March 8, 2011

Home Schooling multiple grades

With Hunter and Haven having more serious academic needs these days, our school day is changing.  Hannah Jane has traditionally gotten most of my structured instruction time, with the boys doing academically minded activities on the side with minimal instruction.  But the boys are reading, doing simple arithmetic, and beginning a few of the structured curricula now and so juggling adequate instruction time for all three of them has taken some serious consideration.

I played around with schedules a bit over the last 2 weeks, trying things on, seeing what works and what doesn't.  With the prospect of putting our house on the market, I mentioned to Joe that maybe we'd school at the library to keep the house clean.  He asked, "Why can't you just behave at home the way you behave at the library and keep it clean while you're here?  Or do you plan to let them trash the library?"  I was offended, as if clearly he doesn't understand what we do all day.  I explained that the boys have had large gaps of free time with which to unburden shelves of  book, beds of blankets and pillows, and toy-boxes of toys.  And no, the plan wasn't to let them behave that way at the library, but most moms know that kids often behave in a more civilized fashion when they are in uncomfortable surroundings!

Take the old folks home, for example.  We used to visit with the Alzheimer's ward almost weekly as our family service project and the boys were amazing with the residents there.  But after a while they got too comfortable.  The more we went, the more it became like a second home and they felt they had the green light to roll on the floor, run and be loud.  We stopped going the second they got comfortable.

Any-hoo, I think we're to the point now that the boys are constructively engaged most of the day and the house is staying WAY CLEANER!  Hooray!  The extra instruction time has done wonders for our house and it's hygienic state of being, but Hannah Jane no longer gets undivided attention and that is causing her some strife.  She also now has the distraction of the boys' more fun and kid like lessons.  She laments now, "I wish I never grew up so I could do the lessons that the boys do.  They're not hard at all!"  I remind her that they are exactly what she did when she was their age and it was, in fact, hard for her when she did them.

All of our experimenting resulted in a new schedule.  A temporary schedule that now lives on the school room wall and is loosely followed when possible.  In case your wondering what our day looks like with three kids in the school room and no one unburdening anything of anything in the next room over, here it is.  The blocks with 2 things listed have Hannah Jane's activity listed first. followed by what the boys are doing.  Blue is out of the house (the boys' speech and my dates with Hannah Jane), green is unaccompanied time where I am free to tidy, blog, and sew, brown is time that we are all three in proximity with one another and I am giving direct instruction, and red is when a bazillion other kids are at our house and I'm doing the best I can :) . 

Circle time changes with the needs of the group.  We do bean bag activities, memorize poetry, read our daily Baha'i devotionals, sing, chant skip counting, etc.  We light our little birch tree candles to make it feel special, do our thing, and then blow out the candles and get to work on the real meat of the school day. 

So, for now this is working and allows me to instruct the boys while Hannah Jane has independent work and then set the boys to a task and instruct Hannah Jane.  When the boys stop working on the same grade level, I suppose we'll have to tweak things again.  Is it horrible to hope that your baby always works at the same level as his big bro without ever surpassing him or dropping to age level?  Haven reads a bit better than Hunter and Hunter computes mathematical equations a bit better than Haven, but they help each other out when they get stuck.  They quiz each other with flash cards.  They work like a well oiled machine. 

Do I worry about them becoming too dependent on one another?  No.  Not really.  No more so than best friends in a class of 30.  And while they take turns doing their on-line schooling (which didn't make the schedule cut, but is usually after the schedule is finished) I play with the one not on the computer however they want.  Today Haven wanted to play a game of Toy Story 3 Memory and Hunter wanted Candy Land.  He trounced me 3 times in Candy Land, by the way. 

Things feel smooth.  But for how long?  It seems that with home schooling, just when you think you've mastered your domain things change, interests diverge, personality conflicts arise, and walls are hit.  So we just keep on changing, adapting, and maturing as a family.  It's never dull at the Christison Home Academy of the Arts and Sciences!

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