Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back to work

Sorry for the long silence. As usual we overcommitted ourselves during the two weeks of school holidays. The kids had friends over often and went visiting lots. They stayed at my mother's one night, along with my mother's partner's niece and nephew whose company Josiah and Tessa always enjoy. Tessa did a course of swimming lessons. They went on a zoo sleepover with friends (I'm not sure if the fabulous time the kids had at the zoo was worth the cost to the rest of us in suffering Josiah's all too accurate gibbon imitations at frequent intervals ever since ;) ) Add to that the regular Unschoolers meeting and our climbing sessions and I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that getting back to “school” this week is turning out to be a struggle. The kids are in need of recovery time.

They are enthusiastic enough about the work, but are taking all morning to be ready to start it. Literally. All morning. I have always had difficulty finding ways to hand over to Josiah and Tessa the responsibility for being ready to start work at our agreed start time. To make it their problem not mine if they are not ready. None of the “logical consequences” I've come up with are really all that logical, and all of them require me to police things more closely than the kids or I enjoy.

The kids would be happier I think if we didn't have a start time but just started work whenever they feel ready, which might be two or three o'clock in the afternoon. The problem with that is that my energy runs out by mid-afternoon. I find it very hard to be alert, focused, patient and observant at that time of day. Also our activities end up having to be hurried so that dinner can be cooked in time for Josiah to head out for the evening (he climbs three evenings a week and goes to Boys Brigade another evening).

A few ideas are coming to mind as I write this. I might institute a kitchen closing time half an hour before our “start time” in the morning, since a lot of why the children aren't ready is that they linger over breakfast. I know a few families who have a kitchen closing time in the evening to facilitate getting off to bed at a reasonable hour. Something similar in the morning might help us.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

New schedule

The loose schedule that had been working mostly well for us since about October last year started causing strife a week or two ago. The kids became slower and slower over their morning routine and academic work, objecting unpleasantly when I attempted to call them back to task. I felt disheartened by all the negativity for a few days but then realised it was time for a change.

What the kids seemed to be asking for was to work in shorter spurts alternated with breaks. So, together we've made a list of what we'd like to get done each day and the new plan is that just one item on the list has to be done each hour. This means we won't be finished till late afternoon some days but allows the kids to stop and play or read when they feel like it, which is how they seem to want things just now.

We trialled the new system the last two days before the Easter break and everyone was happy. Here's the daily task list:

  • Chores.

  • Guitar practice (Tessa only).

  • One activity from our weekly work list.

  • A second activity from our weekly work list.

  • Independent work (Josiah: climbing diary first priority).

  • Family reading.

Our weekly work list is a list of the main subjects we are working on this year – it's where I note the next presentation for each child in each subject. So an activity from our weekly work list is usually a presentation from me. The subjects are:

  • Geometry

  • Maths

  • History

  • Language

  • Critical Thinking

  • Science

  • Latin

  • Art / Craft / Music / Photography

I've warned the kids that I find it hard to drop whatever I'm doing mid-flow so we are trialling a system where the kids let me know at least 30 minutes in advance that they'd like to work with me. This is the only aspect of the new plan that didn't go so well last week: I misjudged how long some activities would take. Twice I told Tessa I'd be ready for her at a certain time but was still mid-activity with Josiah at that time and once the same thing happened the other way around. The kids were very tolerant and hopefully I'll get better at working out how long to allow.