Sunday, August 16, 2009

How to Homeschool: Getting Started

So you've chosen your path. If you've picked the whole boxed curriculum, or taken pieces from various publishers to create your own whole curriculum, then a lot of the work is done. Ordering, organizing and scheduling are pretty much all that's left on your to-do list. Now I, ahem, am not an organizing or scheduling expert and even if I were, my anonymous advice to you wouldn't necessarily help much. You need to do what works for you. I could tell you to order your materials and schedule to go: Math, Science, Reading, Social Science. I might start you off at 8am and give you 15 - 30 minute intervals through the rest of the day. But that system may not work for you or for your child. You'll have to do the best with what space you have. Maybe you've got a whole basement or a dedicated room. Maybe you've got the dining room or kitchen table. Maybe your child gets into everything and isn't gentle or maybe they never mess with anything other than their toys. But I will give you some schedule guidelines that are general enough they can give you a starting point if you're still feeling lost. These are helpful for both rigid and flexible paths.

Start the morning with ease, such as: review what you taught yesterday, but not in a pop-quiz style; start off with a morning song or a learning song; give them a coloring sheet or journal assignment that would take 10-15 minutes at most. Now that their mind is awake, jump in with their least favorite or hardest subject, which are usually one in the same. Find a way to incorporate an activity they like at the end of that lesson. If they dislike math but like physical activity, call out a math problem and give them an activity to perform the number of times as the answer. "2 times 2 jumping jacks". If they dislike history but like art, use the end of the lesson to bring in a coloring worksheet or spend a few minutes working on a time-line collage. They've done something difficult and had a little "break" so the next subject should be their next least favorite. End that lesson in a similar manner as the first. By now it's likely time for lunch or at least a snack. Montessorians and Unschoolers take meal times as opportunity for further lessons. Montessori incorporates basic household duties into their daily work; which teach responsibility, foster independence and hone manual dexterity. Unschoolers and Montessorians will also incorporate a school lesson. Counting, measuring, dividing, geography, botany, biology, chemistry, and reading can all be part of making meals. Work on manners and social graces at meal times, too. After lunch is a good time for their favorite activity. They are full of energy and excited and not often all that focused after lunch. A favored work will engage them enough that they can use that energy to complete and enjoy their task. See if your day will allow you for 2 more lessons. It is quite possible, as homeschoolers rarely need as much time for a lesson as is allowed in a traditional school. For the next to last lesson pick something they like or are indifferent about. Preferably it holds some challenge for them though, as their minds should still be able to focus at this point. For their last lesson, pick a subject that tends to be easy for them. Their minds are winding down and ending this way also gives them an "up" rather than bringing them down and discouraged about school work. Let them run around a bit and clean up before dinner. Use your evening routine as gentle reinforcement of the days lessons for the younger kids. It's a bit harder to sneak in calculus in a casual manner.

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