Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: Don't try to duplicate public school at home

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't try to duplicate public school at home

There are so many new homeschoolers this year, more than I have ever seen before! And of course, all the newbies are looking for some advice to help them get started in the right direction. The absolute best piece of advice the Unplanned Homeschooler can give is this: Don’t try to duplicate school at home. 
As a new homeschooler five years ago, I didn’t know exactly what the veteran homeschoolers I met meant when they issued this warning, but I soon learned.
This sort of cluttered classroom environment is probably not best for your kids.

I grew up in public school, and my own kids started out there. The public school classroom was the only model of elementary education I had to work from, and while it may be the acceptable standard for simultaneously teaching 20 or more children of the same grade level, it’s not the ideal for most homeschooling families. 

Fortunately, there are a few easy solutions that can turn the public school experience you probably remember from your own childhood into a homeschool environment much more conducive to educating your children one-on-one.

Streamline your schedule

Many new homeschoolers mistakenly believe they need to replicate the public school schedule at home, starting promptly at 8:00 am, taking scheduled breaks, and ending the day around 2:30 in the afternoon. But what they don’t realize is that much of the standard school day is wasted in inefficiency.

Homeschoolers don’t have to stand in line to get lunch, or to travel to the library, or to go to the restroom. They don’t have to wait quietly until the rest of the class finishes working before moving on to the next lesson. And they can generally begin and end the day whenever they want, taking breaks as needed, and wrapping up school when the day’s lessons are complete.

Experiment with your schedule, choosing the times of day that your kids are most receptive to instruction, and by all means end your official school time when the children have reached their objectives for the day. Remember, kids learn all day long, and in so many places besides a desk.

Be flexible with seating

I actually had a couple of classroom desks given to me when my kids started homeschooling, and for just a minute, I thought about using them. But then I remembered how terribly uncomfortable those wooden and metal desks were, and how much I would have rather sat at a real table where I could spread out my work, or curled up on the couch to read.

So, that’s how we arranged our space at home. I brought in a dining table and we sat on cushioned chairs, or on bean bags in the floor, or curled up on the couch. Sometimes a table is necessary for writing and math, but other times our family does school wherever we’re most comfortable.

Avoid classroom clutter

I’ve seen photos of some pretty amazing homeschool work spaces. And then, I have seen spaces that made me cringe with all the displays and bulletin boards and hanging folders and more, more, more. According to recent research, too much classroom clutter is distracting to children, and kids in a room that’s too packed with displays spend 10 percent more time off task, and perform about significantly worse on tests.

The room we use for school has just a few things on the walls. I hung giant maps of the United States and the world, which we use frequently for reference. I also hung up a dry erase board, a calendar and a couple of posters in the corner to help my youngest memorize math facts and such. Any more than that would make the room seem too busy to me.

Besides, we need the extra space for books. You can never have too many books.

Explore your world

Of course, not all your time ought to be spent with your books. There's a whole world of learning adventures to explore outside your home, from your own back yard to parks and nature centers, museums, zoos and aquariums, baseball games, theater, dance, and so much more. We're surrounded by opportunities to learn!
Learning opportunities are all around us. Get out there and explore your world!

The absolute best part of homeschooling, in my opinion, is that we are free to take advantage of them all. We're not constrained to a schedule that matches the public schools. We're not confined to a classroom, with the exception of a couple of field trips each year. We're free to learn when we want, where we want, and whatever we want to learn. 

If you're new to homeschooling, make it a point to seek out adventures for you and you kids regularly, until exploring your world and taking in learning opportunities is completely natural for you. It may take time to adjust to this new way of looking at education, but once you get it, you'll be so glad you did.

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