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The Boyer Blog: Successful, Enjoyable, DOABLE Homeschooling: Part 1

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Successful, Enjoyable, DOABLE Homeschooling: Part 1

Our Typical School Day

People have often asked me just what "school" looks like in our house. Homeschooling is all about your relationship with your kids. Think about it as you prepare for next school year. Plan to be with your kids as they learn. I never tell my kids to go do their school. I try to get a load of laundry in while they are getting their chores done and then we do schoolwork together; BE IN THE CLASSROOM. One day I went into the living room because I was tired and one-by-one all the kids drifted in to join me—they are so much more motivated if mom is involved.

I assign their work every day and each child moves at his own pace in every subject. When people ask my kids what grade they’re in they will usually answer according to their age, but they’re really in different grades in different subjects. If they’re good in history and love it they might do two or three years’ worth of history in one year. If math is a struggle they might be a grade ”behind where they should be”, but it’s more important to give them confidence. Keep them at a level where they are challenged but not discouraged. When they learn a skill, move on. If they are a great speller there’s no need to give them a list of spelling words to work on all week-If they take the pretest on Monday and get all the words right they don’t need to work on those words all week long. Gear your children’s work to their own needs.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to know everything to teach your kids. It’s good for your kids to watch you learn and struggle, and see how you work it out. When I’m explaining a new concept in, say, math, I will work a problem first while they watch me. Then I’ll watch them do a problem, then send them off to do one by themselves. When they come back to show me the one problem I can see if they got it right. Think how you would feel if you went off and did 15 math problems and made the same mistake in every one—that would be quite discouraging. Most math curricula I’ve seen have far too many problems for a child to do in one day. The reason they do that is to provide busy work for teachers who have different levels of ability in one classroom. When I assign my children’s work I give them 10 or 15 problems a day, and if they get those right and understand them, great—we’ll move and do more the next day. Sometimes we do unit studies, sometimes we don’t. We have read science books on each child’s level on a topic like weather, and at the end of the time they’re studying about that we’ll go to the weather station at the airport. Sometimes it doesn’t work out to go somewhere and I just let them work at their own levels in their science books.

Make school a fun time for your younger children, too. One thing I’ve done that really works is to reserve special materials and projects just for them to do while the older kids do their schoolwork. Now, in the summer, while all the paper, crayons, markers, glue sticks, etc are on sale is the time to stock up. Watch for Staples/Walmart ads to catch the weekly specials from here till early September and stock up on special supplies to profitably occupy your preschooler. We put them away in a special place in the closet so they don’t get bored; they can’t just pull them out and do them all day long. Things like flannel graphs and puzzles, playdough, sorting pre-cut shapes, outlining, lace-and-trace activities—things that are teaching them something.(Here is our list of some suggested activities)

In our house, Dad doesn’t do any of the academic teaching; some dads might, but he just doesn’t have time. What he does do sometimes is to correct the schoolwork for the little ones and encourage them with his attention and a sticker on their papers. During the day they’ll say they want to do a paper just for dad!

I would first of all spend 10 minutes with the little ones while the bigger kids were picking up clutter/doing simple chores. Then, halfway through our morning, while the older kids were snacking, I would again spend approx. 10 minutes with the toddlers/preschoolers. When "school" was over, about noon, I would again spend time reading Bible stories/teaching Scripture verses/character to the little ones while the older ones made sandwiches for lunch. If they KNOW and can depend on time alone with Mom at those specific times, they usually won't be begging for attention all morning long.

People have asked if the Boyers have a quiet classroom. No! I try to squelch distracting talk, but because of the number of children we use three rooms. The kids who are reading will be on the couch in the living room unless it’s something they really need to concentrate on and then they can go to their room. The little kids are in the kitchen doing puzzles and learning activities. The kids who are writing are in the dining room with their workbooks and math, and I rotate from room to room. I find that it requires less time to teach the older kids than the younger ones.Preschoolers and the ones you’re teaching to read are the ones who need the majority of your time and attention. When the older kids get into high school they should be able to be self-motivated. You should be able to show them what you want to accomplish during the year and let them pace themselves, bearing more of the responsibility. The big kids get used to a certain amount of noise from the little ones, and the little ones have to learn to hold it down.

Remember to plan for some fun things- special trips to the orchard, museums, recipes to make fun seasonal foods, craft projects, etc. Kids have to learn to do some things they don't like to do, but remember a little fun makes everything more palatable and memorable.


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Blogger Pioneer Beauty said...

Dear Marilyn,
My husband had spoken with your husband briefly on the phone..we live in Ca. and are looking to relocate to Va. I have been on your emailing list for awhile now and we have in our possesion your book.."For You They Signed" our children love it..I loved reading your post..and especially the part about the grade levels that the children are in..It's so funny when we are out and about around town people will ask what grade our children are in and as if on cue they all turn and look at me..We do very much like you they are in different levels in each subject..all according to their strengths and weaknesses..What a blessing your tips and even recipes have been..I have just recently started actually blogging ( all of three weeks ) I am very much a computer weakling..and have always stayed away from anything other than email..but I am enjoying this knew found toy...
Thank you again and Thank you to your husband for be willing and available for even just anserwing some simple questions for us..
I look forward to visiting with you more in Blogville..
In Christ

August 12, 2010 at 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Marilyn,
You are a blessing to our family! For example, we bought For You They Signed. The Preface alone had my jaw dropping. Later, I was reading in one of our school materials from World Book that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were deists. Something sounded weird about that to me, so I looked them up in For You They Signed and found that their actual words did not reflect that at all. It is so wonderful to have accurate materials that strengthen our faith in our country's founding fathers and foundation on the true God.
Jennifer K.

August 13, 2010 at 3:13 AM  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

So glad you found it helpful. It's so important to have the facts so we can be armed with the truth. We can have a lasting impact on the direction our country will take. God bless you and your family as you learn together and are inspired by their examples.

August 13, 2010 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger Amy Tilt said...

What a great post! I found it very informative. I have this is my 3rd year and I love it!!

August 13, 2010 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger stephanie said...

I am a homeschool mom in waiting (for the Lord to confirm to both of us), and as I wait, I prepare in little ways to teach full time to my 5 year old and 2 year old. I rarely do my chores when they are awake, because I realized today that I actually feel lost when they are just watching TV while mom is cleaning, I actually don't know what to do or where to start. I would rather be with them, doing things with them! I appreciated what you said "BE IN THE CLASSROOM". I feel it confirms my interaction with them is very valid, and my "chores" and "me time" can wait until they are sleeping or have roomtime. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences. My heart longs for the day when we can homeschool full time, and until then I continue to trust in the Lord's timing and thank Him for what He is teaching me along the way.

August 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM  
Anonymous Amber said...

Thank you for the tips. I have been rather nervous about going into our second year of home education. I have a 7, 5,4, 2 and 1 year old and the distractions are almost to much for me. I was greatly encouraged when you came to Portland and I love your material.

Amber Bowen

August 15, 2010 at 10:04 PM  
Anonymous Jessica Andrews said...

I have a question and as a mom of many children. I am trying to homeschool my 5 year old. My three year old can join in but my one year old is constantly tearing whatever they are working on apart and is quite energetic. The distractions for younger ones don't really apply to him yet. I am so busy keeping up with the littlest one that I am not in the classroom with my 5 year old the way I know I need to be. Please some advice would be great!!

August 16, 2010 at 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

One option might be doing school while the youngest is napping. That would be ideal. If that doesn't work, then maybe a play yard or contained area the youngest could be in playing, but near by so you could watch him. I would keep toys specially for "school time" use and not allow him to play with them at other times, so he would look forward to this special time to use some extra fun toys! Remember, some years, it's survival. Even 6 mth time can make a huge difference in the understanding of the youngest.

August 16, 2010 at 8:56 PM  

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