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To those successful, relaxed parents...


Tsutsie
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...with children in great universities or high school students doing very well. Parents who have already done what I am trying my best to do.

 

I have been listening to talks by Dr. Perrin, Mr. Andrew Kern, and so on, and really desire to have my homeschool look like and feel like what they describe. I have been trying to accomplish this for years, only with temporary or little success. 

 

I have read through most of the circe thread (and others) but I'm still not clear on exactly how to implement this, and how it marries with rigorous classical education. Is it really possible to be rigorous and relaxed at the same time? 

 

I'm a self-confessed box checker and a-type. I'm having a hard time letting go of all the little workbooks and just allowing my children time to explore. I once read somewhere about a mom the inwardly "grieved" when she looked at all the work she loaded onto her children's little shoulders. This resonates with me. My DS is 10, and DD is 7 - they are both a couple of years ahead and we work about 6 - 7 hours per day. 

 

It just does not feel right, but I'm not sure how to change things. (We do everything and the kitchen sink.)

 

What would you say are essential in providing a good education to kids around these ages? What is nice to have, but not required? What is frivolous and a waste of time?

 

Thank you.

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Caveat: I'm a type-A person succeeding at being more relaxed this year, but my kids are younger than yours. I can't provide any assurances about how they're going to turn out in the end, but I just wanted to pipe up and say that this has been our best year of homeschooling so far. Dialing down my anxiety and focusing on what is true, lovely, and beautiful has made for a wonderful year. 

 

I did a lot of similar reading last year. While I appreciate the theoretical perspective that Dr. Perrin and Andrew Kern offer, I really needed to hear from other homeschool moms to understand what this meant in the daily details. The most helpful read for me was Sarah McKenzie's blog and her book, Teaching From a State of Rest. I can't say enough good things about this book, especially the couple of chapters that focus on the practical details. I've also appreciated Brandy Vencel's and Mystie Winckler's blogs. They're both women who have been at this for a while and have firsthand experience of how to actually DO it. (Mystie posts here, too, so perhaps she'll chime in.)

 

For me, the Ambleside reading list has been a good start as I try to pare down and focus on the essentials. It is by no means the only way to approach relaxed, classical ed, but it's helped me to have a tangible reading list to start from. 

 

The two principles that have helped me the most have been following joy and slowing down the pace. First, what's actually fun for me to teach and for my kids to learn? It seems counter-intuitive--I certainly believe that there is core knowledge that all children need to master, no matter how much they like it--but following joy has helped me to eliminate busy work, teach the essential skills with excellence, and then focus on enjoying (and even luxuriating in) how wonderful the world is. But to do this, we need plenty of unrushed time, so that we're not whipping through everything and exhausted by the end. It is such a pleasure to do a science experiment together or discuss a good book when we have the time to really digest it. (If you'd like more specifics, I have a day-in-the-life post here. You'll see we get a lot done in our three hours of school, but it doesn't feel rushed or stressed unless I let myself start to feel that way.) 

 

I hope that our relaxed but rigorous method will help my children become happy, capable adults, but there's certainly no guarantee that this will happen or that they'll get into a great college. ("Great" can mean lots of things, of course.) But, no matter how much we stress out and no matter how much work we make our kids do, there's still no guarantee that they'll get into a high-ranked college, and no guarantee that they will be happy and successful afterward either. For me, a lot of this has been about accepting that I can't control who my kids become or what they eventually pursue--all I can do is create a happy, learning-focused home life, teach them well, and trust that they will figure it out.

 

P.S. Part of what makes me so opinionated on the topic of good colleges is that I'm a Harvard graduate, and I've seen up close that the degrees do not come with any warranty for happiness or worldly success. The characters our kids develop will end up mattering a lot more than the piece of paper hanging on their wall.   

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I'm probably not qualified to answer your questions as my eldest is in 7th grade. Let me share with you what lessons look like for my younger kids (around your kids' ages). Neither my current 10 yo nor my 8 yo work 6-7 hours per day even if the prevailing attitudes are less than ideal. Not including assigned and free reading my 10 yo averages around 4-5 hours of seat work per day. Really, only her math programs are workbooks. My 8 yo averages around 3-4 hours of seat work per day, again excluding assigned and free reading. He trends closer to 3 hours most days.

 

We stress skills v. content, especially in the younger years (say through 3rd grade). So, phonics/reading, math, spelling (after phonics), and handwriting (i.e. the skills subjects) are done daily in the younger years. Handwriting includes copy work which helps with/reinforces spelling, usage, and grammar. We also incorporate daily memory work which takes various forms. Content areas are hit weekly. These subjects can include science, history, geography, anything else which doesn't fall under the skills list above. These subjects can certainly enforce skills work (i.e, narration or dictation of a history passage or something); however, they do not teach the skills.

 

As my kids progress we add Latin and writing (i.e., learning to write paragraphs, essays, etc) and these generally fall in the daily skills line-up. We use the content areas to reinforce the writing instruction, especially.

 

So suggestions:

 

1. If you haven't read this yet, perhaps see if your library has Andrew Campbell's Latin Centered Curriculum. There are two editions and I think either would be fine. This book along with TWTM form the basis of our little educational endeavour, though we do not slavishly follow either one. Both have very handy schedules so you can see where you might be willing and able to loosen the reins, so to speak.

 

2. Think ahead and plan backwards a bit. In other words, think about what you would like for your kids to eventually know by the end of high school - understanding, of course, that you simply can't teach them everything.

 

3. Determine what your non-negotiable skills subjects are and hit those daily. For us that's the 3R's + Latin. Yours will probably be different and that's OK (though I don't think you can really get away from the 3R's in some fashion).

 

4. Really truly and deeply understand that you don't have to teach your kids everything by the time they hit high school or even by the time they graduate from high school. In fact, it may be a bit freeing to realize that you simply can't teach them everything by the time they're 17 or 18. How boring life would be if we learned everything by 17! Personally, I think it's incredibly important to encourage the love of learning and teach my kids how to learn.

 

5. If you need checklists and plans, use that to your advantage. Plan DEAR time during the day (if you haven't read The Read Aloud Handbook yet, check that one out, too!); plan free reading and exploring; plan those science demonstrations, art and history projects, and other fun wanna-do's.

 

If you want more specific suggestions, you can post your kids' subjects and approximately how long it takes them to do each one. Maybe there are some easy ways to streamline, accomplish what you want to accomplish, and still give you and your kids time for the fun stuff.

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FWIW, my homeschooling mentor has 4 grown successful children. Until third grade they just do light reading, lots of math (miquon, usually) and some copywork.  Then she uses an online, total-box-program (independent--not a VA), all through high school!  But they live their lives richly.  The children follow their own interests when they are not schooling, and have all developed their own vocations, which they 'own' (in the sense of--she has never, ever pushed them).  Through elementary school, they were always done w/ school by lunchtime, with plenty of time left to pursue their interests. And their parents enjoy traveling, trying new things, learning new skills, reading interesting books. 

 

I think it's all about the "education is an atmosphere" philosophy, no matter what curriculum you use.  I am thinking it matters more how we live our lives, than what we use to teach.  

 

That's completely vague and probably unhelpful, but maybe reassuring??  

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I could have written this post. I am trying to decrease what I dump on them, and I get a little better each year, but mostly I am just too darned uptight. I don't know how to fix myself.

 

...with children in great universities or high school students doing very well. Parents who have already done what I am trying my best to do.

 

I have been listening to talks by Dr. Perrin, Mr. Andrew Kern, and so on, and really desire to have my homeschool look like and feel like what they describe. I have been trying to accomplish this for years, only with temporary or little success.

 

I have read through most of the circe thread (and others) but I'm still not clear on exactly how to implement this, and how it marries with rigorous classical education. Is it really possible to be rigorous and relaxed at the same time?

 

I'm a self-confessed box checker and a-type. I'm having a hard time letting go of all the little workbooks and just allowing my children time to explore. I once read somewhere about a mom the inwardly "grieved" when she looked at all the work she loaded onto her children's little shoulders. This resonates with me. My DS is 10, and DD is 7 - they are both a couple of years ahead and we work about 6 - 7 hours per day.

 

It just does not feel right, but I'm not sure how to change things. (We do everything and the kitchen sink.)

 

What would you say are essential in providing a good education to kids around these ages? What is nice to have, but not required? What is frivolous and a waste of time?

 

Thank you.

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I am learning this finally after homeschooling for 8 1/2 years and teaching school before that.  I find that routines rather than schedules help me relax.  I find that making most lessons as short as possible and easy to check makes it easier.  So I can include Latin and Greek if I want, but only when it is quick.  I think they can squeeze their individual work into 3 hours or less (about 3rd grade and up, an hour or less for younger children focusing on reading/spelling and handwriting/copywork).

 

Math: 1 hour or 1 lesson

Language Arts: 1 hour or less (with as few curricula as possible)

Misc.: Latin, Greek, typing, music theory (1 hour total)

 

Read aloud time in the evening and a group time for doing memory work and readings in the morning or during nap time or after lunch (like a circle time or morning meeting).  Group time can also include any activities such as art, composer study, science experiments, geography, etc. or one activity can be assigned daily for the older kids to do on their own or lead the little kids in doing together.  Read aloud time and group time could be combined or separated in the day, depending on what works best each year in your family.  A reading list for the older kids to follow or a set amount of time for free choice reading in Bible, nonfiction and fiction.  I'm going to make math very light and informal until they read and handwrite well (hopefully by third grade they can handle a textbook of some sort).  

 

If you do group time in the morning with their individual work, then that still should leave the afternoon free.  Mornings are bad for me so we stagger the work through the day with lots of breaks.  We try to spend as much time outside as we can.  We don't do a lot of outside activities.  One daughter is out of the house one evening with me and the two boys are out of the house one night with their dad.  The rest of the week we are together at home and we go to church on Sunday.  The more running around we have in our week the less productive we are and the more stress we carry.  

 

I don't lesson plan.  We just do the next lesson or page each day.  We are not following a reading list this year but I plan to next year.  I won't stress if we don't get it all done each day.  It is just a guide.  

 

I do try to choose books that include everything I want in them because the more you supplement the more free time you lose.  If I do need more than one program to cover a subject I make sure it has few enough lessons to be alternated with something else or that I don't mind if it exceeds a normal school year.  We do school year round to have less pressure to get it all done and take breaks or vacations as needed or wanted throughout the year.  

 

Most of my "trying to do it all" stemmed from fear.  And that fear was projected onto them and added unpleasant pressure to academics and learning.  When the yoke is easy and the burden is light we all have much more joy.  In the end if they view homeschooling as a burden, then not only do I lose their love of learning, but probably the possibility that they will homeschool my grandchildren.

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I think it would be interesting to repost this question on either the high school or college board. 

 

It would be nice to hear from people with kids in college...

 

(Have a hard time with people encouraging me to relax when their oldest is not even in high school - this isn't aimed at responders, it is aimed at bloggers.)

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I have graduated 4 out of 8 and #5 is in 10th grade. My kids have never done formal science prior to high school credits (with the exception of 1who did use Plato 1yr.) However, that is not synonymous with not doing science. They are completely interest led and I guess haphazard as a previous poster implied. They do not do planned science experiments (I detest them.)

 

They read, read, read. They research topics more deeply and write reports. They do their own projects they pursue. They don't take tests. They don't have assigned vocabulary from science, etc.

 

What are the results? My oldest ds is a chemE (graduated with honors), our dd is a COTA (graduated with honors), and our ds who is a current college freshman earned 11science credits in high school. My 10th grader does not particularly care for science, but she is still an A student. :)

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(Have a hard time with people encouraging me to relax when their oldest is not even in high school - this isn't aimed at responders, it is aimed at bloggers.)

 

They're hard to find, but there are some really great relaxed homeschooling (or they seem to me relaxed) blogs written by parents of grown/older kids (I am also on the look-out for these).  I tried to find a few to post for you:

 

​http://www.yarnsoftheheart.com/search/label/interest-led%20learning (they're unschoolers and her son got a full ride to University of Chicago)

 

​http://wildflowersandmarbles.com  (this lady uses almost exclusively living books for high school - which is interesting to see all laid out in a schedule)

 

​http://almostunschoolers.blogspot.com/2015/01/our-first-high-school-graduate.html  (if you click on the categories on the right, she has some interesting ways to teach)

 

​http://lapazfarm.homeschooljournal.net  (they seem very CM-ish)

 

http://harmonyfinearts.org/homeschool-curriculum/  (I like this lady's posts about what they used for high school)

 

There was a nice blog written by a lady in Australia - they were unschoolers...but I can't find it.  Her daughter graduated a while ago, so she might have taken the blog down.  But, she blogged about discussing literature with her daughter while they were driving and running errands, etc.  Her daughter also went to college...so it seemed like she was finished blogging.

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Not sure I'm relaxed though I'm definitely not a Type A school marm. ;) I do like bones of structure for our core subjects and a happy routine. I also like to add in large doses of masterly activity, play, exploration and discovery, field trips, exposure to lots of books, art supplies, etc. I also really like delight-directed studies in science and history, though we've enjoyed years of structured learning in these classes too. 

 

Are your kids unhappy with what they're doing? Are you burnt out or needing more rest in the day?

 

I ask that because sometimes if what you are doing is working for the most part, then maybe you just need to adjust rather than throw out everything you're doing to pursue another philosophy.  I would say that 6 - 7 hours of structured school is a lot for a 7- and 10-year-old. Perhaps you could pull back to structured learning in the core areas (for us that's math, grammar, Latin, spelling, writing) and less structure in other areas (history, science, art). Some of that can be directed activity while some could be completely child driven.

 

You might enjoy two classic homeschool books -- books that guided the early homeschoolers even before TWTM. Homeschooling for Excellence and Educating the Whole-hearted Child both take a less structured, education is a way of life approach to homeschooling. 

 

In my own family, the structure ramped up as my kids got into high school and by high school, they were working 6 - 7 hours a day at pretty rigorous classes, using textbooks and syllabi and experiencing real deadlines. That was very good for them and helped them transition to college without a hiccup. You can see what my 3 graduates are doing. Next year, all three of my oldest will be in graduate school, two in an early admit program and one who got through undergrad in 3 years and then went into graduate school the 4th year.  :001_huh:  So, yes, at some point their homeschooling became much more structured and that suited all of us well. The early years looked different on purpose. 

 

Lisa

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