How I Homeschool My Child, Run Errands, Meet Work Deadlines and Make Dinner
By Julie Green
Photo © makenamedia/Twenty20
Oct 23, 2018
When I tell people I homeschool my son, they react in one of two ways: “Wow, I wish I could do that!” or “I could never do that!”
If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have said the latter. But for my nine-year-old, whose special needs have seen him volleyed from private to public schools, homeschooling became a question of necessity rather than choice. Education is not one-size-fits-all.
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Though bright, my only child struggled to shine within a traditional system. As summer drew to a close, it looked likely that I – Mrs. Green – would be his grade five teacher. Gulp.
To answer some questions about homeschooling, I thought I'd walk you through our day. This — more or less — is what an average day of homeschooling looks like for us:
My son is an early bird whose interest and energy tends to wane in the afternoon. A few days in, we adjust our daily schedule to reflect his own clock. With no travel involved, he can dive right into writing in his journal while he's still in his pyjamas. After selecting a topic from a print-out of fun writing prompts, he flexes his creative muscle.
A list of writing prompts can simply include actions, occupations, situations and events to give your little one the bones of a story, and the rest is up to them (if you want a digital version, check out Story Starters)! So far, he has imagined being inside a television, what he would do if he won the lottery and where he would go if he could travel back in time. Today, it’s all about superpowers. By the time he types out his journal, Mrs. Green has consumed enough coffee to correct any spelling or grammar errors.
Math comes next. As long as he gets through the material, I'm not a stickler about the subject order. Numbers are not her forte, but they are his. Fortunately grade five math is still within my grasp, but as he gets older I contemplate hiring a tutor who can move at his pace. The array of curriculum options is dizzying and potentially expensive. It can be tricky to find solid Canadian content. If you want to follow your region's provincial school curriculum, you can check those out, too.
For the time being, I've opted for a Complete Canadian Curriculum picked up at Costco for ten bucks. It's conveniently divided into subjects and it comes with handy worksheets and an answers booklet.
He gets stuck on a long division problem. At this point I wonder what the hell am I doing. I’m a mother — giver of chores and cuddles — not a trained teacher. He keeps at the problem, eventually cracks it, then whizzes through three pages of questions without complaint. I check his answers., and they're all correct. What a rock star! I start to think I've got this — maybe.
By now the ants in his pants are on fire, so it's time for a snack. He pleads for the iPad, but the teacher stands her ground. Not until lunchtime. Instead we play a quick game of Uno, a paltry substitute for recess. At this point I manage to reply to a few emails. A deadline looms, but I decide to tend to it later.
Language is like pulling teeth. In fact, tooth extraction would be a more pleasant undertaking. Kids read a short passage (about the wonders of the world, for example) and then answer some comprehension questions. I was fascinated to learn the Golden Gate Bridge isn’t red after all, but a shade known as international orange. What seems glaringly obvious to me isn’t at all obvious to my child. I draw a deep breath and explain the point yet again. I remind myself of the disparity in our learning styles. By now, exasperated, he will write down anything just to get the exercise over with.
We have come this far, so it’s time to celebrate with a short bike ride on a nearby trail. The sun smiles on our faces. It’s not tag or soccer, and the burst of movement is not long enough, but it will have to do. The fresh air feels good. I tell myself to savour this.
After a healthy homemade lunch, he gets the screen time he’s been begging for all the morning. Finally in the right head space, I make a few phone calls. Still no work on the deadline.
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There is no bell to summon him back to lessons. And he fights me tooth and nail, refusing to give up the iPad. He wants school to be done already. "I’m soooo tired," he complains, throwing himself down on the couch. I threaten to remove the privilege tomorrow. He acquiesces and hands over the device.
I consut the lesson plan. If it’s science, I scramble around online to find videos poached from CBC Kids or National Geographic. I luck out and find a funny song about the states of matter by They May Be Giants. We giggle and dance around the room.
Time for an errand. We hit up the grocery store. I think how much easier it would be for me to dash to the store if he was in school, but force the thought from my mind. We are talking about money and food groups, so it counts as learning. If he is lucky, on Friday she may take him on a field trip. With all the kids at school, the Ontario Science Centre will be quieter than ever. We will read, visit every level and come home exhausted.
The school day may be over, but there is laundry to put away and dinner to conjure up. And still the deadline looms, a dark distant cloud on the horizon.
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