I want to start by clarifying that all families have different personalities, priorities, and needs. This is what is working for our homeschool at this point in our journey, but I don’t think it is the best for everyone or that there is any one best way to homeschool.
I recently posted this video about how our fall homeschool went and what I planned on doing for the spring, and then I had an epiphany, a sudden realization that I was doing this all wrong. Well, at least wrong for my family. Everything had to change.
When I decided to homeschool my children, I wanted to have a project based homeschool with hands on learning, lots of reading aloud, and tons of playing. I wanted to be able to share knowledge and experiences with my children and for them to have the freedom and space to pursue their own interests. I wanted them to move at their own pace, and to develop a love of learning.
Somehow I got side tracked from that vision, and we were doing worksheets with a side of mini projects and art, and it wasn’t working. Drake didn’t want to do it. I would pressure him to “hurry up.” I was struggling to include my younger children because the activities we were doing were difficult to differentiate. We were both stressed. It was not a good fit for us!
I was stubbornly plodding along with my plans and worksheets when we started a space unit on January 1st. The space unit was going amazing. We were loving it and we were learning so much.
I’m not exactly sure the space unit is a unit in the truest sense of the word, but we read a lot of books about space, I came up with some resources, and we made art and small projects relating to space. I didn’t do math related space activities or print out letters on moons and build words with them. All of the projects and activities were designed to better understand some aspect of space or to encourage our imaginations. (A post will be coming soon about what exactly we did during our space unit.) We had authentic learning experiences. I didn’t intentionally “dumb down” any of the information that I (fairly informally) presented, and I didn’t try to drill certain information into their heads. They gleaned what the gleaned from it. And I think this is important.
THIS was the vision I had for our homeschool. This is what I wanted for it. Authentic engagement with a topic of interest, using things we learned in play and in creating. This is when my epiphany happened, and here is what I came up with for our homeschool.
The most important thing about my new approach to homeschool is that I will not pressure the kids to do anything. I will provide opportunities for learning and creating, and if they are engaging enough, the kids will want to do them, and they usually do. This is important for Drake especially. Part of Drake’s personality, which probably stems from his Autism, is that he does not want to do anything if he feels like you’re pressuring him to do it, even if it is something he likes. He doesn’t like to be manipulated. An example of this is when he was just a toddler, I used to have to put his cup on the table where he could see it and walk away. If I tried to give it to him, he would throw it and not drink it, but if he stumbled upon it during his day, he would happily drink it. Luckily he has outgrown this particular quirk, but this aspect of his personality remains.
Continue with unit studies
We will continue to study interesting topics for weeks at a time, and we will use these topics to spark our imaginations and intellect. We will do projects, create art, and read books that relate to this topic, and we will go at whatever pace feels good.
Art and Projects
We will also do less structured art and small projects that don’t relate to our unit studies.
My kids love books and reading aloud to them is one of my favorite things to do. We read fiction, nonfiction, chapter books, picture books, magazines... basically anything in print. So we will continue to read, read, read, and I will request Drake’s help with reading as often as seems reasonable.
Invitations to Learn
Every morning I will try to set up an invitation to learn for the kids to find when they wake up. (Reggio Emilia followers would call these “provocations,” but mine will not always be in line with Reggio so I don’t want to call them that.) These morning surprises are exciting for the kids, and they like to wake up and see what mom set up for them. I can pair worksheets with these, especially for my worksheet loving 3 year old.
Outdoor play in good weather
I am not a winter person. We don’t go outside often in the winter, but come spring, we will go out as often as we can! I think Drake might be ready for some gentle nature journaling this spring.
Write for Them
I was inspired by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer to start the practice of writing down things Drake says and encouraging him to tell me stories because he enjoys it, and he likes to see his words in writing. I will do the some (probably not as frequently) for Devin.
I will consistently encourage the kids to play creatively and imaginatively. This means being on top of toy rotations and organization, as well as setting toys up in attention drawing ways, and giving plenty of suggestions.
Limiting Screen Time
In order for this all to work, I need to limit screen time because when the kids are using their tablets or playing video games they aren’t engaging in that super enriching imaginative, creative play that is so good for their brains. Now, that is not to say that video games don’t exercise their brains in different ways, and I’m not going to strictly limit their access to them by any means, BUT I find that sometimes they want their games because they are bored and just need a little encouragement to play. So I am trying my best to provide engaging opportunities to play and create throughout the day at least until dinner. After dinner they can have games if they want, but I’ve found the more I encourage their meaningful play, the more they want to do it and the less they ask for games.
Side Note: Limiting screen time would not have been possible except that I stopped limiting their access to games or tv for about a year. They played games and watched A LOT of tv for a while, and then slowly, they stopped. They got bored with it, and their relationship with it became less intense because it wasn’t something I was withholding. Now that they are not as intensely attached to their technology time, I have a much easier time distracting them from it.
So that is the plan now that I am focusing on creating a homeschool that is aligned with my values and that is responsive to the needs of my children. To some it might sound like not enough, or too much, or crazy. What about math? What about handwriting? Reading? And to all those questions, I say, it will come. In time, it will all come.
Welcome to the family!
We are a laid back, fun, family of four living on a dime in 700 square feet. Life might not be perfect, but every moment of every day, it is beautiful.