Being FLEXuled: Balancing Being Flexible and Scheduled

Guest post by Jennifer of Dear Homeschooler.

 

Dear Homeschooler,

FLEXuldedAre you the hyper-organized type, planning every minute of every school day? Or are you a go-with-the-flow kind of person, harvesting precious teaching moments whenever they arise?

I admit, I tend toward the former. Anyone who knows me at all is not surprised: I like planning, organizing, and assessing, and that comes across in my approach to teaching. However, having been a special education teacher, I also understand the importance of being aware of the needs of my students and adjusting my teaching methodologies (and timetable) if it is in their best interest.

The beauty of homeschooling is that we get to choose how teach. Some of us are super scheduled, and others of us are super flexible, but we have one thing in common: we want what’s best for our students. I believe there is value in both approaches:

Reasons to be Scheduled:

  • Being scheduled helps us to stay on-track during the day to make sure all our daily lessons get completed.
  • Being scheduled provides a well-rounded day, making sure that an appropriate amount of time is devoted to each subject.
  • Being scheduled helps us meet our goals (e.g. finishing curriculum, attendance days, etc.).
  • Being scheduled provides a routine for both students and teachers, so each one knows what lessons are coming and when lessons are finished.
  • Being scheduled ensures that the school work doesn’t drag on, guaranteeing true free time after lessons are completed.

Reasons to be Flexible:

  • Being flexible allows us to take advantage of spontaneous learning opportunities.
  • Being flexible gives us the ability to nurture our student’s interests for the sake of engagement and learning.
  • Being flexible allows us as teachers to devote more time to challenging lessons to ensure skill acquisition.
  • Being flexible with the time-table, adding breaks when needed, may increase our student’s ability to stay more focused in the long run.

So, it is in the best interest of our students to be FLEXuled: both flexible and scheduled in our school day.

How do we do this?

I know it sounds like having a snowball fight in the summer, but it can be done:

  1. Plan: Create and map lessons per your curriculum choices.
  2. Make a schedule: This can be as detailed as delineating every school minute into subject blocks or as informal as having a checklist of tasks or lessons that need to be completed each day.
  3. Watch for the signs: Pay attention to your student’s responses to instruction. Watch for signs of boredom, wiggles, high-engagement, attitude-changes, resistance, and frustration, to name a few.
  4. Be Flexible: STOP and respond to your student’s needs. Take a break. Incorporate a sensory/movement aspect to the lesson. Spend more time on a challenging lesson. Fast-track a lesson that they acquire quickly. Dig deeper into lessons that capture your student’s interest. The list of interventions is endless.
  5. Adjust schedule: Take a moment to readjust the schedule. You may have to have a shorter or longer school day or reschedule certain lessons to later in the week, but it is worth it!

We can be FLEXuled!

As I mentioned earlier, I am a super scheduler. I remember a particular instance last year. I had allotted 10 minutes for our daily spelling drill, which has proven to be an adequate amount of time. My son, “ZooKid”, who is a pretty good speller, was struggling one week completing this activity in 30 minutes. WHAT??? How long does it take to write 10 words? He was distracted and had a bad attitude. After 3 days of this, I realized (finally!) that he was bored. I had to find ways to increase his engagement in spelling. Some of my ideas fit in the time-frame I had allotted (window markers, themed drill pages, etc.), but some (using alphabet beads, letter magnets, stamps, etc.) took longer. Incorporating these activities into spelling was the best solution for ZooKid. He loved spelling class again and was now focused and had a great attitude. I had to make adjustments for this intervention, but we were better off for it.

So, I believe we can be both organized and free-spirited in our teaching, creating the perfect balance between structure and creativity in our attempt to meet all our student’s needs. I’d love to hear about your experiences of being FLEXuled or your plans to be FLEXuled!

Till Next Time,

Jennifer

 

 

About the Author

profileJennifer Myers is a wife, mother of two beautiful children, and Christian home educator. She worked for 5 years in the public system as a special education teacher in an intensive program for students with autism. When her own kids started school, she decided to homeschool them, applying her experience in creating personalized education plans, curriculum development, teaching methodologies, and interventions. Realizing not all home educators have the same educational background, Jennifer is dedicated to sharing her experiences and building a community of home educators to grow together through her blog Dear Homeschooler. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

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Caught in a Cycle?

I’ve been reading Charlotte Mason’s School Education, and today’s reading was over Authority and Docility. Arbitrariness is often stuck in with both authority and docility. Those in authority sometimes demand those under them to do this or that, “because I said so.”  Or those who follow can also unintentionally be arbitrary followers; they do not think about what it is they are doing, they just do it. A homeschool challenge we may face is to get caught in a cycle.

What exactly is ‘arbitrary’? Googling came up with this definition: based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system; (of power or a ruling body) unrestrained and autocratic in the use of authority.

I heard “Because I said so!” a lot growing up. That was THE answer for “why?” I’ll generalize a bit here before I eventually get to the gist of my post: Homeschooling families do not arbitrarily send their kids to the public schools because society says that is what they are to do. I do not assume that those same families do it out of spite either. They think about what they are told to do, what options they have for following, and they make a choice.

Even though we homeschool we can still find ourselves caught in an arbitrary cycle.

Before we actually started homeschooling I had some fixed notions about what we’d look like as a homeschooling family. Why? Because that is what all homeschoolers did/looked like! It was simply not based on solid reasoning or fact, that’s for sure. But even if one realizes that not all homeschoolers will be the same, it can be easy to fall into ‘following the homeschool crowd’.

There are plenty of ways we end up following such a cycle. Take for instance, the somewhat recent push for STEM in education. There is arguably a good basis for why the department of education would want this to be advanced: We live with a global economy that relies on advancing technology therefore it is necessary to produce citizens who excel in these fields, to perpetuate the United States as a super power.

It doesn’t seem arbitrary, does it? But, what if doing so eliminates other subject areas that may foster a more well-rounded citizen that will be able to not only work with and advance these technologies but also have personal relationships with those they interact with? What if we as homeschoolers search out activities and education opportunities for ourselves and our family that the homeschooling community, or society in general, says are important that cause us to have less time for each other, or to sacrifice our values or beliefs?

Perhaps these scenarios do not exactly fit with ‘arbitrary’ but going along with them just because that’s what someone {or a group} says we’re supposed to do is, I think. We follow one in spite of the other. How do we get out of such a cycle?

  • We need to understand why we are doing what we are doing.

Do you have a philosophy of education? If not, it’s really a good idea to put some thought on this. I did not have one for a long time and we were blown every which way for a while because of not having that foundation to start. What is the end goal? What is the ultimate purpose?

When it comes to the sports activities, music classes/lessons, or other ‘educational’ endeavors, how will they fulfill the goal that we have set for our family?

  • Cut the things we don’t need. {No matter what someone else says*.}

Perhaps there is a group or class opening up that many are saying is THE class/lesson you need to get your kids prepared for college, but it conflicts with another activity that your family feels is imperative to fulfilling the goals you’ve set. Find a different day/time to do it, or simply don’t do it.

This includes technology, the latest-and-greatest gizmos and gadgets, and apps. Is it ‘educational’ but your kids are edgy or cranky afterward? Does it help them master math problems, but meanwhile they seem to have moved backward in their writing skills? Does it take over the school day; they want to ‘learn’ on their gadgets instead of interacting with people?

If it seems this is way too simple {evaluate why and what, cut the unnecessary}, you can break down those two steps even further to help you better determine that things are beneficially, not arbitrarily, included in the homeschool. Breaking out of the cycle doesn’t have to require a long drawn-out list of pros/cons to every single decision you make, but it is so helpful to stop and think why you feel you have to, or should, do this or that. There will be things that will be in the best interest of your family to include, but then, you’ll need to look back at the first point and evaluate accordingly. There is no cookie-cutter homeschool family. {At least I hope not.}

*I am in no way suggesting going against state requirements for home educating, or against one’s spouse. Otherwise, there is no one else that has the right to dictate what you can, should, have to, or can’t do in your homeschool.

Have you found yourself caught in a cycle? How did you break out of it?

 

North Laurel (23 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.


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Do We Get In the Way?

The last week of May I was blessed to attend LER’s Spring Awakening 2015. It was a morning spent as a student of the Truth Beauty Goodness community in Minnesota. It was a one day event that I drove many miles to attend. It was worth it. This post is my attempt to share something I learned that is paramount to educating.

As teachers, we must not get in the way of the student learning.

Do We Get in the Way? Allowing our Children to Learn Authentically

It’s tough, I know, for mothers and fathers who homeschool, as well as parents who choose public school. We all want what is best for our children. Even teachers in traditional school settings really want what’s best for the students. It really starts with how we perceive children.

Children are born persons. {Principle #1}

Of course- we think- they are little human beings with the same physical makings as adults, only smaller. But they are not miniature adults. Nor are they the genetic code that decides if they have red curly hair or straight black hair. Or that suggests a child will have a particular temperament.

generations

They are more than miniatures of their parents and inherited traits. They are persons in their own right.

The child’s mind is not a blank slate or vessel to be filled. It is a living thing, relying on knowledge to grow. {Principle #9}

The mind feeds and grows on ideas; it grows like the body grows through nourishment. The mind does not require training to learn, much as healthy lungs do not require external assistance to breathe in and out.

children learn

It is not our business to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid the ideas he holds as they match the experiences he encounters. {Principle #12}

They are capable of making their own connections with knowledge and experiences. They have ‘hooks’, as do we all, with which to hang ideas and notions based on past experiences and knowledge. When they encounter new situations or information, they take down the ideas from the hooks and analyze the new situation through them.

But they can be influenced. This is where it is important to not get in the way and make it more about us than them. If we believe them to be persons, capable of learning, we will be sure to not crush this. Here are some ways that we can get in the way.

  • Fear/love– Children trust and love their parents and teachers. It might be more obvious why we should not use fear to motivate our children to learn but love can be just as dangerous in this situation. When we push children to learn because of their love for us they do not learn for themselves. They can languish if there is not someone to learn for; if there is not someone to smile upon them when they do as they should. They become merely what those who love them wish them to be, or what the student thinks the teacher wishes them to be. Their personality is squashed and they live for the smiles, or languish at the averted eyes.
  • Suggestion/influence– I believe these are the two most often used tactics in public schools today. Educators hold the philosophy that the teacher is superior and an expert; the student cannot possibly know what to do without suggestion or influence. However, by using suggestion or influence, the student comes to depend on that for their every task. I have been quite guilty of both suggestion and influence. There have been times that, due to my previous overly suggestive or influential actions or comments, that my child could not make a decision or think clearly about a concept without suggestions or influence from me. This does not help the child, it hinders.
  • Emotions/desires– This is the tactic of enticing the child to achieve a grade or a status based on their learning. It could get them into a special group or allow them special privilege to do or not do a particular task. It is tied with ‘learning’ but it can be dangerous as well. This tactic can and often does produce children that are more concerned with attaining that reward, having that status, than to know. When they are presented with the opportunity to learn for the sake of learning, they will pass it by if there is no emotion or desire fulfilled.

Each of the above mentioned tactics to get the child to learn are actually hinderances because they present something other than actual learning as the goal.

Are there ways that you feel teachers, and by that I mean parents, get in the way of learning for their children? How do you think we can step back and help instead?

 

 

North Laurel (23 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.


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