Tuesday, 21 May 2013

How We Homeschool - Part 6: Records and Sanity

In our state, there is currently no requirement to report on progress and curriculum, except for acknowledging that students need to cover the "Key Learning Areas"(KLAs)

This does not mean there is no curriculum or record-keeping. Far from it! Every parent wants to make sure they are doing the right thing - and this over-thinking over-analysing mummy is definitely one of them.
Taking on the schooling of my boy is a big thing. And to keep the lurking nag-demons at bay I like to keep records. Lots of records. As many as a busy mum can manage!

But because I am busy I have found a few useful short-cuts that help keep everything ticking over while satisfying my desire for comprehensive record keeping.
Hopefully, some of these might prove useful to others.



KLAs
Photos and Scanners
This is the big one. Every project, every cool drawing, every Lego build or K'Nex bridge gets a photo. C now expects a photo whenever he finishes a project. What is even cooler, is that he has taken ownership of the process and does the photos and videos himself!  This gives us a huge and growing collection of digital records of his work. One day I'll even get round to collecting and collating them all in one place. The beauty of photos is that they are time-stamped, so there's a definite record of when the work was completed.

Also, as we have limited space and metres of drawings (!), we have a scanner that we use to get a high-definition copy of C's drawings. We can then happily get rid of the hard-copy - leaving more room for new drawings. As his little sister J is just getting into the act of writing this has moved up from a 'nice-to-have' to a necessity if we are not to be drowned in paper!

Special-Stuff Folder
This is a large scrap-book that I keep to put in the stories / drawings / maps that I think are particularly special, or that clearly demonstrate competence of one or many KLA's. I try to date them before they go in. If no one can remember when a drawing was done - it gets the current date!

The KLA Diary
Example Diary Entry
This is (meant to be) the day-to-day record of our homeschooling. It's not perfect - some days I write everything we did, sometimes it's a summary, and more often than I like, it's a quick highlight of things done in the last week, fortnight or even month!
What makes it easier is that I created a key at the front based on the KLA's, and each page has a 'grey' area in the left-hand margin. In this margin, I note the KLA's covered by the activity - ready-made categorization! I can go back over the previous entries, and can get a quick summary of the topics covered, without having to read all the entries in detail.This allows me to see whether we've done enough, say, maths in the last month, for instance.


Boy in Charge - C's Homeschool Activity Booklet

Homeschool Activity Booklet
Early on in the 'grand homeschool experiment', I created a little booklet for C, bound on a large plastic ring. It's looking a little battered these days - but that's a good thing! Each page has a different topic ( all in lovely bright colours), and a list of activities. When it's time to do 'school', I let him pick an activity from the booklet. That way, HE'S the one in charge, lol.

What is 'School' - and what is 'school'?
Everything that has an educational potential is counted as school-work - but only in my book! This has saved us from all-day sessions of computer games devoid of anything else. We have a simple rule with school work - ONE activity has to be done each day, weekends included (!) that is 'school-work'. And though the definition is very broad, I have over  time culled items that are unhealthy obsessions off the school-work list - even if they are great learning experiences and *do* get recorded in my Diary. Of course, much more school-work gets done than just the one activity - but that other work is completely self-directed ( the only way short of bribery, blackmail and stealthy manipulation to get him to do school-work some days.)!

The Little Sister Distraction
This is one that gets a little harder to handle every day - J loves to join in with whatever we are doing. This can be tricky when she wants a story in the midst of a maths lesson - and being one year old is not subtle about how she asks. There are a number of things I have used to get around this.

  1.  School when she naps. This is great for board-game based learning or any with small parts.
  2.  School behind the gate. C will barricade himself in the kitchen ( We have a large area clear with all his 'choking -hazard toys' set up, and  few shelves of our pantry/bookcase for his use.) 
  3. Working at the computer desk - which has a large bucket chair that can be tucked in so that little fingers can't reach.
  4. Setting up similar age-appropriate activities - when we're doing worksheets, or lessons, J gets her own blank exercise book and textas to draw with. 
  5. Learning while playing with lil' sister. Maths with blocks becomes building towers with J, and pyramids / volume / surface area problems with C.  Not always ideal, but sometimes it works!
  6. School when she's distracted with other cool toys. I often take advantage of J's involvement with a game to help C with lessons.
  7. Lots of self-directed learning with only occasional help required. Setting up activities for C that can be self -directed. ie. giving him lists of places to find on google maps + something interesting about them. 
  8. Asking for explanations. When C is doing self-directed learning, I always try to 'catch-up' by getting him to talk through what he has been doing - summarizing, elaborating, asking questions so he has to find out more information. 


Downtime
Mornings. Both my children love sleeping in. So mornings is my time. I don't always get it - but it's wonderful when it does happen. This is when blog-posts get written, research gets done on 'strewing' or other education methods, planning and record keeping get updated. Or honestly, it's my chance to just curl up with a good book. Sometimes it's only 10 mins. Sometimes it's an hour - oh heaven!

Parental Sanity
 I'm no perfect Mum. I have good days and bad days.
The good days with the kids - when learning seems to just magically happen - when C is bouncing around the house eagerly discussing buying selling market economics or the Carbon cycle then segueing into building a Lego helicopter and finishing up with reading Dr Seuss to his lil' sister are one of the amazing pluses of homeschooling.

Team Parent!
The bad days - oh deary me! When the house is a bomb-site, the washing (dish and clothes!) hit the ceiling, I can't walk in the house without tripping over a toy explosion, and all the kids want to do is watch TV or complain about no TV. Oh yes they happen. On those days, if the weather is good (and we're healthy enough), I tend to bundle them out of the house and let them burn off energy at the park. Or maybe have a good-ol-fashioned session of  using the bed as a trampoline... yeah, I like when those days are over.

Sanity is having a loving partner who is willing to step in without being asked. Sometimes everyone needs a helping hand. He is mine. We're a team. And he gives the best hugs.


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