Tips for lessons at home while schools are closed

With 15 years' experience as a homeschooler I have "been there and done that"

Eleanor Deckert

There might be some tips I could offer to the B.C. parents of children who are not yet “back to school.” With 15 years’ experience as a homeschooler I have “been there and done that” and lived to tell the story.

Three decisions structure the day and focus time, energy and resources for a fulfilling experience: schedule, theme and recipe.

A schedule

We didn’t always stick with it, but I always felt better if I had a plan.

• Rise and Shine, breakfast, chores, get dressed, run-around-the loop, come in and start school. (While the kids were outside romping, I made to-do lists, brief, necessary phone calls, planned supper)

• Opening routine: O Canada, Read aloud to focus on theme, discussion, plan the day.

• 10-12 a.m.: Lessons for the older children. Mr. Dress-up and Sesame Street for the little ones.

• 12 noon: lunch and another romp outdoors.

• 1-2 p.m.: Naps for little ones. Older children complete assignments and “Let’s Study Something.”

• Afternoon: free time outside.

• Before supper helper chores.

• Supper time.

• After supper helper chores.

• Reading, bedtime routines.

By “Lessons” I mean those parts of learning that need to be done correctly: reading, writing, spelling, math. How to address an envelope. Penmanship. Following instructions.

We learn these things so that using standardized forms we may express our creativity.

Think of a dancer, musician or gymnast. Long hours spent doing repetitive exercises are intended to strengthen muscles, discipline the mind and perfect specific skills. Yet, the purpose is not rigid conformity, rather that the artist might use his/her skills to bring a personal, unique message to others.

“Let’s Study Something” is a favourite time of day. Whatever theme has been chosen, now all energy is focused to research, read, interview, field trips, write and display what has been learned. Art, science, history and geography, music, and every “lesson” subject lend itself to the theme.

A Theme

It could be anything. John Holt, one of the first authors who brought homeschooling forward, explains in “Growing Without Schooling,” how any topic will lead the learner into all of the traditional “subjects.” But, instead of separating different disciplines, they are a whole and the student follows his/her interests through the labyrinth of study, fascinated and focused in pursuit of their own interest.

Pirates and Queens were our themes one year. It turns out, they knew each other! Who do you think brought the gold and provided the royal wardrobe with all of those pearls and silks?

Gardens, boats, birds, sports, gold, bones, planning a trip – these have all been our themes for a month or more. Following a personal interest provides so much eager, positive and on-going energy, it is a big plus to the home schooling family. Once I tutored a home-learning child who stated emphatically, “I only want to learn about Egypt.” So, that’s what we did.

A Recipe

Raymond and Dorothy Moore proposed this ratio in “Home Schooling Burnout,” hoping to prevent parent’s exhaustion: 1/3 Academic. 1/3 Family Business. 1/3 Community Service.

These categories are self-explanatory. I only need add: it becomes a way of life.

Look at how many people nearby are self-employed. In what ways could your family benefit from learning skills from a mentor? “Family Business” at this time of year also includes bringing in the harvest: canning, freezing, jams, pickles. There is so much to learn: reading, measuring, nutrition, estimating, budgeting, cultures.

Look around. Our small communities thrive on volunteer activity. Sports, church, youth, elderly, hobbies, Farmer’s Market, Success by 6, Food Bank, our Thrift Stores … all of these worthwhile projects are run on volunteer efforts. A child can participate in interesting activities and continue the satisfaction for their whole life span. Not only organized clubs, but also lending a hand while helping a neighbour with child care, pet grooming, the yard work. The list goes on and on.

 

These days are stressful as we await decisions from government. But, it seems to me, they might also bring fruitful family days and enriched learning experiences for our children.