Thursday, October 9, 2008

By Request: Once a Month Homeschooling

I was asked to explain my "once a month" homeschooling program I am doing with my kids, so here goes.

I developed this idea when my now 24 yr old was about 12 or so. She thrived on it, making these amazing posters, reports and essays--talented kid (still is!). However, as time passed and more kids came and time got shorter, I forgot all about it.

Last month, at the beginning of September, my youngest (12) came to me and ASKED for homework. (Yea, I know . . . . he's sommmme kid). We are pretty radical unschoolers but I could sense a need to purpose and direction in him, so I sat down and started working on it. As I did, I remembered the Once a Month thing I did years ago and I put it together for him. By the time I was done, I was inspired enough to do the same for the 17 yr old and the 15 yr old. (Nah, they weren't nearly as enthused and even shot the 12 yr old a few dirty looks, but it has actually worked out a lot better than they had figured.)

At the beginning of the month, I write out what I want each one of them to accomplish during the next 30 days. I tailor it to their preferences (one loves to read, one to write, etc.) but I also stretch them in directions they wouldn't normally go. I involve reading, writing, speaking, researching, drawing and everything else in each one's assignments, but I shift the emphasis depending on his/her interests. I categorize the assignments under typical educationalese titles (English, Reading, Math, etc.) but that's more for my benefit to make sure I am covering the basics. I work VERY hard to make sure everything they are doing is RELEVANT to life--no busy work allowed. Here are some of the most important things I do with these lessons:

(1) They are based on a point system. You earn/lose points depending on if you turn it in early, on time or late. You can also gain points by NOT skipping any of the lessons. I always state that each one can eliminate two activities of their choice. This gives them more autonomy. Of course, the ones they skip are likely to show up again somewhere down the line because I am sneaky that way. The points are used for a book at Border's, a meal out with just me, etc.

(2) They have 30 days to complete it. If they do it all in the first week, fine. The last two days, fine. They have to live with the consequences and that way they are learning time management.

(3) I strongly focus on making everything relevant. For example, none of them could write their names in cursive at all or if they did, it looked very childish. This had caused enough of a problem that my son turned down something he wanted to go to because he knew he would have to sign in and was embarassed. So, right now, they are practicing their signatures five times a day and already the change has been so significant they can easily see it.

(4) Each month, I ask them to provide me with a list of what they would like me to include--or NOT include--in the next month's lessons. I want them to have control over what I put in their lessons. No matter what it is, I follow up on it and get the info they need to learn more.

(5) I include activities like doing things together, making phone calls for information, researching ideas online, etc. It isn't just stuff they sit in their room and do.

(6) Each month, they have gone out together on the Max downtown to a bookstore and worked on their homework, helping each other if someone gets stuck. I can't begin to say how pleased I am to see that! What relationship lessons!!!!

(7) At the end of the month, they bring it to me and I go over each one individually to see what they have done. I ask questions, give feedback--and give them undivided attention--something that is rare around here.

(8) Part of each month's lesson is to read a book of their choice off one certain shelf in our house. All three of my kids rank reading right up there with eating and breathing, so convincing them to read is NO problem. However, they have their genres that they stick with and I want to expand that. All of the books I provide are either nonfiction or historical fiction. They can choose from more than 20 titles, so it is hardly limited. There are a few modern classics in there, some historical fiction, some autobiographies, etc. Again, this way, they have choice and that often makes all the difference.

(9) I try hard NOT to nag them. I want them to learn how to selfdiscipline and self monitor, so nagging would just negate that. Instead, about once a week or so, I slip a "Hmmmm, the month is half over already" or "How's the homework coming?" comment. In the first month, they all turned their work in on time. Two were three days early and the third came in minutes before midnight. It will be interesting to see how that does/does not change this month.

(10) We are always available to help. If they are stuck, confused, frustrated or lost, all they have to do is come to us and we sit down and help. Last time I did this with my oldest son, we finished and he grinned at me and said, "With you helping me, I feel like I could learn anything!" That's a statement I am not likely to forget for a long time.

I still strongly feel that we are completely unschooling but I also know that they are learning some material that they really need and will use. Can I keep this up amidst the coming surgery, holidays and work load? I sure hope so. Will they continue to like it? I sure hope so.

Did this post explain my method clearly?
I sure hope so.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very Excellent! Thanks so much for that. Mine are only 8 and 4 but I see me implementing these ideas in the future. Do you mind if I link this post on my blog?