As all the back-to-school advertisements grab my attention, I smile and look away. This is the first year our family isn’t involved in back-to-school because we are giving homeschooling a shot!
This feels quite foreign to me because I was a teacher for ten years before having children. There have been many years of my own public schooling, undergraduate and graduate degrees and teaching so heading into September with a getting back at the books mindset has been a lifelong way of doing things!
We made the very big decision to homeschool for three major reasons. The big one is that we were able to adjust our (my husband and I) work schedules to accommodate for homeschooling. The second was that I wanted to be able to give my children individualized attention so they can learn at the pace that suits them best. The last is that I want to be able to put educational practices that have been shown to be helpful into effect. It is much easier to decide to use an all-year-round calendar, have a later start time or more down time in our family of four than a large system, involving thousands of families.
We actually started back at it in July. I had previously taught in a school with a “modified calendar” and after people stopped being upset about the change, the majority of families loved it. In this school calendar, classes are in session for six to eight weeks then off for one or two weeks with four to six weeks off in summer. We are using a six to one or two ratio so we’ll do no more than six weeks of school before taking a one or two week break. It’s great being able to travel with off-season prices, less traffic, and fewer people!
We start “academics” (math, reading, writing – including cursive, spelling, science), at 9 o’clock in the morning. We weave in more science, social studies, history and health into our daily life and travels. Languages and trips to places like the library happen one morning a week.
According to what we know about how children learn, we have blocks of twenty to forty-five minutes of learning depending on what we’re working on. My guys can get up and stroll around, grab water or a snack whenever they want.
My iPhone6 alarm “barks” at 11:30am to indicate school is out for the day. We then make lunch together and chill out for the afternoon. This free time might include wandering down to our local school to play with buddies during their lunch break, bike rides, exploring: whatever we feel up to that day. I value this rest time because once 4:30 hits, it’s time for swimming, skating, choir, piano and the competitive sports they are involved in.
Each of the provinces, many states and countries all over the world publish their curriculums. Anyone can find a particular grade and subject curriculum list on the internet! A curriculum is the list of objectives that teachers need to cover in that particular grade and subject. The amazing thing is that we can pick the curriculum we like from anywhere in the world. I live in Ontario, Canada but I’m actually using the Alberta curriculum: I prefer it’s content points and easy-to-use format.
It is important to us that our children are able to get into a high school or university as they get older so I’m going to make sure they have mastery in the content they need to do that. I have actually taught all the way up to high school physics, chemistry, math and english so I feel comfortable teaching my guys at these higher grades if we feel that’s in everyone’s best interest.
I get this question pretty much every time I mention homeschooling—people seem to be concerned my kids are going to end up being socially awkward. I certainly don’t anticipate this happening because we live in a neighbourhood where our children are surrounded by friends. They wander around to other people’s houses regularly.
Also, because we have time to rest in the afternoon and have quiet, lazy mornings, my guys are heavily involved in outside-school activities. They are getting their socialization through competitive sport and the drama/ music/ choral programs they are involved in.
I have just spent the bulk of the last eight weeks with my children: each day, every day. I’m telling you it doesn’t always go smoothly. There have been a few days in particular when I started off sobbing; wondering if committing to homeschooling has been a massive mistake. I have discovered that I have two very different kids: one is an introvert who would happily learn on his own and the other is an extrovert who is the life of the party. This guy wakes up saying, “Can I go to Sam’s house?!!” And me, I’m an introvert, which is incredibly challenging when you put all three of us in the same space for hours each morning.
I’ve learned that I have to fill my “buckets” or I will crash and burn, which isn’t pretty! My husband and I have sat down to make a weekly schedule that includes a yoga class for me, time to do my parenting educator thing and personal time. Just seeing that block of time on the schedule lifts my spirits when we’re having a tough day. We also agreed to get a night completely off bedtime routine so I’ll head out to a movie or a friend’s house on that evening. It’s amazing how those moments away really do help my mind, body and spirit.
I had to decide that pushing through the challenges was on the top of my priority list. My children are just like yours: they have good days and not-so-good days. When I can remember to calm down and support my kids, we all do better (this is certainly a work in process!).