“I don’t know how you get it all done.”
It was a valid sentiment from a loving relative. We’d been talking about school — specifically, the way we go to school around here. It’s hard to comprehend if you’re not here to see and experience it. It’s truly hard to imagine if you’ve spent the last few decades of your life teaching hundreds of students. I tried to put her mind at ease by explaining what we do. Would you like to know?
What is a typical home school day at our house?
We begin with a study in home economics. Everyone makes his or her bed, gets dressed and reports to the kitchen for breakfast. Then they proceed to call out their individual orders to the short order cook. Some days they all want a toad in a commode. Sometimes one wants a bagel with cream cheese or a bowl of Cheerios. We save the special order pancakes for Saturdays when Farmguy’s around to collect the tips.
Usually we begin with a hands-on activity to get the creative juices flowing. If we’re studying geology, we may watch a volcano erupt.
We’re currently studying Native Americans. That’s their version of an Aztec temple, above. Luckily they didn’t behead any Barbie dolls to showcase human sacrifices.
We usually conquer mathematics first.
In a typical morning with two full-time students and a free-wheeling preschooler, we will cover everything from division to multiplication to fractions to Roman numerals to learning numbers and counting out blocks.
We celebrate test scores like this.
We write poetry and practice our handwriting.
Sometimes we combine language arts with art class.
Good writing skills are critical.
We have spelling lists and practice drills. This week they used a story map to build an outline and plan for the writing process.
Inspiration comes easily while sitting under a shade tree on a sunny, autumn day.
Grammar is the foundation.
So we learn about adjectives, adverbs, nouns and pronouns. Verbs give life to our sentences.
But honestly, as a professional writer with a 15-year career … I will gladly shout from every rooftop:
“Sentence diagramming is ridiculous, asinine and utterly foolish … and nonsensical! It’s a huge waste of time!”
Rather than focusing on learning the parts of speech, children are forced to focus on building a monstrosity with lines here and dotted lines there and slants and right angles and well … it looks like geometry, not sentence structure.
Thank you. I’ve wanted to give that speech since second grade.
Botany and taxonomy, with anatomy coming mid-year.
Weekend science experiments with dad that cover geology, biology, archaeology and physical science.
This is our nature center.
Here we showcase rocks collected on camping trips: pine cones gathered in the woods. Fungi and birds’ nests and plaster casts of deer, skunk, groundhog and squirrel footprints made during Junior Naturalist programs at our favorite state park.
Incidentally, you can purchase the Leaves poster, as well as wildflower, human skeleton and other educational artwork posters, at Amazon.
Art, science and interior design skills rolled into one.
American history, geography and social studies.
We’re reading The Sign of the Beaver, Pocahontas and the Strangers and Incans, Aztecs and Mayans at the moment. A variety of activities make history come alive. They can’t wait to finish the books so we can watch the movies. Netflix delivered Pocahontas: The Legend and Keeping the Promise just yesterday.
Friday night movie nights are educational around here. They just don’t realize it, yet. And don’t worry, there’s a healthy dose of pop culture around here, like [cringe] Hannah Montana. And they love The Dukes of Hazzard reruns. You will not see Spongebob Squarepants, however.
Geography is loads of fun, too.
We study the states, countries and continents that come to life in our history reading. And whether you homeschool or not, Geography Songs is a must-have for you and your children. It’s fantastic!
This is our school mascot.
This guy just thinks he is.
Each morning he crows and cock-a-doodles us to consciousness — usually before we’re ready. He guards the proceedings as the kids feed their various animals. He casts a watchful eye on our studies through the window of the school room. And if anyone tries to skip class, Cogburn lets me know. He’s my truant officer.
Thursdays are different.
On Thursdays we have archery class and piano lessons. We focus on interactive math and science for extra practice and added fun. And the “s” word — socialization? I have to tell you … there’s soccer practice and 4-H activities and church activities and kissin’ cousins all around. They’re not backward … but as for being “weird” — what happy, healthy child is not?
So that’s what we do and how we do it.
It’s not for everyone … but it’s for us, for now.
And now if you’ll excuse me,
I have to scrape mud huts off my kitchen floor and make a preschooler stand in the corner.