We are into our Spring schedule and settling in to our new routine. For those of you who have asked, here is a glimpse of our days. It is fairly specific, as requested by a few of you.
Most of the kids we know are in school, and so, more tightly scheduled activities start at 3:30 pm or later. This is awesome for us because we have a whole day of fairly flexible fun and work (or rest, depending on the day) before that.
Most days we let the kids sleep until they wake up on their own.
We limit screen time so when they do get up they tend to draw, help me make breakfast, fold/put away laundry, tidy/clean the house (I am a big proponent of getting the kids involved early helping with household responsibilities), or just putter around. Once we eat we start our “schoolwork”, which lasts for about 20-40 minutes each time. Depending on the day, we will work 1-3 times. I usually have a general idea of what I want to cover but I try to let the kids lead how the work gets done. Of course, if something interesting occurs to us, we are always willing to scrap the day’s plans to make room for it. And on the days it’s necessary, I do what I need to do to motivate the kids to get their work done. Mostly, this entails me reminding them that we cannot participate in whatever social activity is planned for that day if we don’t finish our work first.
(A small aside here: I am not sure why so many people are concerned about the socialization of homeschooled kids [almost every parent bold enough to talk with me about schooling choices has said they send their kids for “socialization” or because they “don’t want their kids to be weird”]. My kids are some of the most social I know and they are comfortable in almost any social situation I put them in. Really, I am not just tooting their horns).
We are, per the kids’ requests, continuing tennis and swim lessons as well as tae kwon do and piano. And because we are in a town that lives and breathes skiing, Molly is joining her schoolmates for nordic (cross-country) and alpine (downhill) skiing one day each per week. Her school actually lets out early on Fridays so the kids can alpine ski for 3 hours! Molly also joins her classmates one afternoon per week for Library and a science/nature class.
(OK, one more little aside: I feel very lucky to have such a supportive school community. Even though they are required to by law, it is still really great that they welcome my kids into their community with such open arms.)
If our calendar sounds like a lot, it is. Our major goal this semester is to PROTECT OUR TIME. That means that we won’t be adding anything else without giving up something in exchange. We have made enough friends and figured out the area well enough that if I allowed it, we would be booked from morning through to bed time. The world is full of fun!
(Last aside, I promise: I am also asked pretty often how I fill my days with three small children. And I admit, before I did it, I also wondered what I would do with all that time! I was especially worried about the baby. Here’s the deal: I find that the more time I leave unplanned, the more the kids fill it with interesting things. Things that the kids like to do together! Having a lot of downtime means there is plenty of room to follow our interests. And plenty of room for the kids to teach each other. Sometimes going on a wild goose chase because you’re curious is the best way to learn. And I think it is important that the kids learn how to direct themselves, without me telling them how or what to do every moment).
As for academic subjects, we are back to math, grammar/punctuation, and copywork in workbooks 2-4 times per week. Science is as directed by the kids (and through the school as mentioned above). I have loosened up a bit now that Molly knows what is expected of her and I basically just create goals for the week and mark pages for her to complete. Then she works on them alone or with me. Singapore Math, which is new to us this semester, has a great manual for me as it includes lots of fun games and activities. Joseph loves to play them with us so that has been a really great addition to our work so far. I will write more about our progress after we make some.
Molly’s writing is coming along and I don’t think you can work on writing and editing enough (all that critical thinking!) so in addition to “letter Monday” and “Sketch Tuesday” we are working on writing and storytelling. The major work component for her is that I have asked her to draw a picture and write at least five grammatically correct sentences about once or twice a week. I love, love, love, watching her think of, write, edit, and illustrate her thoughts!
As laissez faire as this all may sound, we’re on or ahead of schedule in the various subjects so far.
The only other addition has been to start preparing for standardized testing. Under the laws of our state we have to either use a standardized test or have a portfolio evaluation (or come up with a third, mutually-agreed-upon-with-the-state evaluation of the kids’ progress). I do keep a pretty extensive portfolio (that is the major reason I started this blog). Nonetheless, for now we are thinking we will use a nationally recognized achievement test. Testing seems easy, pretty inexpensive, more objective than just a portfolio, acceptable to the state, and both my husband and I loved taking them (I know, I know, what is wrong with us?? :))!
If anyone has any thoughts on standardized testing or the various types (especially California Achievement Test (CAT), IOWA Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), or the Stanford Achievement Test), I would love to hear them. As for preparation, our goal is not to “teach to the test“, but rather to prepare with our future test takers for what to expect with regard to format, timing, and length.
Do you think we should use a standardized test? I am especially interested to hear your thoughts if you are an unschooler who tests, as we are starting to lean towards that type of homeschooling. Which test would you use? Why or why not?