Last week was an experiment of sorts on "unschooling" or "simple schooling", which in essence means you don't have a set curriculum or workbook to progress, but rather the children learn by experience, curiosity, and play. They kind of set their own goals for their educational experience.
Being the control-freak I am, this terrifies me. But there's a hidden gem in this that God revealed to me - in order for my children to succeed in life, even as adults, they have to 1) be willing to learn 2) know how to find out what they want to learn 3) use what they learned practically. Success in any area is us moving through these 3 processes - whether we want to lose weight, get our Master's degree, write a book, be a missionary, whatever... Successful adults stay humble and stay hungry and that's how they rise above the crowd and become noticed in their field.
But you can't force a child to learn. Just try it. It's the equivalent of dragging that proverbial horse to water, and hanging from it's neck to try to get it's lips to water. It ain't happening! So it is my job to make them independently interested in their own learning progress, whether they are homeschooled or if they ever go back to public school (over a parent's dead body... and I mean that quite literally).
That's not to say they are ready to be un-guided. So we sat down and set some goals: Spiritually, Physically, Language Arts, Math, Arts/Crafts. These are the foundation of the Homeschooling experience at the Hass Household. Social Studies and Science are like icing on a cake. Anakin set a bible study goal, wants to start running and doing strength training on days off from Karate (at least one extra day), he wants to read his library fiction book and for his arts/crafts wants to illustrate it, and master fractions and division at a 3rd grade level. Brielle wants to prepare a song to sing at church during the offering, finish reading her American Girl book, master telling time on an analog clock and counting currency (which she has, but has a hard time with pictures in books. She has to feel the coins to really know how much they're worth), do yoga twice a week, and knit a scarf.
Caleb is the proverbial horse by the river of knowledge... who cannot be forced to drink. He has 2 new Star Wars themed kindergarten workbooks in Reading and Math that he works through oh so patiently and then builds stuff with legos or blocks, or plays with puzzles. The joy of a pre-school life.
It was pleasant that it was our first week home without any other activities.
We started our day after breakfast reading our Bible and praying as a family. Then each kid split up to work on their own spiritual goals - Brielle borrowed my phone and went to her room to practice her song, Anakin did a Bible study plan on YouVersion (on my account). Then we read for 30 minutes. Then they practiced math - most of which is on Khan Academy, and we can only have one kiddo on the computer at a time, so the second kiddo worked on their physical goal and then they swapped. They were both done before lunch.
After lunch, I added the "sprinkles" - a science project on cloud formations that involved art work, Spanish lessons, practicing the recorder. Brielle usually knits next to me when we watch TV as a family. They also learned some Social Studies by playing Carmen San Diego and the Oregon Trail - and that as a team of 3, so they all learned to some degree or another.
How did it work out? Awesome!
For one thing, we were all de-stressed. Everything was met with joy. There was no pressure to meet a schedule. The kids were so pumped that they worked quickly and efficiently and the evenings were a joy!
For another thing, come Friday the kids had worked on all their goals, so we participated in co-op. Faith Homeschool Connection has a co-op for homeschooling parents at their church - it's a great group of support for moms. The kids are all split up by age groups and there is one or two moms per class, teaching a subject in a group setting. My kids in particular had Physical Education for the first session, lunch break, and then Brielle and Caleb went to a health class where they learned about a balanced diet and Anakin went to a Super Hero physics class. They made new friends. They still learned. They were happy kids (Caleb protested a little at first but 15 minutes into it he was ok with it. At least, I think he was. He stopped planking in the middle of the gym.).
I want this to be our routine over-all. I told them that every day, Monday through Thursday, there will be Reading, Writing, and Math. They can expect that no matter what. Fridays is co-op. Everything else is as we get to it. They love having the option of "Would you like to work on your Spanish or do yoga instead?"
The curriculum I originally bought was from Oak Meadow. They have an "unschooling" type of system too, where they give me a general guidance of what to work on week to week and I have the power to choose how to implement it. It's how we're learning to play the recorder or learning our science/social studies. I don't spend as much time as the curriculum emphasizes on the fairy tales because a) they read the Bible first b) they read fiction stories they chose second and I think it's a bit too much. But I'm saving those fairy tale stories to read to Caleb between next school year and the one after, until he learns how to read himself.
Their language arts skills are ahead is of the curriculum but I have them practice cursive anyways.
This whole homeschooling experience comes with a learning curve that involves the whole family. But we're all appreciative of the freedom it provides! So the kids aren't just doing the work but it's sticking in their minds and seasoning their conversation. I think it's efficient. I love it because it's simple.