“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1
Last week, I took Babygirl to a pool party for girls her age with a homeschool group. While the girls swam, mothers sat around the pool and talked. I suppose I assume my way of doing homeschool is normal (as I guess everyone probably does), but I am frequently proved wrong – my way of homeschooling is not the way most people do it. It also enforces my gratitude that (1) we are able to homeschool, and (2) we are able to homeschool in a manner which is supported by research and supports our family way of life, instead of simply following a school day at home.
At this particular pool party, I talked to several moms, and I really had to bite my tongue not to go into a “rant” about how homeschool should not just be school at home. I am staying home with my daughter because I believe that my husband and I need to be raising our daughter, not daycare workers, and not school teachers. I gave up a career that I enjoyed because I put my family first. As a public school teacher, I knew the “system” doesn’t work. I learned various methods which SHOULD be taught, but in a setting of 20 – 30 children, it is impossible. This is my idea of homeschool, not necessarily everyone’s idea, I am finding. Many moms schedule their school day after what they assume a typical public school day is like.
Homeschool offers freedoms that public schools can never have. I can set my own schedule, both a daily schedule and a calendar for the year. If we want to have school in August and take the entire month of December off, we can. I am able to teach in the way that is best for my daughter to learn. Even though she has special needs (or maybe because she has special needs), Babygirl has simply SOARED in her abilities and her confidence in the past year that we have been learning. Because of this, my recognizing the freedoms that homeschoolers have, I am simply shocked at how much work many homeschooled children must complete daily.
The comment that got me started on this topic from the pool party was this: We (the moms) were talking about when we were starting homeschool for the year. (In the middle of August, some had started, some had not). One woman said that day was their first day of school, and she was already behind. She said when they leave the pool party (which was scheduled from 2 – 4 pm), they still had a lot of work to do. In fact, she said, if they took a half hour off for dinner, they would still probably be up until 10 or 11 pm, just to “get it all in.”
WOW! Even public schools don’t do that! (Usually… though I know public schools who give so much homework that the kids are awake until that time to finish the 3 – 4 hours of work they get every night).
“Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them [sayings of the wise]. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” ~ Ecclesiastes 12:12
When I felt safe to open my mouth without lecturing this woman, I asked, “Do you try to do everything, every day?” She agreed, she hit every subject every day. Breathing carefully, still trying hard to keep my tongue under control (it’s not my place to tell her in any way how to run her homeschool), I told her that I didn’t even do that in public school. She was surprised, and asked me what I did when I taught. I told her my favorite schedule was to have reading and math every day, along with some type of writing assignment, though this could be included in another subject. Then, I divided the other subjects among the days. I preferred the afternoons when I could spend one entire afternoon with one subject: science, social studies, writing and grammar. Then on the other 2 afternoons, we would work in whatever else needed worked in – at school, it was usually some type of testing practice or several smaller subjects. Other years, I would schedule one or two of these topics in the afternoons.
Do not weary your kids with too much work! Busy work does not mean better learning. In fact, it can work against you and turn your child off from learning! One book which I read, called “Essential Homeschooling,” gives a sample schedule of a homeschool day. The least amount of time per day for schooling that she listed is for pre-K or Kindergarten age children, which is about 10 – 30 minutes (yes, per day!). The most time she recommends for homeschooling is 3 – 5 hours per day for high school students, though she says normal days should be around the 3 hour period, with only occasional days extending to 5 hours. What a difference!
If you and/or your children are stressed with your schedule, STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN! Stop what you are doing and evaluate it. Look at what other families are doing that is successful, and also look at what research is saying. Also look at your own children and see what things work best for them. Children learn differently, so what works for one child may not work as well for another. Finally, Listen to what other moms are saying and what your children are saying. Other moms will talk about what they are doing well, as well as what they are having problems with, if you will only ask. Most of my ideas of teaching have come from others. I am not very creative – I “steal” almost every good idea that I use! As long as I don’t try to sell it, it’s okay. Also, my daughter will tell me when she is learning something and enjoying the process of learning. Maybe not in those words, but she will do the work even outside of “school” times, or she will keep talking about something she learned if she really enjoyed learning it. If one particular method is successful, then I need to find other ways of working that into my usual schedule. No, I don’t have to do every subject the same way, but if something works, why would I not use it more than once?
I am shocked how many homeschool moms have their kids doing meaningless writing assignments simply because they think that is what they are supposed to do. If your child is not learning from it, don’t waste your time or your child’s time! Public and private schools have a lot of wasted time. I would typically spend 45 min – 1 hour every day simply taking restroom breaks! That does not include the 1 hour or more every day that we spent simply lining up to go to Music Class, Art Class, or lunch. Then figure in the fact that the teacher has to teach in a way that everyone in the classroom understands the lesson, whereas at home, you only have one or a few children’s needs to address. Once they understand the lesson, you can go on. It really does not take an entire day to teach at home.
Learning should be a part of life, it should not control our lives. That’s one thing I love about homeschooling – we learn everywhere we go, not simply between the hours of 8:30 – 3:00 on school day. I love the freedom we have in homeschool, and I hope you do as well!