Thursday, January 21, 2010

Three days in on Home Schooling

Stephen, our nine year old son, started home schooling this week via SIDES. Home schooling is not the term they use, they refer to it as distributed learning.

Issues for me so far:

  • There is so much material for me to get a handle on - basically all of the Grade 4 and most of the Grade 5 curriculum, how can I take all in quickly enough?
  • How long should I expect Stephen to be working on school work?
  • How much of my time will it take each day to work with him on his school work?
  • I am not a teacher, can I really do this from my end?

Stephen took part in his two virtual classes today. He logs on and enters a common online room with the teacher and other students. Everyone can type but they can also use their mic to talk to the others. The technology is advanced enough to make this work easily without hiccups, we had no trouble getting it to work.

I am getting a much better handle on what Stephen has learned and what he has not learned. I was surprised at some things I though he should have known by now, but they are only taught in grade 4.

I worry that Stephen will be bored working online and in workbooks. I know I need to make sure that there is more for him to engage with.

Over the weekend we are going to spend a lot of time learning the curriculum so that on Monday morning we will have a better handle on it all.

Any advice on a good site for parents????

1 comment:

Yule Heibel said...

Hi Bernard,

At this early stage don't worry too much about mastering the content yourself, or about managing it for Stephen. Give it a few weeks, see how it's working out, and do find out about the PAC meetings - it's a really good place to go and ask questions and meet the principal and/ or vice-principal, some of the other teachers (there are usually two teacher reps, iirc), and there should/ could also be a student rep from the high school level.

Once you get a feel for how quickly Stephen can breeze through material, you'll have a better idea of where he should be at (level-wise), what may or may not be "make work" (as opposed to real learning) in the curriculum, and whether or not you need to advocate for him to get any deadwood cut out.

A curriculum is designed to fit most students, but you're at SIDES because Stephen isn't "most" students. You will end up tweaking/ fine-tuning things, but give it a bit of time to see where the need is.

Speaking of time: one of the things S. will learn a lot about is time management. As long as he gets the assignments and work-load in, he can spend as little or as long a time on schoolwork as suits him. There are plenty of homeschooled kids who go through the curriculum they're working on in as little as 1 or 2 hours per day. You might find he needs very little time to get through the curriculum. In that case you can either let him advance through higher levels of it (if that's his thing), or embark on "extracurricular" in-depth projects that appeal to him. In a traditional classroom, a lot of time is spent just making sure that everyone is (literally!) on the same page before the teacher can even begin with a lesson. That sort of time-sink is eliminated for you, so don't panic if he's doing schoolwork "only" a couple of hours per day.

Re. not being a teacher yourself: the elementary teachers at SIDES are, from what I remember, really really connected to their students. They are there to support you both, so take advantage of that. No one expects you to be the formal teacher, so don't worry.

But make sure you find out about any and all extras on offer through SIDES, however. In my day on the PAC & SPC, we initiated getting gaming funds to the school to fund things like web-design classes and field trips. I would hope that's still going on. If you get on the PAC, you can help shape how the gaming funds get spent since those funds are given directly to the PAC, not the school). We had orienteering classes, bought hand-held GPS devices for same, and helped fund all sorts of fun stuff like that. Disclaimer/ disclosure: I helped approve these projects, but my own kids didn't participate in most of them, so I'm not suggesting parents get on there to advocate just for their own kids's pet interests - impartiality is key, and it's also important to consider proposals that benefit all students, including those who are truly at "distance" and can't come to the physical setting to participate. So, for example, I suggested online scrap-booking software/ classes as an alternative to buying art supplies and having scrapbooking workshops in "meatspace."

Homeschooling or distance schooling is a great opportunity to free up your kid's daytime so that s/he can get involved in the community and interact with a wide range of people of all ages and backgrounds (vs. sitting for 6 hours in school with only same-age mates to talk to). ...And it's a great chance to work with intensity on things that really interest the student, too.