A Typical Homeschooling Day for Thomas
an excerpt from Living Without School is a collection of 'typical days' by Australian homeschooling families.
© Beverley Paine, Jan 1998
Many people think homeschooling is like school, with lessons in different subjects at set times and a timetable similar to what can be found in schools. Few homeschools operate in this way and learning programs vary considerably.
Homeschooling can be as varied as the individual families who choose to do it. There is no one right way to educate your children. Learning programs reflect family values and personal goals. Many families begin with collections of text and work books, and then relax as they realise the enormous learning potential of normal, everyday living activities. Home education is flexible, dynamic and immensely satisfying!
Several sample homeschooling learning programs can be found in Getting Started with Homeschooling - Practical Considerations by Beverley Paine.
A typical day could be as follows:
The following essay is taken from Learning in the Absence of Education - Essays on Homeschooling , by Beverley Paine, and outlines a typical day in her home. The book is full of essays outlining the Paine's day to day homeschooling life.
Thomas is eleven. He has been home educated since the age of five. He lives in a small country town, on four and a half acres, near the sea. His parents built the house he lives in with their own hands. He helped. The house is powered by solar and wind technology.
Thomas is not your average homeschooler - but then, who is? Every morning Thomas climbs down from his bunk, uses the clivus multrum composting toilet which he prefers over flushing varieties because of his loudly voiced concerns about pollution, and then climbs into bed with his mum for a cuddle and a read. His furry friends are deposited on the couch so they can enjoy the day from that vantage point. No staying in bed all day for Thomas's teddies!
At the moment Thomas is consolidating his reading ability, having taken eleven years to master this complex skill. He is reading tales compiled by Joanna Cole, with authors and illustrators such as Dr Zeus, Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel and many others. He discusses the illustrations. He discusses the stories. Even the non fiction ones. He talks about his own experiences. He talks and talks. Mum takes the opportunity to read a couple of chapters from Morris Gleitzman's novel, "Misery Guts". Eventually, after an hour, Thomas vacates the bed, so mum can make it on her morning round of tidy up chores.
Roger, his sixteen year old brother, is awake, showered and ready for action. More talk, mostly about what they will do today. Roger has been homeschooled too, and is at the stage of launching into the adult world of work and wages. On Fridays he does voluntary work experience at the Landscaping Supplies Yard where his dad works. But today is Monday.
The boys wander outside to feed the animals with April, their sister, who is a year 12 student at the local high school. Together they feed something like sixty five pets! They love their animals, although taking care of them is a huge undertaking. Together with their parents they have crafted the enclosures, and various houses. Looking after the animals takes about an hour a day. Sometimes they borrow books from the library to learn more about their animals. Breeding is a favourite past-time, but usually means more work! All the animals have names, and until recently each birth was recorded on a calendar.
April disappears down the hill to the nearby school. She is keenly missed by her brothers.Thomas urges Roger to play Lego. Not much urging is needed because today they are building robots with fully articulated joints to match the ones they are playing with on the new computer game, EarthSiege II. The boys spend hours creating models of many of the things they see on television and computer games, but also from real life. Lego is their favourite medium, but they have used paper, cardboard, wood, plaster, plastic, twigs, fibre and more. Creating and building is one of their favourite past-times.
Sometime later Roger goes out to let out the chickens. He has set ten o'clock as the time to do that to avoid the risk of foxes taking the poultry. A lesson in animal husbandry learned the hard way. Thomas is eating breakfast when he comes back inside. The boys always get their own breakfast.
Next they disappear into the computing corner and play Earth Siege. The boys are very happy to support the ruling that they only get forty-five minutes each on the computer, as they understand how much power the computer uses and how long it takes to charge the batteries of our home grown power system. At midday. Thomas goes out to manually track the solar panels so that the maximum amount of power can be generated.
The boys have been working on a map of an imaginary country. This map is twelve A4 pages joined together, and they have half each. They are putting the final touches on the map, which has taken about twenty hours to draw over nearly a week. Roger climbs up on a chair to blue tack it to the living room wall. The map is complex, with medieval villages, swamps, mountains, forests, islands, reefs, roads, quarries. Their mum remarks that it looks a lot like the map in Alan Garner's Weirdstone of Brisingingham series. They agree, and some discussion about books with maps in them ensues. The weather is nice outside so the boys disappear. Later their mum is invited to check out the village they have built into the side of a cutting down on the property. Little caves are houses for imaginary people, roads and steps lead to small huts made from carefully broken twigs constructed into realistic buildings. The village sprawls over two square metres. It took almost two hours to complete, raised from the ruins of the village built last year. The building process included an imaginary game, with several characters, and a break to play on the nearby rope swing.
Since the rope swing, the second to be erected, went up the boys have compared ability, pushing their bodies to the limit, pushing the fear back, constantly challenging themselves and supporting each other in their quest to fly through the air. Sometimes up-side-down. It is always a thrill to watch. They are aware of the dangers, of the pernicious nature of pink gums to drop branches. These kids like to take calculated risks. They are growing.
While mum is outside and they have her attention, they show her how well their recently made bows and arrows work. They puzzle over how to make the arrows fly straighter and mum suggests they try attaching nails to the end for weight. Fifteen minutes and two modifications later the arrows can hit a target at twenty metres. Later in the evening, when Robin is home from work, he suggests making flights out of feathers, but the boys don't feel it is necessary as their arrows fly straight anyway, if they fire them at a certain angle.
Lunch is well overdue. The boys investigate options and settle on making sandwiches. They eat them out on the veranda, watching the free range chickens, ducks and guinea pigs, talking about the Royal Adelaide Show they visited during the week. Mum is sending emails. After lunch Thomas asks if he can write to his friend. Once on the computer mum asks if he would like to write an article for the local newsletter about the show while it is fresh in his mind. Almost an hour is easily used up as he dictates his essay to his mum and then selects pictures from clip art, arranging them to illustrate the story, exploring the various options the word processing program offers to polish his article. In the end he has a very professional looking page he is proud of and which will be published and seen by his friends.
The rest of the afternoon is spent playing Solar Quest with mum, a board game which has taught the family much about the Solar System. It has come over cloudy and cold, so the planned gardening is put off until a nicer day. Thomas is keen to rejuvenate his garden under his cubby house, and to finish the garage for it, and build the petrol driven go cart to go in the garage. He does go out and water the six hundred tree seedlings for his mum though, just in case it doesn't rain.
Before dinner, Thomas sorts out some of his 'junk' and toys. Although he mostly plays with Lego, his favourite toys from his younger days are stored in boxes in his room. This makes it easy to get them out when friends with younger children come to play. Toys like his dolls' house, with its little Sylvannian families, and all the clothes and furniture he has bought and made. He tidies up his rock collection, and gives his mum his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and badge collection to pass on to other kids. She suggests he stores them for a garage sale they are planning.
Thomas juices the carrots, while Roger helps make dinner. Everyone is involved in dinner preparation, which usually includes washing the dishes from the day and previous night. Most housework is done co-operatively now that the children are old enough and don't view it as a chore. The animals have been shut up for the night and fed. April is engaging everyone in her conversation about her day, as is Robin. Roger and Thomas share their day too.
Over dinner the news is watched, although after the first few items the conversation at the table hots up as issues from the reports are discussed. Roger and April are most attentive and opinionative, and after eating Thomas slides onto the floor to play with the Marble Game he made two weeks ago.
As it is Monday, 'Friends' is on television. The family sits on and around the double bed (which is in the living room, the house being too small to support rooms for everyone to have a bedroom!) and watches the comedy, having a good laugh. The kids know it isn't 'real life', but a well constructed caricature. Acting is a skill they admire, especially as it is something no one in the family is good at or wants to do. The telly is turned off after the show as over dinner everyone decided to play Cluedo. Sometimes they watch a movie, sometimes Four Corners. Other nights in the week are much the same.
After the game April goes to bed to read. Robin plays computer, and is watched by the boys, who give him tips. Then they do some 'housework' on the computer - the boys learning more about how both software and hardware work. Roger has completed a diploma in computer repair, and he and his dad are starting a business. Thomas is rapidly picking up the knowledge and skills in a quiet and confident way, and is often helpful with his suggestions. Mum edits the novel she is writing.
It is always a busy day, although nothing is hardly ever planned in advance. Thomas has grown very comfortable with being able to determine his immediate actions. He loves the freedom and flexibility of his lifestyle. He enjoys being able to drop everything and have a special picnic lunch down the beach, or in the home grown eucalypt forest. Or trek down to work to help Robin. Or spend the day in the garden building steps, ponds or just revamping the vegie patch . Then there are the days spent building as new rooms take shape.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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