Being out and about with four kids can be a spectacle. Three of my four are boys so there is usually some type of loud, mildly inappropriate noise and distracting, repetitive movement happening somewhere in my group. My kids are all tall and big for their age so people assume they are all several years older than they truly are. People stare. The introvert in me wants to crawl under a rock and wait for them to grow up a bit before we venture out again.
Let’s just say having four kids out during school hours doesn’t attract less attention.
“Do you have the day off today kids?”
“What school do you go to?”
“Well, you kids don’t look sick. No school today?”
My favorite is when the questions are asked passively at me, through my children. As if my children won’t know the answers to these big questions. Honestly, most people aren’t passing judgement. They are curious. How is that these kids can be out shopping, hiking, or at the science center and still be getting a decent education? When do we “do school?”
Our Homeschool Schedule
We do formal homeschool in four days a week. We roughly follow our local public school calendar of 36 weeks, divided neatly into four quarters. For the most part we are done shortly after lunch. How in the world can my kids learn enough (meaning a similar amount to the public school requirements) in that amount of time? Are my kids being robbed of the opportunity to learn more by not being seated with a grade appropriate, government chosen
textbook computer program in front of them?
“Real School” vs. Homeschool Schedule
I’m confident that they are not being cheated. They are being given the opportunity to learn what is developmentally appropriate for them at the pace that is perfect for them. No more, no less. They learn a lot. We move forward everyday. Its not always at the exact pace I expected either. Their progress depends on their level of understanding. Sometimes they throw me for a loop. Because we have a four to one student to teacher ratio I know exactly what they understand and what they are bluffing their way though.
We spent the first half of our first year of homeschool with one or another of my children whining “But I never had to do this in real school!” They were referring to correcting, fixing, redoing things until they were correct and they got it. Getting something graded, putting it in a pile, and moving along was what they were accustomed to. Mom the teacher was a major downer. I expect a lot out of my kids.
My kids have gradually
been worn down gotten used to what is expected. They know when they get up Monday through Thursday they get their own breakfast and get going. I cycle though helping my younger two while my older two do their independent work. Then while I focus on my big kids my younger two have a bit of independent work and then play games, build things, and make stuff. Its a dance we are still perfecting but it works for us.
“Does This Count? Is This School?”
A year ago my kids were constantly asking if a specific activity we were doing was considered “school.” Does it count? If they thought they were having fun but suddenly realized it related back to history or language it was no longer any fun. If it counted as “school” their enjoyment was sapped. I stopped pointing out connections for a long time and we did stuff just for fun. Learning should not consist of boxes to be checked off their list or enough hours to fulfill the state requirement.
Afternoons, Fridays, and weekends have plenty of time (okay not plenty, but definitely more time) now for things that are important to us as a family. We go places. We have been to state parks, animal sanctuaries, museums, science centers, kayaking, rock climbing, too many places to count on those days and afternoons. These places have always been of interest yet they just did not fit into our schedule. Time with friends is a regular occurrence. They make things and learn how to do stuff. Time is spent helping grandparents. There are classes at nature centers and science museums. A weekly co-op provides a variety of classes both academic and extracurricular. The local YMCA offers a weekly gym class. Homeschoolers are not trapped at home!
No School Fridays!
Free afternoons are kind of the point. My kids left a public school experience that was, for the most part, a good one. They liked school and had friends they looked forward to seeing there. There had to be some trade-off for them to walk away from what was mostly a good experience. Could we get all our homeschool done in four days week? (Yes!) No school Fridays! The idea that they could get their work done in a shorter time and be free to do other things was the trade-off! My kids think they are getting away with something.
Fridays are my bargaining tool. I count on my kids, especially my older two, to be responsible for themselves. Planners show what must be done daily, weekly, and quarterly. We sit down in the beginning and divide our total workload/ curriculum into quarters and then weekly. They decide what needs to get done each day to make that happen. If work gets leftover from day to day it gets made up on Friday. A day completely off is great incentive to keep up with assignments. It allows us a cushion. There are days that just do not go as planned no matter how hard we try. Friday is a catch all for a weekday gone awry.
Math and Science Never Stop
The other little secret to this relaxed schedule is that we don’t take the whole summer off. I certainly would not call what we do “year round home schooling.” We had a definite first and last day of the school year But in between we kept up with a little math and a little science every week. They didn’t lose the progress they made which meant they could speed through review sections, especially math.
Math and science are big time sucks in this house so lightening the load on those during the school year allows a lot more flexibility to fit in other stuff. They knew what they had to do each week and could do it all one day or spread it out. By the end of summer they often got up Monday and got their work over and done. (Atta boy!) They did not love the idea of summer school at first but now that they are reaping the rewards I think next summer they will be quicker to get on board.
All Learning Counts!
I see my kids enjoying things that still “count” as learning, and maybe the most meaningful kind of learning. Afternoons when they are so knee deep in a project that they don’t know where the day went. Days when their boredom forces them to make up a new game are good days! Time to learn how to do laundry or make egg sandwiches is worthwhile. It counts. This is the reason why we homeschool. Academically I think they are on track. I’d like to think they are even a little ahead of the game. But more importantly, I can’t remember the last time I heard one of them ask “Does this count for school?”
And the icing on the cake of our “no school Fridays” is that no matter how long, how hard, or how unproductive those first four days are there is another day leftover just to be a family.
The following links are affiliate links.