Hello Freedom Seekers, this week we’re dishing you an extra post all about homeschooling. For many people, this is the first introduction you are going to have to the concept of doing school at home, and I completely get that the whole thing can seem very intimidating.
As someone who was homeschooled for their entire life, I happen to have a unique perspective on homeschooling. And while I’ve been contemplating (and extensively researching) schooling methods for our youngest, our oldest son has always been in public school, and thus far, wants to stay there,
Because of that experience, I know for a fact, that both you and I, without any formal training as an educator, can 110% facilitate an environment that will not only maintain what our kids have already learned, but allow them to EXCEL moving forward.
But for starters, let’s all take a breath.
I promise you, you don’t have to be the teacher of the year, or create an honor roll curriculum to keep your children on target for their learning outcomes.
In order to believe that, we first need to let go of the deeply held beliefs we have about traditional schooling, and embrace that this is going to be different. Our engrained ideas of children learning for 6+ hours a day, while seated at their desks and listening intently is far from accurate.
So whatever you do – DO NOT try to replicate that ideal. It will be fun for no one.
Instead, consider home schooling an opportunity to allow our children to learn in entirely new ways. With individualized content and outcomes.
Some Things To Get Excited About
Get ready for some much happier mornings.
I’m being serious.
This is the perfect opportunity to let your kids sleep as long as they want. Especially your teens. As someone who is mildly obsessed with the necessity of quality sleep, this is a time when all of our kids will ACTUALLY get to follow their natural rhythms of sleep. Let it happen (it’s also a great time to get your own work done).
It’s totally okay if your teenager sleeps until 11AM (or even 1). I regularly slept until 10-11AM when I was a pre-teen/teenager. I would roll out of bed, watch a TV show, then knuckle down for a couple hours of focussed work.
This might be hard to believe, but I still got all my work done, good grades, AND my school year was almost always a few months shorter than the average Joe.
Your child only gets about 2 hours of educational content in the average school day. The rest of the day is spent at recess, waiting for other kids to finish work, lunch, transition between classroom settings and breaks. And a wide range of other time sucking activities.
If you need any proof of this, consider your own work environment. How long does it take you to get X amount of work done in an office setting versus at home?
So if you can offer your child 2 hours of individualized learning opportunities at home, even if it’s spread throughout the day, chances are, they’ll actually be learning more than they do in the traditional setting.
Also – learning can be done in wide variety of ways. Especially when you only have to cater to a few students (or just one!)
Cooking, home DIY, finance, cleaning, and yard work are all great ways to have your child pitch in around the house. AND simultaneously learn valuable life skills in a way they would never be exposed to in a school setting.
Did I mention, cooking is a great way to work on reading comprehension and fractions? Or what about a game of Scrabble or Spill n’ Spell to practice spelling and expand their vocabulary? How about a game of crib for basic addition and subtraction? Maybe a game of Catan for communication, strategy, and negotiating skills?
I guarantee you have a ton of “school supplies” in your own home already. You DO NOT need to race over to Amazon and order an entire curriculum, expensive “learning tools”, or even pay for online academic memberships.
You just have to slightly change your perspective on what “learning” really entails. It’s not all about sitting in a class room doing work sheets.
So What Does Our “Home Schooling” Look Like?
Here’s a glimpse into the learning we did yesterday for our nearly 3 year old, and our nearly 11 year old.
Learning At 3
Learning at this age looks an awful lot like play. There’s an opportunity to learn in basically EVERYTHING you do.
We started our day by getting up together and making a “green smoothie”. My youngest loves to help me put the fruits and veggies into the blender. Overtime, he’s gotten quite good at pouring in the pumpkin seeds, coconut, and of course, pushing the button to start the blender.
What does that have to do with learning?
For starters, we talk a lot about the ingredients we are putting into the smoothie. What they are, and how they provide us with vitamins (vitahims as my toddler likes to call them) that our bodies need. So it’s a great introduction to nutrition and a healthy diet.
Secondly, there’s a level of coordination required when it comes to pouring ingredients into the blender. Coordination is an important skill for kiddo’s to be practicing in many different ways.
I also talk with him about the measurements we are using. Not because I expect him to understand what 1/4 cup is at this stage, but to familiarize him with the terminology. Making numbers a normal part of our day to day lives is a great way to build comfort, and a foundation for numeracy.
Then we went out for a morning run.
Yes, you got me. This part was more for me.
BUT, we used it as an opportunity to get fresh air AND spy as many different types of animals as we could. We found a group of ducks, a crow, a rabbit, three different types of dogs, and a cat. He was pretty pumped about that, and we had great conversation about the different types of animals. Including, what they eat, how they move around, etc.
When we returned home, we played “Gone Fishing“. A great toddler game that provides an opportunity for improved coordination, as well as continuous lessons in failing and trying again.
For some artsy fun, we broke out the water based paints. Because I do a lot of painting, I always have a couple large industrial painters drop cloths on hand. They are PERFECT for covering anything you don’t want paint to get on. When you are painting with a toddler – that’s basically everything.
But if you don’t a drop cloth handy, don’t despair.
Check your cupboards for a cheap shower curtain, plastic backed table cloth, or even just some recyclable newspapers.
If you don’t have a craft apron for your child, just find one of your own old oversized t-shirt’s to put them in. Oh, and don’t forget to have a wet rag at the ready to wipe down little hands.
These three steps will make clean up a breeze.
Then…..let them have at it.
Pretty simple hey?
But when you break it down, there’s a variety of learning going on in all of these activities.
Learning At 11
For our nearly 11 year old, we have a bit more structure to our learning day. We’ve chosen to do our “school” between 9-11AM.
Why? Because that’s a good time for him.
He’s an early riser in general, and that time frame gives him a couple hours to wake up, make his own breakfast, get dressed, have some down time, and then get into his work.
Yesterday we sat down together and identified 4 areas that collectively we want him to focus on improving. We’ll work to structure each learning activity to support one or more of these skills:
- Reading Flow;
- Maintaining Focus;
- Attention to Detail; and
- Independent Learning.
What That Looks Like
While I’m busy with my toddler, our oldest starts his day with 30 minutes of solo reading. Right now he’s all about the junior Hardy boys series, and he likes to lounge in the bean bag chairs in our recently added play-room.
After he’s done his reading, we meet at our dining room table for 930. We talk about what he read, what’s happening in the book, interesting characters, and what he thinks is going to happen next. This exercise is all about gauging his reading comprehension, practicing his ability to communicate his ideas clearly, and using critical analysis to make informed estimates about what might be coming. It takes roughly 5-10 minutes of time.
Then, we move onto reading flow.
We’ve focussed on this area in particular because it’s one where our oldest needs some improvement. And we are starting at the basics. I’m borrowing short, but highly animated, books from my toddler (think Goodnight Moon and the Hungry Caterpillar), and reading them aloud with our oldest sentence by sentence.
We each read the sentence once, then review the sentence structure, expression and meaning behind the punctuation used, and how that should effect the inflection and tone we utilize when reading aloud.
This seems very basic, and it is, but it will give him a consistent daily opportunity to practice this skill, increasing his confidence and comfort level reading aloud. It takes us about 20 minutes.
Ideally, when school resumes (whenever that may be) he will have come leaps and bounds in his ability to read fluently, with expression, and in a confident manner.
We then talk about his selected topic for the day (we chose all of the weeks topics in advance, with him picking several, and us picking a couple). Today’s was Komodo dragons. Together, we identified 5 questions that he wanted to learn about that topic, and then he had roughly 30 minutes of computer time to conduct research.
Area’s we are focussing on in his research include note taking (format, tidiness, clear printing), identifying quality sources of information, evaluating and confirming information, referencing sources, and independent learning. We’ve agreed that he will do this work on our desktop computer vs. the iPad, in order to practice his typing and mousing skills.
After he’s done his research, he presents the answers to his 5 questions, and we generally ask a handful of follow-up questions. This is an additional opportunity to focus on verbal presentation, and the ability to concisely summarize information.
Today we followed up his research with a spelling quiz of related words, along with several paragraphs of content about Komodo dragons that required correction of punctuation, grammar, and spelling.
One of the biggest concepts I’m trying to convey in this exercise, is for him to follow his curiosity.
Not just answer the 5 questions on the page, but truly LEARN about the topic, without someone telling him exactly WHAT to learn.
As a forever homeschooler, this is an area that I have noticed public school students generally struggle with. It results in people adhering to rigid parameters, and failing to think beyond what they’ve been asked to do. Specifically, it results in the “nobody told me to”, or worse “nobody showed me how”, mentality.
Our oldest then corrects his own work based on an answer key I’ve prepared for him (attention to detail). We go through it together afterwards to discuss strategies for improvement, or area’s he may have missed.
This takes him about 30 minutes, and about an additional 10-15 minutes of my time.
All in, he’s doing “school” for about 2-2.5 hours each day. Of which I’m spending anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour with him (in small 10-15 minutes chunks). This approach allows me to bounce between our oldest, and youngest, as well as the day to day chores around the house, (and managing this blog).
Moving forward, our days will vary widely in their content, but generally, we will follow this routine pretty consistently. The real changes will be in the reading content, the topic content (science, social studies, art, math topics etc will all be rotated through), and we will implement a variety of learning approaches in the final 30 minutes (games, worksheets, discussion, review, quizzes, cooking, etc.)
Learning won’t stop at that. I’ll be encouraging my kids to get outside and explore our back yard, walking the nature trails near our house, as well as taking advantage of our garage gym and jiujitsu mats for both physical activity, fresh air, and a different approach to learning.
Not to mention, I always have a house project or two on the go. So yesterday my oldest spent an hour with me learning how to bleach the grout lines in our bathtub, as well as removing the existing silicone caulking and replacing it.
Probably not his favourite DIY lesson, but he enjoyed using the tools (particularly the caulking gun).
The Bottom Line
Home school doesn’t need to look anything like regular school. Get a rough routine in place so both you and your child know the expectations of each day. Be consistent, but also give them an opportunity to learn about the things that interest them. Whatever that may be.
As unsettling as the reasons or this departure from the norm is, can you think of any other time in our lives where we’ve had to adjust so drastically, so quickly? It’s unprecedented. And it’s also kind of an interesting challenge that we’ve had thrust upon us. How we choose to perceive and respond to this will greatly impact not only how our kids will view it, but what they will take away from this experience as well.
If you want to incorporate finance into your daily learning plans, which I highly recommend, check out my 4 part series on how to teach your kids about finance, with tips and tricks for every age.
Also – I had the pleasure of being invited back as a guest to Explore FI Canada to talk about this exact topic. So if you want to hear more information/ideas, check out the podcast here! And be sure to check out the show notes, which are CHALK full of learning resources to help you create fun learning opportunities for the coming weeks.
Hope everyone is staying safe, and following their area’s recommended social distancing practices. We’ll get through all of this together, but in the meantime, let’s make the best of it. For ourselves, and for our kids.
This is SUCH a fantastic post, Phia! I love your take on homeschooling. It’s so natural and low-pressure.
It almost makes me want to make this accidental homeschooling a permanent thing. (Emphasis on ‘almost’—I’m such an introvert, it’s hard to imagine my kids around all day, every day, the whole year through. Ha ha.)
However, even when my kids eventually go back to school, these tips will be great to use anytime, including any school breaks. You’ve shown me how easy it is to build learning into our everyday lives. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks so much Chrissy 🙂 so glad you enjoyed it (and feel inspired to incorporate aspects into your own kids learning!). I’m hoping that as so many people are thrust into this position of facilitating their kids education, that collectively we all become more aware that learning can happen organically, and just as effectively, in our day to day lives 🙂
I totally get the “almost”, I’m an introvert myself, and I won’t lie, it’s been a constant consideration when I think about home schooling our youngest lol.