To be consistent is to constantly adhering to the same principles, course, or form. That is what www.dictionary.com tells me.
In this blog I will discuss homeschooling of little kids, mostly, but the broader principles here apply K-12, and perhaps even beyond. Iwill discuss homeschooling in general, with a focus on language arts, which is what we focus on here at Classical Writing.
My credentials in the world of homeschooling experience is that I homeschooled my two oldest kids K-12th, my third kid K-10th (he went to school as I took on a full time job), and I also homeschooled my son with Down’s K-4th. In addition, I ‘homeschooled’ (it is called tutored in Colorado) three kids from another family for a couple of years in there towards the end (and that!! By the way was a most wonderful thing!!)
Now, my total years of homeschooling were 16: from 1995 to 2011. There you have my credentials.
During that time I wrote my contribution to the Classical Writing series, only I am still writing that, while I have moved on to teach college professionally, instead of homeschooling.
Back to consistency. There are many educational philosophies out there, one of them is called unschooling. Unschooling operates on the principle that life is a wonderful teacher. Provide a safe environment for your kids, let them explore, make stuff available, and one way or the other, through exploration and their natural inclinations they will teach themselves more or less, and you can just be there to masterfully inactively and indirectly lead things along.
Let me pause here and say this is SO NOT ME. If this is your philosophy, God bless you, it probably works fine in early gradeschool where most learning is intuitive and kids are naturally curious, but I personally do not recommend it much past grade 3.
I am one for structure, discipline, and a regular routine. Mom provides the structure by planning, by KNOWING what we are going to do next, and the kids learn their independence and their work ethic from working within that structure.
Structure is what undergirds the Classical Writing series. We have daily routines, weekly routines, semester routines, as well as routines that go from book to book. Structures, or protocols if you will, that the students learn by repeating them, structures and means of writing that stay with them for a lifetime of good writing.
What do I mean? Do I swing a whip and tie first graders to their desks? Do I keep them from 8 to 5 every day drilling phonemes and doing their cursive practice?
No. We start small, we start gently, and we make it fun.
Most kids in first grade are ‘dying’ to ‘do school’. Provide them with a structured curriculum, SIT WITH THEM and be part of the process, and they will love their daily 30 minute language arts lesson and their daily math lesson. — Nothing more. Sweet and simple.
Our Classical Writing Primers by Kathy Weitz are a wonderful example of how well that can be done. Take a good story. Read it together. Study its spelling words. Talk about the story. Copy pieces of the story into your copybook while practicing handwriting. Look at pictures and talk about them. Color, draw, enjoy the story.
What helps students in early elementary not burn out is a predictable routine. First I do this, then I do this, then I do this, and then I am free to play and do as I choose. Very simple, very brief, and very enjoyable.
Kids (I believe) want boundaries to live within. They like to know that someone in their lives are in control (in good healthy, sensible control). They like working and doing important things, but they like to see the end of that work too, so they can relax and be and do what they choose as well.
My suggestion for early school is a simple 1 hour structure. 30 minutes language arts, 30 minutes math, and the kid is done. Those 2×30 minutes are in seat where the kid is working on stuff WITH YOU at first. You are there, you help make it doable, and in a very short time, you will see Junior confident in the routine, ready to waltz off and take on part of it for himself. (Unless there are other issues, as in the case of some kids). I would maintain so long as he is well trained to do what he needs to do,and so long as the environment is pleasant, he will gain independence as he enjoys his work and has the confidence that it can be done within a reasonable amount of time.
Let me finish out … and I will continue on this theme of consistency next time. I had 3 little kids ages 6, 3, and 20 months when I started homeschooling our oldest son. At that point a seriously ill newborn with Down Syndrome was born to our family (You can read about him Here ), and I homeschooled for the next 16 years after that. There was much hands off and much math in waiting rooms, and often I had little time to give to the three older kids who were at friends’ houses while I was caring for a deathly ill little brother in ICU. Still I could always squeeze in the 30 minutes of math and language arts here and there, and as a result of that consistent priority, my kids have always been self disciplined, hard working and very independent, in spite of the chaos that sometimes ensued. For me, if the youngest brother was still alive, breathing and stable, school was the second most important priority in raising those kiddos. All three are in college today, and they still hold academics very high in their lives and are doing well academically (and in many other ways as well).