Sunday, September 28, 2008

Getting back on track

My brother’s death derailed homeschooling for over a week. However, since family tragedies are part of life, completely ignoring them would not be normal. Had Jacob, Alexandra, and Larissa been going to school, I would have been writing excuses to the teachers. They might have been able to be physically present in school, but they would not have had time for homework. We congregated at my parents’ house almost daily since hearing of my brother’s accident, first to wait for news, then to mourn, and finally to plan the funeral. My parents needed them for moral support; the family needed them to babysit my out-to-town niece as the adults all ran errands.

But the funeral is over and it’s back to the homeschooling routine. I’ve added back all the subjects that were put on hold. Monday evening on the day of the funeral, I went back to spending over an hour per night writing up individual schedules. This weekend I’m working on weekly schedules for each of the kids. Managing their time and planning out the curriculum for each child over the course of the year takes more time than the “teaching.” In fact, for teenagers, I think that this planning is the majority of the teaching!

Since I’m homeschooling three kids this year, I have a new policy: that day’s homework must be on the corner of my home office desk by the end of the day. No more tracking down assignments. I haven’t come up with a penalty for not handing in an assignment by the end of the day though I realize that in school the consequences are either a full grade lower for a late assignment or a zero for not turning it in. I want to run a tight ship (it’s part of my personality and my role at work), but I don’t want to be so strict that it’s more about schedules than actual learning.

So I’m considering going to a weekly schedule – that is, still writing out the schedules for each day’s work, but allowing them the week to complete all the assignments. One day they can do all their vocabulary and math, another day spend the whole day reading literature, and still another day do their science. There are subjects, like voice and piano, that they must do daily. You can’t sing a week’s worth in a day. But whether I collect work at the end of the day or by the end of the week, I should come up with a penalty for late work, shouldn’t I?

I’ve read so many theories about homeschooling that I suppose it’s completely up to me how to handle late work. I do know, however, that for my job as a writer, I have schedules and deadlines, and the consequence of turning in late work could cost me my job. If my husband George promises clients a job will be completed by a certain date because the client is planning a party but George doesn’t finish by that date, they’ll never hire him again to paint or install a floor.

That’s the real world, and that’s where all kids end up someday.

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What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)