Story 3: Crystal
Kids Ages: 13, 8, 5
Homeschooling for our family is a fluid thing that ebbs and flows throughout the year. I would say that our approach is an eclectic one that follows both the interests of the child and our family’s needs within a certain amount of a framework. Sometimes I wish I was more structured but then I see all the wonderful things they have learned and that they have participated in and I feel very content with our path. While we are not part of a school resource program through any public schools we are part of a couple of local homeschool associations. As part of the local homeschool groups we have participated in talent shows, special parent led workshops and classes, field trips, game nights and parent support meetings. Currently I am homeschooling three children, ages 13, 8, and 5 so approximately 8th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My approach with each child is a little different as I will later explain. We are a Christian family, and that to a great degree, effects our choices of curriculum and types of events that we participate in. Currently we are not using a specific curriculum path like some families do nor are we using an online school option. I am very old fashioned in some ways and I tend to lean more towards keeping screen time to a minimum so choosing an option that requires them to sit in front for a screen for hours each day doesn’t appeal to us. I also like the freedom that comes with doing my own thing and not having to be tied down to logging in for so many hours each day and having to be at home at specific times for live meetings, etc. I know that it works well for many of my friends who are homeschooling but it’s just not my first choice. We do occasionally play a learning game or watch educational videos and then write about them or talk about them but most of our learning is either hands on or paper and pencil.
A Typical Day
So what does our average day look like you ask? Well I would like to know what an average day is. Just kidding but seriously we do have a lot of variety in our lives so very few days are actually exactly alike. I would say that on most days we spend about 2-3 hrs of concentrated time doing school but that doesn’t mean that all the learning time we have. Somedays also include homemaking and shopping math, cooking lessons, outdoor work at the barn, animal husbandry when we work with the horses, music lessons, special classes or field trips and reading time. Our children are also all involved in a group called Pathfinders/Adventures International so they attend weekly meetings, learn about different topics, attend special events and earn honors similar to Scouts. Over the last year or so, as parents, we have also been involved with a large church building project which has taken me away from some day to day schooling but has given the oldest child the opportunity to participate in some facets of the building project, learning about practical measurement, power tool use, flooring and other parts of building. And all have been part of cleaning and participating in the project on an age appropriate level. We also have connections with a small private school which has opened it’s doors to us and allowed the children to participate during days when I was working on the church and also when they have special programs, events or classes like leatherwork, author reading events, bell choir and music programs and sewing classes they let me know so I can bring the children if our schedule allows. This has been a really fun connection and has allowed the kids to spend time with their friends while learning some things that I don’t have the resources to teach at home. When the weather is good you will often find them outside in the play house, in the lawn or sitting on the porch with their school. I also don’t ever start school till after labor day and even later if needed. School isn’t over in the summer until they finish the work I assigned for the year. If that means you got sidetracked or refused to do some of your work when you should have when you were asked then it means that you will do school in the summer even if the other kids are out of school! A few subjects have gone on into the summer but I don’t see that happening again. I think the lesson has been learned. 😊
Each of the children is very different and has different goals and I have found that I am schooling them all a little differently. The oldest wants to be a pediatric surgeon at this point in her life so she is heading for Running Start and years of schooling. She is also a prolific reader and loves history so she is well suited for text books, workbooks and memorizing. She has struggled with behavior issues over the years but is thankfully past that and very self-motivated at this stage of her schooling. For her I basically choose the books that she has to complete during the school year and set out a basic structure and then let her have at it. Some days if I feel she is getting behind because we have had days when we haven’t hit the books so hard I might have her do something extra but in general she knows what she needs to do and I spot check that it’s getting done and ask her questions about what she has learned sometimes formally and sometimes in general conversations. We also enjoy science projects and experiments and visits to museums, lectures and special events. She is using the Key To math curriculum series which she enjoys, a grade level history text book, an antique English book with a focus on storytelling and composition because she is already a year ahead in English and for science she is doing a high school plus level biology coloring book program. For English I also expect that during the years she will write various reports on things that we do and most recently she wrote am approximately 10-12 minute, 2-act skit that will be performed by a group of youth at church. She also wants to write a book so there are times when I give her specific time to focus on that. For math this year she is completing a series of workbooks on fractions that she started last year and a complete geometry series. She sings in an adult choir, has taken an adult emergency preparedness class, takes piano lessons, and last summer was a student in a college level Certified Nursing Assistant class. She was unable to take the state test due to her age but she successfully completed the course work and has volunteered many hours privately as a caregiver for an ill elderly women suffering from ALS. She has gotten to help build at the church, enjoys cooking and reading and is active in her Pathfinder club. Through the private school she is part of a bell choir, has taken a leatherworking class and will start sewing lessons this week. It can also be a battle some days to keep her on track and not constantly getting side tracked trying to help her siblings with their schooling.
The younger two are much less intense to school because of their ages but I sort of do the same thing as with the older one, but with less expectations. I pick one or two workbooks that I want them to complete during the year and then some other fun activity books or kits or things that relate to the subjects we will be covering, and I let them work. I expect that on days when we are sitting down to do work that they will work efficiently and do an age appropriate amount of work but that might only be 3-5 pages depending on what they are working on and how hard it is for them. The middle child wants to be a scientist, possibly a shark scientist and she loves math and knows that she needs to know a lot of math so some days she just wants to spend her whole day doing math and I let her. Her reading and writing are coming right along just because we are doing things, she has to read to do her work book, read recipes, street signs, she is writing in her workbook, has to write thank you notes for gifts, has to write notes to her sponsored child, etc. but math is really her first love! I was homeschooled and I remember that there were times when I would totally get lost in topic and I would spend days just doing nothing but researching something or doing a workbook that I loved. I was done I was always happy for the adventure and able to get caught back up on everything else without much trouble so I don’t worry about her getting behind because as she does math, she is writing, reading word problems, sometimes coloring, etc. so she is actually covering a lot of ground just under the umbrella of one topic. The youngest child has learned more than I have actually taught him just by osmosis. Just listening to oral math problems, listing to words being sounded out, seeing us reading all the time has given him a great desire “to do school”. I work with him on writing his name, writing words and numbers, coloring inside the lines, etc. but he is very oral and visual, and his fine motor coordination is coming along but it’s not his strong point. He does have workbooks and art books that are just his and he works in them but for much shorter times than the girls. We sometimes watch a nature video or read a story and then I have him work on writing words that relate to it. We have done a lot of counting of things around the house, food items, signs, train cars, etc. and he is also wanting to learn to read so now we are spelling lots of things and sounding out words. I do a lot of oral reading with all of them, so he is surrounded by reading and is starting to want to sound things out on his own but not because I have said, “Okay now we have to sit down and spend this much time reading.” We just make it part of our day. When the older kids sit at the table to do book work, then he comes to do writing or coloring. When they are cooking then he gets to help. Sometimes he gets to help cook by himself and actually has been known to cook things without much help as a “special surprise.” I prefer that he have help but he is also very careful and had has been part of cooking, cutting, baking and mixing since he was about 2 so I worry about him much less than I might worry about kids that have had no kitchen exposure. They are also in music lessons, Adventure club and bell choir at the school.
Homeschooling is a daily adventure that sometimes involves a lot of sit down work and sometimes none at all. Sometimes I compare my day to others and have a moment of panic and then I realize that our adventure is just that, our adventure and no one else’s. I look at all the things they do, all the experiences they have had, all the places we have gong over the last 4 years since we started homeschooling and I am amazed at all the things that they have accomplished. Have I done it perfectly? Probably not. Have we covered everything just the same as the local public school? Most definitely not but as I look ahead to their futures I rest in the knowledge that learning is not linear. Done well in life it is an ever upward climb and if there is something that they need that we didn’t cover quite so well when they need it they will be motivated to learn it. At that point the resources will be there for them to learn it and it will mean more because they will learn it and be able to apply it right away. When I look back at where we started 4 years ago with a kid who was almost a grade level behind in some topics, who hated school and who fought me on subject after subject to now a girl with lofty dreams, a grade or more ahead in some subjects who loves learning I feel pretty blessed to be on this journey and to see what will happen next as they go forward to take on the world!