When I tell people that we’ve essentially eschewed e-learning from our schools in order to homeschool, they generally respond by saying something like, “I wish I knew how to do that” or “Wow, that’s so much work. Good for you.”
I have news for them, though. In my mind, it’s less work than e-learning with the schools. With e-learning I had to be constantly available to take care of technical issues (“Eema! Zoom disappeared!”). I also had to help explain work that I was unfamiliar with (like how a mandala relates to multiplication), which required me to first learn the work material and then teach it. Believe me, I do not have time for that with four kids.
Even leaving E aside for now (because she’s 5, and because out of all the schools I think hers has managed this the best,) providing that level of support for three kids was exhausting. There was another, larger problem, though: my kids have serious gaps in their knowledge.
How a child at the end of grade three can get excellent marks in math and yet be unable to add multiple digits with carrying, or subtract multiple digits with borrowing, is beyond me. Likewise for how any child can get past grade two and not know that sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a period… or even know how to form a capital letter. Admittedly the latter could as easily be my kids’ fault rather than the schools’. It’s entirely possible that they were particularly inattentive the week that was taught.
Nevertheless, we find ourselves needing to plug the gaps. Ever the engineer, Mr. December immediately recognized the need for what he called a “scalable” program, by which he means that doing it with four kids is not quadruple the effort of doing it with one. To that end, we decided to choose existing curricula.
As our resident math guy, Mr. December picked the Kumon math workbooks as our curriculum. He likes that they teach new things very incrementally, and that the kids can, by and large, work completely independently. Obviously, we’re still available for explanations and support (and marking), but the content delivery is primarily done by the book itself. The kids have all made excellent progress in math.
I mentioned previously that I had ordered a writing curriculum and was going to start the kids at the very beginning. That has been going well — most of my corrections are for neatness and punctuation. This series seems to move about as incrementally as Kumon math, and gives very clear explanations for each lesson, so it’s looking like a winner so far.
We’re not tackling any other subjects in any serious way as yet. Our primary goal is to fill the gaps in their skills. Later we’ll add some history, geography, science, Hebrew, and so on. We currently have an item on their list that says “watch a history video”, and Mr. December has curated a playlist on YouTube for that purpose, but there’s no work yet beyond watching and hopefully absorbing some information. When I see the opportunity to integrate schoolwork into our everyday life (like gardening,) I do, but again — there’s no program, no plan, and no long-term goal.
And how do we get them to do their work? Very simple: you’ve see our responsibility charts before. Their math, writing, and any other school work is part of those charts. If everything isn’t done by the end of the day, no privileges the next day. We don’t have to nag and they don’t have to be nagged. It works… and I am all about what works here. I used to be all about “intrinsic motivation” and self-directed learning, but that got us right where we are (which is to say several grade levels behind in a few areas,) so now we’re all about the checklists and workbooks — at least until we have some basic skills covered. After that, we’ll see.
And on a related note, we think we need a Latin motto for our homeschool. I proposed “semper oubi suboubi,” but got shot down. Any ideas?