Loading...
Menu

Homeschooling: It’s Easier Than You Think!

Homeschooling: It’s Easier Than You Think!

by Emily Jacques

 

©Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. You have permission to quote small portions of this book in other publications, digital or print, as long as you give credit to the author and include a link to her website, http://liveyourdreamswithemily.com.

 

Disclaimer: The URLs to the websites listed in this book are live at the time of publication. The author accepts no liability for dud URLs. In addition, the style of homeschooling presented in this book is based on the author’s opinions and experience. The content herein is for educational purposes only. The author accepts no liability if you try it and it doesn’t work for your family.

 

License Note

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please send them the link to download their own copy from an online e-book retailer. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

[]Table Of Contents

Introduction: A New World, A Paradigm Shift

Chapter One: Why Homeschooling?

Chapter Two: The Madness Is In The Method

Chapter Three: Happy Medium Homeschooling

Chapter Four: Teaching Language Arts

Chapter Five: Math – A Necessary Phobia?

Chapter Six: It Ain’t Rocket Science

Chapter Seven: Geography, History, And All Things People

Chapter Eight: The Universal Language

Chapter Nine: Art You Glad You Can Draw?

Chapter Ten: The Non-Issue Big Issue

Chapter Eleven: How To Never Have A Bad Homeschooling Day

Conclusion: Happy Medium Homeschooling In The Real World

Introduction: A New World, A Paradigm Shift

If you are reading this book, you are likely in one of two places. Place one: you have already begun homeschooling your children…but it’s turned out to be more work than you originally bargained for. You may be spending hours planning lessons and correcting papers, or you may be encountering constant resistance from your children when you are trying to get them to do their work.

Place two: you are considering homeschooling. If that’s you, you are in good – and numerous – company. Perhaps as many people are considering it, as are actually doing it.

And if you’re like most people considering taking the leap, you want to do your due diligence and check out all your options. Chances are good you read the title of this book and thought, “Oh, great! An easy way to homeschool? That’s what I want!”

Before we go on, let me remind you of the title again: Homeschooling: It’s Easier Than You Think. Notice the emphasis: I am not promising to present an easy way to educate your children. If it were easy, everyone would already be doing it! (Maybe.) Rather, my objective is to show you that this journey does not have to consist of daily power struggles, expensive (and boring) curricula, tedious paperwork, or unhappy children.

A little about me

I homeschool my son. I don’t do it because I used to be an elementary school teacher and therefore think I have some special talent to teach. I do it because schools are unhealthy places in which to raise children. I do it because I believe children deserve freedom. I do it because…well, I’m getting ahead of myself. I explain some of the benefits of homeschooling in the next chapter.

Like every other homeschooling parent, I’ve spent a good deal of time reading up on and experimenting with various homeschooling methods. I’ve spent a good bit of time unlearning the beliefs about education, teaching, and children that were drilled into me during my years in college, and subsequently as a school teacher.

And I’ve come upon a way of home education that is low-stress and joyful. It not only makes sense to my husband and me, but also fits well with our son, who is independent-minded and can smell manipulation a mile away. I want to share that way with you.

You are, of course, free to modify what I present in any way you like, or just toss my ideas altogether. No offense taken. But if I help just one person begin to homeschool their children, or to transition their family into a more relaxed homeschooling environment, writing this book will have been worth the effort.

What you will find in this book

As I mentioned, the first chapter is all about the benefits of homeschooling. The next explains some of the most popular homeschooling methods, giving the pros and cons of each. After that, I explain the education lifestyle that my family has fallen into.

In the later chapters, I go through the different academic subject areas and give you some ideas on how to approach them. Finally, I give you a sample homeschooling week in the life of a family with three children.

Sound good? Then, let’s move on and see if I can help you make your home education environment a lot nicer.

P.S. – One quick thing before we go on our merry way: In the spirit of keeping pronouns gender-neutral, I purposely use the plural pronoun “they” for “your child” because it is awkward to switch back and forth between “he” and “she.” And I don’t want to be sexist and just use one or the other. Besides, chances are good you will be homeschooling more than one child, so there you go!

[]Chapter One: Why Homeschooling?

I know that in certain situations, traditional schools can be an absolute blessing. I once heard a podcast episode about a family that had five or six children. All were homeschooled, except one. He was autistic with Down’s Syndrome. To paraphrase the father, they sent him to special education classes at the local public school because they wanted the mother to keep her sanity.

I also understand that a few couples are genuinely living as frugally as they can, yet with both of them working still struggle to make ends meet. I am not here to criticize them. I understand that life sometimes dishes out stuff we don’t see coming. And they are blessed that government schools exist to help them along.

However, most people who are either leery of homeschooling, or don’t want to homeschool, are not facing situations anything close to the magnitude of the two I just mentioned. Most people have the wrong idea, either about what a homeschool looks like, about their ability to be a homeschooling parent, or about the dynamics of a homeschooling family.

So if you are reading this because you are contemplating homeschooling your child/ren, pay close attention to the benefits of homeschooling I am about to list. PLEASE NOTE: The benefits are generic, assuming a person is using a typical homeschooling method whose formal academic time is three hours per day or less. They are not specific to the homeschooling method I will describe two chapters from now.

Advantages of homeschooling

#1. You can center the education around your children’s abilities and needs.

If your child isn’t understanding a certain concept, you can either go back over it several times until they do, or revisit it occasionally over the next few weeks, or completely drop it and wait a few months for their brain to mature into the particular concept.

On the other hand, if the child understands something right away, you can move on to the next thing.

If your child is a mover and a shaker, like mine, you can schedule several short lessons over the day instead of having him sit down for three hours straight. If your child is a late-bloomer, you can wait until they are eight or nine to start on the formal academics.

And so on.

#2. Homeschools are safe.

Safe from bullies, safe from drug pushers, safe from mentally ill teenagers with guns.

I need to put this out there: many children do not tell their parents that they are being bullied. Or sexually harassed. Do not assume that because they are doing well in school and seem generally happy that nothing is going amiss while they are at school. School teachers cannot keep an eye on twenty-five plus children all day long. And many kids have sneaky down to a science.

I know. Remember, I used to be a school teacher.

#3: Homeschooling allows for flexibility in everyone’s schedule.

You can go on vacation whenever it is most convenient for your family, not just during the summer and holidays. If your children are early risers, they can get all their formal academics done in the morning and spend the afternoons, when they are more tired, engaged in less intense activities. And vice-versa for Night Owls.

You can schedule appointments whenever, without having to worry about who is going to be home for the children after school, without having to try to fit in visits to the pediatrician after three in the afternoon.

#4: Homeschooling parents develop deeper bonds with their children than non-homeschooling parents.

A few years ago, I had a friend – whose daughter was about a year and a half younger than our son – tell me that she was not going to homeschool because she thought her daughter would drive her crazy.

I understood. Our son would be diagnosed with ADHD if he saw the right specialists. And until he turned nine or so, I kept being tempted to send him off to school. But then a wonderful thing happened: he started to want to be with me. And I started to want to be with him. We got to know each other on a level that would not have been possible had I given in to that temptation. If I had decided to send him to school, all I would know about him is how crazy and obnoxious he would act at the end of the school day. I have no doubt our relationship would be strained, and one of us would end up eventually needing therapy.

I know a woman who is close to twenty years older than I who homeschooled her children for most of their elementary and middle school years, and testifies that she developed deep bonds with her children during that period. I and that mother are only two of many homeschoolers who can attest to the great relationships that homeschooling parents grow with their children.

I believe that my friend missed out on a great opportunity to really get to know her child.

#5: Your child is not forced to become a robot.

A homeschooled student gets to eat, drink, and use the bathroom whenever they want. If they’re not feeling well, they can take a couple of hours – even the rest of the day – off.

(Gee, sound like homeschoolers might actually be healthier than schoolers, eh?)

During their free time, they can engage in whatever activities interest them, read whatever books they want. They will also feel much more free to share their opinions and ideas and thinking processes than they would in a school situation.

Speaking of thinking…

#6: Homeschooled children usually are better thinkers than schooled children.

I don’t care how many Ivory Tower head-nods are given toward Bloom’s Taxonomy of Knowledge, nor how many principals demand that this Taxonomy show up in lesson plans. I don’t care how many cute logic puzzles a teacher does with her class. Traditional schools do a lousy job of teaching critical thinking.

Traditional schools exist to turn children into obedient young people who will become obedient employees.

Employees who think are dangerous. They upset the status quo. Worse, they might leave one day and start their own business and become competition. (Or, they might leave and write a book about the dark side of traditional schools.) Ooooo! We can’t let that happen now, can we?

#7: Homeschooled children have the opportunity to dig deeply.

No, I don’t mean bury themselves in a hole in the ground. What I mean is that when a homeschool is run correctly, at least half the day is wide open. That leaves a lot of time for a student to delve deep into a topic that interests them. Take our son, for example. He has been into animals since he was about two years old. By the age of eight or nine, he could tell you more about life science than your average schooled twelve-year-old because we had read him so many books on the subject!

There you go. Seven benefits of homeschooling. But I’ve probably missed a homeschooling advantage or two, so use your noggin and come up with some yourself. 

[]Chapter Two: The Madness Is In The Method

If you dug deep enough, you could probably find at least a couple dozen methods of homeschooling online. In this chapter, I’m going to familiarize you with the most popular methods and give you some of the pros and cons of each. And then, in the next chapter I’m going to recommend a kind of homeschooling that is very different from most of these methods!

So, why bother going through them? Two reasons. First, I want you to be well-informed. You may finish my book and decide I’m nuts and that you need to do something more structured with your children than what I’m going to recommend.

Second, I’m hoping that, when you get to the next chapter, you will see how the “cons” of the different popular homeschooling methods really smack against what’s best for children.

All that said, let’s get on to these methods of home education…

The Classical method

Classical education is so called because it embraces what is considered classical subjects that were taught to wealthy children way back when, such as history, foreign languages (with an emphasis on the classical language, Latin), classical music, and world literature. The curriculum is more rigorous than that of even some private schools.

With this method, the student begins his education at age five or six – no exceptions – and starts off spending three hours a day with his studies, ending up at about six hours per day by the fifth or sixth grade.

The advantages of classical homeschooling: your child will be taught everything that a traditional school teaches, and more. It is the most rigidly structured method, so neither you nor your child will ever be at a loss of what to do next.

The disadvantages: first, it takes a lot of research on the part of the parents to put together curricula, especially if they want to do it as low-cost as possible. Second, there is little leeway for the child to take up subjects of her own interest if they are not a specific part of the curriculum. Third, a child is forced to begin formal academics at a young age, which is not good for most children. Fourth, your child will be forced to “learn” a lot of information that they will either forget by the time they are thirty, or never use in their life. Finally, this kind of curriculum puts a lot of strain on the homeschooling parent’s time, not just to prepare, but to correct assignments and do assessments as well.

The Moore Formula

The late Raymond Moore, Ph.D., and his late wife, Dorothy, homeschooled their children (more than five!) back in the 1950’s. Both former educators (Dr. Moore had actually been a superintendent of a small school district), the couple discovered how to make homeschooling effective yet low-stress. The method is elaborated in Moore’s book, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, but here it is in a nutshell: do not start formal academics until the child is between the ages of eight and twelve (this is based on Ivy League university studies that Moore cites in another of his books, Better Late Than Early). Up to that point, do a lot of reading aloud, singing, and game-playing with your children.

Once they begin their formal academic learning, they spend as much time on real-life work as they do on their studies, and spend time in the afternoon on a cottage industry (that’s a small family business), either their own or the family’s.

Children just beginning their formal studies start out at thirty minutes total every morning, working their way up to three hours every morning by the time they are high school age. This way, a lot of time can be devoted to the child’s talents and/or special interests, another important element for the Moores.

The advantages of the Moore Formula: it is, indeed, a low-stress way to homeschool. It also focuses on teaching the skills every adult needs: the three R’s, plus the ability to teach themselves topics of interest. Because of that, parents don’t have to do a lot of legwork to obtain the resources they need for teaching their children. The children also have a lot more free time.

Also, the children are taught the importance of helping the family, which lays the general foundation of learning to be a hard-working and considerate adult.

The disadvantages: pushing children to work on a cottage industry that they may have no interest in – or before they are really ready to dive into it – is as psychologically unhealthy as forcing a child to read before they are ready. In my opinion, this kind of work should happen organically, as part of a child’s growth and maturity and in concert with their interests and skills. It’s the only thing about The Moore Formula that I disagree with.

Charlotte Mason

The Charlotte Mason method, named after the woman who developed this particular method of education, is similar to the Moore Formula but with more guiding principles behind it as to the what and how of curricula.

Children whose parents use this method generally begin their formal instruction at age seven. Math instruction is to be manipulative-centered, foreign language instruction is encouraged – starting at a young age – and all other subjects are to be taught based on what Charlotte called “living books.” These are books written by one author with a passion for the subject – whether a novel, a book about frogs, or a book about American history – as opposed to textbooks. The formal instruction period lasts between two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours per day.

But like Moore, Charlotte Mason was about more than academics. She emphasized the importance of establishing the right home environment so that children would “catch” their parents’ values, as well as the importance of training children into good habits. She also believed strongly in getting children outside as much as possible to enjoy God’s creation – and, yes, to teach them to connect with their Creator.

The main advantages: It is generally very open and flexible, with general guidelines as to when children should learn what while being much less rigorous than the Classical method.

The main disadvantage: Like the Classical method and boxed curriculums, it wrongly assumes that there is some magic in beginning formal academics with children under the age of ten, and following the scope and sequence of the traditional school system. Children do not have as much freedom to explore their world as they might otherwise have, and are not any more likely to enjoy this method of home education than they would spending seven hours in a classroom each day.

The Montessori method

While entire schools – especially preschools – are devoted to the way Maria Montessori believed children should be taught, many homeschoolers have adopted her methods, as well, especially for young children.

Montessori’s philosophy of education revolved around three core beliefs. The first was that children between the ages of three and five pick up language and reading much more easily than older children, and so that is the age that they should be taught to read and begin to learn advanced vocabulary (not to mention learn a foreign language).

The second belief she held was that all educational materials should be hands-on. For example, to teach letter sounds as well as handwriting you hand the child a block with a letter that has been cut out of sandpaper glued onto it. The child repeats the letter sound while tracing the letter several times. The third belief is that children should have the freedom to choose what they are going to work on at any given moment of any given day.

The major advantage of using the Montessori method is the focus on hands-on activities. They can help some children understand relatively advanced concept at younger ages than children in regular schools do. I observed in a private Montessori school once, and saw a five-year-old working on multiplication and a three-year-old spelling three- and four-letter words with the sandpaper letters.

The different hands-on activities Montessori and her subsequent followers developed are effective at helping a lot of young children begin what we would consider formal academics.

There is one big disadvantage. Despite what Montessori believed, not every child is ready to learn to read and do math at an early age. I tried the sandpaper letters with my son when he was three, as is done in Montessori schools. No go. I tried again a few months later. Then when he was four.

He just didn’t get it.

Trying to use the Montessori number rods and addition/subtraction board that I acquired as a teacher was also a joke. If a child is not ready to read and do math, they are not ready to read and do math, no matter how cleverly you try to get them to do so.

The Waldorf method

Based on what I’ve read, this homeschooling method seems to be similar to the Moore Formula as far as rigor (in other words, it’s not very rigorous). The emphasis of the man who developed this method of education is nature study. The family is supposed to read literature together for forty-five minutes a day, do math three times per week and science two times, and spend as much time studying nature as possible.

The advantage: children get grounded in the basics in a relatively low-pressure way.

The disadvantage: What if a child couldn’t care less about nature?

The Eclectic method

Eclectic homeschooling, as you might guess, isn’t really a method in and of itself, but a mix of different homeschooling methods. Many, many experienced homeschooling parents are eclectic in their approach. For example, one family might do mostly Charlotte Mason but add another hour in the schedule for more classical instruction. Another family might use a boxed curriculum for math, sticking to the same company for years, but teach science and social studies from library books.

Summing it all up

Most homeschooling methods are loosely based on the traditional school system, regarding both structure and content. While that’s not always a bad thing, they almost always take more time and freedom away from both child and parent than is necessary, and often end up with children having negative feelings about academics because they are pushed into them too soon.

I am not here to give you the panacea for all homeschooling ills. I am not going to promise that I have discovered The Perfect Homeschool Formula that will work for all families. However, as I mentioned earlier, I have read up on and/or tried out several methods, and come up with what I believe can be an incredibly effective, low-stress homeschool philosophy that will provide your child/ren with all the foundational knowledge they need to succeed in life. In the next few pages, I will explain what that is as well as provide you with evidence that it works.

[]Chapter Three: Happy Medium Homeschooling

The method of homeschooling that my family finally settled on is more of a lifestyle than a method. If you have heard of relaxed homeschooling, it’s a kind of relaxed homeschooling. If you’ve heard of unschooling, it’s almost unschooling.

Unschooling? What is that?

Unschooling is not a method of homeschooling. It’s a philosophy of living, a lifestyle, where children are entirely responsible for their own learning. They choose the activities they do throughout the day, with no agenda imposed on them by authority figures. There is no set curriculum, no tests, and no grading.

In other words, they are not schooled. They have complete freedom over what they learn, and when. Yes, parents can (and should!) offer resources and suggestions when relevant or appropriate. But in an unschooling home, the children are free to say no to any and all parental suggestions.

If you have heard of unschooling via mainstream media, no doubt you think it means children running wild, eating junk food all day, and staying up all hours of the night. Two things about that: first, did you know that those mainstream network news shows often edit their videos to either push their own agenda, and/or to make people who are really nice, normal, intelligent people, look like idiots? Second, this is a branch of unschooling that is called “radical” unschooling, in which children have no rules about anything and the parents see themselves as partners and friends to their children rather than authority figures.

This can work depending on the child. But my belief is that parents are there to train their child to develop healthy habits, and they have every right to steer their children in such directions. There is, of course, an ineffective, demeaning way to steer; and a much gentler, more respectful, and more effective way to steer. This latter way is accomplished by providing real – and healthy – choices, saying “yes” whenever possible so your child has as much freedom as possible, and treating your child with the kindness and respect that you want from them.

A happy medium

As I write these words, I am an almost-unschooler. Perhaps in the future, I will give my son free reign over his education. I suspect I will, because this often happens to those of us who follow a relaxed homeschooling style.

However, I am aware that this idea seems extreme to many people, even to many curriculum-using homeschoolers – including those who follow a path with as little structure as the Moore Formula. Many would-be homeschoolers who run into the concept of unschooling ask, “But when will he learn to read? Will she ever learn Newton’s third law of motion on her own? What about the times tables?”

Another reason I am not prescribing pure unschooling is that, while most grown unschoolers are gainfully employed in work that they enjoy and believe they had a great childhood experience, you do run into the odd one who either never really became fully literate, or who complains that their life right now would have been better if they had been required to follow a more structured educational path.

And thus, I present the happy medium. You might call it the “An Hour A Day, And Then We Play” method of homeschooling. But that’s awkward to say, so just call it “Happy Medium Homeschooling.” Here’s how it works:

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Do not buy a homeschooling curriculum. Not for any subject.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. For the first hour after breakfast, the children do something structured with the homeschooling parent. Until a child is around ten years old, this “something” should be void of anything that smacks of school. Books should be read for the sake of enjoying the story, or the information, not for teaching reading (although it’s perfectly acceptable to run your finger under the words while you read – most children will begin to learn at least some sight words that way). Games should be either just plain fun, or at least more fun than educational.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. After the child turns ten, the structured time follows the homeschooling parent’s agenda of education. This consists of the basic skills and/or information the parent wants to make sure the child has a firm grasp on before entering the adult world. HOWEVER, all the activities should be kept low-stress and as fun as possible. For example, practice math skills using board games, purchased or homemade. For geography, don’t just point to a globe and make the child repeat the names of countries. Instead, watch YouTube videos on different countries, and use resources such as The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country In The World, published by Lonely Planet Kids.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. This hour should never consist of your child doing worksheets or doing flashcards – or really, doing anything that makes your child groan when you announce what they’ll be doing. In other words, make it look as little like school as you can.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. After the hour has passed, the child is free to do what they like for the rest of the day.

Now, I know you’re going to have a lot of questions about this method of homeschooling. To help you out, I am going to answer the most common general questions.

Happy Medium Homeschooling FAQ’s

Question #1: How can I possibly fit all the subject areas into one hour a day?

Answer: You cannot! And this is not a problem. There are three facts to keep in mind here.

First, by the time they are in their mid-teens, most children learn much of what they need to know simply by living life with a knowledgeable parent who freely shares their knowledge when relevant. For example, parents generally teach personal hygiene and basic health knowledge as they go along. As another example, when certain federal or national holidays – such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the U.S. – come up on the calendar, mini-history lessons are easily integrated into the day.

A third example: a child can learn how to tell time – either with an analog or digital clock – by the parent occasionally pointing to the clock and reading the time. A few times a week, they might explain about the hour versus minute hand, or how to count each number on the clock by five, and so on. Such “lessons” can take under a minute and be done as an aside, rather than looking like a formal math lesson.

Second, the vast, vast majority of people (99%, says one high school math teacher I saw on a TEDTalk video) never use any of the advanced math and science that they take in high school. So you don’t have to sweat over trying to teach your teenagers Advanced Algebra or Physics. If they get interested in those subjects, or decide to get a college degree with those kinds of prerequisites, they can either choose to enroll in a local high school for a year or two or take online courses.

Third – speaking of teenagers – this is the time of “childhood” when the brain is most ready to understand complicated skills, specifically reading, writing mechanics, and math concepts. Unschooled children often do not learn to read until they are ten or twelve years old, or even teenagers…but then they catch up with their peers anywhere from a few days to a year or two. The same goes for writing mechanics and math. What school children are forced to try to learn over a period of twelve years, unschooled teenagers pick up in a period of a few weeks to a few months. Why? Their brains can think in the abstract now!

Question #2: So, how do I know what to teach in that hour?

Answer: By knowing your child, and by having an idea of what you want your child to know by the time they are eighteen. An example of knowing your child: my son has been very interested in animals since he was a toddler. He was also interested in big machines (bulldozers, etc.) when he was younger. So he had a lot of those kinds of books read to him when he was quite young, and remembers much of the information – much, much more than he would have remembered if he had been “taught” from a boring textbook!

I would also check out books from the library on related topics, such as simple machines, or how your body heals a broken bone. So when I transitioned into a more formal academic learning time (which really doesn’t look all that formal), there was a whole lot of science that I didn’t need to be concerned about.

As for what would be helpful for your child to know – and which they likely would not fall into by accident – the Core Knowledge® series of books, edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. (What Your First-Grader Needs To Know, etc.), are a great general resource. But if you use that series, remember the principle: nothing formal until your child is ten. The reason: anything you teach them before then, unless they are really interested in it, they are unlikely to remember by the time they grow up. In fact, you might be better off saving the history, geography, and “heavier” science until they are at least twelve. For sure, do not directly teach them the grammar or math as they are laid out in the books, for the reasons I’ve already mentioned.

For most of the rest of this book, I will give you some ideas on how to approach each subject.

Question #3: What if I have some children ten and older, and some under ten?

Answer: This will likely be the case at some point. Your best option may be to carve out two forty-five minute per day sessions, one for structured time with the older kids, and one for structured time with the younger ones. Your older children might actually want to be a part of the session with the younger ones, since the games and reading will tend to feel more like play.

Start with this, but you will eventually figure out what works for your family.

Question #4: Why so much time to play?

Answer: If you are seriously looking into homeschooling, or making your homeschooling experience more relaxing, I highly encourage you to read the book Free To Learn by Peter Gray. A psychologist, he has a son who did not do well with the traditional school system, and when he was nine years old Peter and his wife removed him from the public school he’d been attending and enrolled him in Sudbury Valley School.

Sudbury Valley School is also known as a democratic school. There are other schools that follow its model scattered around the U.S. Basically, children can enroll as young as four, and they choose what they want to do all day. There is a computer room, a video game room, rooms with board games and other kinds of games, rooms with art supplies and writing supplies, and in almost every room there are shelves and shelves of books. Children of all ages play and talk and work together, outside and in, and when they reach a certain age they are even allowed to leave the campus to take themselves on field trips.

The adults on staff are not teachers, but facilitators and resource people. They only act as teachers if a student asks them to teach them a specific concept or skill. In fact, if students don’t like a particular adult because they behave like a teacher in a traditional school (or for any other reason), they can vote not to have that adult rehired for the next school year!

Except for the democratic justice system set up within the school (which is mostly run by students), Sudbury-model schools look like what you would call an “unschooling school.”

After Peter’s experience with Sudbury Valley, he began researching into childhood development. To sum it all up, he discovered that children who are allowed number one, to play as much as they like; and number two, free reign over their education, almost always end up as well-educated adults involved in meaningful work that they enjoy.

But when I say “well-educated,” I don’t mean that they know all the exact same things that traditional schools try to teach their students. The fact is, most students in traditional schools learn what they need to pass a test, then forget most of the information. By “well-educated” I mean that the children have had a chance to engage in activities that interest them, and when a person is free to do so all day long, every day, they are much more likely to retain the information and skills.

This is why I am so emphatic about keeping your agenda down to an hour a day, and keeping that hour as fun and interesting as possible.

Question #5: What if I end up with a teenager who is proficient at reading and writing, and is very intent on doing their own thing – to the extent they resist me when I tell them it’s time for our one hour together?

Answer: Let them! And welcome to the world-wide community of unschooling. In fact, I’d say that if you end up with a nine- or ten-year-old who reads and writes well, and is gung-ho on a particular interest, to the extent that they either tell you that they want to skip the “one hour a day” or don’t seem at all enthusiastic about that time, let them go do their thing. A child with that kind of initiative is going to become a successful adult, even if they can’t recite the major history facts that schooled kids learn, or don’t understand how to do x = 2y + 4.

Question #6: So, after that hour my kids are just supposed to run wild? Am I allowed to do anything to encourage them to do more educational or wholesome things than watching T.V. all day?

Answer: First of all, your children will not “run wild” – unless they are very active right-brainers who need a lot of mental stimulation, and if not given it will stimulate themselves by acting hyperactive and start doing things that get on your last nerve.

I speak from personal experience; this is my son. When he begins acting up like this, we do one of three things. We sit down with him and read a book, which inevitably calms him down so that when we’re done reading he goes off and finds something non-destructive to do. Or, we tell him to do this, or do that. He usually chooses to do something totally different, but he gets busy doing something productive. Or, we suggest he put in a DVD.

Which brings us to “screen time.” Honestly, this is one of the best ways to engage the super-active brain of a right-brained dominant child who is not yet reading, nor has a natural talent for art. We adults have been taught to see screen time as a waste, but it is actually mentally stimulating for such a child.

That said, you are the parent and are perfectly free to restrict your child’s video game-playing or T.V. (or YouTube) watching time. But unless you are like us and live in a rural area where there is not Internet service with unlimited data plans, try giving your child twice or three times as much screen time as you might otherwise. For example, if you would only allow one hour of video game-playing time, try three. It’s not debilitating their brain like we’ve been told (in fact, any kind of screen time can be quite educational in a number of ways), and it will save you any number of power struggles.

Some parents allow their children unrestricted screen time for some time, but occasionally schedule technology black-outs for a certain number of days. You might also try allowing unrestricted screen time Monday through Thursday, but restrict it to a family DVD Friday through Sunday. Work it out in whatever way feels right to you. Just understand that if you remove all screen-time restrictions, there will be a period in which your child will indulge liberally. But after a while, when they either get a bit tired of it or see that you really meant what you said, that they can have that screen time as much as they want, they will pull back and usually spend part of their day doing other things.

As far as encouraging other activities, as a Happy Medium Homeschooling parent, you have the joy and privilege of strewing. Though usually considered archaic, the word “strewing” is used liberally throughout the unschooling community to explain the process by which a loving parent puts interesting resources and items in their children’s paths. For example, you might tell your child that you found an interesting video on YouTube. Or, you might lay out colorful books on different topics on the coffee table. Or, you might set new craft materials on the arts and craft table, front and center.

However, keep in mind that after the hour with you, your child has the right to say no to anything you strew. And if they do, don’t sweat it. They’ll learn what they need to learn, by the time they need to learn it, either by themselves or during your structured time together.

Question #7: My state requires that homeschooled kids learn certain bits of information in each grade level – and that I document everything, or require that they take a standardized test, or require that I use an approved curriculum.

Answer: Unschooling is legal in every state in the United States, and from what I understand, in a growing number of other countries, as well. Therefore, the Happy Medium Homeschooling method is still possible for you.

If the place where you live requires particular documentation or assessment, do what you can to fulfill the requirements. Get online and find unschoolers or relaxed homeschoolers in your state to see what they do. Sue Elvis, an unschooler in Australia, has several videos on YouTube in which she explains how she uses Evernote to document her children’s learning (the state in which they live, New South Wales, requires it). Find her on YouTube under her name. She also has several podcast episodes on her blog, http://storiesofanunschoolingfamily.com, where she explains how she figures out how to document different knowledge and skills that her children have acquired.

Question #8: What if I have an older child who feels like he’s behind in math compared to his schooled friends, and wants to catch up? Or a teenager who wants to study certain subjects as pre-requisites for what he wants to study in college?

Answer: Khan Academy (which is free) or other online courses, enroll in high school for a year or two, study the free textbooks that are put out by the CK-12 Foundation and available at Amazon.

Question #9: I have a special needs child. Can I still homeschool them?

Answer: Absolutely! Many homeschooling parents have at least one child who would be slapped with a label if they were at school. In fact, except for obvious genetic conditions like Down Syndrome, most children who are given a label at school are only labeled because they are part of the fifteen or twenty percent of children who need a lot longer than age seven to learn to read and understand math. They are put on medications, thrown into Special Education classes, or simply referred to as being “learning disabled” only because they cannot fit in with the expectations of the school system.

Right-brained children thrive in a homeschooling situation because they don’t receive a negative stigma for being “slow”, and they are allowed to blossom in their own time. They also have the freedom to talk and move about as they need to.

Let me get personal for a moment. My son, if taken to the right specialist, would be diagnosed with ADHD. I’ve done the research, read the criteria for diagnosis…and of course, lived with him all his life. Trust me – he has almost every symptom, and sometimes to what could be considered a “severe” extent. After I figured that out, I made the mistake of purchasing and reading a book written by a school psychologist about how to “help” children with different learning difficulties. Then I made the bigger mistake of trying to implement some of her ideas with my son.

Why was it a mistake? Simply put, the ideas are covert attempts to manipulate children into learning how to read, write, and do math before they are ready. In other words, to force them to conform to the expectations of the school system. Not only did the ideas add on an extra half hour of structured learning time, but my son got totally stressed out.

With Happy Medium Homeschooling, children who would be labeled and stigmatized at school learn that learning is an enjoyable experience. They have the freedom to grow at their own pace, rather than being forced to do acrobatics to please an educational “expert.”

What about autistic children? I will share the personal experience of two mothers who have not sent their autistic children to school. As a matter of fact, both mothers unschooled their autistic children (because they were unschooling their other children).

First, I urge any would-be homeschooling parent of an autistic child to read this blog post: [+ http://www.christianunschooling.com/yes-i-unschool-my-autistic-children/+]

In essence, the mother says the reason that autistic children have trouble with changes in routine is that they get attached to routine. If they live in an environment that offers freedom of choice, they don’t develop that attachment and so can accept last-minute changes and decisions with no problems!

The other mother is one I heard talk on an unschooling podcast. When her autistic child was young, her maternal instinct told her that something was not right about all these therapies that were supposed to force her child to learn how to “behave right” in society. So, she pulled him out of all but one, and eventually weaned him off of that one, as well. Her son developed very well in the home environment – yes, including learning how to socialize with others.

Now, I know that there are autistic people, and there are autistic people, just as there are different intellectual and behavioral levels among people with Down Syndrome. You know your child; you need to make the decision you believe will be best for them. However, I can tell you with confidence that children with special needs can be, have been, and are being, successfully homeschooled.

And they are being treated with much more dignity and respect than they ever would be in a school.

**********

Any more questions? Wondering how to make learning the different subjects fun? A lot more on that in the chapters that follow!

[]Chapter Four: Teaching Language Arts

The subject of “the language arts” encompasses a broad array of concepts and skills: phonics, reading comprehension, literature, poetry, different genres of writing (essays, fiction, how-to’s, etc.), writing mechanics, grammar, communication skills, and so on. It’s enough to scare off any would-be homeschooling parent!

But that’s only because we’ve been told that children can never learn all these concepts and skills without direct instruction. The truth is, as soon as they begin to read, children begin to pick up much, if not most, of what they need to become worthy of the label “literate.” They may need direct instruction on how to write a good story, some of the finer points of writing mechanics, spelling, and some of the trickier grammar rules (lie vs. lay, for example). However, as I mentioned in the previous chapter, most teenagers can learn such skills in a relatively short period of time.

That said, let’s discuss how you might approach the subject of language arts in a Happy Medium Homeschooling scenario.

Reading

If I could do it all over again, I would have begun doing echo reading with my son by the time he turned three. Echo reading is when you read a line of text from a book, and then the child, tracking the words with their finger, echoes what you just read. The reason I would do so is that I know now that he is right-brained dominant. In other words, he thinks in pictures, not words, which means that he does a lot better in learning words by sight than by learning phonics rules and “sounding out” words using those rules. This is true for children who are given the labels ADHD, autism, and dyslexia…and this is why doing the Montessori sandpaper letters didn’t work.

If I had to do it again, I would have checked out from the library silly poetry books (such as by Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky), Dr. Seuss, and other early-reader books that consist of silly stories, and done ten minutes of echo reading twice a day with my son. I would have continued doing that to the point where he either started reading books on his own, or where he began to show signs of not enjoying the activity anymore. If he had reached the point of not enjoying it before he’d learned to read, I would have shrugged my shoulders and said, “Oh, well. He’ll end up being one of those late readers, and that’s perfectly fine.”

A CRITICAL WORD OF WARNING HERE: Children under the age of seven are at higher risk of developing near-sightedness when they spend more than a few minutes, two or three times per day, doing “close” activities; that is, activities where their eyes must focus on small objects – such as words on a page. This is because their eyes are not fully developed. So if you choose to work with a very young child on reading sight words, limit it to ten minutes, two to three times per day. And if they begin to read on their own at an early age, try to encourage them to frequently break up their reading with other activities.

That said, understand that the only reason schools push children to learn to read early is that the entire curriculum after first grade depends on students being able to read and write independently. Other than that, there is no valid reason to push a child to learn to read because they won’t truly need the skill until they go out into the world as adults.

In other words, homeschooled children should be free to take until their teenage years to learn to read. In fact, John Holt, a former school teacher who began pioneering the unschooling movement when I was still a little kid, observed that when left to themselves, many – if not most – boys will not learn to read until between the ages of eleven and fifteen. I have read of girls not learning to read until they were twelve or thirteen – and then starting off with a Judy Blume (chapter book written for pre-teen children) book, and a couple of days later digging into Harry Potter! True story! How does this happen? Two ways:

#
p<>{color:#111;}. They were not forced to learn to read before they were ready, and therefore did not learn to hate reading, and

#
p<>{color:#111;}. their brain was finally ready to solve the reading puzzle.

I learned to read when I was four years old. But I am what they call “whole-brained”, in between left-brain and right-brain on the spectrum, leaning a little toward the left. It was easy for me to learn the sounds of letters and how to put them together to read.

Many right-brained dominant children, because they see words as they see pictures, need a lot more time to crack the reading code. Autistic children are a different story, often learning to sight read at a young age to the extent that they can memorize entire books (I’m talking, adult-sized) in just a couple of hours! Their brains can somehow “see” the whole picture of words on a page.

What if…?

What if your child struggles with reading? If your child has either been in school and declares that they “hate reading,” or you have been doing a kind of school-at-home and your child is either struggling to read or is very reluctant to go through reading lessons or read any material that you ask them to, then, STOP! Your child is one of those whose brain simply will not open up to reading until they are over the age of ten, perhaps not until they are fifteen or sixteen years old.

I know it’s hard to comprehend a child not learning to read until then, because we have all been brainwashed with the “early readers are the most successful” doctrine. But for the happiness and optimum emotional health for your child, I urge you to pull back. Eventually, when they are ready, they will begin to read again.

What if your child is still young, and you haven’t yet begun trying direct reading instruction? My first recommendation is to read aloud to the child either as much as they want you to, or as much as they will let you, letting your fingers track the words as you read. Use books with fun pictures, engaging stories (or topics of interest to the child), and print that is large enough for the child to pick out individual words as you point to them.

One of three things will happen. They will be able to read with some fluency by the time they are ten years old. Or, you will have realized that you have a right-brain dominant child on your hand and your gut instinct is to not be concerned about them learning to read until they are thirteen or fourteen years old. Or, you will feel that your child would do well with a phonics-based reading program.

If it’s this last one, remember, wait until they are ten years old. Then, buy The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child To Read In Twenty Easy Lessons (each lesson is about sixteen pages on average, by the way, so you don’t complete one lesson per day). If, by following the instructions at the beginning of the book, you get halfway through the book and the child obviously is struggling to sound out words – or your find that they are confusing similarly-shaped letters (d, b, p, q are the most common) or forget what a certain word is in the very next sentence, then give it up. You missed your guess, and have a right-brain dominant child who is going to need a lot more time and a lot more interaction with print in their larger environment to solve the reading puzzle.

If, on the other hand, your child is reading well halfway through the book, go on and finish it, then set them free to read whatever they want. They are likely whole- or left-brain dominant, and will be reading on level (more likely higher) with their peers in less than a year.

What if your child is fourteen years old, and still hasn’t learned to read? Some parents bite the bullet, sweat it out, and wait. But you may not be willing to do that. I understand; neither would I. In that case, sit down and have an adult-to-adult talk with your child. Explain your concern. Ask them if they can read, how well, and how well they like it. If they really cannot read, talk about their options. For example, you can go back and try The Reading Lesson again. However, it was written for children under the age of seven, and so your average teenager would feel embarrassed reading “The cat sat on the mat” type sentences and stories.

A better idea would be to try echo reading and/or shared reading for a couple of months and see how that goes. Shared reading is when a child chooses the reading material, and you read while tracking with your finger. When the child wants to try, they take over until they run into a word they don’t know, at which point you take over again.

As a final option, you can hire a tutor to work with your teenager.

Remember: it’s not the end of the world if you have a fourteen-year-old who can’t read or write, but is otherwise living a productive life and learning a lot by involving themselves in their interests. But it’s smart to take steps to make sure they are literate by the time they are eighteen or so.

Now, you might be wondering about reading comprehension, vocabulary, and other related skills that traditional schools include under the heading of “reading”. All these things will come naturally, through a combination of just living life and through their enjoyment of reading.

Writing and spelling

Some children will begin writing before the age of ten, and perhaps even before they learn to read. Other children will not begin to write until they become fluent readers, perhaps in their mid-teens. However, if your child is not writing by age ten, and that makes you uncomfortable, focus ten minutes of the structured hour on writing.

Begin with handwriting, if necessary. The perfect material would be a laminated handwriting practice sheet on which the child writes using a dry-erase marker. My son used such a sheet until he could form most of the letters correctly without my help, for several days in a row. Then, I had him do extra practice on lined paper for the letters he still was struggling with.

You are free to introduce cursive writing if you want to. But in the spirit of keeping the structured hour as fun as possible, I recommend not forcing your child to continue with it if the skill is difficult for them. With most writing being done on the computer, and most correspondence being done online these days, it’s better to encourage your child to learn how to type. This can be one of the activities that you strew, as there are several websites that teach typing for free. I don’t like them as well as the old-fashioned typing manual my mother had, though – they advance too quickly.

What about composition writing? Again, this is something that does not need to be pushed, since teenagers can pick up the skills quickly. Some children will fall in love with writing at a young age, and begin producing stories and poems well before the age of ten. But if your child is not naturally gifted that way, no worries.

If your child is still very young, you can write and read stories together. One fun activity is to read repetitive books or songs (like the old song “Down By The Bay” or Margaret Wise Brown’s classic book, The Important Book) and write new verses/pages for it. You could also keep a journal together. Have your child tell you a sentence about what happened the day before. Write the sentence as the child looks on, spelling the words as you write. Then, read it together. Eventually, invite your child to write some of the words.

What about spelling? In the ideal world, you would be patient and let your child learn how to spell naturally when they learn how to read. However, some children do need a leg up in this area, and you can give your child a leg up by playing spelling games with them when they are still young. With children under the age of eight, try a five-minute spelling game. One idea is to have two sets of alphabet cards (make sure each set has more than one card for the more commonly used letters). You “write” a word using the cards, spelling the word and reading it. Then the child does the same. You can find any number of websites with spelling lists.

Another idea is to have your child write words using a different colored marker for each letter, saying the name of each letter as they write. Just remember: if any activity becomes a drag for your child, drop it. Do not force it. They will get it when they need it.

For teenagers, the best way to help them improve their spelling is to have them practice the words they spell incorrectly in any compositions they write that they allow you to read. What if they don’t write anything? What if all they know is “texting-talk”? Encourage them to write snail-mail thank-you notes for gifts, and even snail-mail letters to family members (those are a wonderful surprise in this day and age of e-mail). You might ask them to write for thirty minutes a day until they seem to have a firm grasp on the skill. Mechanics such as the proper use of commas can be taught in ten-minute lessons, and you can probably find YouTube videos about those kinds of things. Videos generally interest teenagers more than a lecture from Mom.

Grammar

Most grammar rules will be learned by listening and reading. To teach children under twelve the basic parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.), read them (or have them read) the books in Brian P. Cleary’s “Words Are CATegorical” series. We have them available at our local library. For teenagers who seem to need a leg up in the area of grammar (which you can tell by their speech and writing), present the Core Knowledge® books. Just going over one concept a day for ten or fifteen minutes will bring them up to snuff in a few weeks to a few months.

There is also currently available (through both Stitcher and the iTunes store) a podcast entitled “Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing,” in which a self-proclaimed Grammar Queen talks about proper grammar using easy-to-understand examples. She had 555 episodes published as I write these words, so you can probably find any explanation of anything grammar-related with a bit of browsing.

“What About Shakespeare and Tennyson?”

I was one of five Valedictorians in my high school graduating class (it was a private, college-prep school, so students were academically competitive). I was THE Valedictorian in my college graduating class. I don’t say any of that to brag. In fact, I have come to believe that grades and GPA’s are a farce – they measure how well a student has hacked the school system, not how much useful knowledge a student actually knows or how smart they are.

Rather, I tell you this so that you understand that not all smart people (or maybe I should say, people who figure out how to hack the school system) are inclined toward what mainstream culture deems as “the classics.” I only ever read Shakespeare when I was forced to. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Tennyson poem. And I still made out quite well in my adult life. I read all of Charles’ Dickens novels in my mid-twenties, but that was because I’d always enjoyed A Christmas Carol and wanted to see if I would like any of his larger works. Turns out I did, but I have not read much more in the realm of classics since graduating from college.

If you value and enjoy the classics, great! Feel free to strew them around the house and see if your teenagers enjoy them. Put in a DVD of Romeo and Juliet and see if anyone wants to watch it with you. But while reading classic literature and poetry can increase vocabulary and provide an interesting view of history, it’s not essential for having a happy and fulfilling adulthood. Unless you want to be an English professor at a university, in which case you are going to be drawn to that sort of thing, anyway.

Summing it all up

For more than 98% of all children who will never receive much – if any – reading instruction, reading will happen. So will writing. Why? Our world is full of print, and most children eventually realize that having a firm grasp of both skills will be helpful, if not necessary, to journey through life.

Make learning the language arts fun. Don’t push, but gently encourage. The best way to make a child learn to hate reading and writing is to force the subjects. The one exception I would make is if your child is fourteen or fifteen and still hasn’t learned to read. Then it may be time to push harder and discuss the options with your child.

[]Chapter Five: Math – A Necessary Phobia?

Ask 100 people, and probably at least seventy-five will admit to having math phobia. Why? In an unschooling podcast episode, I heard a college math professor say that schools teach math all wrong. In fact, she is an unschooling parent herself, and has never said “math” to her children, not one time! Almost every single one of her college students comes to her with some level of math phobia.

She didn’t give details to explain this, but I think I can. At least, I can give my narrow perspective.

School math is tedious, boring, and almost always irrelevant to the students’ lives. Children who are still concrete thinkers are forced to try to memorize the basic facts, do dozens of practice problems every day, and deal with regrouping. Yes, I know, they use manipulatives these days to help concrete thinkers make the connection. Some curriculums focus more on problem-solving than on rote memorization. Goody. Yippee. Kids still hate math, and turn into adults who hate math.

So, what’s the solution? Take the unschooling view of it? That’s one option. Teenagers who want to get their G.E.D. and/or get into college and therefore need to master basic math, can master it within a few weeks to a few months. As I said before, unlike younger children, teens can handle the abstract and therefore pick up academic concepts much more quickly than pre-teens.

However, I’m not in total agreement that no math should be directly taught. Even the world of young children is filled with numbers, shapes, measuring, and addition and subtraction. So I believe that in the ideal world, a Happy Medium Homeschooling parent presents their child under the age of seven with the basic math concepts. An easy and fun way to do this is to use Kindergarten Story Math. It’s a book (paperback only, not digital) that I wrote that uses fun stories and a variety of critters to introduce these concepts, including counting (through ten, then twenty, then later to 100), the basic two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes, measurement, number recognition, and money. You can find it in the Amazon store, and it costs much less than the Kindergarten book of any of the most popular homeschool math curriculums.

In addition, there are probably as many picture books that teach counting, shapes, and so an as there are alphabet books. Check these out from your local library, and include them in your hour of structured time as well.

I recommend introducing the math concepts to a very young child for the same reason that, in the previous chapter, I recommended working on sight words and writing with very young children. They have not yet been ruined by school or a boring curriculum, so they are much more likely to be interested in working on it.

What about for older children whom you have pulled out of school, or with whom you have been using one of those boring, tedious homeschool math curriculums? If they have been obviously reluctant to work on math, or struggle with it, I would recommend dropping it for a few months. Then, reintroduce it with games. You can find a plethora of math games online, or make your own. Another homeschooling product that I have available in the Amazon store, Multiplication Is Fun! (and division is delightful!) (also paperback only), contains over fifteen games as well as a variety of puzzles to help children learn both the concepts of multiplication and division, as well as the basic multiplication and division facts. It is available in the Amazon store.

But remember: wait until a child is ten years old and has a firm grasp on addition and subtraction before introducing the book.

Another thing you can do in the area of math is to strew various games (such as Monopoly) and manipulatives (such as Cuisenaire rods) that help children learn different facets of math. There are some interesting math-related videos on YouTube, as well, such as the history of math, a discussion of Fibonacci numbers, and so on.

There are also picture books that introduce middle-grade math concepts. One example is The Lion’s Share by Matthew McElligott which introduces multiplying by two. Then there is the “Sir Cumference” series of books by Cindy Neuschwander . Search online for “picture books that teach math” and you will come up with several websites that list those and similar books.

How do you know what math concepts you should cover? If you decide to use the Core Knowledge® series as a resource, this will be a good guide. Just don’t get into the trap of thinking that you must cover X concept when your child is Z years old.

Generally speaking, a child needs to be able to recognize and read numbers at least into the millions place, add and subtract, count money, do different types of measurements, understand the concepts of multiplication and division (and preferably know the basic facts), understand basic geometry, and understand the relationship between fractions, decimals, and percents.

Much of this can be learned simply by living life. However, if you want to make sure your child gets the math they need, I invite you to check out the website http://coolmath.com if you have not yet done so. There are tutorials for some of the more advanced elementary and middle school math concepts, such as fractions, ratios, and algebra.

Summing it all up

Games, games, and more games. Interesting math-related videos. No worksheets or requirements to do ten or twenty practice problems. A lot of real-life math, such as handling a bank account, reading the time on a clock, measuring to make or build something, cooking, organizing spaces. Playing with Legos is considered by some mathematicians to be a great foundation for learning certain aspects of math, particularly those involving geometry and construction.

These are some ways in which to keep math fun and relevant. And if it’s not at least one or the other – fun or relevant – a child will forget what they supposedly learned in a heartbeat.

[]Chapter Six: It Ain’t Rocket Science

Science is life. Life is science. Every day, you observe, develop hypotheses, and experiment to see if your hypotheses hold true. Before you read any further, you need to understand that truth. Science is not a difficult subject requiring an advanced vocabulary or a special kind of mind to understand it. Science is life.

That said, it’s easy to fit the formal study of science into a Happy Medium Homeschool. First, there are dozens and dozens of books on the various branches of science at your local library, including books for young children. Even before your child is ten years old, you can sneak in age-appropriate books about animals or simple machines during your structured hour. The reason is that the information is presented in such an entertaining way – with bright, colorful, big photographs – that your child won’t feel like you’re trying to teach them something, just share an interesting book!

Actually, the science sections of the Core Knowledge® books, while not as engaging as library books, are written in a style that is much easier on the eyes and ears than a textbook. And the nice thing about those books is that they go through all the basic science concepts that any elementary school student will. At the end of each section (for all the subject areas, not just science) there is also a list of suggested further reading. These generally include other books that may be available at your local library, and that go into more depth on a topic.

Another way to use the Core Knowledge® books would be to just familiarize yourself with the concepts presented. Then, when your child turns ten, for each concept systematically check out a few books from the library related to the concept and read them aloud to your child, or read them together. Or it could be that your child would be interested in reading them on their own outside of the structured hour.

The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole – begun way back before I started teaching – teaches science in a fun way to children who are between the ages of eight and eleven. Even though the stories are set in a school, they are still worth sharing.

Screen time, anyone?

Whether you want your child to learn about the characteristics of amphibians, how a lever works, or Newton’s first law of motion, I can almost guarantee you there is a well-made, engaging video on YouTube explaining the concept. Do you have cable? Watch The Discovery Channel with your child. Then there are National Geographic and other nature programs put out by PBS. If your local library carries Bill Nye The Science Guy DVDs, consider strewing those around (from what I saw last, they’re pricey to purchase from Amazon).

But remember, books and videos do not equal science!!

The main problem with the way schools teach science is that most of it comes from textbooks. Not only are textbooks boring and cover a superficial amount of information, but also they provide very little in the way of real-life experience with the concepts.

Science is the discovery of the world, and how the world works. It is learning how to take care of a small pet. It is realizing the differences between a spider and an ant. It is finding out that if you build the ramp for your Hot Wheels car just so, the car will be able to go twice the distance as it would otherwise. It’s discovering that going to bed late and getting up early makes for a long, tiring day. It’s figuring out that if you click this on the computer, than that will happen. It’s watching the big machines on a construction site, mixing different colors of paint, learning how to milk a cow, making fudge, planting flowers, studying stars through a telescope, and so much more.

Like math, science is all around you. And children are doing informal science experiments all the time – although most adults would not consider them to be “learning science.” Even if you never read a science-related book to your child or did a science experiment with them, they would learn a lot more science than you might imagine.

But doing science experiments is fun, to the extent that children will often consider them as part of their play. Whether or not you decide to include science experiments as an occasional part of your structured hour, at least strew instructions and materials for different kinds of experiments. Your local library will have plenty of science experiment books in the junior non-fiction section; online you can find even more such books. Also, you can find a variety of experiments on blogs – which are likely to be blogs written by homeschooling parents who want to share what their children are doing.

You can also find science experiment kits. If you live in the city, for example, you might want to purchase one of those that allows a child to raise caterpillars into butterflies, or tadpoles into frogs. There are floating-and-sinking kits, magnetic kits, electricity kits. We actually found a kit that combines electricity and magnetism. Just do a search online for “science experiment kits”, and you’d be amazed at what’s out there!

As always, keep in mind that the older your child is when presented with a concept – especially a more abstract concept, like physics – the more likely they are to remember it.

Summing it all up

Science is a ridiculously easy subject to fit into any kind of homeschooling style. Children who are given plenty of time to play, indoors and out, learn many of its concepts naturally and without having to be directly taught.

But if you do directly teach it, remember to keep it fun and light-hearted. No drilling, no forcing to memorize terms or definitions.

[]Chapter Seven: Geography, History, And All Things People

When I was in elementary school, social studies bored the snot out of me. When I was a teacher, social studies bored the snot out of me. The main reason is that the traditional social studies curriculum before fifth grade presents information that is easily learned by a child who is only halfway paying attention to their surroundings.

In fact, I recommend avoiding the subject altogether until your child is at least ten years old. Sure, there are little kid books about how to say “thank you” and take turns and all that. But children don’t learn kindness and politeness from a book. They learn it by watching the adults around them. The most you should do with the subject is, if you happen to read a picture book that takes place in a different country, point out where the country is on a globe or world map.

History

Once a child hits the age of ten, they are more likely to remember interesting information presented to them. So, break out the Core Knowledge® books and start reading the history section, maybe five pages per day. Better, read the books that are listed at the end of the history section. Still better, search out books at your local library that teach history in a fun, exciting way. Our library has a book that teaches the major events of world history in a pictorial form. There is also the “You Wouldn’t Want To Be” series with titles such as You Wouldn’t Want To Be An Egyptian Slave, or You Wouldn’t Want To Be An American Pioneer.

Many homeschoolers have used Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of The World series. While it is a fairly comprehensive look at world history, through the end of the Cold War in the early 1990’s, I began to get dismayed by the third volume (there are four) because it seemed that over two-thirds of the events were wars. It got repetitive. And, no offense to Susan, but she doesn’t relay history in the most engaging way. It also is scant as far as American history goes (or, if you’re not from the U.S.A., detailed history of any particular nation). If I had to do it over again, I would have stuck with the Core Knowledge® books from the library and not purchased The Story of the World series.

But let’s not forget historical fiction in our discussion of books! I never liked studying history in school, but I’ve learned a lot of history by reading historical novels. There are a few out there for children. If you have never checked out The Magic Tree House series, it’s a great one for children under the age of twelve. But be warned: it makes a lot more sense to start with the first book and read them in order, because the author connects each story with the previous ones.

If your child is old enough, they may enjoy the “Dear America” series published by Scholastic. I understand that, even though the main character is always a girl, boys also enjoy these stories.

Then there’s The History Channel. And, of course, YouTube. If your child can read and is into gaming, Sim City inadvertently teaches some world history.

The one thing I don’t recommend is forcing your child to memorize dates. Unless they have a special knack for it, memorizing dates of historical events or when a certain President ruled is not going to be at all enjoyable, and they’re just going to forget them. To give your child a sense of what happened when, create a timeline together that will stay tacked up on a wall.

Geography

First things first: you must have a world map and a map of your home country hanging in a well-trafficked area of your home. Or, if not a world map, have a globe in the living room.

Some unschooling parents take care of geography by continually traveling around the world with their children. But if you are either a homebody, or cannot afford to do much travel, take heart! You can still make geography fun and meaningful.

First, your child might get into a computer game like “The Oregon Trail” or “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” Second, I’m sure you can find a number of videos about every single country in the world – as well as every single state or province in the country in which you live – on YouTube. Third, it’s easy to find puzzle maps of the U.S.A. (I can’t vouch for any other country) and of the world.

Last but certainly not least, there are books. For my American readers, your local library should have a series of books that cover each state in our nation. Our local library also has a series that covers the different regions: Midwest, Northeast, and so on. My favorite book resource on geography so far is The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country In The World, published by Lonely Planet Kids.

If your child is into animals, integrate geography with this interest. Look for videos online that talk about the animals in different countries, and before and after watching the video, locate the country on a globe or world map.

People and cultures

Although my parents subscribed to it for a while, I never picked up a copy of National Geographic until I took a course in high school where the teacher required the students to read and write a summary of an article from the magazine every single week. And I loved it! I never realized people lived so differently than I (yes, I lived a rather sheltered childhood – but remember, this was before anybody thought of there being an Internet), and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all the different places and cultures.

If you enjoy National Geographic magazines, definitely strew them about the house and your teenager may pick one up once in a while and skim through an article or three. You can try reading them together, but they are long and detailed and don’t really lend themselves to being read aloud.

There will be books in your library that cover different people groups around the world. And then, there is…(drum roll, please In fact, you might integrate science, history, geography, and cultural studies by finding several videos that are about one particular country, but which each discuss the different facets of the country – flora and fauna, interesting natural formations, major historical events that happened in the country, and what the people are like. This could take up one full hour, or you could spread it out over several days.

Summing it all up

The subject of social studies should not only not be boring, but is relatively easy to make interesting. In addition, it is easily integrated with other subject areas, something that will make your hour of structured time more effective as far as making the information more relevant and thus easier to retain for your child.

[]Chapter Eight: The Universal Language

“Music is the universal language and love is the key…” go the lyrics to the classic song, “I Believe In Music.” But is believing in music enough for your child to get what they need to know about it? How do you teach music to your children? What if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket? No matter. If you have Internet access and a nearby library, music should be an enjoyable, maybe even exciting, subject for everyone in your family to study (and I use that word loosely – if it feels like study, your child is unlikely to enjoy it).

It’s not all classical

If you’ve read up on Classical homeschooling or the Charlotte Mason method, you’ve likely gotten the impression that the only type of music worth exposing your children to is classical music. Nothing can be further from the truth!

I won’t downplay the beauty of orchestral music, or how wonderful learning to pick out individual instruments in an orchestra is for developing listening skills. I am aware of the studies that have been done on how classical music positively affects brain function, and enjoy having some on when I am drawing or just want to relax.

However, if you restrict your children to just this one type of music, you are restricting their learning of different cultures. Music is, after all, one of the defining elements of all the various cultures. Jazz and blues music, for example, originated from the black American culture. Bluegrass comes out of the mountains of southeastern states such as Kentucky and Virginia. Rock and Roll comes from…uh…well, somewhere in California, maybe? No, Detroit! Wait…Minneapolis?

Maybe that one’s a bad example.

But you get my drift. There’s Celtic music from Ireland, mariachi music from Mexico, reggae music from Jamaica, polkas from Germany. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of different genres of music. Everybody doesn’t like every kind of music (I don’t care for blues or heavy metal, for example), but most people like listening to a variety depending on their mood and/or what they’re doing.

Have I convinced you to play a wide range of music for your children? Great! So, let’s talk more about the actual educational aspect.

Homeschooling music

Two words: YouTube and Pandora. With YouTube, you can look up specific genres of music, or particular songs, as you go. With Pandora, you can either set up a station that will play a variety of different styles of music, or set up a dozen stations, each of which plays a certain style.

Decide on two or three days a week that you are going to invite your children to sit down and focus on some songs for fifteen minutes or so. Choose a style of music to listen to, and listen. YouTube is great to start with if you can find videos of real performances (as opposed to animations or static lyric videos), because then your children can see what kind of instruments are used in creating a particular style of music.

Want your child to learn the different instruments in an orchestra? There are several on YouTube; simply do a search like, “orchestra instruments” or “instrument families.”

Either way, after listening for a while, ask your children what instruments they think they heard. How did the music make them feel? Did they like this genre of music? Why or why not?

Young children will usually enjoy doing actions, like fingerplays or silly dances, for child-oriented songs such as those based on nursery rhymes. Encourage children of any age to move to the music if they like, or draw a picture that goes along with the music. Consider strewing these types of activities outside of your hour of structured time.

Learning an instrument

I don’t believe in forcing a child to learn to play an instrument just because “it’s good for them.” However, if someone in your family is musical so that you already have an instrument or three lying around, and your child expresses an interest in learning how to play it, I believe you should do what you can to fulfill that interest. Perhaps the family member who plays can give them lessons. You may be able to afford a private music teacher. Undoubtedly you will be able to find YouTube video beginner tutorials for a wide variety of instruments.

What if there are no instruments in the house? Should you go out and spend several hundred dollars on some for the sake of giving your child the opportunity to get interested in them? No. Instead, take several field trips a year to a music store. If a child doesn’t care about playing an instrument, they’ll lose interest in the trips quickly. But if they do, you’ll probably know by the third or fourth trip. And whoever runs the music store will probably be able to point you in the direction of finding a second-hand instrument (craigslist, anyone?) and/or a teacher. If you cannot find a local private tutor, make an appointment with the band or orchestra teacher at the nearest high school and see if they’re interested in making some extra money by tutoring your child.

What about reading music, rhythm, and all that other stuff they teach in school?

Unless your child is planning on pursuing music as either a hobby or a profession, there is no reason to put him through the torture of learning to read music, or to teach him technicalities like beat versus rhythm. If you think your child should at least know what a musical staff looks like, and what all those black flag thingies (the notes) on the spaces and lines are, then you can breeze through that in fifteen minutes. I’m sure there are kid-oriented videos that explain the basics of sight reading online, as well. But the fact is, even if a child waits until age fifteen to learn to play an instrument, and has had no prior teaching of all the technical jargon or sight reading, they will pick it up with relative ease once they begin taking lessons.

In other words, don’t sweat it!

Summing it all up

Turn music into lessons, and you’ll turn children off. Even children who love to sing may begin to lose their enthusiasm if their parents turn it into a tedious subject.

Listen to different genres of music. Watch videos. Talk about the instruments. Talk about the sounds. Dance. Clap. Draw or fingerpaint while the music plays.

In other words, enjoy music with your child in authentic ways, and don’t force them to sing or play an instrument unless and until they want to.

[]Chapter Nine: Art You Glad You Can Draw?

Art is similar to music, in that your child is going to be drawn to it (pun not intended…I think), or not. They will have a natural gift with it, or not. If they do, they will not need a lot of lessons to become proficient with any particular medium. If they don’t, then they needn’t be forced to learn all the nuances of pencil drawing, perspective, etc. Nor is it necessary to go out and spend the equivalent of a mortgage payment on various kinds of art media and materials.

Teaching art to children who don’t care that much about it

You know what I’m going to recommend first, right? Uh, no, not YouTube. Not this time. One more guess?

Yep! The Core Knowledge® series. Each book contains a section about art. They introduce some of the most famous artists and their paintings, as well as discuss various styles of art. They also include activities to get your child trying out different styles and media for themselves, but I recommend only offering these activities as options. If your child really isn’t interested in doing them, don’t force them to do them.

At our local library I found a resource that I like even better than Core Knowledge® when it comes to teaching art. It’s a series of books whose titles all go something like this: 13 [SOMETHINGS] Children Should Know. (See all titles at [+ http://store.metmuseum.org/kids-books+media/the-complete-13-children-should-know-series-book-set/invt/80024770+]). For example, 13 Painters Children Should Know by Florian Heine. When I first checked that out of the library, my son didn’t act too interested in it. But when we dug into it, he did get interested, if not in the artists themselves, in some of the paintings.

This is one example of how relaxed homeschooling could be more beneficial to a child than pure unschooling. Sometimes, giving a child a firm nudge to look more closely at a topic can expand their interests and provide them with a greater knowledge base than he would get if he were allowed to say “no” to every suggestion you gave, sight unseen.

Whether you use Core Knowledge® or a series of books like the one I just mentioned, do try to introduce your child to famous artists and paintings, as well as other types of artwork such as sculptures and pottery. This can be done in three or four ten-minute sessions every week, until your child is either clearly done with the subject or you feel like you’ve covered all your art bases.

Finally, have some basic art supplies on hand for experimentation: Play-Doh® (or make your own), tempera paint, construction paper, a sketch pad, crayons, markers, scissors, and glue. You could also have several plastic storage containers with different craft supplies (save things like bottle caps and popsicle sticks for this), along with thick paper (poster board, plain cardboard), out on a table to encourage children to create crafty masterpieces.

If you have an older child (say, over ten years old) who is clearly interested in learning more art media or refining her skills, you might want to take a look at the book Art Lab For Kids by Susan Schwake. It may be available at your local library, and is also available in digital form.

And whatever your child’s interest level in art, there’s always YouTube (you knew that was coming, right?), where you can watch a documentary about famous paintings that have been stolen, tour some of the world’s greatest art museums without leaving the comfort of your home, and receive instruction in various styles of painting.

Summing it all up

Knowing things like who Vincent Van Gogh was, what the Mona Lisa is, and what abstract art looks like will make your child look smart when they grow up. So, help them out. Give them the basics, but as always, keep it light and fun!

**********

By now, you should have a good idea on how to present material in each of the major subject areas. If you start Happy Medium Homeschooling when your child is four or five, by the time they are ten years old they will have already picked up much of what is found in the scope and sequence of a traditional school. In fact, they will have picked up even more, because they will have been allowed the freedom to explore their own interests for most of the day, thus having time to dig deeply into certain topics.

This makes planning the structured hour even easier. You can get through all of the basic information in science, history, geography, and the fine arts in a year or two, just spending fifteen or twenty minutes a day on one or the other. You might delve into science for one week, then switch to history, taking one day a week to talk about art. Or, you might go through one subject in its entirety, and then move onto the next subject.

This means that by the time your child is in their early teens, you may no longer have need of the hour of structured time. In that case, as I stated earlier, welcome to the world-wide community of unschooling! And remember that teenagers can get everything they need in the realm of “the 3 R’s” in about year, maybe two depending on how advanced they want to get. Unless they are part of the small percentage of children with a real and severe learning disability, they will need only a small amount of support and help from you, if any, to become proficient in reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.

Now I continue the book with two more chapters that cover two more issues homeschoolers face.

[]Chapter Ten: The Non-Issue Big Issue

Just like the number one question non-vegans ask vegans is, “How do you get your protein?”, the number one question that non-homeschooling parents ask homeschooling parents is, “How do your children get socialized?”

If you are already homeschooling your children, you have probably already worked through this issue. But if you are hovering on the edge, it might be the deal-breaker for you. I know this because a few years ago, I heard a podcaster tell her story of homeschooling her children for a year, only to put them all back in school because her son was very social and expressed that he missed his friends.

With all due respect, she was doing it wrong. But before I get into how to do socialization right, I want to bust some myths about school providing a good socialization experience for children.

Myth #1: Kids best learn to socialize with other kids

Fact: Kids are cruel. That is to say, they become cruel when they have to spend all day trapped in a room with a bunch of other people their same age whom they may not necessarily like, doing things that they don’t want to do.

Back when we had first purchased five acres in the middle of nowhere, I started to wonder how on earth I would ever find other kids for our son to socialize with. I posed the question on a homesteading forum, and one woman challenged me with her own question: are other kids the best kind of people for our own children to be socializing with? She went on to gently point out the fact that many children are not very nice. Even the children who are not intentionally cruel pick up bad habits from others, habits like excluding other children from their clique, using vulgar language, cheating, or fighting to have their own way in games.

When I thought about my own elementary school experiences, I realized she was right. I was bullied, picked on, and excluded by other children. My only safe-haven was the classroom (and even that ceased to be safe by the eighth grade). The playground, cafeteria, gym, and – worst of all – school bus were a different story.

I didn’t learn to socialize in school because I learned early on that many other children were cruel.

Myth #2: The school situation allows for many opportunities to socialize.

Fact: The school schedule provides very limited time every day for children to socialize.

I taught in a school for thirteen years. Trust me. It is not the ideal place for socialization. At lunch, the kids have so little time to eat by the time they get through the cafeteria line that they have to focus on eating. They don’t have much time to talk to their friends.

The recess afterwards – if there are any schools any more that allow time for recess – only lasts about fifteen minutes. Even Kindergarteners aren’t allowed to have snack time anymore, and even when it still existed, again, that was time to eat, not talk.

How about working in small groups or centers? Thanks to school curriculum focusing on standardized tests nowadays, the rare non-Kindergarten classroom that has centers is mostly academically-focused and does not allow for much authentic interaction between students. Neither does small group work, which is about discussing whatever topic or solving whatever problem the teacher has assigned. Again, little authentic interaction happens in these situations.

Myth #3: “I enjoyed my friends at school, so my child(ren) will, too.”

Admit it: if you were a social butterfly at school, you were probably constantly getting in trouble for it. Is that what you want for your child?

And children often have very different personalities than their parents. Just because you’re a life-of-the-party extrovert does not mean that your child should be.

And, back to the social butterfly getting into trouble thing, the typical classroom is not friendly toward children who are naturally inclined to converse and chat. Children are expected to be quiet and listen to the teacher, or be quiet and work. Talking is by and large discouraged.

Myth #4: Socialization is a good thing.

Milk is pasteurized and homogenized. People living in or near certain countries are often terrorized. Look at that word ending, -ize. It means that something is being done to something (or someone)…by force. So children who are being socialized, are being forced to be social.

How is this a good thing? Do children really learn to BE SOCIAL by being socialized? Maybe some do. But is it the optimum way to teach children to learn to get along with others? Is it the most effective way?

How homeschooled children learn to be social

There are a variety of ways that homeschooled children learn to get along with others, and practice their social skills.

[1. They interact with their siblings.*]

Many homeschooled children are a part of families that have three or more children. While they are sometimes close in age, they may also be anywhere from two to seven years apart in age, even more. There is nothing warped about learning to become social by practicing with family members.

[2. They interact with their parents.*]

Yes, parents count. Especially if parents back off the role as authority figures and most of the time treat their children as they would treat a friend. Caring adults provide better role models than children in certain aspects, such as how to respond to adverse circumstances or how to delay gratification, simply because their brains are fully mature. They will also not name-call or otherwise make the child feel degraded or unworthy.

Of course, parents have more experience and a wider knowledge base than children, so they contribute to children’s learning during conversations. Just remember – your child probably can also contribute to your knowledge base, too!

[3. They interact with other homeschoolers.*]

This is where I think that podcaster fell short. If you live in any decent-sized city – say, with a population of at least 100K (even less if you’re in an area where homeschooling is a popular choice among parents) – there will be at least one group designed to get homeschoolers together on a regular basis. Even if the group only meets once a week at a park, you can connect with other homeschooling parents and arrange to meet on additional days.

[4. They interact in the community.*]

Homeschooled children do not spend all day, every day, sitting around at home. When Mom has to go to the dentist, they go with her. They go to the grocery store. The nearby shopping strip with a UPS store and hairstylist place. They go to the library, probably with some frequency.

And who do they find at all these places? Other people, probably adults, of all ages, ethnicities, sizes, and beliefs. They learn to accept differences among people. They learn how to talk politely to strangers and acquaintances. They learn how to make small talk.

And as they learn, they become more confident in their communication skills. As that happens, they open up even more to others – both children and adults – about what they’re learning, about their opinion on a certain issue, and so on.

[5. They interact with schooled children.*]

If you live in a town or city, you likely also have a few other families in your subdivision or on your street. If you have a socially-inclined child who is homeschooled, there is no law against them getting together with their neighbors after school hours. This, plus two or three gatherings a week with other homeschoolers – or field trips where they have ample opportunity to talk to adults – will allow for more social activity than the average school-going child ever has.

Summing it all up

Children who go to school do not have more opportunity to interact with others than homeschooled children. In fact, much of that “socialization” includes bullying, exclusion from cliques, and learning disrespectful behaviors and language. They don’t learn how to interact with people of different ages.

Homeschooled children, on the other hand, have many more opportunities to authentically engage with people of all ages and from all walks of life than do schooled children. If they don’t, it’s only because their parents aren’t trying.

[]Chapter Eleven: How To Never Have A Bad Homeschooling Day

I present this brief chapter to help you relax about days when things go awry.

Some things that can cause a bad homeschooling day:

*
p<>{color:#111;}. You didn’t get enough sleep.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Your child didn’t get enough sleep.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. One or both of you is sick. (I will include moderate to severe P.M.S. symptoms here. ;) )

*
p<>{color:#111;}. A big weather change.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Upcoming new moon or full moon.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Mercury retrograde starting in a few days.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Serious excitement over a fast-approaching special event, such as a holiday or vacation trip.

Some things that happen on a bad homeschooling day:

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Your child is whiny or uncharacteristically belligerent.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. You are whiny or uncharacteristically belligerent.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Your child is behaving sillier than usual and is having more trouble concentrating than usual.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. One or both of you is acting particularly clumsy (and this is not normal).

Some choices for you on a bad homeschooling day:

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Cancel the structured hour and let your child play all day.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Snuggle up together on the couch and read aloud to your child.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Try starting your structured hour a couple of hours later than usual.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Let your child play educational video games.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Watch “educational” videos.

*
p<>{color:#111;}. Forget any formal education and call it an entertainment day and crack out a favorite movie.

Many homeschooling parents plow through difficult days, stressing out both themselves and their children. They ignore one of the great benefits of homeschooling: the flexibility. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer never to have a bad homeschooling day. A day off once in a while is good and fun, and we can always catch up later.

[]Conclusion: Happy Medium Homeschooling In The Real World

By this time, you’re in one of three places. One, you doubt the Happy Medium Homeschooling method can work, and want to look into other alternatives. That’s fine, and I wish you well. Most homeschooling families experiment with several different methods or philosophies before settling on one.

Two, you’re convinced that Happy Medium Homeschooling is the direction you want to lead your children toward. In that case, hooray! Glad I could help.

Three, you believe this homeschooling method sounds good, and you want to try it, but you’re not sure how to make it work with your clan. I understand. This chapter is for you.

What about us?

No doubt you’ve been wondering what Happy Medium Homeschooling looks like in our family. Well, it truly is “almost unschooling,” as the structured time is down to fifteen or twenty minutes, and some days I throw out the structured time altogether.

Why only fifteen or twenty minutes? My son and I have already spent the past couple of years going over much of the basics. For example, we’ve gone through all four volumes of The Story Of The World, some of them two or three times. My son has learned the math basics. We’ve also dabbled in the Core Knowledge® books. So we really only need fifteen or twenty minutes a day to increase his knowledge and skills. The rest of the day he is free to play and work on his own projects. My husband and I are available to be with him or help him as needed, but much of the day he is happy to be on his own.

That’s our Happy Medium Homeschooling life in a nutshell. But you likely have more than one child. And if you’re just starting out, you probably want a better idea of the hour of structured time. What might this homeschooling method look like in your family? To answer that question, let’s visit the Smith family. They are fictional, but a realistic representation of what relaxed homeschooling often looks like. Glancing through a description of their current homeschooling life will help you catch the vision of Happy Medium Homeschooling.

A week in the life of the Smiths

Jimmy, fourteen, usually does what he wants to do for the entire day. He learned how to read a couple of years ago and uses his skill to read a mix of sci-fi and graphic novels. But he’s just gotten interested in learning how to write compositions, because he loves classic cars and wants to start a blog about them. And so he joins in on the ten-minute writer’s workshops his mother runs every morning for his younger brother, Jack, and his younger sister, Jane. The day before, outside of the structured hour, all three of them write at least a paragraph about anything they like. Then, the next day, they bring their writing to their mother. She spends two or three days teaching one punctuation or grammar rule, using their writing as examples and helping them make corrections.

After the brief writing lesson, Jimmy does a variety of things: reads novels, reads websites and watches online videos about cars and car mechanics, reads online about how to create a blog, plays video games with gamer friends, shoots baskets or rides bikes with one or more of his neighborhood friends. He eventually plans to take a few math courses via Khan Academy so that he can pass the test to get his G.E.D., as he wants to take some classes at his community college in a few years.

After the writer’s workshop, the rest of the structured hour time – with Jack, 11, and Jane, 8 – goes something like this:

MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY: For the first ten minutes, Mrs. Smith reads picture books or children’s poetry while tracking the words with her fingers. Sometimes Jack and Jane take a turn reading.

The last ten minutes – if they haven’t already been used up by another activity – are what Mrs. Smith calls “your choice” time. Jack and Jane alternate taking turns choosing a learning activity. Sometimes, it’s playing another math game. Often, it’s reading another book together, or finding a video on YouTube about something that has recently sparked their interest.

MONDAY, WEDNESDAY, FRIDAY: After the ten minutes of shared reading as described above, Mrs. Smith reads fifteen minutes from a non-fiction book, based on the concepts presented in the Core Knowledge® series. Then, they play a math game for fifteen minutes.

TUESDAY AND THURSDAY: In lieu of listening to or reading non-fiction books and playing math games, they watch 30 minutes of YouTube videos, either about interesting math concepts and/or related to what they’re reading about that week in the non-fiction books.

Despite that Jane is not yet ten years old, she has participated with the structured hour since she was seven. One reason is that, as young as she is, she wants to spend a lot of time with her mother. Another reason is that she wants to know everything her older brothers do – and enjoys learning the skills and information, as well.

After the structured hour, she does a lot of other things with her mother throughout the rest of the day. They usually do extra reading together, often cook or bake something, and may do a craft together. Jane reads a lot of pre-teen chapter books and writes her own stories. Her two closest friends go to school, so she usually spends time with them after school and on weekends. But she and Jack are part of a local homeschooling playgroup which meets twice a week for an hour and a half, and they have friends in that group that they will play with on the days that they want to go.

Jack, who is just learning to read, sometimes persuades Jimmy to sit down with him and read his graphic novels to him. Jimmy tracks the words with his finger, as his mother does, so that Jack learns new words every week from this activity. Jack is also into playing video games and watching YouTube videos about animals and other aspects of nature. At least three times a week, he takes his skateboard out in the late afternoon and skateboards with his schooled skateboarding buddies.

When the weather is nice, the younger children will sometimes play for a couple of hours in the backyard. Mrs. Smith usually does her grocery shopping after the homeschool playdates, and encourages Jane and Jack not only to find certain foods, but also to compare the prices of different brands, weigh out produce, and even use cash to pay for the groceries.

On not-so-nice days when most everyone is feeling “blah”, Mrs. Smith will suggest that they have a “movie afternoon.” Even Jimmy usually joins in the movie-watching fun. Mrs. Smith also uses afternoons to “strew” music by finding videos that demonstrate a particular music genre and inviting her younger children to watch and listen to them with her.

In addition, the family takes monthly weekend trips to different places that provide different experiences, such as museums, aquariums, petting zoos, and state parks. They also visit nearby family members.

Conclusion

If you remember nothing else from this book, remember these two things: first, children learn the most by being given the freedom to play and pursue their own interests. Second, whatever you want your children to learn, present it in the most engaging, relevant manner possible.

On the following page is a list of resources that will help you on your way.

Happy “Happy Medium” Homeschooling!

Wishing you all the best,

Emily Jacques

P.S. – If this book has been a help to you, please take a moment to leave a positive review for it at the online retailer from which you downloaded it. It will help other frustrated or wannabe homeschooling parents find this book. Thanks a million! 

Resources

The Core Knowledge® series of books, edited by Ed Hirsch. Remember to ignore the grade levels on the titles. If the series is not available in your local library, request that they purchase it. If you want your own set, it is likely available at any of the big online booksellers.

The CK-12 Foundation series of textbooks, which go from the elementary to high school levels. You can download them for free from Amazon.

Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto.

Any book by John Holt.

Free To Learn by Peter Gray.

The “Free School” channel on YouTube. The woman who runs this channel has created and uploaded dozens of well-made videos on various topics for children between the ages of four and twelve. The videos include readings of classic poems and Aesop fables; famous classical music pieces; information about animals, the fifty states (of the U.S.), constellations, and other science and social studies related topics; some math skills such as symmetry and basic division; and more. Here’s the URL to the channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/watchfreeschool

Khan Academy, which provides free courses in all the major subject areas, from elementary to high school. Here’s the URL to the home page of the website: https://www.khanacademy.org/

**********

I provide the following links because even if you decide never to unschool, understanding as much as you can about how children naturally learn will relieve you from the burdens that the conventional homeschooling community would put upon you.

http://unschoolingsupport.com Listen to Amy’s podcasts, which are mostly all under seventeen minutes long.

http://unschooling.org Not a lot there, but the author of the blog provides basic info about the unschooling philosophy/lifestyle.

http://christianunschooling.com

http://storiesofanunschoolingfamily.com An Australian family, that is. Check out Sue’s podcast. Some are very informational and encouraging.

http://sandradodd.com Sandra is considered the unschooling online pioneer.

http://livingjoyfully.ca Another great source of podcasts about unschooling from an unschooling mom whose children are now grown. Pam’s (Canadian) voice is easy on the ears, and she does a great job drawing out a lot of helpful information from her guests.

***********

My two math books, Kindergarten Story Math and Multiplication Is Fun!(and division is delightful! They are both available (paperback only, as they are like consumable workbooks) in the Amazon store.

**********

Please remember to review this book, Homeschooling: It’s Easier Than You Think! Thanks again! 


Homeschooling: It’s Easier Than You Think!

If you are thinking about homeschooling your children, this book is for you. If you have begun homeschooling your children, but have found that it’s much more work and stress than you bargained for, this book is for you. There are probably hundreds of homeschooling books out there, all claiming that the homeschool method they prescribe is “the one.” But the truth is, most are as restrictive and boring as the traditional school system. And many cost a lot of money in the way of curriculum. What you want is a method of home education that will be low-stress for both you and your children, low-cost, and high-enjoyment. You want a homeschool method that engages and encourages, rather than forces, learning. You want a way to homeschool that will respect your children for who they are…and not produce as much work for yourself as a classroom teacher has! This book, written by a homeschooling mom, provides just what you are looking for. It not only details the specific method of home education similar to that which more and more homeschooling parents are discovering, but it also gives low-cost, fun ideas for presenting concepts and skills in all of the major subject areas. Finally, it demonstrates how this homeschooling method might look in your family. Go ahead and download this book. You’ve got nothing to lose! And whether you are just starting out on your homeschooling journey, or need a fresh start and a different route to take, this book can help.

  • Author: Emily Josephine
  • Published: 2017-02-21 00:20:11
  • Words: 19321
Homeschooling: It’s Easier Than You Think! Homeschooling: It’s Easier Than You Think!