Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What do you DO all day?!

So, inevitably, we have come across soooooo many questions about our homeschooling experience. The number one question has to be "What do you do with your day?" I have to say, most people have asked this with true curiosity, not the negativity that many who homeschool encounter. They genuinely want to know. They also want to know if I set up my home like a school - with math at 10, art at 11 etc. And another biggie is "How do you know what to teach?"

To answer the latter first, the simplest way is to go to the NY state website for core curriculum standards. It's spelled out, in excruciating detail, what each grade level should know, examples of how to teach it, and when to teach it (I have to say as a teacher I find this highly insulting but that's another matter). Many homeschool families turn to curriculums that they buy. There are many great resources out there. We aren't following a curriculum per se. However, I know what to teach because I know my kids. I know what they can and can't do, what they are interested in and I have a basic idea of what a kindergartener and second grader should know (granted, I do have 15 years teaching experience). But I don't really think that's why. Think about when you had a toddler or preschooler. Did you question your ability to teach your children? I would say in most cases, the answer is no. So why is it that parents feel so apprehensive when it comes to teaching their school age kids? (This is what I hear anyway). Is it because school has told you that you don't have the tools or resources to do this? Nonsense!

You absolutely are equipped to teach your school-age children and probably in a better way than anyone else. YOU know them BEST. Some kids thrive on structure, others fail to thrive in structure, some kids are super creative, others are very logical.....This leads into the next question "do I structure my day like school?" The answer for our family is NO. For us, the whole reason to homeschool is to NOT follow a typical school routine. We are letting it happen organically. For instance, we read the book Poor Pluto recently. After reading it, we discussed how 3rd graders in California are the authors and illustrators of that book. This instantly sparked a book writing extravaganza for 3 days! My 7 year old wrote and illustrated a book on her own. My 5 year old drew the pictures and needed help spelling the words. I did not dictate book structure, story structure, we did not discuss characters, plot, setting, problems, solutions.....all the usual lessons that go along with writing. And guess what? The story had a cover with a title & author. It was well sequenced, had a problem and a solution. It had a main character, setting and supporting characters. So you will say that we HAD to have had lessons about this beforehand. NOPE. So then how do they know to do this? Because they've been read to their entire lives. They've been shown titles, authors, illustrators. They know all books tend to have a problem and end with a solution. Encourage your kid to write a book and give no other direction than that. I bet they will do it too.

Finally, What do we DO all day?  Hmmmmmmmmmm let me see........Yes we have a lot more downtime and playtime than school kids. We are outdoors a lot, and with that comes learning (we have a new pet salamander from our last camping trip). We occasionally sit down and work on math or writing, but most of our learning is experiential. We go to the children's museum, go camping, hiking, go to the park, go to the Mohonk Mountain house, go apple picking, bake, cook, write our own books, we have cheerleading practice, girl scouts, art class, we meet twice a week with homeschool groups where a TON of things go on, we have playdates with friends, visit grandparents, we participate in school activities like the science fair, go to the Bronx zoo, we take care of our pets, and explore whatever strikes out fancy. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Homeschooling looks different for every family. This is the beauty of it! The individualization, the relaxed nature of learning, the ability to blow it off at will and then realize that in blowing it off, we learned a ton about something not planned!

So, what did YOU do all day?

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