Homeschooling in London – A Day in the Life

 

day-in-life-homeschoolers-homeschooling-london-2

Monday, March 30th, 2015

We’ve been living in South Kensington, London since last January. John is 10.35 and Christine is 8.8 years old.

While this is our final week here before returning to our New York home, and we are trying to savor the experience….this is still a very typical homeschooling day for us marked by online education, a lot of reading, and a little sightseeing.

5:00 am I’m at my PC working on my website and my how-to-homeschool videos. I usually get up at 3 or 4 am but overslept.

6:00 am Inez (wife) is up and headed to the gym.

8:00 am John arises, eats breakfast.

8:30 am Inez leaves for the office. The princess, Christine, arises.

9:00 am Chrissy eats breakfast.

9:15 am John starts his Skype piano lesson. Chrissy takes her weekly bath/swim in the tub!

9:45 am Chrissy starts her math on the computer IXL.com

(I am doing odd jobs, cleaning, laundry, dishes,….even working on the same PC that John has his lesson on. We have a dual-monitor setup.)

10:15 am Piano lesson ends. John reviews his corrected piano “exam”. He scored only 75/100.

10:45 am John starts chess exercises on ChessTempo.com.

11:15 am Chrissy finishes math and starts guitar practice.

(We have NOTHING to do today, i.e. ZERO obligations. I am trying to figure out how we should spend our day. After 14+ months here, we are leaving in 5 days, first for an 11-day trip to Thailand, then back to our “home” in New York.)

11:20 am John calls up a game shop in Covent Garden. He makes a 1:00 pm appointment to play a game of Warhammer with a member of the staff there. It’s free. This is something John has been begging for.

11:30 am Chrissy does the last few pages of her cursive workbook.

11:35 am Chrissy gets back on her IXL.com math.

11:45 am John finishes his chess and packs up his Warhammer pieces.

12:15 pm We get out the door with books to read, 2 Kindles, and my camera!

12:50 pm – 1:50 pm John was at the store playing Warhammer while Chrissy and I had lunch, and read, at Shake Shack ($30 for 2 burgers, 1 hot dog, 1 order of fries, tap water, and self-service!)


On the way back we stop at Raison D’Etre Cafe to visit the owner – who happens to be one of John’s “clients”. Click the link. John designed and set up that simple website for him.

Today he was extremely happy to get paid for his work – 40 pounds, roughly $60 at today’s exchange rates!

john-client-paid-40-pounds-website

3:30 pm Arrive back home at our “flat”.

3:30 pm – 3:50 pm I set the timer for 20 minutes of “free time”. John chooses to read one of his assigned books anyway – Retribution Falls.

3:50 pm – Chrissy gets to work on her old blog. I say old because she started a new blog today. John is still reading but he’s on to the next book in the series – The Black Lung Captain. I am uploading all the video footage you saw above and now typing this blog post up.

5:15 pm I lie down for 50 minutes to stretch my psoas muscles….with headphones on, listening to a podcast. Chrissy sneaks off to her room to play.

5:50 pm John is still reading this whole time. He’s loving this book series. Inez comes home and starts dinner.

6:45 pm Dinner about to be served. John is on page 386 of the second book that he just started!

7:45 pm John is listening to this piano channel on YouTube.

8:00 pm Inez and I take a walk to the supermarket. John starts Khan Academy math. Chrissy practices the piano for 20 minutes.

8:35 pm The kids get a rare Monday night dessert – M&M brownies. We usually do no sweets Mon-Wed. John is on page 442 of his book now.

8:45 pm Kids are banished to their bedrooms for the night. Inez is spending time with them, probably packing up and organizing all their junk. I am finishing up this blog post which will be published in 1.5 weeks when I’ll be basking in 95 degree Thai heat.

9:54 pm Kids’ lights out. Big day tomorrow as we’ll say goodbye to all our home ed friends at our “Tuesday Park Day”.

Our typical homeschooling days weren’t always like this. We built up to it over time, with trial and error, by “stealing” ideas from others, and by relentlessly cultivating excellence in all that we do.

If I were to give any advice to homeschooling families starting out who are looking to create blissful and productive days it’d be this.

  • Eliminate completely the biggest time and brain wasters – TV, films, and video games.
  • Have your kids read constantly. You may have seen mine reading on the train, on the bus,…and they also read at restaurants, cafes, etc.
  • Use computers to learn almost as much as possible.
  • Take a hard look at all organized activities and constantly ask yourself whether or not they are worth the time and whether or not you could improve upon whatever benefit they provide.

 

Dan (9 Posts)

Husband to Inez. Father of John and Christine. Homeschool Coach, Accelerated Math Teacher. Former derivatives trader and future scratch golfer! Follow our learning adventures at HomeschoolDad.com.


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Division of Labor, Multiplication of Love

 

There are many non-obvious benefits to homeschooling.

In this post I want to talk about the fact that, done properly, homeschooling will actually strengthen marriages.

Homeschooling Can Strengthen Marriage ~ A Homeschool Dad's Perspective @hsbapost

Nothing pains me more than to see homeschoolers make classic mistakes. It can be so hard just to muster the courage to remove one’s children from *the system* in the first place….that I hate to see failure on much easier decisions and actions.

Just off the top of my head I would say that some of the classic mistakes include: recreating “school at home”, trying to purchase educational results, submitting to Minecraft, television, and cell phone mania, adopting the ridiculously low standards of government schools, trying to constantly make learning “fun”….and one more – having one parent do ALL OF THE HOMESCHOOLING.

Recently I was on a “homeschool dad” forum and one after another admitted that their wives do “99% of the homeschooling”. Some declared themselves the “principal” of their family’s homeschool, whatever that means. My gut reaction to reading all this, for the umpteenth time, was pretty negative. Although my wife’s was far more indignant! Her stance on the matter is very chauvinistic, “Hah….typical do-nothing men who think being in charge is work.”

You see, she’s employed by a large financial institution which is run by, well, the people she just described! And despite her lofty and vast responsibilities there, she still manages to play a very active role in the home education of our children. She does at least 50% of it despite 6 am commuter trains to catch and flying to so many countries that border control has trouble finding room for a new stamp on her passport!

There’s just NO EXCUSE for a homeschooling parent to, well, do nothing.

The off-parent can research materials and ideas on the web, can assign books to the kids, can go over their work each day even if for only 10 minutes.

The off-parent can help plan out each week’s assignments. They can do math. They can have important discussions with their kids. They can reinforce, rather than undermine(!), the daily rules and discipline of the household. They can email their kids interesting articles. My children, still only 8 and 10 years old, are emailing their mother all day long about their assignments and whatnot. All of this falls certainly under the heading of “homeschooling”.

Sure, exercise is important but the father who thinks his job is merely to throw a ball to his kids or explain televised football penalties, well, they aren’t doing anything more than a “school father”.

Sometimes it’s not totally the off-parent’s fault either. Sometimes they aren’t involved because the on-parent is territorial and all but discourages input or help. Think of the young mother who never lets or demands that Dad change a diaper….who then can never go away for a couple days because the baby (or Dad!) wouldn’t survive on Dad’s watch.

I’m old fashioned in many respects but am decidedly new-fashioned when it comes to the division of labor within a marriage. I feel strongly that both remunerative work and housework should be shared as much as possible. And the same goes for the homeschooling work!

After all, we are trying to raise polymaths, right? What kind of example is set for a son when Dad never does housework? How can a daughter ever learn to value math when her own mother avoids it like the plague?

It’s really incumbent on the parent who’s being squeezed out to insert and assert themselves more.

And it’s incumbent on the single homeschooling parent to demand more cooperation from their spouse.

Why?

What’s so wrong with having roles? What’s wrong with playing to our strengths as parents?

Nothing super horrible anyway. Except that such a working chemistry wastes a huge opportunity and can even introduce risks to a family.

There was a widely-read article in the Wall Street Journal recently that recommended couples marry while they are young, immature, and still struggling rather than when they were older and established in life. An early marriage was likened to a “start-up” – teeming with energy and potential and a later marriage was likened to a stodgy combination of intractable corporate behemoths.

Here’s the link again – Advice for a Happy Life by Charles Murray – take a moment to read it now. It’s short and worthy of your attention.

I couldn’t help but read that about “start-up marriages” without realizing that the very act of homeschooling is essentially a start-up.

A young family is a blank slate, a pile of clay,…it can be designed, dreamed, and sculpted into anything. Of course I’m talking about the kids, but also about Mom and Dad. Homeschooling presents a unique opportunity for a family to learn, work and grow together.

I realized that my wife and I, while having vastly different friends and hobbies, we at least have our kids in common. In addition to what we do directly with them, we’ve spent many, many nights up in bed talking about our children. We’re planning, hoping, commiserating, worrying, and strategizing any number of things: from hiring teachers, altering curricula, shifting foci of attention, how to better discipline them, etc. It can be so intense that many, many times one of us has declared, “Okay, no more talking about the kids tonight.”

Yeah of course we’ve had some legendary arguments: Spanish or French, punishments, how much academic work is enough, etc. and decision “spheres” certainly do take shape.

HOWEVER, most parents don’t have this; they don’t have this fodder to constantly talk about; as a couple, they don’t have common goals (i.e. children) they are working on, together. Sure school parents may also spend a lot of time discussing their kids….EXCEPT they are powerless to really do anything about how their kids are being raised, educated, and not to mention socialized!

The thing with marital relationships is, they either move forward and get better…..or they tragically deteriorate.

And as I said at the top, in the middle, and just above….done properly, homeschooling will strengthen your marriage – it definitely has in my case.

Lastly, I’ll explain the title of the post.

Mathematically speaking, when “labor” is “divided by 1″….it’s not effectively a division. In that case it’s more accurately a separation of labor and effectively a separation of people.

 

Dan (9 Posts)

Husband to Inez. Father of John and Christine. Homeschool Coach, Accelerated Math Teacher. Former derivatives trader and future scratch golfer! Follow our learning adventures at HomeschoolDad.com.


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Balance is Like a Book Discussion

My husband and I married when our first child was 3 months old. A second child came along just shy of three years later. There were strains on the marriage and we went our separate ways for awhile. Time passed and we decided to be a family again. Finally, when the kids were upper elementary and junior high school age, we decided to homeschool.

 

 

I knew nothing about homeschooling; hubby had been homeschooled K-12. I wanted to spend lots of money for resources and nifty things; he wanted it to be downright cheap (in cost, mind you, not quality). I thought I could do it; he had concerns that I couldn’t do it. The kids were just happy to not have to go to school. Oh yes, in the midst of this, we started to look to see what God would have us do.

Quite backward! Not everyone has the ‘fairytale’ story. And they don’t have it all together. We don’t have it all together. We are out of balance sometimes (er…too many times).

My husband and I have been together almost 20 years. We’ve been homeschooling for 6 years now. My daughter graduated in September and has started college courses. There are only two years left with my son for schooling. It has not always been easy but it is a balancing act. Without being too cliche, there needs to be a firm foundation or the balance will not remain. For our family that foundation is God. His is our Book.

Bookworm that I am, the balancing act of marriage, parenting and homeschooling could be seen a bit like being in a book discussion.

In the same book…{Long term goals}

One of the most important aspects of keeping balance is that everyone is in the same book. It is admittedly a little play on the phrase “on the same page.” When I say this I don’t mean that everyone has to have the same idea and be 100% in agreement. Everyone needs to know what the others are thinking. They need to at least be reading the same book.

For instance, I mentioned the differences in wants when we started homeschooling. Our book was “homeschooling”, but our ideas were different. We were on different pages of the same book.  I have always felt that if we were all the same, with all the same lines of thinking, it would be quite boring. But we do have a common goal.

For our marriage, we both know that we made a promise. At the time we made the promise we didn’t think it as serious as we do now. Our promise was to each other and to God. That’ll straighten things out, right there. Long-term: We are committed to be by each other; thick or thin (and all the rest).

When we get out of whack, we have to take a look again at our long term goals, at the book we are reading, and how we want it to end. It isn’t just about me, or him.

On the same page… {Short term goals}

When our family is going through our common book, each has to have the same pages. By this I mean we cannot take a page from a different book and insert it into only one person’s copy. It would cause disorder and unbalance.

It would not do good to be going through a book with the same title but to have the pages be something completely different. Everyone has to have the same content. This means that everyone has to have a voice, and use it.

Parenting, while it is really for the life of your children, is in some ways like short term goals. Each age and stage of our children we will have different goals; different hopes and dreams. Balance is possible only when the parents are on the same page and have those same goals.

Be willing to see others’ perspective… {Adaptability and compromise}

When going through a book we may come across something that we might not understand completely. When we are confused things can take a turn toward no good, especially if we do not search out help. If we take a passage to mean one thing and we stick with that no matter what others have to say about the matter, it is going to cause problems.

If we come to a point where there is confusion, we need to be willing to ask for or give explanation. Other times we need to compromise our stance or view (within reason- of course- never compromise on what is true and right). It lends balance. We are all in this together.

All of this- marriage, parenting, and homeschooling- requires balance but if every member of the family is rigid and refuses to budge or give, then it will fall. There needs to be a fluidity within all of these areas. Life is short; pick your battles.

Remember…

  • Understand we are all human and prone to mistakes…but God forgives even the most heinous sinner when they ask for forgiveness.
  • Love one another as yourself…as God loved us so much he sent his son to die for us.
  • Take time to enjoy each other…take family trips together, plan date nights, have one-on-one time with each of your kids, make traditions together.

I really think that keeping these things in mind is the most helpful for finding balance in these areas of life.

I would love to hear how you find the balance for your family’s needs.

North Laurel (19 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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