This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!
It’s just about time for a new homeschool academic year. In fact, as you are reading this, we are beginning with our first day back. We like to have a slow start to our full load, so we begin a week before public school convenes. Over the years our homeschool “schedule” has changed quite a lot. How do we work in all of the academic and project work for multiple ages in our homeschool? Here are some thoughts on How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day.
How Our Homeschool Routine Has Evolved
When our children were all younger and working on basic skills, we sat down together and worked at our table. We would begin our day with our unit study, working together, and move toward independent work based on their skill level. Some years we did the opposite. We began with individual skills and moved to unit study work.
Now that our children are older, there is a lot more independent work in our homeschool days. Along with more skills, comes more independence and these days you can find our students engaged throughout the day in various aspects of their own work.
As your students change and grow, so will your homeschool routine.
Instructional Time During Our Day
There are still moments in our day when I am involved in direct instruction- either for my 4th grader or for some elements of our middle and high schooler’s courses. Here are a few examples:
- High School Science- Our high schoolers read the text on their own and do their assignments. If they are confused by a concept, they search out answers on their own from the text or online videos before seeking me out. The idea is not to spoon feed their instruction, but to encourage them to find their own answers and then discuss the concept with us.
- Math- As you may know, we use Life of Fred in our homeschool. The books are written to the student, but depending on the age of our kids I may sit with them and hear them read the chapter to me before answering this questions at the end. If there is trouble with a concept, then I will also step in to clear up misunderstandings.
Learning Together During Our Homeschool Day
Of course, being a unit study family for many years and still today, we love to learn together with all ages. We come together on a few things whenever we can:
- Fred Math- With all of our students immersed in Fred’s world, there is always something to discuss about Fred at the dinner table. We can engage about Fred any time, but often he comes up at dinner where our kids share what they’ve been working on.
- Geography- We are using NorthStar Geography this year and while our two high schoolers will earn a credit, our younger boys will join in when they can.
- Read Aloud Time- We love to hear stories together. Often times I have my teens read to us and my 11th grader loves to read to me! Reading aloud is a great way to begin your homeschool day and to get started and focused again after lunch. The benefits of building this time into your schedule are numerous.
- Earth Science- This year we’ll be tackling earth science as a family. The younger boys (4th & 7th grades) will be studying earth science with their Adventures in the Sea & Sky curriculum while the high schoolers will be following the course set by CK12 Earth Science for High School. You might like to read more about our curriculum choices for 2014-2015 if you missed it earlier this month.
I’m excited to see how the kids will collaborate with one another this year.
Leaving Time for Discussion in Your Homeschool Day
Not only do your students need direct instruction when they are younger, you’ll find they need lots of discussion time as they get older. Your discussions can be on many topics and take many forms, but here are a few examples from our homeschool.
- Discuss Academic Topics- anything from the book they are reading to thoughts on a historical moment.
- Talk about Books- Book discussions are an excellent way to increase communication with your teens! If you want an easy way to talk with your students, discuss books together. That means you need to read them too!
- Mentoring- Guiding our students as they get older and no longer need our direct instruction all of the time.
- Consulting- I’m always available to our kids as they work on their projects. They can consult with me on how things are going and I can encourage them in their work. This is part of keeping the work going and moving in a forward direction!
As your children grow, you’ll find they need a teacher less and a mentor more. I’ve written a chapter on this topic for The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas. If you purchase a copy, you’ll find a host of tips on how to make the transition from a teacher to a mentor.
Project Time as Part of a Homeschool Day
No homeschool day is complete at our house without project time. Each of our students has a Project Workspace where they can leave out their work and spend a lot of time working and researching. Project time might include things like:
- Following a tutorial
- Learning a new computer programming language by reading and testing it
- Designing a new model rocket or custom mini-fig
- Pinning a new insect
- Drafting a fashion design
- Reading & Researching on a topic
- Building a machine like a catapult
- Testing a hypothesis
- Writing to add to stories and novels
- Attending seminars and workshops related to an area of study
- Collaborating with each other on progress
All of these are born out of their interest in a topic & represent the amount of time we’ve poured into these interests. Much of our homeschool day is wrapped up in project time. This is the time when I get to be a mentor and consultant and listen and encourage their efforts.
Allow Room for Making Adjustments to Your Homeschool Day
For all of these ideas that work well, we’ve tried some which haven’t worked so well. You might find that a student you thought could work well independently doesn’t. Working with a more flexible routine is a double-edged sword. What makes it so appealing is also the thing that can go the most wrong!
Working consistently and experiencing forward progress in their endeavors is key. If you aren’t seeing it in your homeschool, then perhaps it is time for an adjustment. It could be a small adjustment to the schedule or it could mean rethinking your approach to the schedule all together.
How do we gauge if our routine is working? That’s a question easily answered with Ten Things that Make a Great Homeschool Day.
Other iHN bloggers are sharing their Day in the Life posts. Visit them for more encouragement as you begin a new homeschool year!
The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas is on sale now. If you’d like to read more about how to transition from an instructor to a mentor for your children and teens, be sure to purchase your own copy.