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Monday, November 09, 2009

Homeschooling: The Ride

I don't know who is learning more these days, me, or the children. Homeschooling them has been like a roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs, and surprising turns. I get a lot of different reactions when people find out that's what we're doing. Most people think we're crazy, and some days, I am one of them. I have gotten a surprising amount of support as well though. There are plenty of times I brace myself, ready for a fight, and instead find the other person warm and accepting. I also find that a lot of people are curious about the whole thing. I thought I'd give everyone a glimpse into what a typical day is like around here.

I consider us eclectic schoolers, with a bit of Montessori philosophy thrown in. I pick and choose from several curricula, because I don't believe a certain one is the "be all end all". I even have downloaded from the local school district's site a checklist of everything that the kids would be learning if they were in public school, which has been a nice security blanket for me. Especially when I look and see that there are things there that the kids already know.

I am also am very open to tangents, which is partly where the Montessori comes into play. When it comes to things like history or science, I have things from all of the various curricula that we could explore. At times, I do bring them up. However, I find that if I just ask the kids what *they* want to learn, we go down some interesting pathways. And this might sound touchy-feely to some people, but we are very open to just letting life teach. An example- a friend of mine went to Italy on vacation a while back. I was looking through the pictures she took on Facebook when Ryan came up, interested. Some of the pictures were in Rome, and Ryan started asking several things, and with his interest and my gentle guidance, we ended up talking for about an hour about Roman Empire. We discussed the history, the culture, and Ryan's favorite part, the military tactics that made them so successful. Ryan didn't realize it, but for that hour, we were having school, and he learned a lot. And since he was truly interested, he retained it as well.

Anyways, a look at our day today. Today we did math, grammar, and science. Last night I spent time making manipulatives for fractions. I found some great premade one online, and colored and covered them with contact paper and cut them into wedges. (For those interested, I found them here: link) This is an example of gentle guidance. I made these manipulatives, and then just threw them on the table and told the kids to play with them. Amazing things happened. Things like "Look mom, two of these is the same as one of these!" After a while I sat with them and played too, and started coming up with problems for them to solve, like "If I wanted to add this one (1/2) and this one (1/3), how could we figure out how much that is?" Lindsay was more interested with how many different configurations she could come up with to make a whole circle, so it was Ryan who played along, and he did a good job figuring things out. (And he didn't know it, but he was the one I was targeting anyways, as adding fractions of different denominators is a skill he's supposed to learn this year.) We had a good time, and the kids were none the wiser that they'd actually been doing some serious math.

Then it was on to grammar, and today was the first day of a new program we're trying. It came with manipulatives as well, so the kids dug it, and did their worksheet for the day about nouns and articles without much complaint.

We rounded up the serious part of the day with science, where we discussed matter, and the different classifications of solids, liquids, and gasses, and the properties of each. Today was a discussion day (think round table discussion with laughter and writing on the whiteboard thrown in), but the kids are totally stoked for tomorrow, because experiments have been promised.

Now before you think of this whole day as some sort of fairy tale day, where I floated around with a Mary Poppins type glow, I should let you in on what else was going on. In between the magical schooling moments were moments of Logan clogging the toilet, a fight breaking out about a train, Lindsay disappearing to play in the boys' room, Hannah climbing the entertainment center to put movies in, and Ryan drawing a very good, detailed, but totally not on any topic at all, depiction of Godzilla attacking New York City.

All in all though, I think it was a successful day.


The Mrs. said...

Go, Meghann! You are doing something I'm quite certain I could never do. How fantastic for your kids. I can't wait to hear more homeschooling adventures (especially those behind the scenes moments - LOL).

Jim said...

I concur - I couldn't do it, either. Nor could Les. So hats off to you!

And I was thinking about all the "non-school" stuff you mentioned that happened, and I bet if you really, really added it all up, out of a typical seven hour school day at a public or parochial school, there probably isn't any more "real learning" going on, in terms of time spent with brains actually engaged, than what you're getting out of the kids at home. I mean, you have all the "stand in line," "recite from rote," "go to recess," "go to lunch," "do busywork" and so one stuff at school, and if they get two hours of actual teaching going into actual heads during a day, they probably feel lucky.

I, too, would like to hear more about it as you go.

Jim said...

Trivial comment here just to subscribe to follow up comments 'cause I forgot. :o)

Meghann said...

The Mrs.-thanks for the encouragement, it is much needed.

Dad-Thanks for the encouragement as well. And you're right about the time thing. We're actually only required to do 4 1/2 hours of schooling for it to count as an official school day, which really made me think. It really fits our personality too, since those 4 1/2 hours don't have to be during daylight hours, or in a row.

Jim said...

Well, and it's unnatural as all get out to expect children, especially pre-teens, to sit and concentrate and pay attention for long blocks of time, anyway. Part of the industrial revolution model of schooling that should probably be tossed anyway.

Lacey said...

You are doing awesome and I think the broad curriculum, including life experiences is truly the best way for children to learn. I really wish I could homeschool Jacey, but I fear not having the patience nor ability to keep up with her. WTG!!

Michelle said...

:) Sounds like my day! We've been homeschooling this way for our 11th year! Finding what works best for our family has made all the difference. I'm so glad it's going so well for you too!

Meghann said...


Michelle-I'd still like to be a fly on your wall for a day to see how you do it.