My apologies for the delay in posting or updating you regarding all things homeschool. The year 2020 will go down in history books as the year that broke us all in some facet. But what I've learned in the last 6 months is surely going to stay with me for the rest of my life. These little tid bits are so powerful, they made me question who I was, my role in life, how others perceive me, and what I seek to accomplish. But none of it mattered when I realized there are some things in life you just have to face... And homeschooling was the one motivational factor that set the wheels of a "new philosophy" in motion. But it wasn't just the philosophy that got me thinking about our homeschool... It was the fact that even 8 years later, I was still stuck in the public-school frame of mind.
I wanted out!
First and foremost, I'll reiterate something I have said since I started this site: What works for one person, may not work for everyone. There is no perfect way to homeschool that can be generalized for the masses. So the following pertains to our homeschool, my reflections, how I have understood the world around me, and the actions I am taking to be less frazzled and more focused.
I started by truly analyzing how I want the world to see our homeschool. I imagined I was being interviewed by a prominent newspaper and they asked a series of questions. To those questions, I envisioned the response that best represented my desires for our homeschool.
I developed a philosophy statement from that, which goes something like this:
"Gaining the most from our learning time without the pressures often experienced in a traditional school setting. In doing so, we set our focus on experiencing a life of learning, rather than a predetermined time in which to gain knowledge. Through this, we gain knowledge for life, rather than a prerequisite for graduation."
I knew I wanted my kids to develop a love for learning. I just wasn't sure how to do it. I knew I wanted them to be skilled at technology enough to search for answers. I wanted them to develop the talent for investigating and researching rather than taking something purely at face value. Then I thought about my time in public school. Now granted, I was raised in a town of less than 800 people. Everyone knew everybody and their business. But what I didn't realize until years into adulthood was that I was also force-fed information without being told to question it. No, we shouldn't question for the sake of being ornery, but for the benefit of critical thinking. This was a heavy factor in my new outlook on homeschool.
Still, I was faced with the question of "how". I decided I would move more into a natural style of learning. That is, allowing them to experience things, and then ask the 5 w's. Simply motivating them to start thinking would aid in helping them become critical thinkers. Sure, I could tell then what I want them to know, but that is defeating the purpose of encouraging their minds to process alternating views.
The first thing I did was remove the micromanaging approach to homeschool. No, I didn't obliterate our homeschool classroom. We still meet in there daily. We all function with some sort of routine and life is a routine, so I thought we'd best keep it. But instead of being with them for each and every lesson, I decided to provide our older two with written instructions for each lesson.
This serves two purposes. First, it teaches them to read for information. You'd be surprised just how fast they started don't do lesson 5, skip to lesson 7 reading all the information to find out what lesson they were on.
See what I did there. Hiding information within a rather simple sentence instead of bullet pointing or numbering the task. This forces them to read each and every sentence. Is manipulative? Perhaps? Does it work? So far, yes! Especially when they realize they are sometimes allowed to skip lessons if they have already shown they know the material.
This leads to the second purpose: Independence. Each of our older boys are in their teens. While one is very responsible, the other is what one might actually call a slacker. He does only what he has to in order to "get finished" with his assignments. So, by writing the information down and requiring him to read it, he is still learning... even if he doesn't try his hardest. That's because he has to think, "What can I do that will show mom I've worked, but that will require the least amount of effort possible?" That is, in fact, critical thinking. It may not be what I want or expect, but it is a first step.
Secondly, I decided that technology is here whether I like it or not. They are pretty much addicted, as our 8 year old so blatantly announced over the weekend. So I am embracing their love of all-things-digital. They retrieve their lessons on Schoology - a free website that I use to upload and organize their lessons. They submit most of their work online. They type their assignments, the research data for their projects, they watch tutorials on difficult topics, they send e-mail. When they are finished with a project, they practice their speaking skills by recording their presentation and uploading a private video to youtube where they store their projects, and I grade them using the shared link. They watch biographies, nature shows, interviews, news reports, science experiments, and more using their computers. Plus, I can easily find PDF worksheets to go along with just about any subject/concept they are learning. Once I stopped fighting the madness of "limiting screen time", my sanity returned... and so did their happiness.
The third change to our homeschool was including my spouse: their daddy. You see, I was so determined that I could "do it all by myself" that I didn't realize how important it was for them to see their father involved in their learning process. This also serves dual purposes.
First, it allowed him to offer his views and styles of learning. He has tricks and tips I may never have considered, because, again, "I can do it all by myself", right? Wrong. Having him work with our youngest gives him a chance to strengthen their already impenetrable bond, while also... wait for it... easing my work load.
Teaching 3 kids 8 subjects each, even if they are shared, can be a daunting task. Especially when you work 40 hours outside of the home. To this, he also helps with the housework and prepare a hearty, home-cooked meal each evening. To say I am blessed is an understatement. But even if you are single, there are support groups and people out there to help you. Consider this blog for instance. While I cannot physically be there to assist you, I can blog about ways you can find assistance.
Next, I decided that I did not have to be as rigorous with the lessons. Reading 4 chapters in one night for 8 nights straight is enough to drive a sane person crazy. Now, ask two teenagers to do it, when all they want to do is what they are intersted in doing... Beatboxing for one, and art for the other. No, I had to find a way to let go of the "I have to finish this curriculum by the end of the school year" mantra and embrace the "Who's schedule am I trying to uphold here, anyway?" question. To which the answer is: our family lives and learns concurrently. What we don't finish in one book, week, or school year will eventually come back around again... again... and again. Take tonight for instance. Our youngest is busy cutting out pieces for her Amphibian lapbook... that should have been done last week. But because I was so exhausted getting our department ready for students returning this week, I didn't come to the classroom. We homeschooled in the kitchen while tidying up after dinner, in the bedroom while changing the sheets, and even in line at the grocery story, while waiting on the people in front of us to finish up their purchases. Learning doesn't stop just because you leave the classroom.
One of the final things I did was embrace that what we have is not perfect... and that its not about perfection... it's about trying. Isn't that what we all want... To try our best? I know I do. To meet these changes, I had to embrace the fact that I might not always get that "aha" moment I want from my kids. That light bulb I want to see shining over their head, may infact just be a flittering lightning bug... that hit a windshield. But I do know for certain, no matter what changes happen, my children are still in what I feel is the best environment they can be in for learning. Especially during some of the most challenging times this country has ever faced.
I hope that this read brought you some insight into our homeschool and my thoughts on homeschooling in 2020. I would love to hear your thoughts on this post and whether you feel it has helped you embrace the changes you may find yourself facing, or even prepare you for the changes yet to come.
Welcome! My name is LaVonda. I am the wife of Rodney, the mom of 5 remarkable kids (well, 2 are adults now), an avid homeschooler, blogger, and sociologist. I am blessed with the ability to spend my time sharing our homeschool and life experiences with you. It is my hope to provide you with motivation, ideas, and some candid stress-relief through my blog - Mom's Scribe! Grab a cup of coffee, sit on down, and make yourself at home!