During our school year last year I wrote about how a day in the life of our home school is divided between family school and one on one time… and I thought I had pretty much covered all the details… but a friend asked me the other day to write a post on how we do the specifics… and in my head this post grew into something huge, an essay for each topic and a blog series about twenty years long… because you know how homeschool moms love to talk about homeschooling.
Then I had a bit of a reality check… most folk just want to know how we tackle certain topics and how we conquer areas of school, not the entire back story. So here it is a “how we… do school” kind of a post, a list of resources and ideas. I may have left a couple of things off… feel free to ask about things I may have simply forgotten to add them in. Also, this is what we are using right now, it’s not prescriptive, but it works for us and it will change many times before we are done. The time has come the walrus said, for homeschoolers to stop fretting about every move they make… and just start doing the school they believe in.
How We Do Just About Every School Subject I Was Asked About:
- History: I have to say that we use Sonlight as the backbone of our our schooling, which is a literature rich, history rich curriculum… we love it. We have used it from the start and we will continue to use it… what could be better than reading your way, using stories, to learn about history. Each of my kids is doing their own level of school and as a family we have been marching our way through the History of the World in 100o objects… it has taken a year and a half and we have reached the 1600’s… so a little way to go and we will have to think of something new to read together.
- Bible Study: We begin our day reading from the Bible and we go around the table with everyone reading a verse or two… they get to practise their reading aloud and they enjoy following along and getting a turn to read. Otherwise we always have a missionary biography or a bible study book that we read a chapter from, as well.
- Science: They read their own science according to their curriculum, our high schoolers use Apologia and love it. I am guessing it isn’t so hard to read a page or two from a science books everyday, the difficult thing is actually doing all those experiments… that don’t seem so bad at first glance, and then they you miss a week or three and suddenly overwhelm sets in. To keep up with experiments we have science weeks where the only formal school is doing science experiments… I pop all the science goodies we need for a theme out on the counter and they are pretty much played with and experimented with for the duration. A week or two back we looked at electricity… they made circuits, torches, buzzers, batteries and so on… my kids think this is just another type of creative art class and have no idea that this is actual work.
- English Grammar: Two or three times a week I have a one on one meeting with my kids and then we do a little bit of Winston Grammar together… that’s it. Everyone at their own level and pace. I have found the slower we go the more we retain… so the workbook literally lasts us years. It is tempting to say if we do a worksheet a week then we will finish the book in a year… but really… we take two maybe three years before moving on to the advanced level books… and not all my kids are really need to do the advanced level grammar… if it is their passion they will pursue it, otherwise enough is enough.
- English Writing: I have a feeling that in order for us to apply ourselves to our writing it has to be the real thing… it is hard to write “pretend letters” and it is difficult to write without a purpose. In the primary school years we try and write a very little something everyday… and I try and make it real, a letter to granny or a letter to a friend, create a shopping list for an outing, put forward an outing proposal and so on. In high school I let my kids find online courses in things that interest them… these courses usually require some sort of writing and feedback from the students. If you have ever taught a teen then you will know that it is a lot easier for them to raise their game and write something excellent for anybody that isn’t there parent person… just saying, outsourcing is a good thing. And otherwise there is NANORIMO in November, our older kids commit to that every year and write their way through the month of November.
- Poetry: They each have their own beautiful poetry book to work through as part of their curriculum, but to be honest… these can get a bit lost in the mix and while poetry tea-times are lovely, they happen more occasionally than consistently. But I want our kids to appreciate words and the flow of language so I keep a poetry book next to the kitchen table and when someone is lagging we read a couple of poems. We have found The Works series of poetry to be fantastic, and we are reading our way through this one right now. This one has a se7en poems from fifty two poets… so a poem a day… it is a delightful mix of classic and contemporary, poignant and funny… we love it, we never know who will be next next, it is a book full of lovely surprises. We don’t analyse the poems, we don’t discuss their inner, deeper meanings… we just enjoy them. I read a couple of poems at a time and then ask around the table for their favourites and why they like them or don’t like them… and that’s it.
- Public Speaking: It looks like all our kids’ friends are always doing orals at school… and while my kids redefine chatterbox, their public speaking skills were poor. So we worked on it… I spent one evening a week with my teens, we googled “public speaking tips” we tackled a tip a week and then they gave us a three minute talk each week on a quick and simple topic. A few weeks of mildly concentrated effort and their public speaking efforts improved dramatically.
- A Second Language: Find someone around you fluent in a language different to your own and let your kids learn it… Our kids learn French and they love it. Otherwise I really battled to teach our kids Afrikaans for years, which is silly since I speak it. We tried lists of words, days of the week, counting and so on… boring snoring… we tried easy workbooks recommended by other homeschoolers… yawn. And then I read an article on teaching your children a second language and how immersion is the way to go. In six hours a day your children will learn super fast, my kids speak French on two hours a week, and epiphany warning there is absolutely nothing wrong with fifteen minutes a day. I have always read to my kids in Afrikaans, read and explained and read and explained… but now I have been picking a picture book from the library and we read it on Monday and I explain it, and then I read the same story book every lunchtime for the week… and they are learning heaps. I think hearing the same words again and again helps and just the ten to fifteen minutes in the language helps… when their Afrikaans friends can’t talk in front of them “in secret” anymore, then you know you are winning.
- Current Events: Podcasts or Youtube are your friend… about once a week, sometimes more and sometimes less we have a news hour: CNN Student News, TEDtalks for Kids and Family. and look for something interesting on Kahn Academy.
- Geography: We have a world Map on the wall and whenever we read something we look for it on the world map, otherwise last year we tracked the we take a look at where the Hokulea Voyage on youtube, and Lonely Planet is there for travel adventures as well.
- Computer Studies: Like myself, my kids tend to learn what they need to know and leave it there… one of them has a shine for all things computerish, and he has found whatever he needed to know. I must say that if your child is planning to study anything at all after school then they need to be able to find their way around a computer and safely around the internet. Our best resource for that… is actually Tim Chase’s Free Digital Learning Course. Our high schoolers have done this, it had given them the tools and skills to go much further than they could have done on their own. By the time they have completed one online course they are ready to dive into into online learning… and learning programming is second nature to those with that passion.
- Music: I am all for podcasts and listen to them whenever I can. For music appreciation look no further than the podcast Classics for Kids, pick a musician of the week, listen to their podcast and look for the “Best of your ‘Musician of the Week'” online” and you are done. My oldest kids played instruments but my goodness lessons got really expensive really quickly… for our younger kids BBC Schools Radio is a fantastic resource that they have really enjoy. They sing along, they act out the story, they love it. Right now we are listening to Code Crackers, and previously they have listened to The Great Fire of London and World War 1, Archies War.
- Art: For Art Appreciation, there are any number of fabulous book in our library and I bring one home a week and leave it on the coffee table to inspire. There is a huge difference between art and crafts… and my kids are natural crafters… they just never stop making stuff and I love that. Once or twice a week we start school by doing an art project from Artistic Pursuits Series, each lesson comes with a classic work or artist to learn about and then a new technique to try. I am quite allergic to art programs that tell folk what to do exactly… these books tend to be the “how to do something” rather than follow each step, so everyone produces their own unique artwork. The materials are easy to source and I work alongside my kids. Otherwise for actual drawing… we keep soft art pencils, with our art materials and my kids draw while they listen to audio books, not everyday… but once or twice a week.
- Math: For school our kids use Singapore math, it is hard work and slowly and steadily we tackle it. Last year we started reading a chapter a day of the Life of Fred and our kids have really loved it. So recently I have been looking for fun ways to do math, ways that challenge them to think mathematically and also have a heap of fun at the same time. But that’s a whole ‘nother blogpost.
- Phys Ed: Well we hike a lot, and in order to hike we need to stay fairly fit… so a daily walk and for some of the older guys a daily run, at least. We just don’t use our car unless we absolutely have to, pretty much once a week and that’s it.
- Cooking and Life Skills: Everybody has their signature dish, wether they know it or not, that they are working on… particularly cookies they make each week or dinner one night a week… I know they can fend for themselves and run a house… it is just about getting good at it now.
- Real Life Studies: One evening a week I sit with my teens and we read books about relationships and marriage and dating… I want my kids to grow up and have the best chance at good relationships and I discovered that saying you can ask me anything at anytime was miles away from enough of a conversation opener for our kids. How do you ask about stuff you don’t have a clue about… you have to know something to ask something more. So if your teens aren’t asking you anything may I suggest that you start telling them things and talking about relationships. It is not enough to think your kids will grow up and leave home and one day find a husband or wife and live happily forever after… they need the tools to know how to do this and the nest way is to engage them in conversation. I have found hot cocoa and some good books to be just the conversation starter that we needed.
That’s everything I could possibly think of, off the top of my head… don’t faint this is not what we do every single day by any means. Far from it… but it is how we tackle things bit by bit… chipping away at the things together, giving my kids as much free time as possible, for them to pursue their passions. Also, there are seasons for different themes in school, we can go for months without looking at a particular topic, and then we just dive in again where we left off… so this list is a list of how we tackle topics, not necessarily all the topics we we are doing at a given time.