Getting the organisation right - how will you manage your daily learning routine?
I have had a number queries from parents new to homeschooling with regard to setting up your home environment to promote effective learning.
There is no right or wrong way to do this and every home environment / situation is different, so it is about finding the right formula for you and your children. The following hints and tips may help get you started:
ROUTINES AND SCHEDULES
While routines are extremely important and help children learn valuable organisation and time management skills, you don't have to try and replicate the timetable that your child followed at school. These timetables are more about addressing organisational structures than creating a learning programme that reflects the 'learning rhythms' of your child. Spend time in the first couple of weeks working out with your children when they learn best. When are their energy levels high? When does their energy flag? How long is their attention span? When are they most focussed. Once you know these things you can then determine which subjects are best taught when. Negotiate the learning programme with them so that both you and your children feel empowered by the process and your child's learning is optimised.. If you find after a week that is isn't working, then change it until you find a formula that works for you both and achieves the learning goals you have set. It might be that your child wants to do some work over seven days rather than five and make their learning time shorter during the week. If that is something you can agree to (and it fits with your family schedule) then do it. If you have more than one child you may organise so that you do some laser teaching with one child while the other works on their own and then swap. If you are working with other groups in the community or using tutors etc. then these activities will formalise the schedule a little more than if you were home all the time.
LENGTH OF LESSONS
There is a great deal of research that suggest that around 20-25 minutes is the optimum time for children to focus (especially in the younger years). This follows a very well known and widely used technique called The Pomodoro Technique (find our more here). You may want to 'chunk' lessons into these shorter time slots and have more of them during the day, with a smaller break in-between. As long as you cover your target learning goals it doesn't matter when children achieve them. (You don't need to replicate lesson lengths your children are used to in school.)
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Your child's learning day doesn't have to be as long as the traditional school day. Focus more on the QUALITY rather than QUANTITY of time spent. Often children are doing 'busy work' to allow the teacher to monitor other students or if they finish early they get given more of the same to work on or can 'play in the corner' or read. If your kids are 'on a roll' and get through their allocated work for the day then give them a choice to 'get ahead with tomorrow's work, keep working on a project or do some reading or exercise or play a board game. Try to avoid rewarding with TV or computer games. These activities could be used as credits for days, for example, when your child is having a bad day and wants to trade the credits for some down time. (Make sure they have earned the credits first before they can trade them).
COVERING THE CURRICULUM
While this will be covered in more detail in a future post, I know some parents are worried that they won't address all of the required curriculum content for their child.
If we take a primary class (without any major emphasis or focus) one might consider the following subject allocations (these are just a suggestion, not prescriptive)
This gives us 26 lessons over 5 days or five lessons per day (approx. 5 per day).
If you created a card (or used a post-it note) for each lesson to be taught during the week (e.g.26), or had, say, fridge magnets that represented each lesson, you and your child could negotiate the number and sequence of each lesson / activity for the day and week. They may, for example, want to do all of the science in one go or spend a whole Friday afternoon doing coding. These cards / post-it notes/ fridge magnets could be displayed prominently in the kitchen, study area or on fridge and reflect the day's learning schedule. As each lesson is completed they are removed so only the lessons yet to be completed for the day (or week) remain. This can also provide a visual representation of their achievement / progress and indicate what is left to be completed for the week.
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