• Tam Johnson

The School-At-Home Approach

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I swore I'd never do it.

I was totally averse to the idea of subjecting the kids to a school environment at home, or of the idea of planning curriculum - surely that would be so much hard work and take ages to do? Surely it's no better than just sending them to school? Where would I even START?

As far as I was concerned, getting them reading and writing well, and doing basic maths would suffice on the education front. After that, cultivating a general love of learning, good daily-life skills and appreciation for nature and eco-consciousness were my goals. After all, there is not much education needed these days to do just about any course you can imagine on the internet; I felt (and still do) that core skills are more important than dated information that may never actually apply to them at all.

I was totally certain that the "Unschooling" method would work for my intelligent and curious children - surely all they needed was some time to de-school and then they'd be off hunting for adventure in the pages of a book, or Googling something interesting that then takes them on a course of study naturally?

I mean, I'm a natural book-worm (which translates into a cyber-worm these days, I guess...) so I couldn't fathom anything more exciting than having the time and freedom to just explore every interesting thought that came upon me! Surely the apple doesn't fall far from the tree? SURELY my intelligent and innately curious children would follow my example?

Erm... No.

It's been nearly 3 years of this unschooling approach, and what I've got to show for it are three (lazy) kids who worship at the altar of the Playstation god and have no idea what common sense IS, let alone HAVE any of it. And it's NOT for lack of trying to instil some into them!

I realised recently that there is no denying it any longer - my kids were taking me for a ride. They have played me so well; it's pretty shameful really. They know how I feel about the school system and how much I'd do to avoid all that head- and heart-ache again. But on the other hand, they also know that I'm a person with a myriad of my own interests and studies, a gajillion things to do on any given day and I'm naturally a fairly hands-off mother.

Consequently they know exactly what to say (or do) to get me to give in to what they want - which is always more time in front of the goggle-box.

Well, the other day I put my foot down.

"The foot is down! I repeat: the foot is down!"

If you've seen 'Inside Out' you'll geddit :)

I am not going to be treated like a freakin' hotel manager (and full staff list) anymore. Rather than the occasional worksheet or some reading together, we have gone pretty hard-core - at least for us - and now have a curriculum laid out and set days for each subject.

Rather than trying to get them to decide what subject they wanted to learn more about (the answer was always very vague and usually ended with "If I do that, can I have {food/games/insert desired thing here}?"), I've set them the main 4 subjects - English, Maths, Geography and Science - and we're just starting from scratch with the two younger ones, with a more advanced set-up for our oldest.

It really helped that my sister-in-law, who is a teacher, gave us a bunch of exercise books in different colours (3 of each colour, 1 for each child) and I've also been given a bunch of text books and worksheets by her and my mother-in-law as well. So, despite the resistance in my belly, I sat down and went through it ALL, as well as everything we'd done before and all the materials and stuff we had on hand already, and organised the entire lot.

I wish I had taken a before picture, because our whole homeshcooling area has been completely de-cluttered and organised. I now know exactly where everything is (and so do the rest of the people in the house because it's all very clearly labelled - a first for us!) and despite a very dubious track-record in getting any kind of routine in place up till now, we have successfully managed to do our daily lessons 9 times out of 10 in the last few weeks.

Initially there was a lot of resistance - "We're doing what?!?!" - especially since I overhauled our whole daily schedule along with it: no telly in the mornings, max 1.5 hrs of game time in the afternoon, compulsory park-trip with the hound before lunch and dedicated days for doing housework that they help out with.

And it's definitely still a work in progress, but I'm seeing the first glimmers of improvement. I wouldn't say they look forward to their daily lessons just yet, but they definitely are far more engaged in daily life, more interested in what I give them to do and just more involved in activities that DON'T involve the Playstation!

I came to realise that while the kids hated school, the familiarity of a grown-up standing in front of a big chalk-board and giving them instructions (and plenty of one-on-one help and attention) is appealing and soothing.

And if I am totally honest, I actually prefer this too! Knowing that because today is Wednesday means we are doing Geography, and having a pre-planned lesson to execute, makes for a much smoother morning and eliminates the stress of trying to figure out what to do with them since they don't want to do anything for themselves... I'm also a lot more productive because I'm more organised in general.

If unschooling is something you're struggling with, then take heart.

It's not easy to keep kids engaged in educational activities without a curriculum, spending a fortune on home tutors or taking them out all the time, or being totally dedicated to them (and having no personal interests of your own to tend to).

There are also so many distractions to take them away from educational things these days - like PC games and the gorram Playstation - so unless you are strict enough to keep them off of tech for most of the day every day, they are going to spend a significant time on activities that aren't much benefit, as we discovered.

In a future post, I'll share the steps I took to get this going and some of the tools and resources I use with them. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch if there's anything you want to know more about, or even just to commiserate!

And it goes without saying that if you have any helpful tips to share, I definitely want to hear from you, so weigh in below with your comments! You never know, the pearl of wisdom you share may be just what a fellow homeschooling mama needs to hear.

Lots of love,

Tam x x

#Parenthood #Homeschool #childunhappyatschool #Homeschooling #Homeeducation #unhappykids #motherhood #unschooling #schoolathome #lazychildren

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