It’s a Homeschool Duel: Scheduled vs Relaxed

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.

duelingitout 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

Homeschool Duel

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.

 

dueling

Looking for more duels and jousts? Click here to find more from the iHomeschool Network’s Dueling Blog Posts series.

Homeschooling By the Minute

I thought it might be fun to see what we do all day … and I thought it might also be a useful tool for myself to see how much time is wasted … time I probably should be ‘teaching’.

  • 6:00 am – I’m up.  I get my coffee and sit down to blog, facebook, whatever …
  • 7:00 – Sweetie is up.  I share with her an email I received regarding an ATC swap and we begin to research/brainstorm ideas.
  • 8:00 – Buddy is up.  I begin to prepare breakfast as the munchkins work on their craft projects (Perler beads and Polymer clay).
  • 8:15 – We eat breakfast.  Thereafter, clean up kitchen and gather our things for the day.
  • 9:00 – Kids get into an argument.  I put them into time out.  I take a moment to compose myself.
  • 9:11 – We depart for Mandarin.  Along the way, we renew a discussion of the word “illegal”.  When I used it in context the other day, they had misunderstood me.  Somehow this came up again so we reviewed the definition.  This lead to an oral discussion of prefixes.
  • 9:30 – We arrive at Shawn’s and the Mandarin lesson begins.  While Sweetie is engaged, I work with Buddy and cover the following lessons: math, reading, and a little writing.
  • 10:30 – Mandarin lesson concludes.  Kids play with Evelyn (the kitten) for a short time.
  • 10:45 – We stop at JoAnns for a few things.
  • 11:15 – We arrive home and I prepare lunch.
  • 12:00 – We do a writing lesson (Sept prompts).
  • 12:30 – Sweetie does a math lesson while Buddy takes a break and resumes his Perler bead project.
  • 1:00 – Sweetie tries to log into the American Girl book club but the room is already full.  She is disappointed.  I allow the kids to play quietly … or do crafts.
  • 2:00 – We do a followup Nature Study lesson on leaf-rollers.
  • 2:45 – We sit down to do lesson #2 from the GEMS ‘Artifacts’ unit.  However, the kids express that the masks seem stupid. “It’s just glueing things onto paper, Mom. We’ll end up throwing it away in a few days.”  I see their point and can’t help but agree with them.  We thereby opt to read about how masks are used in different cultures and discuss similarities and differences.
  • 3:15 – We took another break.  The kids started to play the piano on their own.  I think we are all beginning to miss our weekly lessons with Janellybean.  Guitar and violin are just not the same.
  • 4:00 – They resumed their activities of interest .. Sweetie was working with polymer clay and Buddy played with his HO trains  which are currently taking up much of the living room floor.  We made him a layout years ago that slides beneath his bed but he claims it doesn’t work anymore so out come the temporary track.  Good-bye floor space.
  • 5:00 – We depart for my hair appointment.
  • 5:15 – We arrive at hair salon. Kids get busy right away on the work they brought along – Sweetie begins making a new rubber band bracelet.  Buddy continues his sketch of a train locomotive.
  • 6:30 – Return home and prepare dinner. 
  • 7:30 – With dinner complete and the kitchen now once again.
  • 8:15 – I inform the munchkins to prepare for bed … get your teeth brushed, jammies on and climb into bed.  This is a battle … every night … always an excuse, “I’m hungry.” “I’m not tired.” “I need to do this one thing…”  I used to read aloud to them as they brushed and this helped to keep them quiet and attentive.  With the move, for some reason, I stopped.  I definitely need to resume this. 
All in all it was a pretty full day and we accomplished quite a bit in most respects.  I wish I had worked out.  The first few weeks we were here, I was going to the gym to swim in the hour prior to Mandarin.  It became a little tricky to get the kids out of bed that early though.  Had I not had a hair appointment, we would have gone to the gym for swim team and I could have worked out then.  Oh well.  Adjustments are still necessary here and there. 

Starting Over, Starting Fresh :: 2011 Fall Schedule

Over the past few months, we have undergone significant changes in our lives.  We have relocated and started upon a new adventure in Northern California.  As such, we have been evaluating our schedule looking for areas of improvement.  We’ve openly discussed what we liked and what we felt needed to change.  The following highlights some of the areas in which we have chosen to make changes – some are simple, some more complex.

  • New nature journals … a spiral notebook with larger pages
  • New writing journals … simply a new composition notebook – I asked if they wanted a separate book for science but they said no
  • Mandarin … I did my research before we moved and sought out a Mandarin teacher from afar.  This was one area I didn’t want to leave to chance and I wanted to continue our studies with as little interruption as possible.  Our new instructor has years of experience teaching in China and here in the United States.  Coincidentally, as we sat down with him and his wife, we discovered that they are acquainted with MeiLi’s former teacher. It is indeed a small world.
  • Buddy … who has requested to go by JiFu … is now studying Mandarin as well.   
  • In the past, I have enjoyed swimming with Masters at noon.  Unfortunately, the Masters team here meets only at 5:30 a.m.  With a husband that works in administration and thereby has long hours, this doesn’t work for me.  I’ve thereby moved my workout to 8 a.m. to assure it gets done – in doing so, we have discovered it does not disrupt our ‘school day’ as much as it did in the past.

We have revamped our schedule and have dedicated a day of each week to the subjects that are important to us.  I haven’t “scheduled” music practice or Mandarin homework / home extension activities.  Doing so made felt very restrictive.  As it is now, there is a block of time each day whereby we do our formal lessons and upon completion, we are free to relax, investigate things of interest, go to the pool …  I do expect the munchkins to practice their growing music and language skills daily. However, the time in which they choose to do this is up to them as individuals.  Of course, I generally have to remind them.  😉

  • This year, we have also decided to partner with a public school and take part in an ISP.  The  Public Independent Study Program  is the legal equivalent to enrolling your child in public school. Shocked?  I know I am.  Essentially it is a “home study” program offered by the school district. The benefit to us is that they provide support and guidance as well as a weekly enrichment day.
    The enrichment day is the primary reason we decided to pursue this option.  The kids have an opportunity to participate in a variety of rotations taught by certified teachers along side other homeschool students.  During the enrichment day, I can volunteer or have the day free to myself.  Imagine?! What I could do with a day to myself?  As I am a certified teacher, I may also have the opportunity to take on a paid position and teach one of the rotations as well but I am only pondering that possibility right now.  
    Thus far, the coordinator has been VERY flexible in allowing me the freedom to continue doing things as I have always done.  What has been great is that she provides another perspective and pulls additional resources that I can use if I desire.  The only true requirement is the bi-monthly meeting whereby we discuss/evaluate our endeavors.  During the meeting, though, I am required to provide tangible evidence (photos, writing samples, etc.) of our work and how it meets state standards.  I was essentially doing this already so it is not an issue. 
  • Another major change is music instruction. In Central Oregon, the munchkins were taking piano lessons in our home once a week.  We absolutely loved our piano teacher and knew it would be difficult to find someone that teaches in a similar style.  One of the other deciding factors regarding the ISP is that the kids had the option to take violin or guitar lessons.  MeiLi – inspired by her Taekwondo instructor – chose violin while JiFu chose guitar.  Best of all, an instrument is provided free of charge!