Last week, I mentioned on my Facebook page that I had been taken with the bug of how to schedule a good homeschooling day. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (and/or have picked up my book The Classical Unschooler) you know that I tend to find myself smack dab in the middle of classical education and unschooling. As such, planning an effective school day can be a bit of a challenge.
What do I mean by an effective school day? I mean a day where we
1. are not overwhelmed by pacing ourselves after an institution or peers
This is important to me, especially in the younger years. There seems to be a certain push to learn earlier and earlier lately, to push children into an institutionalized way of thinking. And don’t get me started on the back to school posts that are no doubt ubiquitous on my Facebook feed at this time of year. (Yours, too? This might make you feel better. Read it.)
But all that aside, I still don’t like the idea that children have to learn reading one year, that some curricula ties writing with reading, that they have to learn multiplication and division in third grade and that somehow time is running out. I detest that way of thinking in my bones.
And so anytime I hear someone say that children should do something in a specific year, my answer is No. They will do it when they’re ready for it. Sure, I’ll check often for readiness, but I’m not going to make them do something just because they’re seven or eight. And I certainly won’t suffer overwhelment because of it.
2. have an overall structure that helps maximize what we’ve set out to learn
I know, I know… I’m an unschooler with classical leanings. What a weird character! I’ve always sought to bring together extremes. So in my world, I don’t think it’s crazy at all to give the children free rein to learn whatever it is they want but having a schedule to cover the basics that they will need to help them get to the thing that they will enjoy.
What do I mean by that? Well, my daughter loves stories, for example. And teaching her to read was important so that she could get her hours of entertainment by reading. Also, my son loves video games and math and has a mind with the ability to remember details – lots of them. I can help him learn that about himself and ways to use those skills to enhance his enjoyment of what he will undertake in the future.
The way I see it – I am a guide, and what does a guide do but impose a structure on and make sense out of what would otherwise be confusing wilderness?
3. keep a consistent eye toward self-directed, interest-led learning
All that said, I have to add that the focus of our day while we are learning to read, write and do math is to encourage self-directed learning. I tend to model this as well. A quick example might help illustrate this. We’re currently studying The Middle Ages. So we’ve been listening to Beowulf in the car. We’ve been memorizing the Middle Ages timeline. My reading is centered in the same time period (that’s my reading on my own, not for my children) and when we pick family movies, we favor the Medieval times.
This does not always work.
Their interests are varied. They collect rocks and try and identify them. They want to read widely, play in the water, do things that children do – build tents in the living room, annoy each other, squabble over toys and who gets to sit where, but my push is toward self-direction when it comes to learning.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, next time I’ll write about how I’m bringing this all together. Yes, it’s possible!