Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Trying new homeschool methods

I've been homeschooling since The Artist was in kindergarten, so this makes our 4th year. But I am still learning, adapting, changing things as we go. I guess that makes sense, because my children are also learning, changing and adapting. What worked for us last year may not continue to work through this year. Or last month to this month, for that matter.

There are so many choices and options out there that it makes my head spin at times. I find one thing that will be "just perfect" for the Nature Man. Another tool or book that is suited for Dash. And other materials, of course, that work for my Artist. So I end up with a huge modge podge of materials, with introductions to new things weekly.

Of course, we still have our basic structure that we stick to. Bible in the morning, then read-alouds during breakfast (I'm currently reading Heidi to the kids.) Then we do our meeting time in the living room, with the calendar, clock, and counting. This is when I should do the pledge, but I always seem to forget after the first month or so of school.

~Note to self: start pledge again tomorrow.~"In God we trust..."

I like the idea of the Unit Studies approach, with clear connections under each topic. For instance, a Pioneer Days theme might include reading and writing about the times and people, making a craft representative of Pioneer times and gaining skills by cooking a meal from Pioneer recipes and learning Pioneer songs. I think this would really help the boys. I bought the Konos unit studies and I've been enjoying those. Lots of work, lots of hands-on. I have to really pick-and-choose how much to do, or I won't have time for any of our more classical readings.
I also love the Classical method, which particularly suits my eldest. There is a definitive body of knowledge found in the great books that have been passed down to us through the centuries. I really enjoy the Charlotte Mason method. In addition to classic lit, she emphasizes the importance of being outside and learning from creation, which I love. This combines two of my greatest loves: nature and reading.

All this to say, I know what I like, but I can't always seem to get it all done. I tried the Managers of Their Homes rigid scheduling. I know it doesn't have to be rigid, but if I have a schedule posted, then I tend to let it rule me. We could abide by it until about lunchtime, and then other matters crept into the picture...things not on the schedule. And, since I tend to be a black and white thinker, the moment we were off-schedule, the schedule went entirely out the window. Of course, by lunchtime we had our "serious" work done anyway, and then we could just relax and focus on music and art and being outside. Still "school stuff."

I've decided now that we just need a basic plan. And the kids need to be more responsible for the plan. I can't keep telling them to focus, finish this up, check on that, sit back down, and so on. Frankly, I don't care of they hang upside down and do their reading, just so long as it gets done and they are comprehending it. :-) The more fun the better, right? So I've started the "drawer method." No, this is not a technical term. Heh.

I just have one of those little plastic caddy things with three drawers. The kids each have their own drawer with their name on it. All of their work, readings, etc for that day are ready, in their drawer, when they wake up. Besides Bible and group time and readings, they can do drawer work in any order they want, just so long as it's done by the time their Daddy gets home. Now, granted, there is still quite a bit of oversight at this point, or 1st grade Nature Man would be lazy all day and wait until the last couple hours to speed through all of his work. I do make him work on something, but he gets to choose. He always puts reading last, little bugger.

Every time they finish a page or chapter, they put it at the bottom of the drawer, under the work to be done. When it's all done, the drawer is put back in the caddy. I try to check their work as they go, and have them correct things immediately. Then Daddy looks over all the work after supper. So far this new method seems to be working. I've only had one day in the last two weeks when one of the kids has had to work into the evening. Of course, it was Nature Man.

I'm always curious about the methods that other people use, but I've noticed that parents can be particularly guarded about their schedules and philosophies. Can't say I blame anyone. My mother-in-law commented the other day that the homeschooler down the street from them was "always outside playing after lunch." As if there was a problem with that. I actually laughed out loud at her, and then shook my head in disbelief. Some people are so ignorant. Why shouldn't a child be playing outside after lunch? Don't even public school children play outside during the day, weather permitting? And isn't it best to learn about nature by being in nature? That's the immersion method, right? :-) Believe it or not, children can even read outside. Or listen to stories being read. Mine seem to manage it just fine.

In general, I think that school for boys is much harder. They want to move and wiggle. They seem to have a harder time staying focused for very long....although Nature Man can watch a grasshopper or snake for hours.... so I guess it's really about being motivated in those things that are less fun for him. And finding ways to make things more fun, whenever possible.
Sooooo,anyway, that's us.Just "thinking out loud."


Elizabeth Haught said...

I have lost your email address. Could you email me

The Ellcey's said...

when I was homeschooled I did ACE. I've since heard some criticism of the curriculum, but it worked really well for me. We only did ACE b/c I was actually enrolled in their correspondence school so we didn't have as many freedoms to explore (but my mom worked much better this way. I don't think she would have had the courage to homeschool otherwise). Any way, what I really liked about the system we used was goal setting. We had a chart where we set daily & weekly goals for how many pages in each subject we would do. It didn't matter what order we did our subjects in just so long as they got done. It taught me a lit about setting reasonable goals & achieving them.

Ann-Marie said...

Keep trying new stuff - you may hit upon a genius idea. Your school already sounds a lot more fun than mine ever was.

MemoryMaker said...

Isn't it funny that people just dont understand how children learn. They learn so much from just playing outside. Many people dont realize that gross motor skills go hand in hand with fine motor and cognitive. If kids aren't allowed to play outside and run and jump and climb.. they miss some very important developmental milestones. Now, dont get me started on taking out all the trees and tire swings and giving our kids cement playgrounds... that's a whole different story. Of course, homeschoolers and schools like mine- dont have that problem. :)