Homeschooling Advice 101 (Co-ordinator)

Here goes our family story.....

Homeschooling to us means the flexibility to be and live together as a family. [DH works from home so that helps too.]

We have 4 children.

We started our learning adventure with a worksheet approach to 'school at home' with our eldest, and have now swung more in the other direction (for the early years), to realise that children learn naturally regardless of circumstance.

My biggest lesson was when I had the youngest two and hubby and I were almost comatose for 5 months. We didn't 'do school' at all. The eldest two still learned A LOT on their own, through books and during conversation and daily activities.

So now I choose to delay formal full-on text book learning until each child is ready - around 10 years old. I still teach them to read (my favourite book for this is the Jolly Phonics Handbook), and we have some low-key fun maths books for them to do alongside real world maths (ie do you want 1/2 a piece of cake or a whole piece!) and make good use of 'teachable moments'. [Teachable moments are responding to a child's question or comment and drawing more out of them to get them to think more deeply or laterally, at whatever level they are at.]

I have learned to make learning 'work' for and in our family. This is a far cry from where we started out but then we had so much baggage from our own experiences in the school system and what we thought we had to do.

Just so you don't think we are so relaxed that we could be mistaken for a recliner, I do now have a 12 year plan, that took me 4 years (of official 'schooling') to get around to researching and deciding upon. Having this framework really helps me see the advancement through each subject area, the cycle for each child and where 'overlaps' can work for multiple ages, and serves as a standard to which other 'new' materials can be compared.

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how do you do it practically? how do you cope with all the children (24/7)?

Perhaps it is best to describe our week. We have tried the traditional timetable of a little bit of each subject every day but it didn't really work for us. So we now have one main subject per day ie Math, Science, History etc with little bits tucked in either side.

Our learning time is the mornings.

Our eldest is mainly self-directed. She knows that she has a thinking skills exercise to do, then spelling 3 mornings per week, the main subject (which if is is Math or Science she can break with piano practise at her will), then the other materials after that.

We do have a weekly schedule that lists which math chapters, how many pages of science etc is required.  The second eldest gets to spend a lot of play time with her brothers. She can read, enjoys doing little math exercises here and there, but is a child that needs to be active and explore still. She can be asked to read to the boys when I need a breather or between a change in their activities.

We have a good sized backyard so they are out there a lot.

I also use dvd's as edutainment and no longer feel guilty about this (but wouldn't personally recommend 'tv' activities for 3 year olds and under).

The younger three like drawing and playdough, building huts, riding their bikes etc.

I do find that having the children around 24/7 means something has to give, and for us it is the housekeeping. As much as I would like it tip-top, that is not my reality. (I'm actually a minimalist and a recovering perfectionist so this issue can be a disheartening one for me ;) )

I found that I had to stop comparing myself to family's homes where children do go to school. I am currently working on simplifying anything and everything - cleaning routines, the junk room, craft cupboards, the pantry etc - all in an effort to make it easier for us all to live together 24/7.

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Odd bit of advice

For those new to homeschooling, and who have had their children in school, a piece of advice that I was told that may help is:- that for every year your child has been in school to give them a month to 'de-school' Deschooling is the action of purposely not doing school at home. Many families see the need and value to simply spend creative time with their children - to re-connect. Taking some time between the institutional school routine and a new one cuts the parent-teacher some slack too.

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what if I prefer natural learning - what will ERO think?

A good ERO officer is more interested that you know your child's strengths and weaknesses and are working with them at whatever level that is. One point of taking your child out of the state school system is to escape the 'standards' etc. The other thing is that you must be given at least one months advice of your review (which you may choose to postpone). In that time you can work on documenting what your children have been learning - photos, videos, presentation, word processor document, mind map, projects, memorisation etc.

ERO reviews are no longer routine.

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how will I get it all done?

All what done? What your child needs to know? Or what someone else has set as the lesson? I see these as two different things.

I believe that if you have a strong idea of what your goals for homeschooling are, then you have a yard-stick by which to choose what is important on a day to day basis. ie Does Johnny need to complete all 127 maths problems, or because he already knows them can get 10 correct and skip the rest?

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what if your partner isn't on board with it yet?

Hmmm....being the persuasive and research type of person that I am, I would find all the evidences, convince him of the benefits - and go for it. Yeah, easier said than done.

We had the scenario that the out-laws weren't (and aren't?) on board with it. They were the ones asking condescending ill-informed questions. As time has gone on they have either seen my resolve or the outcomes, and no longer challenge me about the subject. It helps though that we do not live in the same town.

Being brutally honest, I'd also have to add that my hubby isn't fully involved with the whole homeschooling thing either, except where the eldest hasn't had her weeks marking up to date by Friday lunchtime, and I hand over the responsibility to him to see that through. [On the other hand if everything has been completed we get a special library trip. For us it has to be a Friday because I have the situation that if there are new books in the house, I lose the girls until they are all read - not a good thing to happen during the learning week!]

He is supportive, don't get me wrong, in fact it was he that reminded me that prior to conceiving our first that we had decided to homeschool - a conversation I don't remember. It's just that I had hoped that it wouldn't have been all so much my responsibility as they are his children too! Anyone give me an 'amen' to that?

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If you've made it thus far, congratulations!

You may have guessed I am a passionate advocate of freedom in education - for parent and child.

If you'd like to see our 12 year plan just let me know, but remember you don't need to do what I do ;)

The blank Homeschool 12-year Planning Template is on the 'Other ideas' page.

These are your children, this is your family - homeschooling has to work for you.

Pat yourself on the back for all your achievements and milestones, and if you'd like to - share them here with the rest of us.