homeschool: the traditional season

The homeschool traditional season looks like school.

…In that we have formal study hours and are expected to do stuff…

Otherwise, what the stuff is depends on who the kid is, what their goals are and what our goals are for them too.

The study day begins at 0830. The kids meet in the Great Room for announcements and some of us read a chapter together for fifteen minutes. (Unless they sleep in because the kids had a late night, are sick, or the shortened days aren’t waking them in the morning.)

Travel time is short. The distance they travel from their beds to their ‘school’ is possibly none. The more adolescent they become, the more likely they do studies in their rooms; mostly on their beds, not even at their desks. Unless they’re at a cafĂ©, a public library, or a college library.

Classrooms are as cozy and quiet as students want them. Cats are involved. They’re usually curled up at the end of beds. Hot drinks are involved too. Everyone has some sort of coffee machine in their bedrooms. It’s like a BnB (oh wait, come April, it is a BnB in our home.)

The teacher is less teacher-y and more learning consultant-y. The kids consult parents for their writing projects, new math concepts, math questions, French activities, quadratic equation understanding, and anything else. Kids can work independently as soon as they are comfortable working independently and are actually working independently.

If they’re in the high school years, they keep a daytimer where they record their activities and amount of time they spend on those activities. (This information will be saved for their high school portfolios and transcript).

Some time through the day, there’ll be interesting discussions about what they’ve been up to: learning which animals are in what phylums, World War 1 strategy, the location of the magnetic south pole, the French word for hallway, Roxanne Gay’s essay on Bad Feminism, and trigonometry and physics questions.

The traditional learning season shares the environment of home, while extending into the community.

There’s a mom and a dad, two cats, and three kids in this homeschool (there used to be four kids, but one is in university across the country). The last two years, fifteen chickens, one rooster and a Great Pyr puppy have been added to the family.

These are the people in our homeschool classroom: the dance teachers, the curling coach, the choir director, and other teenage dancers. There are play dates, sleepovers, other homeschool events, youth groups; sometimes these kids are their age, and sometimes they’re toddlers. There are on-line teachers and on-video teachers discussing math, physics and biology and presently there’s a college English prof and college students too. In their circle are older folks from the senior’s center and cheerleading grocery clerks that oooh and ahhh at the youngest’s ability to price compare and pack bags efficiently. There are neighbors waving hello from the shoreline as we canoe up the river. There’s the public bus driver that recognizes the times and drop off locations for the kids to get to some of their extracurriculars. There are restaurant managers and co-employees for the kids’ part-time jobs.

It might have different study books, though they might look familiar: although a fairly traditional math workbook, science and history textbooks; there are also Latin books, because why shy away from challenge? There are French books, because that language rolls off the tongue so beautifully (on French people, not necessarily this family’s tongues). There are poetry books, because that’s an untapped language on its own. There are notebooks for memorizing human anatomy names, poems, scripture passages, geographical locations, Canadian prime ministers, American presidents, and the numbers of Pi (just kidding, no one could possibly memorize them all).

It might involve a lot of discussion, instead of school lectures. There is no discussion untouched in this homeschool household: international current affairs, the American presidential election, the Canadian political parties and election, climate change, world economics, world history, sport moments. These discussions happen frequently on car trips, walking the dog, at the dining table, and trips into town.

It will look like a house, not a school; but every square inch is utilized. Students always start with a good morning hug, if they’ll let the teacher get near them; then they’ll scatter to separate rooms. There’ll always be chemistry experiments left on the kitchen island, not in chem labs. There will be no recess on the playground, but different-aged kids will get snow pants on over their pajamas and scoot outside to ski down our hill or zoom across the ice coated zip line.

It has have family-oriented rules. Students can go to the bathroom when they please, eat hot lunches earlier than lunch time (that they likely made them themselves). They’ll take turns cleaning the school cafeteria every single day.

They won’t have to wait in lines for the teacher’s attention; maybe they’ll have to guide the youngest in his French assignment while the teacher finishes the writing assignment with another student.

The teacher keeps a strict internet-free zone during study hours, but there will be plenty of time to explore the internet with spelling and French apps, learn to blog, on-line chess breaks, on-line science classes, and, of course, games played after hours.

Students have consequences if they mistreat a fellow student. Their teacher doesn’t miss a beat, or at least very few. And she cares that everyone learns how to engage each other kindly. Respect required and maintained.

It has a teacher who attends to the students non-schooled interests. The teacher incorporates a love of Legos into geography. So while she’s reading about the Coliseum, the student is building it. When the teacher recognizes a recent interest in World War 2, history reading skips ahead to that section. There’s always a Curiosity Stream video any topic of interest.

The traditional homeschool season has a constantly shifting learning approach, dependent on the student and the present needs.

The students like doing activities as a group? We’ll find ways to make games: Latin or French vocabulary–Hangman? Pictionary? Not enough time to write your cooking blog or YouTube video? That can be done in study hours. You have a passion for mixing substances? You’ll get you a chemistry set. You want to work on your horse book? There’s creative writing.

When the student isn’t quite getting the concept of adding fractions, more time is spent until the concept is grasped. No rush. There’s no fixed schedule; rather, a slow walk toward learning mastery.

“There isn’t a right way to become educated;
there are as many ways as fingerprints.”
John Taylor-Gatto