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A Question About StructurePosted Friday, December 16, 2011, at 8:18 AM
I received the following letter from one of my readers and thought I'd share her letter and my reply here:
We took our daughter (age 9) out of the public school system this year and she is attending online public school. This has been a totally great, but at times trying experience for the both of us. Anyways, I wondered if you stuck with a schedule for your children. Do you spend a certain amount of time on each class a day? That is where we are struggling, I think because I let her go at her own pace. I just wondered if maybe you gave them limits for the lessons you do and if you think that works best.
I think there is definitely a time for letting your daughter work at her own pace, but transitioning from public school to being at home is a big adjustment for her. She is used to having a lot more structure, and I don't know many 9-year-olds that have the maturity yet to self-direct their own schooling.
It's a worthy goal getting children to the point where they can set their own schedules and direct their own schooling, but it's a process that takes time. Your daughter would probably benefit from having more structure at this point in her education. As she gets older, you can slowly give her more freedom to set her own pace, but right now she needs you to help her with that.
As for your question about whether I stick with a schedule for my kids, I find that flexibility within structure is key. Flexibility is one of greatest perks to homeschooling (it's what I'm planning to write my next blog about, actually) but if you don't have an underlying structure, it's not flexibility anymore. It's just a mess. Think of the structure of the human body. We can be amazingly flexible. (Ever seen a ballerina lift her leg way above her head?) But it's the structure of the human body that keeps everything from coming apart. It imposes limits and outlines what the human body can do.
In my homeschool, I have a set amount of work I want to accomplish each day with each child. At the beginning of the school year, I order the curriculum I want to use and look through it. I find out how many chapters or lessons are in each one. For example, my daughter's 7th grade History and Geography book has 30 chapters. Each chapter has two sections. Since a school year has 36 weeks, my daughter will need to finish about a chapter a week in her book. I have her do History and Geography twice a week -- on Mondays and Wednesdays. She does one section each day. The extra weeks will be taken up with unit tests.
After I've reviewed each child's books and figured out how many times a week they need to do each subject to get through their books in a year, I put it all in table form, print it out, and put it on the refrigerator. I also make an extra copy for my children so they can put them in their binders.
We start our school day sometime in the mid-morning, usually around nine o'clock. This gives me time to wake up, shower, eat some cereal while I'm checking Facebook, and do my devotions. Then I round up the kids and get them started. I usually work more with the younger ones while the older ones work independently. They are allowed to do their assignments in whatever order they want to, but when we are doing school, we don't do anything else. We don't spend a certain amount of time on each lesson -- we just do them until they are finished. I've had some lessons that took less than 10 minutes, and others that stretched on for literally hours because of kids not doing their work.
After lunch, we take a break to clean the house. Each of us picks (or is assigned!) a job and we get everything done in a half an hour to an hour, depending on how messy the house is. By that time, some of the kids will be finished with their school and others will still be working on it. On rare occasions, I've had a child or two that has not finished until late in the evening.
This structure works very well for us. It's simple enough that I can remember it and I don't have to consult a detailed lesson plan each day, but it accomplishes everything we need to do. It also allows for flexibility. There are times when we have other things we need to do during the day, and so we'll cut down on the bookwork part to compensate. I might let them pick just two subjects to do that day if we have something else going on.
I hope this helps, and I wish you the best for you and your daughter.
Homeschooling -- The Next Generation
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