I’m getting accustomed to the possibility that my kids might not be going back to school in September, possibly because schools won’t be open, but more likely because schools will open with so many restrictions that they’ll be a waste of time at best and damaging to children at worst. And so we’ve started researching how we might accomplish homeschooling our four children (with four distinct learning profiles) without going mad.
Math is pretty much already solved: we’ve found that we like the Kumon workbooks. They’re clear, simple, and the kids can mostly work through them independently, which is essential for us. Of course we check in on them many times in a work period, and take time to explain things, but we can’t (and don’t) sit beside them and teach them one on one for an hour. They are making good progress so far, so we went and bought all of the grade 5 and 6 books (N’s self-stated goal is to finish grade 6 math by the end of August) as well as all the grade 4 books for R.
The other core subject we dare not ignore is Language Arts. If you couldn’t tell from Day 61: People of the Book Room (house tour!) (our library), we read a lot. Separately, together, quietly, out loud, over tea, in the garden, on the subway. We read. I’m more concerned with the writing aspect — I’m not impressed with the quality of my children’s writing — so I’m working on finding a curriculum that they can work their way through mostly independently, the way they do with math.
All of those issues really don’t apply to E yet. Besides, her school is doing a really great job of online schooling, which surprises me because Montessori is a particularly hands-on style of education. Today E took her one-on-one zoom math tutorial out on the back porch; she learned how to write the numerals 1 through 9.
The rest of our morning was what I always imagined homeschooling to be. Mr. December and I biked out early this morning to get some seedlings (note to self: don’t go to the garden centre after a weekend of beautiful summery weather. They’ll have almost none of what you want.) Then he went back to his work and I mobilized my child labour force again.
First, I had them measure and mark one-foot increments in the garden bed, which was great for reviewing the 12-times tables (“so we have to put the stakes in at 12, 24, 36, and 48…”). Then we used sticks to create a grid of one-foot squares, at which point I asked N to count the rows and the columns and calculate the area of our veggie garden. He answered; I had R and E verify it by counting all the squares. Voilà — measuring length, width, and area!
We then sat on the porch and planned where to put everything. This involved reading the little instruction cards from each plant to determine the correct spacing and positioning in terms of sunlight needs. Then they had to figure out how many plants they could put into a square foot and calculated how many squares we needed to allot to each type of vegetable.
N and R took turns reading the cards and writing the vegetable names down on our diagram, spelling words like kohlrabi, thyme, lavender, and canteloupe in the process.
Then they worked together as a team, checking the diagram and planting the correct type and number of seedlings. I didn’t participate, just answered questions and gently guided them.
So our homeschool morning was a great success, in my view. Everyone participated without coercion (by which I mean revoking privileges or bribing), everyone enjoyed themselves, and they connected what they’re learning at their desks to what we do in our everyday lives. Oh, and our family vegetable garden got planted. I love child labour!