I have always approached homeschooling from a relaxed and natural approach. Sitting down for formal lessons when we have the time and when we feel inclined; allowing the kids to lead the way.
When they were younger, much of their learning was an extension of their play. As they have gotten older, I thought I would change but if anything, I have only become more relaxed.
Dueling it Out: Scheduled vs. Relaxed Homeschooling
As a result of so many extra-curriculars, we don’t follow a schedule when it comes to our ‘formal schoolwork’. As a former classroom teacher, it is such a dramatic shift for me. Yet as our evenings are so intense, the kids and I both need a relaxed and unrestricted day.
We homeschool year-round to accommodate for our relaxed approach. You might say that how we approach education here changes with the tide. I have learned that our family’s life seldom maintains a consistent rhythm longer than, four to six weeks. I have thus learned to enjoy the ebb and flow, the seasonal change.
During our low-tide times, which occupy the larger portion of the year, we are like unschoolers. We live and play, we dive into projects, we take care of our home together, we have adventures, and read lots of great books.
At low tide, we amble along the shore, peering into tide pools and digging in the sand, or just relax under a beach umbrella. The children wander off in directions of their own choosing; they dig and poke and ponder. I just follow their lead.
During our high-tide times, I charter a boat and we set sail with purpose and direction. We keep doing all of the above, but I’m the one picking out the books, and I have the kids narrate a lot of the reading back to me, and we work more deliberately on mastering skills that take practice, like piano and math and Mandarin.
Benefits to a Relaxed, Year-Round Approach
1. We need flexibility! In addition to the intense evenings described earlier, we travel frequently. A flexible schedule is thereby necessary to account for our excursions and time away from home. This helps to overcome the feeling of being crunched to accomplish our academic goals between September and May. We do better with longer stretches of less routine during the school year, not only the summer.
2. To better support our children’s abilities and talents. Over the years, I’ve noticed extra time is needed during our days to offer more focus on a particular interest or project.
As the kids have gotten older, they have begun to develop their own individual interests. My son is committed to music study: lessons, practice time, music composition, ear training, etc. For my daughter, it’s concentration on literature and writing, crafting and illustrating stories, which includes intentional art lessons.
A relaxed schedule provides abundant time for these pursuits, with less competition from other necessary academics.
3. More room for activities and extra-curriculars. This is especially true as my middle schoolers express interest in the many opportunities that come along throughout the year – art classes at a local studio, fly tying classes, special events at the national parks, and activities coordinated by other homeschooling families.
Both kids have recently discovered an interest in musicals with local theaters, and have begun to spend more time with friends.
Every journey is an adventure.
Some of the tools I use to help keep me organized:
- We have weekly family meetings and an extended meeting once a month that we call Family Five Share whereby the kids give formal presentations to share what they are learning
- Our family calendar is synced to all our devices and is color coded
- I create a spreadsheet of our extracurriculars each trimester
- I use a planner to record our lessons: How I Use My Homeschool Planner
My colleague, Alicia, on the other hand, follows a schedule. You can read about her opposing approach in her post, Dueling It Out: Scheduled vs Relaxed.
Looking for more duels and jousts? Click here to find more from the iHomeschool Network’s Dueling Blog Posts series.
September 9, 2014 at 9:38 am
It sounds like your kids are perhaps a bit older than mine-my son is 8. Do you think their age impacts how you approach education? I like this approach in theory, but my son doesn’t seem to go in depth into any particular interest enough to focus on it. We’ve mostly done year round schooling, taking breaks as life requires, but this year I’ve got a plan and am excited to try it out. I see more progress in his learning when we do something every day.
We’ve considered a year on the road with an RV, but it never quite pans out. If it does, I can see where a go with the flow approach would be much more fitting.
Thanks for sharing!
September 9, 2014 at 10:33 am
My youngest is 9 years old, not much older than yours. We have used this approach from the beginning. When I lead, we generally don’t go too in-depth unless they want to know more. I will introduce new concepts via the co-ops I coordinate or by reading aloud chapters from our history or science texts. Topics that they are interested in they will research more on their own. I try to find projects that integrate multiple subjects like stamp collecting and exhibiting, posters, 3D models, etc. Sometimes they will say they aren’t interested and I am okay with that. I thereby rely on our oral discussions. As they are getting older, I am trying to require more work from them – writing assignments, etc. They are relatively independent at this point however. They work through their math (which we do 4x a week) and Mandarin homework with little or not input from me. We also do writing 4x a week but I generally give them a topic (a letter, a creative story, a prompt, a narration assignment for science or history) and when they have their draft completed, we review it together.
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