It’s September, which means all the activities the kids take/do/are in are gearing up. This was our last week of not-much-going-on as a family. We took advantage of the time this week and last by going to the zoo, visiting J’s father grave at the national cemetery, and going to the Valleyfair amusement park one more time. Familial things.
I’m not, in any way whatsoever, going to say that anyone who homeschools has to model their plan on ours. We’ve made choices and priorities that work for us in accordance with our values. But here’s how the fall schedule looks.
BBC: Every morning we spend five to fifteen minutes looking at the BBC news website. We discuss the headlines, watch a few video shorts, and catch up on what is happening in the world.
Music practice: Every morning K practices piano for thirty minutes and euphonium (or baritone) (think “small tuba”) for fifteen.
Reading aloud: Every morning, and most evenings, J or I read aloud to the children from whatever the current chapter book is. We read for fifteen to thirty minutes, depending on the book and how much time we have.
Chores: Every day the kids have chores to do. This is because everyone contributes back to the economy that sustains them because that it just the right thing to do. The chores take no more than five minutes, really, but they are not symbolic. They are part of how families work, how cities work, how cultures work. Everybody contributes.
J takes the kids to church and choir while I’m at work. Choir is an activity we picked because we require the kids to do at least one performance activity, and at least one music activity. And K, our daughter, is an extrovert who requires lots of contact with people each day or she gets mopey. We signed up with a local Unitarian church because they have a decent children’s choir with minimal requirements from us. And, honestly, the Unitarians are perfectly pleasant as an organization and it doesn’t hurt the kids to get a glimpse of organized religion.
School: We do School seven days a week, 365 days a year, with a number of short interruptions for vacations or major events. School consists of math, language arts, writing, history, art history, geography, social studies, Spanish, and the sciences. Not all of these things every day, obviously. School lasts ninety minutes to two hours, more or less. The kids do math almost every day. J does language arts on her days, and I do history/geography on mine. We both cover Spanish, art, science, and social studies — the “soft” sciences. We read aloud to the kids, or they read books and then tell us what the book is about. We’re working on teaching them to write reports. Most days we include a “school video,” something educational we’ve gotten from the library. On Sundays J does school while I’m at work.
Spanish lessons at a local library. This is a mixed-age group for homeschooled kids. We really want the kids to learn Spanish. This is part of our values — we want the kids to know more than one language. Moreover, since K was born in Guatemala, we want to be able to travel there in a few years and learn more about the country and its culture.
YMCA: This shows up a lot in our schedule. We joined the Y because it’s good for the entire family. J and I work out while the kids run around in the child care play area. Then we all go stretch and the kids do crunches and pushups in the gym. Some days we swim. The idea here is to inculcate in the children the idea that exercise is something one just does. It’s not a fad or a trend, it’s just something people do because it’s good for you. On Monday J takes the kids while I’m at work.
School. J does school while I’m at work.
Nap: On Mondays this fall K has a late circus class, so the kids nap in the afternoon.
Circus: K has Multiple Trapeze II this year. It starts at the kids normal bedtime. J has choir rehearsal on Mondays, so I take the kids to circus and put them to bed afterwards. While K is in class, M plays or reads books.
Music lesson. J gives the kids their weekly lesson on Tuesday mornings. She gives M a general music lesson, and teaches K the next portion of her piano lesson. N gives K her euphonium lesson for the week, as he is the brass player in the house.
J does school.
Tuesday afternoon is the local homeschool playgroup. J does this, as it starts while I am still at work. The group consists of five families at the moment and usually meets at a local park or the home of one of the families.
YMCA. Except, for four weeks, the kids will be going to a class for homeschool kids at the Science Museum on Wednesday mornings. J and I will go to the Y while the kids are in class.
I teach school on Wednesdays, so there’s more history and less punctuation.
Wednesday is our big circus day. The two kids have five classes between them, from 4:00 to 7:15. We’re going to somehow eat dinner, in there, too … I think that most weeks J and I will both go to circus. We get to spend some time together, chatting, while the kids are in class. This year M is taking Unicycle I and Trampoline (non-performing), and K is taking Acrobatics II, Unicycle I, and Low-Casting Trapeze (non-performing).
I do school on Thursday mornings.
In the afternoon I take the kids to the Y. I work out, and when I’m done the kids go swimming during Open Pool time.
Later on Thursday afternoon is crafts time. I do crafts with the kids. This is a compromise between the kids and J and I. The adults do not like crafts projects. But the kids do. So I carve out a block of time for painting, sculpting, and gluing things together. This is also when we do science projects like blowing up things in the bathtub, or trying to grow mold on bread.
In addition to the everyday morning things we do, on Fridays the kids practice riding their unicycle. It’s just five minutes each in the hallway, but it’s important to make sure the kids grow up understanding that long term goals require commitment. That one does not unicycle overnight, but one learns through the steady application of effort over long periods of time. I am hoping that the kids will learn this from not just unicycle, but from music lessons, math practice, and swimming. Success is not a one-time miraculous thing, but a process of effort and incremental advance.
I do school on Friday mornings.
Friday afternoons J takes the kids to the library. We get videos, and books for school on various topics, and books the kids want to read. J also gets books for herself (some of which I read when I get through my ongoing stacks of books). We want the kids to grow up thinking that reading is just something normal that you do all the time, every day. And that one reads all sorts of books, and tries things outside of one’s normal sphere, by using the public library. The library trips also teach responsibility — the kids get fined, by us, if they have left a library dvd in the dvd player, or if they’ve taken a library book out of the living room and left it somewhere unbeknownst to us. The kids have to help gather up all the books and dvds and return them. They also have library cards.
Swim lessons and working out at the Y. The kids have swim lessons, and we are considering signing them up for a kids’ fitness class so J and I can finish our workouts.
K has a flamenco dance class on Saturdays after lunch. When she was little we had her in a ballet class, but neither J nor I liked it. Ballet is not a sustainable physical activity — you age out of it, and then where are your skills? But flamenco is a dance one can to until one dies, essentially. Moreover, the class uses Spanish and English, which we like. For this term, K has been invited to a second flamenco class immediately following her first one. This second class will teach more advanced, serious choreography.
In the later afternoon, J teaches school.
Irregular regular activities:
We also include a number of things that are not precisely weekly. J visits the local nursing home twice a month, once to play piano and sing for the residents, and once to bring a small fluffy dog and a friendly child. The kids switch off going from month to month. This is part of the idea of service to one’s community. We gave them a choice when they were five years old — they could volunteer for something, or we could deduct charitable contributions from their allowance. Since they are not old enough to choose their own volunteer efforts, they go with J.
In a similar vein the kids clean out their toys about three times a year and give things to charity, or to families we know with younger kids.
Karla participates in a dance group comprised of girls adopted from Guatemala. The group learns about Guatemalan tradition and culture, and does dances from that country. The class runs in the summer but K has performances throughout the year, including this fall.
We try to get to the monthly Tripoli model rocketry association launches. These run once a month from spring to fall.
We (and this is mostly if not entirely J’s efforts) try to arrange for the kids to see some of their friends on playdates each week, and to go to a park a couple times a week, and to walk the dogs (J is better about this than I am.) Each kid also has a Movie Pick once a week, where they can select a recreational video to watch or endlessly re-watch.
A few times a year N will do a hands-on engineering project with the kids.
As we move into winter the kids will go ice skating more. We also go to zoos, museums, and the indoor amusement park at the Mall of America when things get colder. I’ll take the kids with me to the gun range. The kids might go with J on her choir retreat. All of these things, including the amusement park, are part of homeschooling. (Going on scary thrill rides teaches how to take risks in a reasonable manner.)
As I review this list, I feel that I am forgetting something. It seems there should be more. But this is more or less what my homeschool life is going to look like for the rest of 2010.
Filed under: Autobiography, Parenting | Tagged: homeschooling | 2 Comments »