Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Free Choice Days

Today, Tessa wanted to brainstorm with me ideas for her Free Choice Days (one "school" day a week). This is what we have come up with so far:

  • Music lessons (of the teach-yourself-from-a-book-or-DVD variety) - piano / guitar / recorder / ukulele / singing.

  • A patch of garden.

  • Science fair project.

  • Sewing, knitting, crochet, etc.

  • Art lessons.

  • Write a book.

  • Projects: animals; history; geography; space / stars.

  • Make a movie.

  • Photography.

  • Reading non-fiction.

  • Political campaign: write to government, newspapers, radio; make posters, information pamphlets.

  • Programming project - make a game.

  • German, Maori, Latin, Spanish, other language.

We both think it looks like fun. In fact, Tessa has got started already: as I write, she is doing piano activities from John Thompson's Piano Course.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New School Year

The new school year starts in two or three weeks. I'm excited about the changes I have planned. At the end of last year, there were two things I knew I wanted to do differently. The first was the number of subjects we were studying: as well as what I see as our core homeschooling subjects - maths, language, science and history - Josiah and Tessa were working on Latin, French, typing, programming, Bible reading and critical thinking and we were reading various books together. It was too much; everything felt crammed in and bitsy.

The other change I want to make is to have more fun. For whatever reason, I feel we didn't have as much fun with "school" work last year as we have in the past. I floundered when I tried to identify what would grab the kids' interest. And sometimes I didn't try: as the kids get older, I feel more pressure to have them cover the same material other kids cover at school, rather than study what interests them. I might be making a gross generalisation here but I believe part of the problem was also that teenagers and pre-teens are more demanding and negative than younger kids.

Cutting back is proving straight forward. We'd already dropped critical thinking, with the intention of picking it up again when the kids finish the programming book they are working through. We are discontinuing Latin. It makes sense to restrict our family read-alouds to one book at a time. Typing will be next to go. Josiah has finished the online typing course we've been using. Tessa will finish it soon. I must observe the kids' typing to make sure they are hitting all the keys with the correct fingers but as long as that is happening, I see no need to continue with typing courses: the kids will get practice through doing some of their written work on the computer.

What I am excited about, and where I hope the fun will be reinjected into our work, is an idea I have to set aside one whole day a week for work the kids choose entirely themselves. I am imagining that they might do one big project that takes a whole term, or lots of different things - something different each week. They might do more work on a subject we are already studying: science, French, etc. Or they might come up with something completely different. On the first kids' choice day of term, I plan to ask Tessa and Josiah to put together a proposal on how they would like to spend those days for the first term of the year.