In my first post about homeschooling, I purposely focused solely on the reasons why we chose to homeschool.
I don’t think anyone these days thinks the US educational system couldn’t use at least a little fixing, therefore it was easy for me to point out the reasons why we opted out of it.
Writing about how our methods of homeschooling work on a day-to-day basis is harder to write about publicly because while it works for us, it may not work for everyone — much like public school doesn’t work for everyone.
Here’s the first batch:
1. Do you have a lesson plan? Are there themes? Is there a schedule?
This question is first because it’s the most important one, and the answer to it colors the rest of the answers I have.
The short answer is: no.
The long answer is: we’re unschoolers.
If you want to dress it up in educationese, I could say we espouse a child-led, interest-driven learning model, but basically, it boils down to she learns what she wants to learn and we trust that she’ll learn things she needs to know.
2. Does the law provide curriculum, or benchmarks, or what?
During the summer, we’re required to draw up our own curriculum, called an Individualized Home Instruction Plan, for the coming year. I base it around what kids usually learn at a specific grade level, things I know my kid is interested in (e.g. insects) and things the state says we have to cover (arson prevention). I submit it to the NYC Dept. of Education and they approve my plan.
Over the course of the year, I send them four very brief quarterly reports. In a few years, we will have to administer an approved achievement test, when my kid, Beatrix (so I can stop saying “my kid” all the time), is at a grade level in which public school kids are also tested.
I refer to my approved instruction plan a few times to see if there’s something we should cover that we haven’t (last year, we both read up on New York state, because I know virtually nothing beyond the city and we’re obligated to learn about it) but for the most part, we have no lesson plans/themes/schedules/learning modules, et cetera.
3. How do you teach stuff you don’t already know without resorting to worksheets/curricula? Do you head to the library or look through Wikipedia, or what?
For the most part, I feel like my job is to demonstrate research tools/skills and then allow her to look things up and learn it herself. When we bought goldfish, she asked the librarian to show her books about goldfish, which she took home and read. When she asked to make a volcano, I found a website on making a volcano, she made the list of materials and we assembled it (and exploded it) together. When I realized I had no information about the history and geography of New York state, I picked up a book from the library and we took turns reading it out loud every night for a couple weeks.
4. Did you buy a special desk? Is there a dedicated homeschool area, or is the whole home the school?
At the risk of sounding corny, the whole world is the school.
For example, earlier this week, we were at the laundromat. We noticed two smaller washing machines take seven quarters each, while one big one takes 18 quarters, and decided on using two smaller washers. While things washed, Beatrix read the latest issue of National Geographic Kids. We did the Mad Lib-style activity together while I folded clothes. I noticed her lower-case Gs and Ps weren’t flush with the line she was writing on, so I showed her how it’s done again and had her write “ping pong pogo” a bunch of times on a New Yorker magazine subscription card. As we were leaving, a truck, advertising its recycling of cooking oil, pulled up to the restaurant next to the laundromat. I said the truck would turn the cooking oil into fuel cars can run on, she told me she knew this, having already read about it in the National Geographic Kids 2011 Almanac, and we talked about that for a bit while we walked home.
To sum up, that was: addition, some money skills, reading, understanding parts of speech, penmanship, demonstrating reading comprehension, and a bit of science — in just under 90 minutes, without a desk, without worksheets, without me saying, “sit here until these lessons are understood.”
Did this post raise more questions than it answered?
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