A New Year

As promised, I am getting back to actually blogging about our homeschool experiences. This has in many ways become a travel blog, but the two are so intertwined right now it's hard to keep a balance.

It's hard to say "it's a new school year" when you do it like we do. I really don't like to think of school "starting" or "stopping" because it really doesn't. People have asked what the boys did all summer, and the answer doesn't sound all that exciting or educational at all.

They spent an inordinate amount of hours learning how to play the PC version of Minecraft.

That's pretty much it.

Of course we've had a week or two of visiting grandparents and extended family, some movie nights, some game nights, but not really that often. The wear and tear of moving every 3 months, then taking small trips to other places within those 3 month periods, has brought us to a season where we are very content to spend more time at home, even if we're staring at screens while we're here.

And yet, school didn't stop. The boys were busy learning how to build and break in Minecraft, negotiate and build with friends on the multi-player servers, and navigating the various social issues that come along with multi-player gaming. I have been a bit concerned about Brennan's lagging reading skills, and Rich's struggles with spelling at the end of spring when we took a break from daily lessons. But when Brennan read to me this morning, most of his stumbles and misuse of vowels were gone. Rich buzzed through a dozen spelling words we haven't worked on since May and nailed 99% of them. When I ask, "How do you know that word," the answer was invariably, "from typing and reading it in the Minecraft chat."

The main goal in this season of life, as we look toward settling permanently in New England and the possibility of public school (if they choose), is to foster more independence from me as a teacher. So rather than the somewhat helter skelter method of printing out materials the morning of, and filing them anywhere they won't get sucked up by the vacuum cleaner, I got organized. They each have a bin with several folders, one per subject. I plan the week, print the materials, put it in the folders, and they are responsible to get the work done and place it back in the folder by the next morning.

I always want to allow them plenty of time to pursue their individual interests (which right now is mostly Minecraft), I'm not spending as much one-on-one time instructing them as I have in the past. We generally have a math lesson and spelling/writing lesson every day, followed by either art, science, or something else they've shown interest in. Sometimes this could drag on all day because they expected me to stay nearby so they could check their work every so often.

This time around, I'm spending roughly 5-10 minutes actually teaching, if even that. Only when a new math or writing concept is introduced. I work through a few problems with them, then they're on their own for the rest of the day, to finish the practice problems, write the sentences, etc. whenever they choose - so long as they get it done before bed. We've also asked them to spend some time drawing, practicing piano, reading biographies, and excercising every day (in lieu of recess). We've spent tons of time on computer science, basic chemistry, and typing in the last two years, so we're taking a break from those to do more simple things that they tend to incorporate into their day anyway.

The great thing about this is it allows them to manage their own time, plan their work around meeting friends online if need be, or around chores and other interests. It allows me to instruct them in big picture concepts in the core subjects, and spend a little more time on once-a-week things like natural science, history, etc. And Dad has more free time to goof off. Win-win.

The first day went well, though I think they were a little overwhelmed with the amount of work we're expecting them to do on their own. It's our hope that giving them the freedom to do it on their own schedule will help blur the line between "school time" and "play time" so that it all just becomes "life."

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