Guest post by Jennifer of Dear Homeschooler.
Are 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:
- Plan: Create and map lessons per your curriculum choices.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
About the Author
Jennifer 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.