Our 7 year old's homeschooling life
We vary our schedule, but MWF it's basically:
At 8am we start with warm-up exercises. These originally were very brief but have evolved, and now are 5 mins each on basic arithmetic worksheets, spelling, grammar, handwriting, science general knowledge, geography general knowledge, and history general knowledge, finishing with 5 min of scales on the piano so I can hear when he's done. This takes about 30-40 min all up and helps him get in the right frame of mind for the day. Sometimes I sit with him, but less so as he gets older and more capable of checking his own work.
From 9am to 11am we have formal lessons. I sit with him with my hand-held mini whiteboard, and explain concepts and ideas. Once he has a good grasp of the topic, we move on to exercises, worksheets, games, etc. to build more knowledge on top. Things learnt here are included in small parts of his warm up worksheets the next day. When topics are near completed, we make a poster/booklet/pamphlet explaining them as if to a novice in the topic.
From 11 to 11:30 we write an essay. This was originally just one sentence about how he is feeling or what he has learnt that he likes, but now is a page long. We write about different topics, from the points of view of famous historical people, or arguing a point. We check it afterwards and alter bits and pieces.
After 11:30 we either do indoor sport or go bike riding, depending on the weather.
We have lunch around noon and then have a short break before tidying up the house and doing chores (laundry etc) or gardening.
At 1:30 we go for a walk. He likes to collect things (insects and funny looking leaves) which we look up when we get back and mount/press properly.
At 2:30 he either spends time learning logic and English rhetoric with myself or polishing his Mandarin with his father, who is a native speaker (each of us speak to him exclusively in one of these two languages so that he is bilingual).
3:30 is the end of our school day. He usually goes and reads (he is such a bookworm!) until dinner with his neighbour friend. His favourites are the "Horrible Histories" books and "Murderous Maths", but sometimes he has set books which he reads.
After dinner there is always half an hour of piano practice. We warm up with scales and work through several exercise books. Once he is about half as capable as myself, he'll have a tutor, since you can't teach something if you only know as much as what you expect to teach.
So that is our MWF schedule. The times are fairly rigid but change sometimes if we have special projects going on.
On Tuesday and Thursday, the day starts off the same way, but then at 11am we go into the city to do one of various things, often with a friend. We go to museums, public talks, the library, art galleries, volunteer work, festivals, feild trips, and public lectures. During this time, for example, both him and I have done a course in sign language, a course in cake design, juggling lessons, and puppet making. Basically, anything that is learnt outside the classroom and in a more hands-on way.
When we get back, we write an essay about what we've done that day and what we liked about it.
Once every two or three weeks we'll have a big art day. We'll watch a documentary or read about a particular artist or style and find out about the techniques and materials used. We'll then go and buy what we need and spend half a day trying over and over again to copy a famous example of such work. Once our copies start looking good and our technique is beginning to develop, we'll get more creative and paint/draw/sculpt/etc. a chosen subject. I find copying the famous work is good because it acts as a measure for him to see how good his technique is and he can immediately tell what works and what doesn't. He also gets to learn about the piece we're using which is pretty nice.
We're going to do a similar thing to the art day with chemistry in a year. At the moment it's only simple experiments, but we've found that spending a whole day doing something practical (so not boring) to learn and explore a topic is so incredibly beneficial for him.
On the weekends, he plays with friends, visits relatives, and currently is in a junior soccer club. They are basically like any child's weekends.
So that's it for our lovely son. Both my husband and I are academics and do most of our work from home, so we split the teaching, although I have several years of experience as a school teacher so I tend to do about two thirds of it. Our boy is naturally inquisitive, and we encourage him to learn more about anything that calls his fancy. He (as well as us!) carries a small notebook with him at all times to jot down things to look up later. He loves reading and maths, and we often play number games during our walks.
A little bit on our philosophy:
I worked as a teacher in several different schools. The idea of having a professional educator take charge of a child's learning is a very good one, but in my experience (plus many studies) a large classroom of twenty students is not beneficial to all, especially those on either end of the bell curve. The curriculum is designed to fit the average of the class for practical reasons, so the slower kids often have to move on before fully understanding something, whilst advanced kids can become bored, especially if the school has no advanced program. A one-on-one education is ideal and much more efficient (logically this is obvious but there are also numerous studies that say the same thing), but it depends on the ability of the educator. I do not think that all children should be homeschooled, therefore, but only those whose parents are willing and able to put in the effort that is needed.
We ensure that our boy is an active member of the community and encourage all forms of curiosity. He is well behaved and as such always ready to enjoy himself. He is self-motivated and able to check and edit his own work, as well as proficiently look up information that he needs both on- and offline. He has a full social life with plenty of neighbourhood friends of varied ages, rather than the 20 friends of the same age that schools enforce. When we decided to homeschool, we looked up every argument against it we could find and ensured that we had covered these perceived flaws. This way, our son can reap the benefits of homeschooling (supported by so many studies in professional literature) without falling into homeschooling pitfalls.
One of the common weakness of the current fashion in Western education is the tendency to encourage creativity in a subject before anything has been learnt. This stifles the tendency to learn new things, as children grow up under the impression that they can do well in something that they know next to nothing about. Creativity should always be encouraged, but telling kids to be creative in something or other before they even understand what the topic is is not creativity. A good understanding of a topic is required so that ideas can be combined in novel ways, or original ideas produced. That is creativity. For example, in art, a good understanding of clay sclupting is required before you can properly see how to use it in a creative way. To get this understanding, standard techniques of using it must be learnt. You need to see how it dries, how to cut it, how to stick pieces together, how to alter its texture, and so on. Once you have practiced these skills you can build on them or branch out as creativity dictates. We therefore teach facts and concepts first before branching out into fun and imaginative projects. There is always an emphasis that learning does not stop, and just covering the basic facts does not equal proficiency. But the more he learns, the more creative he is able to be.
So that's it from us. Sorry it's so long. Please let us know what you think. We are so proud of our son and spend a lot of time planning and altering the curriculum so that he can be as capable as possible in life to follow whatever dream he chooses.