Ani holding up her "Rubens" portrait (using only dark colors)
February is known as burn-out month in homeschooling circles, and for good reason up here in British Columbia. It's grey, overcast, and rainy for weeks (months) on end and things get restless inside; cabin-fever rampant. Now that we've been over that hump for some time, our days are going, well, fabulously. Of course, the daily sunshine helps. Hello park time!
The way that schools run up here is on a trimester system, only they don't even call it trimesters, but three terms. I've always gone by semesters or quarters, but I like this way better. We see our support teacher* three times in the year for formal portfolio presentations, and keep in contact with her and the school over the whole year. The thing I tried differently at the change-over of the third term, though, has been what has made all the difference.
Reading from The Green Ember and pretending to have a hurt foot like Picket the rabbit
I noticed that the core subjects (bible, reading, writing, and math) were always necessary as first-thing-in-the-morning subjects, and I still continue those right off the hop, starting with bible and and our read aloud while the kids are eating breakfast. We get these four things, both kids, done within an hour, and the next thing I've changed is this: block scheduling for the other four subjects of science, history, art, and French.
What does it mean for a homeschooler to block schedule? Just that in our four days a week of homeschooling, we use the second hour to roll through a week's worth of activities in one subject per day, maximizing the kids' flow and interest in what we're learning, as opposed to trying to do 10 minutes or so per subject each day. Yes, we take Fridays off for skyping with my mom, bi-weekly reporting to our teacher, and sometimes cross-border errands.,
Lukka's "Rubens" project, portrait of me :)
What does this practically look like? Well, take science for example. A week's worth of activities involve reading an entire chapter, doing all the workbook pages affiliated with that chapter, watching some Brain Pop Jr. videos about the topic (we love these and wholeheartedly recommend the subscription), and doing a number of experiments, often with charts, drawings with labels, or some other form of documentation.
If you think back to your school days, normally all of this is broken up into a number of days, and sticking with the same chapter for weeks on end. I find that we are all better accustomed to this style of subject-tackling than what I was doing previously--doing 10 minutes here and there, every day. I hated it. I felt like I was rushing the kids through everything and they could never really 'sit' with the material, learn it well by hands-on activities and artful productions, and just generally dishing out anxiety instead of love of learning.
Lukka working on his science experiments and collecting data
Honestly, I don't know why I didn't think of this before. It has really changed the way my kids approach school, and approach each subject. There are some subjects (I'm looking at you, French) that my kids grumble about, but when they are IN the subject matter for a solid 40 minutes of activities, including Duolingo app time, listening to French music, watching a youtube lesson, and doing a project with vocab, they don't totally hate it. We can really dig into the topic.
Term three is going exceptionally well for us, but we also only have about a month left of school, maybe less (the poor kids go to school out here until nearly the end of June! We don't.), and I know attitudes won't always be this chipper. More than likely we'll have to rearrange things again when something isn't working for our family and it doesn't make logical sense, but for now, this solution has really solved a lot of problems of efficiency, flow, retention, and lack of interest. We'll stick with it into the next school year as well. Success!
What is working right now in your homeschool? Is there a program or system that you really love and want to share? Leave it in the comments!
*support teachers are part of every distance learning school in British Columbia. I'll post soon on the way they do things up here, it's brilliant and we love it!