Ever feel like you’ve been dropped out of the familiar and into the unknown? You know, like when Dorothy found herself somewhere over the rainbow, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow!” I can think of a few moments like this . . . the first time I tried to drive with my learners permit, the day I had a classroom full of second graders and I was THE teacher, the first day I was home alone with our oldest child, the day I began homeschooling. Wait, did you catch that, yes, I said it, the day I began homeschooling. Why was this experience so surreal and strange? Honestly, I can boil it down to one word – freedom.
As a former public school teacher, it is incredibly difficult to walk away from the classroom schedule. You know it: morning welcome at 9 am, language arts from 9:30-11, math from 11-12, lunch at 12 and so on. Even if you’ve never taught a day in your life, it is likely that your brain is still programmed that this is how school “should be.” Why? Because most of you lived it. It is how we learned to do school from being in school. Not only are we programmed to believe that classes should be on a rigid “bell schedule” we’ve been trained to think that every subject needs to be a part of every day because that is what we know, it is part of our understanding of how school works.
Stop for a moment . . . think truly think . . .
- Which subjects should be a part of your every day?
- Which subjects take priority?
- Which subjects can wait?
- Which subjects need to enter your weeks without consuming your days?
No really, take the time now. I’ll wait . . .
Is it easier to just follow the traditional school schedule, maybe shorten the times a little because things don’t take as long at home, but keep each piece in every day, certainly it is. But, is that the world you are wanting your children to explore? Or is there a different place, a place full of color, adventure and unusual opportunity that awaits just on the other side?
In no way am I advocating a free for all without an intentional plan, rhythms or routines – if you’ve been around a hot minute, you know me better than that. What I would like you to consider is how you can balance your days differently to produce the most benefit for you and your children. What would it look like if they could be responsible for reading and math everyday but they only needed to then focus on one or two other subject for the day? Or maybe whole hours are devoted to writing or science or learning a foreign language once or twice a week instead of having choppy twenty minute sessions each day.
Just because schooling has always been done in one way doesn’t mean that it is the only way to do it nor does it mean that it is the best way. In fact, many traditional school teachers have found that blocking large chunks of time to explore particular topics has greatly increased student learning. Unfortunately for them, the scheduling of such blocks is often nearly impossible but for you, homeschool families, for you, it is possible. You can choose to structure your days however it works best for your family. Maybe that does mean keeping things very traditional with scheduled times and a wide variety of subjects each day or maybe you see a new way that is worth trying. Don’t be afraid to walk away from tradition. Don’t be afraid to cut a new path. Don’t be afraid to choose what works best for you family. No matter what you choose, keep it smart, keep it simple.