I've been asked to do a year-end summary by you, my readers, on our year of homeschooling. For those of you just tuning in, we pulled the kids out of school this past year and homeschooled them so that we could travel. We spent three months living in Phoenix this winter, enjoying the glorious weather and desert sunsets. We were home three weeks, then were off to Europe for almost three months again, it's been quite the year of travel!
I miss these desert sunsets like you wouldn't believe. Desert sunsets are simply the most spectacular on the planet.
There are different ways that you can choose to homeschool your children and we chose what I now think is most likely the harder path to follow, teacher-led aligned. That means that we were aligned with the Alberta Curriculum (excellent) and that teachers planned all the work and our job was to execute it. (not so good.)
You log into a program on the computer and each child has an account for their work. Each day there is an online class (can be good) in each subject. This takes up a large part of the morning by the time you are done with the four core subjects. Then however, the kids have assignments as well on top of that.
The warning bells went off at the beginning of the year when I read “to expect that children would need the same amount of time every day for schooling as regular school.”
That's a big no for homeschooling. You should be able to get all of your daily work done in the morning with the afternoon free. There are no interruptions like in a classroom and it's pure one-on-one work. Aligned and teacher-led was, in essence, a daily classroom in your house and I wish I had known this beforehand. The days were full of what is called “busy” work, as if we were in a real classroom and teachers just wanted to keep the kids busy. Some assignments were crazy, such as taking cameras out, finding garbage, taking pictures, sending by email, things that took hours within one day to to. There were days when the kids didn't even come close to finishing their work, and that's the point where we dumped the busy work entirely and just did the assignments that were due.
This type of homeschooling did not fit in with out lifestyle this year. When you look at the requirements for Grade 4, for example, each subject is fairly simple. Really. If you scroll down in that PDF, what is listed under each subject is the entire year of learning. For example, here is what is required learning to be aligned with the curriculum for Grade 4 Science :
Waste and Our World • identify wastes produced within their community and learn the methods used for disposal • learn that some waste materials are biodegradable, that some are reusable, and that others are toxic • recognize that human activity can lead to the production of wastes
Wheels and Levers • examine how simple machines are used to change the speed or force of movement • demonstrate a practical understanding of wheels, gears and levers by constructing devices in which energy is transferred to produce motion
Building Devices and Vehicles that Move • learn that different forms of energy can be used to propel model devices • construct a mechanical device for a designated purpose, using materials and design suggestions provided • learn to evaluate their work, by describing the effectiveness of the device and the appropriateness of materials used
Light and Shadows • discover that light and shadows fall along a predictable path by observing shadows and their motions relative to a light source • discover that mirrors, prisms and a variety of other materials can affect that path by reflecting and refracting light and by splitting light into colours • identify sources of light, describe the interaction of light with different materials, and infer the pathway of a light beam
Plant Growth and Changes • describe the importance of plants to humans and to the natural environment • learn that different plants have different needs, and, through hands-on activities, gain skills and attitudes for their care • demonstrate knowledge and skills for the study, interpretation, propagation and enhancement of plant growth
That is it. Science for over the whole year. My daughter already knows plant growth and changes from gardening with me, in fact we've gone even more in depth than what she studied this year. Waste and our World? Done it all. She knows all about decomposers, recycling, everything in that unit, she knew already. If I had done parent-led aligned we could have done a nice big project to show her knowledge and called it a day. Wheels and levers? My husband bought a fabulous kit at the teacher's store and the learning for that was done in a week, all through play basically.
Here's where I say I should have listened to my mom. ( you reading this ma?) She's the smartest teacher I'll ever know, with not only her Masters but also having planned and executed NINE GRADES OF SCHOOL every year until she retired. That's right, let that sink in. NINE GRADES every year, making sure that the curriculum was new and current. She taught in a one room school house on a Hutterite colony from Grades 1-9 her entire teaching career. With children that only spoke German when they come into Grade one, so throw ESL in there as well.
I can't even.
That said, she tried to tell me last fall that teacher-led wasn't really the way to go, that the curriculum isn't that complex and that we could totally do it ourselves. I honestly didn't have the self confidence that I could plan and execute the curriculum, but I should have, it would have been so much easier on us all.
The main problem with teacher-led aligned is that there was no room for my own type of teaching and that drove me nuts. For example leaning about Aboriginal culture for social, we visited some of the most incredible museums in the world (New York's Natural History Museum covered Native American peoples of the North American Plains and then even at home, Edmonton's Provincial museum has a huge wing all about Canadian aboriginals) There is so much more you can learn in one day at a museum with your kids than a month's worth of assignments. My kids both learn better this way and retain their knowledge when we experience it, not when they write it down. Again, my kids learned more than any repetitive school assignment could teach them.
Teacher-led was far too restrictive for us and I can say that until perhaps my children are old enough to log in and complete everything themselves without parental supervision, we won't be doing it again. There are some benefits to it, but the negatives outweighed the positives for us.
The kids are heading back to school this year, just to our neighborhood school. We'd like them to make some friends in the neighborhood and we aren't travelling this year. I need to get the photography finished for my book and then it's months of working with my editor to make sure it's the best it can be. However, the plan is to homeschool for the 2016/2017 school year, when my book comes out. We'll plan another year of travel so that I can do a book tour and book signings all over Canada and the US. That year we will do parent-led aligned instead of teacher-led.
So all in all, it was a good year and a learning experience for us all. It was fabulous that we could work ahead and be done ahead of time for vacations, or end our entire school year at the beginning of June so that the kids have a three month break from school but overall the lack of flexibility was ultimately a stressor for us.
I loved travelling with the kids and this past year is one that I hope stays in their memories forever. They actually don't want to return to school, but this next year we really don't have the time to homeschool them. That's the lovely thing about being aligned as well, they can simply pop back into regular school without a problem anytime they want. If nothing else, I'm raising flexible, adaptable children thanks to our crazy life!
Now I know that I most likely haven't answered everyone's questions, so please ask away in the comments below!