As everyone is gearing up for “back to school,” I’m gearing up for a trip to London, ON, to see one of my cousins who is coming to Canada for the first time. Me and my kids get to pick him up in Toronto on our way to London to spend time with our family. We’ll probably do some school while we’re in London, but we won’t get back into the real swing of things until the second week of September.
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Because I only have 2-school aged kids to teach, things tend to go a lot faster than in a classroom of say, 30 kids. Missing a week is not a huge deal when you can finish most of your work in less than 3 hours a day. Do an extra bit here and an extra bit there, and you’re covered.
There are many ways to homeschool. Some families have a strict school-a-home routine; others follow religious curricula, others follow a nature-based education, and yet others follow no curriculum at all. As I get to know more and more homeschoolers in my community and elsewhere, I am more and more convinced that the real beauty of homeschooling is exactly this: each family gets to choose the way to homeschool in the way that suits them best. Many of us actually use an eclectic mix of styles, and prefer not to be labeled, other than to just say we’re homeschoolers.
In my home, we even homeschool differently depending on each kid in the family. There’s lots of reading and seat work for my oldest child, who is a bookworm, and lots of outdoor learning for my middle child, who is a true outdoors kid. By honoring the way they learn best, they are usually excited to “do school.”
Whereas our family is very flexible in the way we do our day-to-day homeschooling, I’ve always liked having a plan. It’s always a flexible plan, but there’s some kind of guidance for what to do and when. But we’ve operated on the principle that if there’s a real life activity that’s a great learning opportunity, the books get set aside for a while. During our cycling trip in 2016, we didn’t do any formal “schooling” at all, and my kids learned at a pace so fast that I now understand the appeal of unschooling. My son’s language, in particular, shot through the roof, and their creativity really blossomed (sort of a given when you only have one small toy to play with for three weeks straight).
I do believe that unschooling can work for many children, but for my family in particular, full time unschooling isn’t the best choice, for a number of reasons. I have one particular child who is highly structured and likes guidance in her learning activities. She also likes to have a say in what she learns, of course, so we are learning to balance these things as we go.
I am a pretty structured person myself, though I’m always flexible with my structure. I thus do glance at provincial curricular expectations before beginning my yearly homeschool planning. Although I could probably say a lot about the forcing of learning about certain things at certain ages (and I probably will at some point), I do like to cover all the bases. For example, if I ever need to go back to full-time work and the kids need to go into school, I want them to be able to be at the same learning level as their classmates.
The Canadian Homeschooler has an excellent resource for homeschooling parents who wish to check in with provincial expectations—it’s the provincial expectations per grade, in checklist format. This is great because the expectations are listed for all subjects in one document, which is much less cumbersome than going through each of the curriculum documents online (which are difficult to print for “checking” purposes).
So here’s what I’ve done for getting ready for the school year:
Covering my behind & ensuring access to services
I’ve sent off my letter of intent. Whereas in Ontario, you are not required to do this, I like to cover my behind, and doing this also allows us to have access to speech and occupational therapy services for G-boy.
I’ve printed out the checklists for grade 2 (K-girl) and kindergarten (G-boy). It’s telling that K-girl already checks off several of the expectations in the 2nd grade checklist, and we didn’t do formal schooling on several days last year.
I’ve created a flexible “weekly themes” for each kid. In it are the things we’ll cover in the year ahead, unless of course, they get overly interested in something else that’s not on the list (like K-girl did about the planets last year).
I’ve also printed out everything I need for the first week, so I’m ready to go.
Starting “formal” school a week late
So what will we do while we’re in London?
More than likely, we’ll keep it simple. I’ll probably have K-girl do some writing about what we did this summer, and encourage her to bring lots of books. For G-boy, we’ll probably concentrate on his speech therapy exercises, and keep working on fine motor control.
I’ll bring along their activities for the “first day of school,” which is their “about me” pages as well as the poems and songs we’d be using at home. I’ll also bring some of their file folder games for independent learning time.
And other than that, we’ll be learning about the world by living in it – taking nature walks and observing nature, writing and drawing about it in our journals, and learning about being a valuable member of a family by being together.
How are you getting ready for the (home)school year?