Home education diary, January 1998

We started back on January 7th after a good break over Christmas. I was determined to make homeschooling more interesting and inspiring, now we'd decided to continue until July. So we discussed together what they actually thought was important to learn, and I consulted the various 'medium term plans' which their school in Birmingham had kindly given me, and we came up with the following timetable:

(if you scroll down the page, you'll see what ACTUALLY happened....)

Planned activities

Start each day with a test of some sort, taking up to half an hour:

Monday - English progress paper
Tuesday - Maths progress paper
Wednesday - spelling, plus writing out new words, then Reasoning progress
Thursday - tables, then learning tables
Friday - Greek (written)

Followed by: Maths (about 45 minutes):
Monday, Wednesday, Friday - Daniel to work through Scott Foresman 6th grade text-book, Tim to use Alpha & Beta maths text book, starting with percentages and fractions.
Tuesday, Thursday: Investigations from Sigma book, and/or maths challenge book

Then English (about 45 minutes):
Tim to continue with Haydn Richards book 3
Daniel to continue with Heinemann English Year 7
Both to continue with stories and letters, starting with interesting thank-you letters for Christmas presents.

Then Greek (half an hour):
I will produce computer vocab lists and worksheets based on the text-book we've been using, and also Greek hand-writing practice in exercise books. We'll also continue working together through 'Modern Greek for foreign learners', but not so fast as before - covering about one chapter every two weeks

Richard is intending to take every Monday afternoon off to do some science with the boys. I've drawn up a list of the topics they would have been covering in school.

Other subjects:
I'm going to order some geography books similar to the ones they used at school, and continue working with Tim through the Ancient Egypt Pearson workbook, when we get some spare time. 

IT will continue to be done informally as and when they feel inspired.

Music will continue with piano lessons, and if there's a music group started at church, Daniel will join it. 

I'll try harder to inspire them with art in some way - although Daniel doesn't really need inspiration to produce art, and Tim isn't interested at all. 

Technology - it seems that lego, meccano etc is quite sufficient for now, plus general junk-art building that they do when they feel so inspired. 

Reading - no problem, other than lack of books supply. 

PE - no idea what to do about this. We walk a fair bit, and they have bikes, but Tim is still quite wobbly and can't go out by himself. There don't seem to be sports centres or local teams, and it's too cold to swim in the sea at present.

What actually happened:

We started off enthusiastically, following the timetable as listed above.  However, after about 10 days were all feeling somewhat burned out with so much maths, English and Greek, and little else. I was busy producing work-sheets which they seemed to enjoy doing, but it may be we're trying to do too much too fast - and not spending enough time on more relaxed activities during the mornings. 

Maybe this is why schools do what they do - several settling-in activities each day (registration, Assembly etc), then a half-hour burst of learning followed by a break, before the next burst of learning. It's also difficult being just one-on-one (or even one-to-two) since obviously we can't have classroom discussions or co-operative projects. 

It’s kind of fun making worksheets on the computer for the boys, particularly in Greek, and tables tests. But I must say I’m finding it tiring home-schooling. We’re only doing 3-4 hours each day (mornings) as we reckon that’s about as much real learning time as they get in a normal school day anyway - probably more! We have some reasonable books and I’m only having to do things for two of them, obviously - marking at the time rather than later on. But it still seems mentally draining and quite stressful just working out what to do, keeping them interested, being flexible while ensuring we cover what we’re supposed to etc. My respect for classroom teachers has increased astronomically - and I had a quite considerable appreciation of what they did even before coming here.

We’re keeping well up in English, maths and Greek, and I think actually it’s quite good for both the boys to be able to do maths fully at their own pace - each of them whizzing thorugh some parts and slowing down enormously when they get stuck or have difficulty with some concept. In that sense it’s very useful, although I’m still really hoping they’ll be able to go to a school in September - maybe the ‘American Academy’ one which we initially rejected. We need to look at the secondary school, but I get the impression it’s a lot better than the junior one. Daniel will have to take an exam in May - and of course may not get in.

I’m having more trouble teaching history, geography, science etc - Richard keeps intending to take an afternoon every couple of weeks to spend time doing science with the boys but it hasn’t happened yet. We’ve been looking at Cyprus history and geography somewhat, and also have a good book about Egyptians and ancient Greeks. Daniel's general knowledge is good anyway so I’m not TOO worried right now, particularly if home-schooling is only for a year.

They still miss school, although it's the particular school they went to that they miss - Daniel certainly doesn't want to be in the American school right now, and Tim - having spoken to one or two children who go there - doesn't either at present. And in a way I'm enjoying having them home all the time - I'm reading to them more during the daytime, and it's nice doing things together and seeing so much more of them. But I'm concerned that I'm not doing homeschooling right, and we're all going to be totally exhausted before long.

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