Almost everyone who I consult about homeschooling argues that there’s a significant period of time right after you leave formalized schooling in which the job of everyone in the family is to relax and find their rhythm. Almost everyone says that this can take months and that there’s really no point in doing “lessons” in this time frame. Instead, time is best spent at the library, museum, and zoo; curled up reading books together; and baking yummy treats. This time is known as deschooling and is the transition between formalized schooling and whatever form your homeschooling takes.
Um, sign me up. It turns out that I’d like my career to be deschooling!
At least, it felt that way for the first few weeks. We pulled L from first grade at the end of October. I knew that through the holidays, we would be doing minimal formalized schooling. I also know me, though.
I do very well in life when I am achieving something. When I have a goal, a metric or two by which to measure my progress toward that goal, and then I achieve that goal. Without a framework like that, I get a bit adrift.
Most of our homeschooling routine is about L and her needs and preferences. The reality, though, is that when I try to totally let go an approximate an unschooler, I get a little… itchy.
I’m trying to not pass that trait onto L. I recognize how it limits me. I work hard on messaging and behavior that reinforces the inherent worth of everyone regardless of their actions or achievement.
But I get a little itchy.
So, even though we were technically deschooling through the holidays, we did some lessons, too. Not a lot. And not the first few weeks. But when I felt myself getting short-tempered and knew that had more to do with my comfort with the environment than anything L did or didn’t do, we did a few lessons. And now that we’re post-holidays, we’re into our homeschooling “routine”. Which isn’t really a routine at all, of course!
We have a schedule: a self-directed, democratic homeschool co-op one day a week, an in-home nature-based play school two days a week (so I can have my meetings and office hours), and then four days a week at home. We host a weekly brunch on Sunday mornings at our place, which is an additional opportunity for that all-important socialization that so many are concerned about. L has Girl Scouts twice a month and is usually in one weekly class (right now it’s basketball – which is HILARIOUS). Add all that together with the one aspect of her dabble into formal schooling this year that she loved: Fun Fridays. The idea of celebrating on Friday afternoons seems really appropriate for us all.
So, how do we arrange our time?
First of all, we don’t homeschool any earlier than 11 AM, sometimes later. L is not a morning person. I have no idea where she could have gotten that from! She does best when she has time to wake up slowly, eat breakfast, watch a Wild Kratts, and do some free play.
After a snack (or sometimes after lunch), she’s ready. I’ve usually asked her what she thinks she might want to work on today and if she wants to work on a few ideas or really work on one idea.
I typically have an idea of 3-5 lessons that explore big ideas we could spring into on any given day. I have the materials and have outlined it in my head. We typically start with an independent activity or two, because L really likes to be able to do it herself.
In the past few weeks, we’ve had homeschool days that included:
- find 10 verbs in any book that you choose and write them down
- work a number puzzle and find the rule to predict which numbers can go in the corner
- complete two experiments from chemistry kit
- play chess online
- do a half hour of math apps
- tessellate to our hearts’ content
- read for an hour and a half on the couch
- finger knit
- watch Nature episodes on Netflix, stopping to write down animal facts
- write a book about kingdoms in biology
I think we’ve found a framework that works for us, at least for now. One of the things that it helps me to keep in mind is that she has learned the vast majority of what she knows and is able to do organically. Really, my intervention simply gets in the way much of the time (there’s a blog post brewing on that, too!).
Time on task is not the goal for us. Plowing through isn’t the goal, either. Helping her choose. Helping her see the value in being engaged in learning. Helping her stretch herself into areas she’s not as confident or strong in to build stamina and perseverance. These are our goals.
So, while it is most natural for me to recreate an elementary school classroom in my own home and schedule accordingly, I know that structure doesn’t work for her. While it might be most natural for her to throw away all structure entirely, I know that doesn’t work for me. And this is the compromise that we’ve reached that seems to work. At least for now.