Friday, September 19, 2014

Home/school









Every afternoon, our home becomes our school. We think of ourselves as part-time homeschoolers. We have a unique opportunity, through our local public school system, to provide 50 percent of our children's schooling. The other 50 percent is provided by an alternative school within the city system. The students attend school for about 16 hours each week, and we are responsible for an equal amount of homeschool each week as well. Our children attend school in the "early morning" session, and are home in time for lunch. The afternoon is for homeschool - teaching and schoolwork.

This situation has its challenges as well as its rewards, as you might imagine. I never set out to be a homeschooler. I used to be a high-school English teacher, in a state where education was a top concern, and am a strong proponent of public education. But like a lot of communities today, ours has certain educational difficulties and shortcomings. These are not insurmountable, and we'd do whatever we could to mitigate them for our kids. The partial homeschool approach is one way to be more involved with their learning and to be sure they are receiving a more personalized experience. There are so many good things about this situation. We straddle both worlds, and it usually works well. For one thing, we have enough time in a given week to do supplemental activities, like trips to the zoo, botanic garden or aquarium. We qualify as a homeschool group for discounted tickets to "school-time" dramatic performances. We can spend lots of time together and plan lessons around things we enjoy, focusing on art, science, music and anything else we like.

On the other hand, it seems like we're always "doing school"; we have a set number of hours to log every week. Our children still have to take state- and district-based standardized tests (which are becoming more numerous and arcane with every passing year), and there is no school-bus service for students who attend our school, since it's considered an "alternative" program. So I spend lots of time in my car, driving fifteen minutes each way. Fortunately, the Bear can drop them off on his way to work some days, and I don't have to do the round-trip every day. And now that they're both in school together, I have three, sometimes four, mornings alone every week (and every other week, we have a child-free Private Friday together, which has been so much fun).

We don't have a homeschool room in our house. There just aren't enough rooms. Instead, we take an organic approach. Mostly, we centralize our activities in the family room. It's my favorite room in the house, and I think theirs too. There are big windows on two sides of the room, as well as a large skylight. The room is always bright, even on an overcast day. It's also open to the kitchen, with a bar-counter in between, where they can sit on stools to work. The LB likes to work there, but the GB sometimes prefers to sit on the floor in front of the coffee table. We have our "homeschool cart" in a nook sort of between the family room and kitchen; here, we keep all our books and supplies. I'm pretty strict about the cart; we keep it neat and organized. I like to be able to grab things quickly as I need them. Sometimes we spread out to other rooms. This happens most often when someone is creating a distraction. Then, I send someone to the living room, or home office (our fourth bedroom). I don't tend to encourage schoolwork in their bedrooms; they still need a lot of direct guidance, though the LB has started to enjoy quiet reading time on his bed.

A typical afternoon for us looks like this: I pick them up from school around 11:30, and we go straight home for lunch. After lunch, we listen to an audiobook for awhile. I like to give them time to settle down before we get to work. For my kids, a gentle read-aloud session is just the ticket. Then we get to work. We usually "do school" for two or three hours and then we pack it in. I try to keep the afternoons free for walks, outdoor play or lounging in the backyard, though we do have the GB's ballet class and the LB's guitar class on two of the days each week. I love our afternoons together. I  fortify myself with tea in my favorite giant "cappuccino" mug. I often have something cooking for dinner in the crockpot, especially now that it's cooler. This gives me so much more time in the afternoons. This week brought several cloudy afternoons and I lit my new candle. It's homey and school-ish at the same time, with tea, bubbling soup (that one in the photo was an improvised chicken tortilla concoction) and a pumpkin-spice candle on the stove.

I do enjoy teaching my own kids, which I didn't necessarily foresee when we started. These days, the LB is largely independent; I can brief him fairly quickly and let him work alone, checking in as necessary. The GB needs much more from me, and we work closely most of the time. This is partly due to her young age, but I've also realized that they are very different learners. The LB is very smart, but he hates to be wrong. Oh, it's a terrible thing and there are tears and self-recrimination. For such a mild-mannered cool-cucumber, he can be very emotional when it comes to school work. His sister is perfectly happy to be wrong and will work without complaint until she figures it out. This surprised me, given that she is generally much more fractious than he is. But she's more patient with herself, which is an important difference. We work on it with him, and I think he's starting to turn the corner lately.

There are squabbles and they don't always settle down to work as I'd like them to. Some days, I feel a little distracted or impatient myself. It's not easy. I know it wouldn't be for everyone and I've had plenty of days when I've been sure it wasn't for me! I doubt those days are over. But it's working. We're in our fourth year now and I feel like I'm hitting a stride. I didn't expect that in my first year with both in school, but we have excellent classroom teachers and I feel much more confident and in control with the homeschool. It helps immensely that I have such a willing co-teacher in the Bear; he's fully on-board and always does his share. I'm thankful that I'm able be a stay-at-home mother indefinitely, and I feel good about using the opportunity this way. I think we have pretty good thing going here and I'm proud of us.

32 comments:

  1. I think you are blessed to stay at home and so are your kids. When my kids were little I just worked one afternoon a week, starting at 3. My hubby got home at 3:30, so the kids stayed with my SIL for about 45 minutes. It was a way for me to keep my finger in nursing, but not be gone all the time.
    Kudos to you for homeschooling too. I know it's a big commitment, but it's so good for your kids.

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  2. Sounds like you have a lot to be proud of, you are truly blessed being able to stay at home with your children. I was afforded that luxury too but I didn't go down the homeschool route. Have a wonderful weekend.

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  3. I think I would go mad if we did home schooling..... but I am full of admiration for all the mums and dads who do. It must be nice to have so much impact on your children's learning. You are right to be proud! Have a great weekend. Cx

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  4. It is a fantastic system, your home schooling ! But I think it requires a lot of discipline, from the children as well as the parent(s)... Doesn't it feel like you as well are going back to school ;-) ?

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  5. What a marvellous system .I'm not sure I could cope I am not brave enough, it does require so much from all of you. I only know you through your blog but I know you and your hubby are doing a sterling job .You should be very proud..

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  6. I'm a big fan of homeschooling and it sounds as if your system is perfect. I don't think there's the option here to do it part-time, but I can see that it has huge advantages - the best of both worlds. I'm glad it's working so well for you all, your afternoons sound really homely and cosy and enjoyable. Wishing you a good weekend. CJ xx

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  7. I love the idea of part-time schooling. We have never thought of home schooling before but now that my eldest is at at secondary school, he is really stressed, it's a long story but we've considered home-ed for the first time these last couple if weeks. Actually our ideal would be similar to what you have - flexi-schooling but our school (and most schools ) don't allow it. My son is very bright, considered gifted in fact for Maths and science, and us in the top classes for these. But he needs support for his anxiety and focus. But there is no budget for support in all his lessons, so he gets support for the Maths and science, but nothing else. He just can't cope without the support though so he is in the extreme under achievers class (where there is lots of support by default) but is being taught English, History, Geography at the level if a 7 year old (he's 11). It's so frustrating. I'd gladly teach him myself for the other subjects but they won't let me do flexi style. He's either in school or he's not . Argh

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  8. Your schooling option sounds perfect. I love the idea of it being flexible and not an all or nothing option. Did you have to undergo any training to be allowed to do it? x

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  9. Hi Jennifer, just catching up now that I am back, I have been reading, just not commenting. It sounds as though you have the balance pretty right for your family as far as school work is concerned. I hope that it will be a good year for you all with lots more learning for everyone and additional time for you to do as you please. xx

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  10. You have a great balance going Jennifer - some class time and some homeschool time sounds like a wonderful mix. These kinds of programs weren't available when my kids were young. It was all of one kind of school or the other, and we went the homeschool route. One of the things I so enjoy about reading your blog is how much your love for your family shines through each post.

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  11. This sounds great for your family Jennifer. Our kids did a combination of homeschool and private school over their school years before college. We all used the same curriculum and had help from the private school when needed. All three of our children graduated with college degrees. Two with bachelors degrees at age 18 and one with a masters at 19! Homeschooling does work. They all have very rewarding careers in their chosen fields of study. Keep up the good work. Only you and your husband know what's best for your family.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  12. This is very cool Jennifer! I was a teacher for many years and every single member of my family works in the school system where we live. I think as far as education is concerned you have to do what fits your family. If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I would ever homeschool the answer would have been no but as of late I think of doing it more and more. And how wonderful that you get discounts for outings. I loved hearing about your rhythm and how you transition into school....LOVE the idea of audio books....I need to get more of those in the house. I think you have created a healthy and rich balance in your home. Really enjoyed this post because I have always wondered how your schooling worked! Have a great weekend friend! Nicole xoxo

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  13. This is so interesting Jennifer, thank you. I enjoyed this for the glimpse of your education system as much as the peek into your routine. 16 hours alone isn't much! I feel spoiled with my 30 hours when the kids are in school, and I think you manage this balance incredibly well. X

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  14. Hi Jennifer! It is amazing to read that you got the chance to teach your own children, but I can see that it is also a big responsibility! But I get the impression this is a good way and it seems to suit your family, which is what is most important! You are doing a fine job with your family!!!
    Have a lovely weekend!
    Ingrid xx
    http://myfunkycrochet.blogspot.be/

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  15. This sounds such a perfect way to raise and educate your children, a good mix of going to school and learning to socialise, and spending time at home with Mum, learning again, but also learning without books, from walks and chatting, watching Mum cook too. I think your children have a lovely life with you, which is as it should be of course.

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  16. Sounds like the best of both worlds, they get the social interaction with other children at school, then the one to one teaching at home. It crossed my mind to home school my youngest who is dyslexic, it felt like school was trying to push a square peg through a round hole sometimes. He developed his own strategies for dealing with it though.

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  17. I think it's a great system. I think more people would be inclined to go down the home schooling route if it were on a part time basis such as this. It probably feels daunting for some people, but to have the backing of school there as well would make it feel less scary.

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  18. Ive always wondered about the American home school system as it is so much rarer here in the uk. It sounds like you've got a nice balance that is both lovely and hard work sometimes. I've always supplemented my children's education with trips and visits to places I know would stimulate their creativity and even though they are now 13 and 16 I still do this and it pays off, they remember so much. I'm sure your toe will have fond memories too. J x

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  19. A very interesting post Jennifer. Do you think your teacher training has helped you here, even though it was directed at older children? I doubt if I could teach my girls according to a curriculum and to a good standard without resorting to much tears (mine most likely). A really fascinating insight into your daily routines.

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  20. It all sounds pretty good to me. As an ex-teacher I know how difficult things can get inside the classroom, particularly when it's poorly resourced and there are a lot of demands on the teaching staff.
    Here in England home schooling is often dismissed as being the preserve of overprotective or 'alternative' parents. Your post proves otherwise.
    It seems you've found a good balance and are doing a great job.
    S x

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  21. I think it is a brilliant idea and I applaud you for your patience and teaching knowledge. What a wonderful way for your kids to learn, it is really the best of both worlds.
    Hugs to you,
    Meredith

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  22. You are fortunate to be able to bridge both worlds when it comes to your children's education. It must be a big commitment to partially home school but also rewarding.
    Anne xx

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  23. I think you can be proud of yourself Jennifer, I ran a nursery School for 5 years when I lived in Syria and I loved it but that was more a fun learning play approach, this is more serious stuff, it sounds as though you have everything so well organized, your kids are lucky to have the benefit of both worlds and to have such a clever mum I could never do it. :) xx

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  24. Thanks for this post, Jennifer. It was good to gain an insight into your school/homeschool routine. It sounds a perfect balance and a nurturing environment for your children.

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  25. This sounds like a great balance between conventional and home schooling. You are a brave woman - I couldn't home school my kids. I definitely don't have the patience for it :-) x

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  26. I'm back from my unexpected holiday and catching up with everyone and I was so looking forward to popping in here ... it's like a visit with a good friend you haven't seen in a while, catching up on all that's been happening with you and your sweet family. And that blanket is gorgeous!

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  27. That sounds a good idea getting the best of both worlds! It must be so rewarding to help your children with their schooling too, it was so interesting to read too. Sarah x

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  28. I think your kida have the best of both worlds and you're so lucky to be able to do this. I'm sure sometimes it's not easy but it must be so rewarding for you all too. x

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  29. You have such a nice balance going here. It's so nice how you have some alone time in the mornings, but get to enjoy lunch with your children and learn at home in the afternoon.

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  30. Such an interesting post and I love the balance you have created in your life and your children's. Your two sound very like my daughter's children, where the eldest also hates being wrong and has taken a long time to learn to cope with it, whereas his younger brother is much calmer and more philosophical.

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  31. I find it so interesting the schooling situation that you have going on. As someone who isn't yet a mother, but hopes to be one day, I've thought a lot about the way I would like to bring up my kids and homeschooling interests me, one of the worries however would be the lack of peer interaction, so your set up sounds great. Thank you for sharing more about it. x

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