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Adventures of a stay-at-home, skeptical, homeschooling dad (etc.)


Our fall school plan

We're fast approaching our new "school" "year". Sorry for all the quotes, but what we do isn't exactly school, and we don't go by years. But in any case, we're planning the next year of education.

We "officially" started homeschooling last fall, when she could have started Kindergarten. We had a fairly good time of it, a lot of playing, and playing with friends, but a few math and writing worksheets and lots reading thrown in. I came up with some spreadsheet forms to track all the "educational" activities we did, including worksheets, art, crafts, science DVDs, history stories, outings, co-op classes, dance/acrobat class, etc. We had a "morning routine" checklist of stuff we could/should do: breakfast, tidy a room or two, read aloud, read silently, alone time, drawing, worksheets, play, play with friends, go outside, etc. It was calming, she enjoyed checking off the items, and it seemed to be working out pretty well.

There was a break in our routine when my wife finished up her semester at the local JuCo and was mostly home: when my wife is home, my daughter is much more interested in trying to get her to play than in any dumb ol' routine. However, my wife's pharmacy school begins at the end of August, so my daughter and I will have most of the day to ourselves. We'll re-institute the daily routine (updated for being a year older), and begin to feel out our new structure.

In keeping with our relaxed/pragmatic school philosophy, our education plan consists of:

  • Spending a lot of time each day pursuing her interests: whatever those are that day. If she's interested in ponies, we'll read articles about ponies, we'll read books about ponies, or draw pictures of ponies, or write comics about ponies, or make up (or write or type) a story about ponies, or watch a show about ponies, or just play ponies. You get the idea. It could be dinosaurs, Greek mythology, music, or Godzilla. Whatever.

  • Similarly, she asks about 12,000 questions a day. We work together to find the answers to them. We discuss what needs to be discussed, for as long as need it needs to be discussed, using whatever resources we can (hooray for 1-to-1 student/teacher ratio!).

  • I also want to do much in the way of "practical" education. For example, instead of doing a bunch of worksheets on money and addition, we can do activities which interest her and (totally coincidentally) where she has a great opportunity to learn:
    • Math? The coin games, the dino store, and games like Pokemon and Monopoly.
    • Writing? Write letters to family or friends, write a story, or just goofy notes to/from cartoon characters.
    • Reading and vocabulary? Reading books (duh).
    • Civics? Go out and be in the community, visit stores, farms, parks, even City Hall or the Library.
    • There are also practical things like cooking that involve recipe reading, math (including fractions), chemistry, and general knowledge. Home repairs and similar things are another source as well. etc.
    • Hands-on science: Life science (ie plants, animals, bugs, microbes), physics, and chemistry.

  • There's a education concept called "strewing", which I had been doing all along but didn't know had a name. With strewing, the home educator basically "leaves things laying about" for the child to notice. The "things" might be physical objects (eg: a rock, a fossil, a weird leaf, etc), or library books/DVDs, or shows on Netflix, or conversation topics, or anything, really. The things are offhandedly introduced to see what interest there is. If the thing, object, or idea doesn't interest her: oh well. Maybe I'll reintroduce it the next week (or month), or let it drop entirely until her interest leads her there tangentially. Many of the items on sneaky school are examples of this.

  • Media: Nonfiction books, DVDs, and Netflix shows. Fiction too, obviously.

  • Finally, there are field trips and social visits. At our current residence we have plenty of homeschooled friends nearby and plenty of activities to choose from, but soon we'll be moving to a much smaller town and so I'll need to work a little harder to ensure we're not spending all day huddled inside by ourselves. I'll pick and choose from the social and community events available to us.

The above will constitute the vast bulk of her education. You might call it "life school" or "semi-unschooling" or "guided self-directed education". Just don't call it late for dinner. But anyway, based on what I've read, the experience stories of others, and my own observations, I'm fairly confident this will lead her to a wonderfully complete primary education, at least the first few years.

However, just to appease naysayers, skeptical family members, and society at large (and to ease my own nagging doubts), I do plan on doing "several" worksheets a week on "core" subjects. They will be strictly voluntary, of course. She's normally pretty good about enjoying worksheets, especially if they're part of a larger game, but I'm certainly not going to push my 6-year-old when she's not interested: I don't want to make her come to hate them.

I've looked into various "standards", including the dreaded Common Core, and I regularly check out the local school's web page to see what her local peers are doing. Based on those and what I think she's ready for, I will locate/devise some worksheets for that week. I've already created a few configurable worksheet generators which address many areas, and there are thousands of worksheets on-line for free (and many for a price, but nah).

Add in record keeping, field trips, playdates, and probably a co-op class or two, and this constitutes our education plan for the coming year (or 3).

2013-08-01 #school