Friday, June 1, 2012

Home schooling: charts

I've turned toward charts recently as a way to try and bring the appearance of organization to our laissez-faire approach to schooling.  In the past we have used a calendar to organize which lessons/activities we would explore on each day--with thumb tacks so they could be easily switched if the schedule needed to be tweaked mid week.  This year that didn't work for us. The schedule was being tweaked so often it just got ditched. My hunch is this had a lot to do with having a two year old in the house.  If we managed to find all three of us together and ready to work on something no doubt Kale would suddenly have to poop, etc.  Of course by the time I'm done with him the bigs are onto something better.  For several months I made sure we covered the basics (in my mind these are reading, math, and history) with everything else pursued on a want to know basis. We moved from highly structured learning weeks, to very little structure periodically (I think Melissa Wiley describes this best as Tidal Learning).  It was very free form and organic, and not unpleasant, except for the days when I suddenly felt as if surely our children would grow up ignorant if we didn't cover some formal science lesson pronto, or my god how long has it been since we've worked on handwriting!?  And you know, when your kids aren't used to having a routine, they aren't really very hip to the whole "stop what you're doing now so we can do some copywork" thing. And really neither am I.  I'd much rather have them pursue writing in a way that is fun for them.  Such as journal work in their beds at night, birthday cards to friends, lemonade stand signs, etc.  However, I realize that with many things mastery of the basics truly is essential for enjoyment.  For some children writing (by this I mean physically putting the marks on the paper) comes easily and it is fun.  For others it is a challenge, something to be practiced, more often than they might wish.  Hence, the chart:

I created a checklist with the goal of completing a certain amount of work per week in several different areas 
of study (math, reading, writing, science, history, art, and music).  Wylie and Juniper are free to complete the checklist as they see fit, with the understanding that if they do not do any work on one day they will have to do more on another.  I have also explained that the checklist is a way for us to see what they've worked on, and to see where we need to branch out.  There are no penalties for incomplete checklists at the end of the week.  But, a certain level of cooperation and effort must be maintained daily to warrant the coveted "computer time".  In most cases any activity they choose can be counted toward "schoolwork" if it reasonably applies.  They check it off and I make a note of what they did. 

So far the routine is working for us.  The first two weeks were hard for some of us (this is truly an understatement but I'll save you the gory details, except to say that at least one chart has had to be retrieved from the wood stove and taped back together). So, its not perfect, but it helps.  And after a few weeks of routine it feels like a fair compromise between a child who wants never to be told what to do, and a mama who sways between unschooling proponent and panicky ex-schoolteacher.  It also keeps us on track despite toddler tandems and allows for a fair bit of independence in their work which we all enjoy.  
And, besides, they are on clip boards--who doesn't love a clip board?

1 comment:

  1. We do "tidal schooling" too. It gets me frustrated when I realize sometimes that we have accomplished so little. So we have also been moving toward a chart routine. We have a very simple to do and done chart with magnets that they move from one side to the other. The magnets are labelled with their tasks. They get stickers for getting all of their tasks finished and after 5 stickers they will get a bigger prize. We haven't gotten there yet but the chart thing really seems to be motivating us as well. Good job Mama!


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