Homeschooling is here indefinitely, and there’s lots of logistics to consider. The biggest for many of us being how to make sure that the kids are learning, and that their homeschooling schedule meshes with our own home/work schedule.
We attempted to have our 11-year-old son follow an academic schedule of sorts at the start. That worked a little, but there was so much crying and whining and “NO, I can’t possibly use THAT pencil!” that I’m not sure how we are going to survive. Here was our original homeschooling schedule, the idea was for 25-minute segments with 15 minutes for resting. It now looks ambitious.
9 a.m. — Social studies. Watched the first part of Crash Course in World History. I asked him to take notes, which he did, but he thought it was boring. I think that was reflexive more than anything else. It turns out he didn’t know a lot of the words, so I had him watch it again, and we went over all the words he didn’t know.
9:40 a.m. — Reading/English Language Arts. He was allowed to read the LitRPG (Literature Role Play Game) novel he’s been reading, but I asked him to summarize each chapter after he read it. This was a huge fight. He eventually agreed. His summaries were poor (and the handwriting very difficult to read.)
10:20 a.m. — Spanish. He’s not actually taking Spanish, but he didn’t want to do Chinese which is what he takes in school, and so we agreed on Spanish using the Duolingo app. (We are still expecting to go back to Barcelona this summer, although the virus may change our plans, so knowing some Spanish would be helpful.)
11 a.m.-noon — Lunch. Still his favorite subject of the day.
Noon — Writing. I had him write a five-paragraph essay on why school should only be two hours long. His essay wasn’t bad, but it was only three paragraphs and not that organized.
1:40 p.m. — Math. This actually turned into phys ed, which was spent playing sports on the WiiU since it was very cold out. He went downstairs to do this, which meant he was out of my hair. This went longer than it was supposed to go, because I wasn’t focused on it.
2:30 p.m. — Physical education. We switched this out with math, which was probably a better idea.
3:20 p.m. — Free choice (but no electronics). He ended up sitting and reading and then counting down the seconds to 4 p.m.
4-6 p.m. — Open play online with friends or alone. This was the only thing that really started on time.
Homeschooling lessons learned
- In retrospect, our schedule was way too much and too crowded. But I don’t want my son on the computer the whole time, and I have other stuff to do that doesn’t include sitting with him and coming up with algebraic problems.
- His handwriting is atrocious. We need to spend some time working on handwriting skills.
- Being a teacher of 11-year-olds requires either the patience of a saint or the hardened feelings of a serial killer. Or both.
The next day, the school did have some assignments to do, but this took maybe an hour to do, all in. There are another six to seven hours of the day to schedule/fill.
Part of me is: OK, let’s take on the role of homeschool teacher, and I will finish all the assignments he’s given, driving him like a slave driver. That’s what he needs is someone pushing him harder, and then he will see the error of his ways and become a genius self-starter (like you know, Elon Musk or Steven Spielberg. Then we will be sitting on easy street, watching his royalty checks roll in like the tide.
The other part of me (probably the sensible part) is saying: NO WAY! Give him rules and structure, but let him figure it out on his own. He will find his own way, and for me to impose my expectations on him is just wrong on a number of levels, and will end up squelching him. He gets where he gets, and I shouldn’t get upset.
I know my reality is somewhere in the middle, but these two extremes pull at me.
I am pretty great with kids (I am a professional clown) and have a lot of patience for other people’s kids, but little patience for my own child. I have a low tolerance for my son’s whining and carping on little details, and his cleverness in trying to avoid work — possibly because I recognize it so much in my own life. When he does that, I get unproportionally pissed off. (Or when he professes that he doesn’t understand something when he clearly does — but saying he doesn’t understand it means he doesn’t have to do it.)
The big question
So how do I NOT be a hard-ass while at the same time get him to be excited about school, and get him to (MOSTLY) be a self-starter about this stuff? I welcome your advice and hard-fought stories in the comments.
A version of this first appeared on Dadapalooza.