- What does your typical day looks like?
Hmmm, this is not as easy to answer this question as you think, because in the scheme of life typical days are hard to find. And a homeschool is always evolving, from season to season, lazy afternoons of summer to cold crispy wintery mornings. Our days are broken up into chunks of time, the endless weaving of life seems to naturally divide our life into time for meals and time for chores, time for learning and time for exploring, time for working and time for resting.
We do have a day that we aim for and it looks something like this: Breakfast is followed by family school time, when we all sit around the table and work together. Mid-morning we take a break outdoors. After this the children work on their own projects, their own history journal and science and any work books that they are working through. I usually spend one-on-one time with everyone during this time slot, as long as they need, and different children on different days. Followed by lunch… during lunch I will read to them. And immediately after lunch everyone reads, including myself, for about an hour. Some folk continue to read for hours and others can’t wait to dash off and play outdoors. Each to their own. Most afternoons are free for playing, I guard their time fairly fiercely and don’t fill it up with “things to do,” free time is free time and their’s to spend as however they would like.
- How do you know when they are doing enough activities?
The answer to this question follows on immediately from the previous question. I have a feeling that if our children are busy and engaged during their free time then they are probably doing quite enough activities. If they don’t have free time, then clearly the are doing too much. And if they are bored during their free time then they are probably getting far to used to being entertained by someone else and most likely have too many activities on their cards. The thing is children love activities – I know mine do. There is nothing on earth that they wouldn’t sign up for. That doesn’t mean that they have to do them all. In the world where many children have far too much and many more have far too little, it is very hard to find the right balance.
While the price of extra-murals quickly adds up, especially if on has eight children. Our decision to do very few activities outside of school actually aligns with our school philosophy in general, than with financial or time limitations. It just makes more sense to encourage a lifestyle that includes exercise naturally and a daily run/walk, than a number of children sitting in a car waiting for their siblings to finish sport. In the same vein, we would prefer that our children developed a habit of creating, generating their own projects and spending their days inventing their own art or scientific projects than necessarily sitting in a class being told what to create. When our children are old enough to find their own way to and from activities they tend to explore further afield and I have no problem with out sourcing things that they are eager to learn. Right now our extra-murals include a foreign language for our high-schoolers, the boys all do woodwork once a month and we spend one day a month in the local nature reserve. However my kids don’t call those extra-murals they are fully part of their schooling experience.
- This looks like too much fun, when do they actually learn?
What you see on instagram and our blog are not necessarily the gnashing of teeth that goes hand in hand with our cultures typical idea of learning. To be honest, homeschooling isn’t school at home and a lot of what our children do really is fun. They learn a lot from being read to, they learn a lot from looking things up and doing research and they learn a lot while they are playing. But what about the drudgery? What about the writing assignments or the math practice? Yes, there are assignments that they balk at and before you think my children are all perfectly sitting around the table doing whatever I ask of them, they don’t. But experience has shown them that if they work hard at something they are a lot more likely to get into a topic and enjoy it… what you put in really is what you get out.
Also, after years of homeschooling I have learnt to find an alternative way to get things done, for example the same child that cannot face doing any sort of creative writing assignment has a shoe box full of stories they have written in notebooks all beautifully illustrated and carefully written out word for word. Apparently writing books is more her thing and actually I can live with that. When it comes to math, nobody here loves it, except maybe me (!!!), and so I do that alongside them and we figure out what needs to be done in an exercise before they go off and do it. When that exercise is done then they can book another appointment and spend some more time alongside me preparing the next exercise… eventually they all get back to me. Some take a little longer than others, but that’s another reason why we homeschool – folks can work at their own pace. I can say that there was one day when everyone did math voluntarily and the very next day there was snow on the streets of Cape Town… coincidence, I think not!!!
- Everyone Says Homeschoolers Have to do Nature Journals… Where do I begin?
I actually thought that the whole idea of homeschooling was that you do what works of your family, so if your family is not into nature journals – really don’t go there. REALLY. The idea that everyone is doing something specific is really just another version of the whole comparison story and actually the one thing that everyone should be doing is just not comparing their homeschool with someone else.
That being said, we do have nature journals, they are not filled with beautifully pressed flowers, or beautifully illustrated notes on the observations we have made… in fact not even all that beautiful. We do what works for us, which is really a blank notebook, with a 4B pencil, that goes in their backpacks on every single outing, hike or otherwise, with us. And when we take a break they tend to take out their nature journals and draw. Sometimes they will fill their journals with watercolours, or pencil crayons when they get home and other times they won’t. One of them likes to make notes, others don’t. There are no rules. I reckon if they are drawing then they are observing and they are learning. I draw alongside them and I really enjoy that it is something that we do together. We don’t plan special nature journaling days, except occasionaly, but never underestimate the power of spontaneity and opportunity though, if we visit the museum, or the park or the aquarium then they will most likely draw in them.
- Where do your children find friends?
This could be the socialisation question all over again. Homeschooled children are not taught in isolation, they are taught while living and because of that they have a lot of scope to meet folk of all ages and stages over days and even weeks. My children seem to have no problem accumulating friends and like I have friends with the different things that I do, so do they. Our calendar is packed with folk stopping by and I am guessing that if we had one or two kids it would look like one or two visitors a week, but with eight the stream of friends in and out of our house is somewhat endless, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. They do tend not to know that they should be friends with people just they own age and they have a wide range of age group friends, from the grannies and students that they meet at church and youth group, my friends and friends that they have gathered from just living life. In fact, can I just say that it is actually impossible for our kids not to find friends, at the beach, in the library, to and from the store… passing the same folk everyday.
- So how exactly do you use the 100 Lessons in your School?
The question of teaching your kids to read often comes up on our blog and we do use the book “Teach your Kids to Read in 100 Lessons.” I have to emphasise that 100 lessons is not 100 days and unless you have an extremely motivated parent-child team you will not have a child reading in three months time. Reading is one of those things that society says your children have to do by the time they start primary school, grade 1 at the latest. The truth is that some children start much earlier and tons of children start much later. I have said it before and I will say it again, literacy and reading are to different things. Literacy is about engaging with and absorbing books and in this day and age, reading is not the only way to get that done and there is no reason why a child that doesn’t read well needs to be illiterate, there are plenty of tools available to help the reader who is taking a while to grasp the skills.
This leads onto reading, which of course is a decoding skill. We have found that our children tend to stagger their learning – a few lessons in a row and then the book is abandoned for a while, wile that stage is absorbed, suddenly they get it and ready for the next step. Of course, a little bit every day helps a lot, but the “learning to read” brain likes to take a couple of steps forward from time to time. I have to say that a couple of times we have started the 100 lessons enthusiastically and then given up… the child in question was just not quite ready. If you find yourself battling then put it aside and try again later, eventually there is nothing you can do to stop them sounding out words and trying new words.
- If your children are sharing a core, do you buy two lots of books?
This is a very specific Sonlight question and since we are avid Sonlighters let me see if I can answer it. A core is Sonlight’s term for grade level, and all of our children actually do their own cores. They do partner up for some subjects, I have found it useful for them to have a partner to work with for science and I have never found the need for them to have their own books. They share books happily, if there is a book that more than one person is using then that book is left in a communal place, like on the coffee table. Keeping in mind that they never have to read much more than a double spread from any book on a given day, and that doesn’t take long at all, I think it is perfectly feasible to expect them to share a book. If it is a book that they have to fill in, a consumable book, then naturally they each get their own – but mostly if a book overlaps then they take turns to get their reading done.
And the se7en + 1 the question…
- What do our younger kids do during family reading time?
Ever since we began homeschooling there have been little people underfoot while we do school and I have to say there is a period of time when you can do almost no reading unless little people are asleep. For my first born I used to get up with him really early and we had all his school reading done by the time the others started to emerge. A nursing babe in arms was always an excuse to do a little more reading. But there is that sweet time in a little person’s life when they have to have all your attention and reading to someone else is not that… I made it a priority to always have our next school book with us, in the car, in the park – anywhere where those little people might fall asleep and take a even a momentary nap.
Most of our reading takes place at the table right now, as soon as I have finished eating, I begin reading, while we wait for the younger slower munchers. Also there are a couple of toys next to the table and if I read for “too long” they will perhaps get out a puzzle and play a little. Otherwise I shake it up somewhat and will go and read outside, there is no end to things that little people can discover to do and play with while I am reading in a shady spot or with our feet dipping into a paddle pool. I do have a low tolerance for noise around me while I am reading – I cannot have children scrabbling with lego, while I am trying to read but I don’t mind if they are drawing. I can’t have little side-conversations, or folk talking to me while we are reading… there is a time and a place to talk to me and its not actually while I am reading.
I know when my children were really small I would even read to them while they were in the bath… and almost always their story book for the day would become a bed time story. Leaving bed time stories until bedtime though never really worked for us because toddlers tend to get desperate for sleep and can be somewhat disruptive… immediately after their afternoon nap, while they are sleepy and kind of hazy was a good time to do that last bit of reading. The trick really is to find the moments and if you don’t have enough moments in a day then you are probably aiming a little high. One or two pages of history, one or two pages of science, a bible story and a chapter book are about as much as we can handle for any school day… more than that I am floundering about. So perhaps lessening your load and expectations during the busy toddler season is an idea for conquering this as well.
Click on the button below to find many more homeschooling questions that we have asked and answered before and if you have a question feel free to ask away and I will address it as soon as I can…