The following is a post by contributor Amida of journey into unschooling.
So, how do you homeschool? This by far, is perhaps the most asked question regarding our schooling.
One day, upon learning that my children are homeschooled, a group of elementary school kids instantly bombarded them with questions concerning their education: What do you have to do? How long does it take to finish? Do you get recess? What do you eat at your homeschool? Who is your teacher?
I found it all very amusing, especially my son’s brief responses — everything, until we are done, yes, anything, Mom. I thought I’d take this moment to elaborate for him.
What do you have to do?
Well now, this is a big one. We are part of a charter school and in accordance to their rules, we have to document new learning in the areas of math, language arts, science, social studies, art and physical education every month.
How we do that, thankfully, is (mostly) up to us. There are some things, like math, that we do consistently, and follow the book from beginning to end. There are others, like art and science, where we pick a topic and spend a good chunk of an afternoon working on it.
And then there is history, which we do sporadically. We try following a chronological study of events, get bored of it, and take a break.
Or we read about a time period in a story and decide to do a unit study on that particular period instead. Recently, we read a story about Seabiscuit and his inspirational race during the Great Depression, so we took a detour and read up on that time period.
We never bother with official PE time because we get an hour of it a day in various classes.
Some days are “commute days,” where we spend a couple of hours in the car traveling back and forth between cities. Those days are awesome for listening to audio books.
Photo by Martin Pettitt
How long does it take you to finish?
It depends. Because we don’t schedule our school day into specific time slots, it can start and end whenever we feel like.
Some days, we get lots of work done after breakfast. Most days, we don’t get anything done until after lunch.
Sometimes, we have to bring work with us and work on them while waiting for a sibling in class. Other times, we get to read or draw or just hang out. And yes, there are those days we don’t get anything done at all. Mom figures it all balances out in the end.
Do you get recess?
Yes and no. Yes, there are breaks in the school day, but they are totally unstructured and not planned into a neatly boxed time of day.
More precisely, we get breaks from recess, and “do school,” so one might say anytime is recess. Is that wrong? I’m not sure, but I know we somehow get a good amount of work done by the end of each reporting cycle so Mom is OK with it.
What do you eat at your homeschool?
Good food! Leftovers are popular. On those “commute days,” we get lunch box food — sandwiches, snacks, fruits, soup — packed in a cooler and enjoyed in the car.
Recently, my mom has incorporated a cooking lesson into the week, at which time we have to make lunch. Unfortunately, eating at home also means we have to clean up afterwards. Apparently, that is part of the “lesson.”
Who teaches you?
Mom is the teacher. She is constantly scouring the internet and looking for new ideas. She doesn’t actually teach anything, but prefers that we research and learn about a topic on our own.
She is big on variety and will suggest different ways to approach an assignment based on mood, interest and the position of the moon in relation to Saturn. Sometimes, she gets way more excited by an idea than the person who actually has to do it.
She has a degree in writing and therefore assigns a colossal amount of writing assignments and is peeved when we don’t proofread them. When she reads about a newfangled idea, she immediately suggests it to us as an alternative to writing a boring report — we have made posters, travel brochures, online presentations, web pages, boardgames, models, mini-books, etc.
When we saw an opera on Madam Butterfly, she didn’t like the ending, so instead of having us write a summary of the story, she had us write an alternative ending.
Sometimes, she makes us “do something science” when we haven’t formally touched on the subject in a while. For instance, the other day, she handed out straws, strings, and a book on space frame structures and told us to build a few and tell her all about it (and then write about it, complete with diagrams).
When available, she lets us play with science kits with specific instructions to not blow up the house.
She likes to dedicate entire mornings to art and will forbid anyone from eating on the dining table that she had covered with plastic and art supplies.
When the projects are based on famous pieces, we have to read about the artist and write about it, even if it’s just one sentence. Sometimes, I don’t want to do art, but she insists it is awesomely fun and makes me do it anyway.
If I complain long enough, she lets me do math instead. It’s nice to know I have options.
What types of questions do you get about your homeschool?