Thursday, September 18, 2014

Homeschooling - Balancing School with Life

For the homeschooling family, balancing school with life is a cinch compared to trying to
balance a child's formal school day and homework with family life, friends and personal interests.

If you are just starting to think about homeschooling, the question of how to balance this with life may be a big question mark. After all, if your children have been in public or private school then the school has laid out the schedule, and your task, difficult as it can be, is one that you are accustomed to – squeezing in the other aspects of your child's life wherever you can.

Or, perhaps you've been homeschooling a while and are finding that too much of your child's day (and yours) is consumed by schoolwork. It can happen, but the good news is that you have control of this time. If you happen to be unlucky enough to live in a state that makes strict demands on homeschooling families (such as requiring mastery of specific subjects at certain ages), you may want to consider making some changes – either in where you live or by seeking legal counsel to fight for your homeschooling rights.

That said, in most cases there is a great deal of freedom in how you can balance school and life, and even if you are under the thumb of a restrictive state, you still have the say in how you plan your days.

If you're new to homeschooling, then you may be overwhelmed just thinking about how on earth you can teach for 8 hours a day, spend time lesson planning and assessing your child's work, and even have time for life!

Let's set those worries to rest. First of all, you will not need to mimic the school's hours. It's no secret the time it takes to learn at home is far less than the time it takes to learn at school. Even teachers are told in their education courses that they will spend very little time actually teaching. Most of the time is spent on "off task" matters such as getting the class to settle down at the beginning of a day, transitioning from activity to another, getting the class to settle down after recesses and lunch, dealing with numerous interruptions, doing busy work for nothing more than the sake of order in the classroom, and then after every long vacation, spending days settling down again and days to weeks in review because retention was lost.

It's estimated only 1/2 hour to 2 hours is spent on task in school. This goes along with the estimate that on average, a child can do 8 hours of school work in 2 hours when done at home.

You will also have the huge advantage of knowing your child's strengths and weaknesses and learning style. This means that when you child is stuck on a problem you will be much more able to effectively help your child figure it out then a teacher who doesn't know your child very well, if at all. This is of course another big time saver.

Given that your child may spend a couple hours a day on formal school work,
Monday through Friday, even with vacations. You may spend, depending on the curriculum used, around 1/2 to one hour daily, Monday through Friday on lesson planning, assessing, etc. If your child enjoys learning and wants to do more, then you can adjust for this.

As you can see, this leaves plenty of time for the rest of life. With many activities out there that your child may want to explore from dance to martial arts classes, just be sure that your child (and you) has plenty of free time – just for thinking, daydreaming, and just being.

If you are looking for a science project to use you can have a look at my Hub: 

Science Fair Projects, Grade One To Seven

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Holidays, Seasons and Homeschooling

One the few things that new homeschooling families may fear they will miss is the array of
traditional school celebrations of holidays and seasonal changes. As you will see though, when you join a homeschool group, subscribe to a homeschooling magazine and/or peruse some of the homeschooling sites online, the traditional holiday and seasonal related school events can be easily replaced with just as special activities you create or find in the community.

Remember, homeschooling means more time to build upon and create family traditions, and it also means that you can be more creative in finding ways to celebrate the special times of year with others.

For example, say one of your family's Christmas highlights was the school's Christmas (or winter festival) program where the children performed carols. An alternative, and a charitable one at that, could be getting together with a few other homeschooling families for caroling at a local nursing home or pediatrics unit. If you have budding actors in the family or homeschool group, you could even put together a play or skit to perform as well. Or your family could join up with others for some old-fashioned neighborhood caroling. Churches also provide many opportunities along these lines as well.

Other Christmas activities could include crafts, making felt applique stockings and making and selling wreaths to earn money for a special holiday outing or charity, collecting toys for less fortunate children, etc. These can be family activities or ones you do with other families, clubs or a church group. The same would go for any holiday. Other holiday traditions like making Mother's Day and Father's Day cards at school can be done at home with the help of the other parent or a sibling.

Homeschooling groups are great for organizing activities like this. One holiday that is probably more painful than fun for many kids in formal school settings is Valentine's Day. It's great for kids who are popular and get their Valentine's bags filled with cards from their classmates, but it can be crushing for the child who doesn't get many cards. Many teachers now require everyone gets a card, but then that has its problems too. Valentine's Day is a great day for building your own family traditions. One fun activity is to pick up some old-fashioned valentine making supplies (such as doilies and pink construction paper) and make Valentine's to mail to friends and relatives. Trust me; these will be much more treasured than an email greeting.

Celebrating holidays without the constrictions of the school also means you can celebrate them in ways that reflect your family's values, not school regulations. You can also integrate holidays into the children's lessons with both fun, hands-on activities as well as researching, at the library and/or online, aspects such as history and worldwide traditions.

The changing seasons lend themselves to fun activities for homeschooling families, and again you will find a treasure trove of information at the library and online. When autumn approaches, for example, do a search for children's fall activities or leaf crafts. Then, go for a fall family hike and collect leaves and items to use in your craft. Seasonal changes can easily become part of lessons. Actually you can integrate seasons and holidays for that matter into just about any subject, from history, literature and math to writing, science and music.

But what about the long-standing tradition of summer vacation? Homeschooling doesn't have to be year round, although you may not want to take three months off from learning. Summer's still a great time to take things slower and to enjoy nature outings like camping, river rafting or day trips to the beach. There's no rule about when or how you celebrate summer. Some families like to declare a vacation from school work for two or three weeks (or more), and then just spend a little less time on school for the rest of the season, while savoring the delights of summer.