I was in line at the post office today (it has become a Tuesday ritual, praise God, to mail my Etsy sales out after the weekend) and the post lady inquired if school was out. I said, "not for us...we homeschool." School is, in fact, always in session.
I was inspired by a wise friend to talk a little bit about what we do every day; check out her blog to read more about her awesome approach. If you aren't a homeschooling family, you might wonder what exactly goes on. If you are, perhaps you need a little encouragement (or some ideas...surely that can't just be me).
Let me begin by saying that I'm a teacher by trade and old habits die hard. I was trained to teach in traditional methods. The learning curve for me has been letting some of those things I was taught (both in my school-aged years and as a student in university) go. I don't want my son to feel trapped by papers and desks. That being said, we still do a lot of "traditional" type schooling--though I feel myself slowly letting go of those methods.
So, here's what my 6-year-old actually does:
1. He plays. Korban and Shalem (4 years old) play a lot. They have epic battles, ride in the rodeo, catch bad guys, work in zoos, race cars, and everything in between. Their relationship is wondrous. I marvel at how well they play together...using their imagination to create scenes I could only wish to see. They are working out interpersonal skills and conflict resolution (I said they play well, not perfectly). They are creating a life-long friendship.
2. He reads. Since K was a little boy, he has loved books. When he was a wee little peanut, the house would be silent and I would nervously search for what type of disaster he was creating-- 9 times out of 10 there was only a pile of books with him sitting right in the middle. Though we had a bit of a hard time getting him to actually enjoy reading the words (last year was a bit rough), today he reads with enthusiasm. He still loves to look at a whole host of books and it makes my heart glad when I hear him trying to sound out the words he is unsure of. He can read age-appropriate books and is practising his tone and inflection.
3. We experiment. Nothing makes Korban happier than science experiments. He loves to colour change, explode, grow, catch on fire, poke, and prod...just about anything I'll let him get his hands on! Sometimes we do planned science experiments and sometimes we just discover. This is such fun and imaginative learning. Pinterest is a great resource for finding age-appropriate experiments,but so is life!
4. We create. This year drawing, doodling, and other forms of art have been high on our list. I spend a lot of time crafting for my Etsy shop, and my boys often ask to join in. Rather than say no, I allow them to create their own art. We bought a great book, The Usborne Book of Drawing and Doodling for Boys, and both my kiddos just love it!! I want them to grow up appreciating art and the creative minds they have!
5. Study high interest topics. My friend (whom I mentioned earlier in this post) alludes to her son not liking to write. Perhaps this is universal. Korban acts like I'm pulling out his hairs one by one when I ask him to write. It is like torture for him. BUT, both his attitude and ability are slowly improving, in part because I allow him to write about whatever he wants. His journal is a mash up of superheroes, bad guys, bombs, animals, and bugs. He writes and draws, and then we talk about it. We discuss the topic, his words (spelling and capitalization errors or wins), and often he recopies the sentences again, without the mistakes. One of the most motivational ways to get him to write is by creating a book. This year he has created 2 books...cereal box bound with brads, each containing 4 or 5 pages of pictures and story. He is SOOOO (great grammar there) proud of these books. He reads and rereads them to anyone who will listen!
We also research topics he loves. If he asks a question, we spend some time working it out. 2 nights ago he asked why the moth outside was desperately trying to get to our dining room light. So, for school yesterday we answered that question...6-year-old-style. We read some articles, watched a video on YouTube, and then he wrote a "report". The page has a picture and 4 sentences on it. It is perfectly wonderful and age-appropriate...plus, he was highly motivated because the subject matter interested him.
This is a picture of his little report (which now hangs in our art hall). We brainstormed beforehand, then he wrote this (you're seeing the edited version). There wasn't enough room for all the reasons a moth might fly towards a light, so he chose the most important one, "Or bugs are dumb." True 6-year-old-boy reporting right there.
6. We repeat. Korban does a lot of things in many different ways. Take math, for example. He understands concepts, but struggles with the abstract applications. So, we do math all day long. He doesn't always know (although he's catching on to my sly methods). I ask him to help me add the number of spoons I've laid out for lunch. We'll skip count the calendar dates until his birthday. I'll have him help his brother sort matchbox cars by colour. He patterns Lego. We decide together if a household item is symmetrical. He also does a lot of math worksheets and games. Repetition: some fun and full of life application, some plain old rote math memorization--all of it helping him to have a solid foundation in mathematics.
7. We reward. Korban works hard and I don't want to diminish that. I also don't want him to think that completing the littlest task deserves a party. He works for blocks of time and is rewarded with play. At the end of a successful school day (which is not every day I might add), he gets 30 minutes screen time. And (this one may be his favourite) when he finishes a consumable book (one that can not be reused), we burn it. Oh how he loves to have a burn party in our fire pit! It marks a great level of achievement for him and feeds his sense of adventure. Want your little boy to finish a workbook...promise he'll get to take a torch to it and I nearly guarantee it'll get done quicker!
In short (do I ever write anything that meets that description??), we love what we do together at home. It isn't easy, but it is full of learning and fun.
Ok, my husband just went downstairs to pain the ceiling--that's my cue to get up and help. (Am I the only one who just
loves detests working on house projects after the kids go to bed?!?) We need to get some work done before it is "off to bed"--tomorrow is a school day, after all!