Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The beginning

Last month was our first "real" month of school at home. We had taken the kids out of school in October but the months of October and November were spent mostly taking a break, we did a few math sheets and kept up with reading, but we really wanted to give the kids some time to get adjusted to home life, and to decompress after dealing with public school.
Then December we finally decided to start on some kind of a program that would get the kids back on track with their schooling, something that would be a little more involved than what we'd been doing so far.
We realized a little too late that maybe the month of December was not the best month to get started on more work, but we still went through with it and did fairly well.

The kids wrote a three page paper on Egypt, doing the research themselves and deciding what part of Egypt they were going to write about on their own.
This was a huge success, not so much in the final product, although they did well, but because this was the first step in them understanding that it was something that they were able to accomplish.
We went through a lot of resistance that first week when we gave them their assignment, a lot of "I can't!" which is a phrase that has now been banned from the house. We did not have a lot of criteria for the paper itself, what we required was that they do the research and manage to write three pages. As we told them the details would fall in place as we went on, the important part was that they realize their potential to accomplish more difficult work than they had ever been asked to do.
We learned that,so far, they had never been asked to write more than a page long of text in any of their classes!
They are 11 and 13 years old... Needless to say we were aghast.

Then we did a lot of logic problems, something that was definitely interesting as the kids had never learned how to deal with those before. It was fun, the kids enjoyed them after they got the idea of how to go about them.
And we worked on a few grammar issues that I saw pop up, a lot of problems with "their, there and they're", as well as how to use "good" or "well" in different situations. Oh and "a" and "an", which came as a surprise to us.

Other than those though, we mostly still did un-schooling, with a lot of reading for the kids to do, and a lot of activities like baking cookies, playing board games, going to the zoo and the nature museum, as well as ice skating and doing yoga at home.
We need to concentrate a bit more on sports for the upcoming months, we definitely have been mostly homebodies because of the cold outside, and while the kids take our dog Lucy out every day, they are still not getting enough exercise to make up for our sedentary lifestyle.

This month I'm planning our curriculum with a bit more focused activities. Since we want the kids to be able to skip a few grades here and there, there is a lot of coverage that needs to be done, and a lot more work that needs to be accomplished little by little. We want to allow the kids to feel safe and comfortable with what they are doing and don't want to push them in a way that will scare them away from home-schooling. We do need to work towards increasing the work load however.
I'm setting up the schedule for February and so far things are going well.
One of the good things for us is that we are able to share the subjects equally. Nigel is good at math, science, biology and all that stuff... and I'm good with language, geography, history. We are both good with philosophy, religion, and psychology, and social studies, so things are always distributed pretty equally.
Although, of course, with my slight OCD problem, I've taken on all the planning of classes and homework as well as our family outings. Which is a really good thing, because Nigel hates planning.

So that's the beginning of our journey, we have a lot to change and improve, but so far so good. We are happy to have the kids with us all the time, the kids are less stressed out because of school, and we are all learning a lot from each other.

I will be posting a lot of ideas and work that we are doing, etc. Hopefully this will be of some use to other families that might be trying home-schooling as well.