Monday, July 5, 2010

Not quite unschooling, but relaxing up our school!

While many homeschoolers are gearing up for a new school year beginning in August or September, I kinda went a different direction this year and decided  we would have a year-round school with several sporadic breaks.  So...we "ended" our past academic year (2nd grade) in April, took a pretty long break in May, and started our official 3rd grade somewhere between May and June.  Our school days are short-- I don't even know if I can call them school days.  After all, it's the summer, and my kids are going to get out to the water parks and other fun summer activities...

Maybe what we're doing this summer is more of an "unschooling" method.  What's amazing is, although we are completely relaxed in our approach, the kids seem to be learning more, taking off and independently learning, and just taking it all in.
There's our science project (backyard garden), for example.

You can read my earlier posts to find out more about the girls are enjoying this.

We've also been hitting up the library a lot.  I've been learning to adapt her reading to easy, quick lessons on spelling or grammar.  I have an article on my homeschool info site on some quick and easy ideas for spelling lessons (no curriculum needed!)

NyGirl reads and reads and reads...and I smile and enjoy watching her "teach herself" about Abraham Lincoln or George Washington.  She decided a few weeks ago, "Mom, I want to learn about all the presidents-- in order!" What mama can't help but to do a little yippee dance on that??

Hey...makes my job easier, right?

Admit it...that's what we all want: for our kids to learn to become independent learners. Even the most structured of us "teacher types" eventually want our children to self explore into topics.

I am learning to let go, and it is FUN!

I haven't always been this way, okay?  Believe me...when I say "teacher type", I am known around my home as the rigid, structured schedule-maker mama, keeping everyone on task.  I have relaxed a bit over the past year (kind of have to when toddlers run the show!) has actually been good for me to have a toddler around these past 2 years of homeschooling.  Ive learned to relax and it's actually done NyGirl a whole lot of good. back to our relaxed homeschooling...

We have been using more and more of resources we have just lying around our house.  Reference books, card games, puzzles, and other materials...the girls just dig them out of our homeschool shelves/pantry, and go for it.  I've made it so they are allowed to go into the pantry at certain times during the day.  If the day leads us into checking on the garden outside our house, then we have science.  If the day leads us into a discussion on rabbits, we head to the library and check our library books and DVD's on rabbits.  If NyGirl is reading about George Washington, it helps to supplement what we are already covering in her history.

By the way, here is the history book we bought for $3 at a local used book fair:
american heritage 3

We like the scope and sequence, because we were looking for an American history text to use as a "spine" (something that gives us a starter or jumping board for other history projects and ideas).  I won't be using every item in the book as is, but it definitely works for us.  The material is concise and to the point, not too lengthy for her grade level, but not too fluffy and 'sweet'. There is just the right amount of concrete material for her to chew on and actually learn factual information and true American history.  It is also from a Christian perspective, which sold me.

But like I said, we are being relaxed this school year.  We have the books, but we are not going to be slaves to the books anymore.  Somehow or other I hope to find a healthy balance between teaching most of the lessons  in the book and allowing NyGirl the creative freedom to explore other subtopics at her whim.  So, the way I would like to see our school go is, if NyGirl decides she has an urge to read about Thomas Jefferson, I want to feel the FREEDOM to place the BJU American Heritage texts on the shelf until NyGirl gets her fill of Thomas Jefferson-- then return to the text later on.

For me...that is a BIG step.  Like I said, I have been a stickler for schedules, routines, and structure.  But I think this creative energy is something needed in our home.  So , as much as I love pre-packaged curriculum, we'll have to free ourselves of the textbook mentality. :-)

I hit the local homeschool used book sale in our town (oh, and check out my article on tips to follow for finding good materials at used book sales). I found a BUNCH of good stuff - Saxon 5/4 math book, BJU Press History, and some maps puzzles.

I believe that puzzle cost me about $8.  And the Saxon math? $20 total.  I would have spent at least $60 or more for the Saxon if I had bought it brand new!

I think we'll be using a lot of these materials sporadically throughout our day.  Each school day, I think I'll plan initially to have an outline for our studies in mind...but not written down in stone.  Kind of a loose idea of what we need to cover each week ...and then just help facilitate or guide my kids in that direction.  So, if I know we would like to cover a few topics on plant life, we'll definitely plan to head out to the garden with notebooks and a camera.  We might come back in and read a book about plants, or visit a website to play a science game.  The whole point is, I don't want to set it all in stone.

I am SO grateful to be living in a state that doesn't require home educators to create lesson plans in advance of each academic semester.  I have tried this before-- for TWO years, in fact.  It drove me nuts!  I would much rather have an idea of what we need to cover (through a scope and sequence, or even a text curriculum), and just plug into it each day- and not being concerned about whether or not we actually finished the LAST PAGE of each textbook at the end of the school year.

It's not that I'm advocating jumping all around academically and not having a plan.  I believe in planning.  Without our plans, our children will lack a very important skill - following directions and taking guidance from those who know better.

But my point is: if we (parent-teachers) take complete control of our children's learning without showing them how to be self-learners and self-motivated, we are doing them a great disservice.  Every thing cannot be spoon-fed, and sometimes it is a good idea to set aside a lesson plan in order to watch our kids just simply ENJOY LEARNING.

And -- that is what I am doing this new 'school year' (I say school year loosely, because I am beginning to really see that 'school' is actually everywhere, and learning takes place no matter where we are).

I am starting to relax, and I have a is going to get FUN!


  1. A post after my own heart! I'm new to homeschooling, and from my oberservation, people seem to become addicted to curricula. I see them buy something just because someone else has bought it and then decide not to use it. I think the library is a great resource to get everything you need- particularly when you're working with the young and very young. I've sen the book Homeschool Your Child for Free. I'll have to look into it. While I do plan to use texts eventually, I would like to be more relaxed about it. Time will tell.

  2. [...] outdoors and summer activities part).  As for the “school” part…as I said in an earlier post, I just can’t fathom why my children would need to take large, 3 month gaps from learning [...]


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