articles / Family life / Homeschooling

How we homeschool

If you walk into a room full of homeschool families, you’d see that each family does it different. Each family has a schedule (or lack of schedule), a special place they school, methods they use, etc. That’s the great thing about homeschooling — you school the way that fits your family best.

The way we school has changed several times over the past 8 months and Josiah has only started first grade. From what I know of other homeschool families, this is pretty normal. Things that worked before may not work now whether it be because of new schedules, big changes, or just a matter of maturity of the child.

Where we school

Since moving into this house two years ago, our classroom has moved several times. Initially the classroom was in one of the spare rooms in the central part of the house.

Our learning area of the classroom.

Our learning area of the classroom. The desk gets pulled back during class time.

We decided to move Josiah’s bedroom closer to us, so we switched his bedroom and the classroom. It didn’t seem to matter because even though we had a designated classroom, we did school at the kitchen table because I didn’t like being secluded in a small room for class.  A few months after that switch we took at 9 month break while I went back to work. When I quit my job in January, I painted and organized a lovely classroom next to our game room in the lower level of the house (not really a downstairs, but a lower level because there’s only three steps). Honestly, that only lasted for a few lessons and then I resorted to doing school work at the kitchen table again. I knew I couldn’t keep doing this because we couldn’t even eat dinner at the table because of the school work that was covering it.

We have a den next to our kitchen that is open and has lots of windows that has basically sat empty since we moved into our house (our house has a lot of rooms so it’s taken a while to get used to all the space we have that we didn’t have in our tiny apartment). I decided to transform that into a classroom and it has been awesome. Josiah can do schoolwork at his desk and I can wash dishes or sweep the floor and still be able to see him. We don’t have to shut ourselves off from the rest of the house just to do schoolwork.

Some people don’t have a designated classroom. They either don’t have the room or don’t see the need in it. Some prefer to do it at the kitchen table. I saw one family that had a desk in each child’s room where they could do their schoolwork separately. That wouldn’t work for our family, but it does for them.

How I teach

There are several methods of teaching (I’ve discussed them before so I won’t go into detail). Some people do “school at home” which is basically a public school set up in the house with Mom teaching. Some people “unschool” which is basically (this is a loose and generic definition) natural type learning without curriculums and set class times and it is often child-led and parent-encouraged. Most people fall somewhere in between.

Since Josiah has a classroom, it appears to be very “school at home” like. He has a desk in front of a white board and I have a desk by all my reference books. There’s a big calendar with the days of the week posted and a book shelf filled with our personal library. The walls are as covered in posters as I can get them. There are supplies neatly tucked away in totes where there’s easy access if we have a project. Very school like. I do stand up in front of the white board and teach for about 10 minutes on a subject and then we start the hands on stuff. We spend about 3-4 days on a topic. Day 1 I introduce it so we spend most of the time working together to understand the concept. Manipulatives are heavily used if possible on day 1. On day 2 we review and then sometimes do a worksheet or work it out together on the board or with manipulatives. Day 3 we review or assess if I think he’s ready.

Even though he learns in a classroom it is very relaxed most of the time. In between subjects or when I can see he’s getting antsy, we throw the ball around, practice basketball passes or do the Hokey Pokey. Sometimes he bounces like a frog or does jumping jacks while I teach class. As long as I know he’s listening, I don’t care. He chooses what order we do subjects so one day we may do math first and the next day do science first, just whatever he feels like doing.

One thing we don’t do is spend several hours a day working on school stuff in the classroom. Yesterday we started class stuff at about 9:15. We did our calendar stuff (weather, day of the week, etc), English, Reading, Math, and Science and we finished classwork at around 10:40. This includes the Hokey Pokey break and the bouncing around the classroom. If we did school work for 3-4 hours a day, Josiah would either be really overwhelmed or finishing first grade by Christmas.

Some people do spend a few hours a day on school. A lot of this depends on the age, grade, and attention span of the child (or children) involved. Classwork this week has been longer than what he did even a few weeks ago when we finished up Kindergarten stuff. Each year I anticipate that school will last just a little bit longer than the year before.

This week with the new subjects (we added Social Studies, Reading and Science) and the new things we’re doing it has gone pretty smooth. Hopefully the new things we’re doing will continue to work. If they don’t, we will monitor and adjust. Don’t think because homeschooling isn’t working the way you’re doing it that means you’re a failure. Don’t think because you do it differently than your BFF that you’re doing it wrong or your child isn’t learning. Do what works for you and your family. That’s the beauty of homeschooling.

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