeschooling and it seems to fit them unbelievably well.

And I've realised that their particular, very individual homeschooling methods are still Life Learning (which, if you've read my first blog posts, is the homeschooling "credo" I feel closest to). It's Life Learning because there is nothing forced about our homeschool day—everything my kids do is chosen by them, facilitated by us together, and completed in their own time. It feels completely right, to all of us.

And—to my relief—my shoulder angels are finally quiet!


  1. Thanks so much for all the great links, it's fantastic they have the space to follow their own learning styles!

  2. When I asked L how she's like her h/s day to look, she replied "I'd like a really, really busy schedule please" making me kinda wish I hadn't asked! Sounds like you have a great balance going in your home.

  3. I love your writing style and how you've achieved balance in your home! Lovely!

  4. That's a lovely way to plan things!

  5. I have the same things being whispered in my ears...I wonder if it's for the same reasons?

    I will observe and listen more closely - thanks for talking about this!

  6. I am your newest blog follower, and I enjoyed a peek into a day in your life. Thanks for sharing- and thanks for the links.


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.