Friday, August 22, 2008

40 Hours!

In the last two days I have been working on homeschool planning. My hope was to nail down how we’d homeschool each subject, with what book or curriculum, and set learning objectives and goals for each child. I’m not a big schedule writer-outer but in a corner of my mind I imagined maybe I’d come out at the end of this with such a thing of beauty having been created.

To start off I was thinking of what I know we did last year. I know what programs I liked and didn’t like using from last year. I plan to finish up some of the half-done or nearly-done curriculums. Next up was to write out the goals and materials.

I then assessed gaps and filled in those blanks. For example I remembered a logic workbook that I though would be great and did buy (two years ago) but still have never used. I began filling in that type of stuff.

Due to having to deal with deadlines, in the last few months I have already been signing my children up for some outside classes and programs. I have been saying no to many of the opportunities, even the last minute ones that have been rolling in, no matter how tempting it is, no matter how great they sound. That takes real effort and discipline for me to do. I am pretty confident that we are not doing too much.

Last night I was feeling a bit confused. So I pulled “The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home” (original edition, not the revised edition) off the shelf and wanted to peek at their sample schedule for sixth graders (the grade my older son will be in). At first glance the schedule looked intimidating. As I read it I began thinking, “This seems like a lot to me”. I made my own list with estimates, such as filling in the estimation of how long would be spent on the ‘write a history composition once a week’ and other things with no time attached to them. I then had to get the calculator out to add up all the times and it came out to 40.5 hours.

Forty hours?!?!

Forty hours of direct learning time. To be very clear, that does not include using the bathroom, taking a break, time off to eat lunch and other necessary things. That does not include any time for physical exercise either (i.e. taking time in the day to work out at home or time to commit to participation in a community sport).

I noted also that there was no reading of literature; there was just reading science, reading history and ‘free reading’. There was no reading of poetry. There was no reading comprehension, whether that be with a workbook or even through discussion with Mom.

Other things would take more time. For example they allotted 10-15 minutes a day for teaching religion at home. However if a family does that and also does one hour of religious education outside the home would add one more hour to their schedule.

I have one day being used for an experiential science/nature class (a six hour long class plus commute time).

I have a homeschool Bible class at the same time as an adult Bible study for me in the morning on one weekday. I let my friend talk me into this and I’m already regretting it. To be honest it will be hard to get any homeschooling work done before we leave and by the time we get home it will be time for lunch then it is off to the homeschool park day or airsoft day. We are going to alternate airsoft club with park day to try to satisfy each of my children, as the older wants airsoft every week and the younger son wants park day every week. I can’t be in two places at one time. I refuse to take away those things as they are both times to run around as well as social time with friends who are otherwise too busy with academics to make a playdate with us. So, I imagine that no lessons will get done that day, unless I want to start a new after dinner homeschool lesson time. Never in my wildest homeschool planning dreams was that EVER an idea that seemed appealing.

Nothing in that schedule for “The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home" contained the numerous “extras” that so many homeschoolers do. That did not include participation in any kind of Bee, or any kind of co-op, and no FIRST LEGO League. There was no time set aside for the many outside classes and events that homeschooled children can and do regularly participate in. Well sometimes something might cross over such as instead of doing one hour of art instruction per week at home it could be done outside the home. Yet squeezing in 40 hours of instruction and adding in commute time to the outside things is racking up the challenge if you ask me.

Anyhow my point is that with me trying to do homeschooling three days a week I would have to do 13.5 hours of teaching each day and again remember there are no breaks, no eating meals or anything in there. That is pure insanity and outright impossible.

We also have our younger son in Cub Scouts and our older son in Boy Scouts. Both kids want to do those activities and my husband and I want both to do them. However those are two evenings and sometimes weekends filled with more events. My husband and I also volunteer with Scouts. The volunteering actually makes us be diligent about attending, so we are not a slacker Scout family, doing it half way. I do need to say though that after being around some other parents we are absolutely not uber Scout parents and families either. We don’t live for Scouts believe me. We only volunteer to help our kids have a good program for themselves; we are not in this for our own selves, for power or to relive our childhoods or anything like that.

Another issue with that schedule is that it assumes all past taught things were mastered. For example to do the weekly essay on one topic and the weekly composition on the other topic the child will have to have mastered writing composition. For those children who need some more work on those areas, they will have to add more time to the schedule. A family will have to tweak or even add in more instructional time to satisfy that type of situation.

To say I’m a bit overwhelmed by the recommendations in “The Well Trained Mind” right now is an understatement. I’m just feeling that if one were to pull off such a schedule it would require five days of home lessons (I’d pick Monday-Friday) and it would not allow for any outside activities Monday-Friday. Of course another option would be to add lessons to Saturday and Sunday but that seems insane to me. Weekends for us are filled with worship and religious education, Scouting activities like a weekend campout once a month, celebrating family birthdays and other events, not to mention plain old relaxation time with our immediate and extended family.

My psyched up high standards and high expectation notions of homeschooling are beginning to wane and I’m starting to feel like an excuse-making slacker.

Perhaps it just would have been better for me to make my own schedule and do what I think is right and best for our family instead of turning to ‘the experts’ for advice. I’m a pretty confident homeschooling mom normally but at this moment I feel intimidated and inferior not to mention a bit nervous and worried.

Post Script: I now wonder what changes were made in the revised edition of “The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home”. I might have to bite the bullet and buy the new edition to find out. I’m not sure if the Mrs. Wise and Mrs. Bauer have lightened the load or not.

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Tracey in CT said...

It sounds to me like you are putting too much pressure on yourself, Christine. The idea of 40 hours sounds to me like it would leave everyone exhausted and irritible.

christinethecurious said...

The schedules part of TWTM were the publisher's idea, not that the author's think that they are 'bad' have you read the funny old blogs on SWB's web site about actual homeschooling days at her house? They are a real encouragement!

I've bought my new books for next year, and Monday I'm planning on taking the kids to a play ground so I can sit down with my notebook and books and make a sample schedule. It's hard to look at last years goals and not feel bad, but I do know that we finished most of it, and substituted some of it, and had good reasons for it. Schedules are a good tool, but a bad master, to paraphrase Laura Ingle's Wilder's essay on ambition. I hope I keep saying that Monday!

-Christine in Massachusetts

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Don't buy the new book. If you want it, I will send you my copy!
I am not kidding.

The hours recommendations are also extremely unrealistic in the new book.

Anyway, if you want the new edition, please let me know. I bought one copy that I thought I'd lost in the move. I found it long after I'd replaced it, of course! So I have an extra.