School at Home


This isn’t going to be a long post, it’s a quick intro to a topic I’ll be blogging on at least once a week going forward. 

The Little Man is 15 now, and a sophomore, and would like me to let you know that he’s being homeschooled. I talked to him at the beginning of his school year (more on that timing later) and misunderstood what he said, so I wasn’t putting it in the blog at first. Whenever I am going to discuss the kids here, I try to run it by them first. But he actually wants to have his experience out there, so… 

We started his classes almost 6 weeks before his ‘return to school’ date, partly because I wanted him to show me that he was really motivated to do school at home, and also because his school district backed their start date up to accommodate… stuff. He proved that he was willing and able to work on his education with minimal supervision from me, and we filed for withdrawal from public school and brought him home formally. This was never how I thought it would go, but I’ll take it. It’s going to be an interesting year for us. I’m working, he’s at home. We stay in touch through the day, and I monitor his weekly log of work done and poke him when he hasn’t done something *coffmathlessoncoff* and he gets on it. This would not be as easy with a younger child. Much younger and it would be impossible. We got lucky. 

This last spring when he suddenly went virtual was rough. Really, really rough. There was a lot of anxiety, no one had any idea what they were doing (least of all teachers) and balls got dropped. When we saw the school dithering (I think we had three plans in one day, at the peak) I knew it was going to get hairy again. And I have always wanted to homeschool the kids. The problem is…

You have to learn how to learn. And schools do not teach this skill. They teach kids how to sit quietly in classrooms, do their work, and homework? Well, they expect it, but they don’t teach how to do it. Learning on your own is a skill, and it’s an under-taught one. Right now? Becoming an autodidact is imperative. The key, though, is making the kids want to learn. They aren’t going to pursue education without an outside force pushing them. At least… not in the traditional sense of education. I’m not, and never would be, an unschooler. But I know that you can use everyday life for so many lessons, more than are immediately obvious. 

Our next door neighbor is  a nice lady with her plate full of a blended family of six. Since it was three his and three hers, their ages overlap. They are all still in ‘school’ and hence, have one or two days at school, the others remote. We sat and chatted at length yesterday about math, and motivation. I pointed out that just writing an equation on paper is, meh, making marks. Using recipes and having the reward at the end of what you made? Works. Making change accurately? Works. Kids understand money! The kinetic learning can be a springboard into understanding the theoretical. 

There are so many resources out there to supplement school. We are fortunate to have them, even as I wish we weren’t going to have to rely on them so heavily. My son and I are going to be talking about what is working (or not) for him. But now I need to take a look at his daily lesson plan (he posts it, I approve it, from the curriculum we mapped out at the beginning of the year) and then I’ll head off to work. Leaving him to learn on his own. 

header image: The Little Man when he was actually little. He’s not so small any longer! 



6 responses to “School at Home”

  1. My Kenneth is 15 and a sophomore as well. And the sudden dump into virtual learning this past March was also a hassle.
    He was glad to go back to the classroom, but after his first week, he was exposed at school (“close contact”) to a student who developed COVID-19, and had to be quarantined for 14 days.
    I kept Alicia Ann at home as well, because if Kenneth developed the illness, she would have to be quarantined as well. I had planned on sending them back, but cases kept cropping up, so it wasn’t until after Labor Day that I felt comfortable with them returning.
    My sophomore year in high school was a DISASTER. Well, my FIRST sophomore year was a disaster; my second year in the 10th grade was a little bit easier. After a bit. If I had the option of learning at home, who knows? But that wasn’t a possibility in 1969. So, this ADD kid got crammed into the one-size-fits-all box, and they just lopped off the parts that stuck out.
    As a career public school educator, I learned that our current model of education was designed to produce factory workers, who could spend long hours doing boring work, without rebellion. And somehow…that model just persists today.
    Bless you guys for doing this. Hope it works, but whether this iteration does, or it takes something else, you have demonstrated a commitment to doing the right thing for YOUR child. And that’s a lesson that will stay with him.
    Peace be on your household.

  2. My uncle has a story from about 35 years ago, when his son was refusing to learn to count.

    Pulled out the M&Ms, started divvying them up… suddenly, his son could do division by three in his head at lightning speed.

    1. M&Ms and Jelly Beans were one of my suggestions 🤣

  3. Cedar, as far as math goes, you’d not go wrong with Arthur Benjamin’s Great Course “The Secrets of Mental Math.”It won’t cover Algebra, Geometry, Trig, or Calc, but they have other courses for those.
    Once, while teaching in Bogota, I was asked what my goals were for the school year. (I was teaching World History)I replied I hoped for two things, To inspire a love of learning that would be lifelong, and to teach each student HOW to learn. If any student could learn those two things, I didn’t care if they knew why the French Revolution failed and the American did not. They could discover that when and if they needed to.

    1. For my son this year, we’re in geometry. Hands-on projects planned include woodworking!

  4. For those who think there’s no math in grammar…

    Poetry is long division (or fractions, if you prefer) for words.

    Latin is structured like algebra.

    Diagramming is geometry for sentences.