Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Homeschool Flexibility

One thing that I love about homeschooling is the ability to individualize the learning to each child. In a class of 20-30 students (or more!) teachers have no possible way to learn the bents of each student and tailor the class to his or her challenges and strengths, and speed of learning. This is also the reason that I like to spend time each day one-on-one with each of my school age children.

Some examples of how this has played out in our home:

- My oldest son has a far more mathematical mind than I. Now, I know more than him, for now, but he can think better mathematically than I can. (He is sooo his dad). This math-bent was clear from preschool age. As we started working on various math concepts, he clearly just naturally knew and understood pretty much everything I said in that subject. So, we skimmed quickly through first and second grade math. By six he was doing third grade math, and now, at 10, he is in pre-algebra. He would have been BORED to tears in a traditional classroom setting. And, I may never have known what a great math mind he had.

- Sometimes kids just need a little extra time on something. I have seen time and time again that my kids did not 'fit' the curriculum schedule. They were either capable of going faster or needed to go slower than we were 'supposed' to go. None of my children, so far, have been ready to learn to read in kindergarten. We started working on sounds and various phonics activities, but it did not progress very far very fast. Then, BANG! At some point between 5 1/2 and 7 the light bulbs suddenly fired up and they got it. So often learning seems to go in spurts like that. They may plod along through some topic or task and all of a sudden they get it and their understanding is weeks ahead of where it was yesterday. I love that I don't have to follow a mandated schedule, but can take more time as they need it. At the end of each year we are far ahead of where we were supposed to be, but got there by leaps and jumps more often than baby steps.

- Of course the flip side, we can skip the boring stuff!!! I don't have to have them do 30 math problems to prove they know how to divide. After three, with me watching over their shoulder, I know if they get it, and how progressed their mastery of the subject is based on how quickly they worked and where they paused the most. You just can't do that with 30 kids.

- We school year round (lighter in the summer, but still 2-3 days a week) and so we don't have to play catch up in the fall. If you pick up just about any math curriculum (this builds on itself more than any subject, so I notice it most here) the first 20-40 lessons are review of the previous year. That's the first 1-2 months of school! Obviously you need this since kids may come from different classes and schools and you want to all be at the same starting point with a large class. My standard practice is to skip to a topic I don't think they have mastery of and give them the test they would hit around that lesson. If they ace the test, the next day they take one a little later in the schedule. When they start getting a B or C on the test, that's where we pick up. This has worked so well with my three school age kids, puts us a little ahead overall, and saves so much boredom over repeating what they already know, and what I already know they know.

I absolutely love homeschooling. I couldn't imagine our family any other way. I love having my kids at home, I love knowing what they have learned, I love interacting with them every step of the way, I love tailoring their education to them individually.

I joke now and then, "Reason number 234 that I homeschool . . ." I can't imagine how long the list would continue if I actually sat and composed it.

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