Why My Kids Got an Extra Week of Christmas Vacation

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As the Fall 2019 semester progressed, I began to notice that my kids were spending less time in learning activities and more time using their electronics, playing video games, and watching mind numbing cartoons etc.

Fall Concerns

They were still doing their school, and completing all of the assignments, but they were finishing too early, and afterwards, they weren’t doing anything at all that I would consider enriching. No offense Sponge Bob.

Then one day, Renaissance Girl confessed to More Love Mama that she didn’t think she was learning enough, especially Math. That got my attention and planted the seeds of change that would germinate in my mind over the next month or so.

As our homeschool Fall semester was drawing to an end, I had the great idea that I would revamp my kids’ curriculum, all six of them. The idea was to use the extra time during Christmas break to make a bunch of curriculum changes, and then we’d hit the ground running.

By the end of Christmas break, I had accomplished exactly 0% of that task. So, on what was supposed to be our first day of the spring semester, I declared a “teacher development week” and told my kids that they could have an extra week of vacation.

No one complained.

Chaos

Of course, with More Love Mama, and all of my kids’ friends back in school, it fell to me to provide structure, entertainment and everything my little minions needed. Multi tasking is not my strong suit, so I bit the bullet and told them that they could live in electronics paradise while I worked on developing the new curriculum. The idea being, they would be sufficiently entertained and would stay out of my hair (hey it’s just a metaphor). Apparently, even paradise gets old to a nine year old boy.

Who knew?!

One night, the kids had a rave. They invited Patch, but I’m not sure he enjoyed it. To be honest, this was one of the less chaotic moments during our extended Christmas break!

The Pendulum

Any time I see a problem that needs to be corrected, you can count in me to overreact.

When I noticed that the kids were spending too much time on mind sucking activities, like watching lame youtube videos (sorry Stampy Cat), my immediate idea was to plan out a very specific (and probably painful) curriculum. One that would dominate their entire day and most likely suck the life out of them.

So I sat down and went through each kid and started to write a comprehensive lesson plan that would restore complete order to my homeschool, and alleviate my worry. After all, my motto is “Worry Free Homeschooling”.

After two days of planning, and writing, and organizing, and being completely OCD……..I came to my senses and realized that “Worry Free Homeschooling” applies to both the teacher and the students. The new lesson plans were causing quite a stir among my kids, as snippets of my dark intentions were leaked by me during dinner. In fact, one night, as More Love Mama was putting Renaissance Girl to bed, the poor kid started crying, due to anxiety over the “educational boot camp” she believed she was about to endure.

Student Centered

When More Love Mama told me about this, I took a second, more sober look, at what I was planning. I had to agree. If I had moved forward with this new curriculum, nobody would be happy, including me.

Then it hit me. Haven’t I always championed a student centered approach to learning? Don’t I believe that the best way to teach my kids is to equip them with the skills they need in order to take over their own education? In other words, my job is to give them a ticket to learn. It’s their job to use that ticket to take them on the learning destinations of their choosing.

So I sat them down, one by one, and we talked about what I wanted them to learn, and I listened to their goals and interests. For example, I assumed that Renaissance Girl would want to study biology in her science class, but she told me she’d rather learn Astronomy this spring instead.

It took the entire week to figure out an individualized curriculum for each kid, but sacrificing a week was well worth it if our homeschool becomes more effective.

Why should she have to read some stuffy old classic when she can read what she likes.

They Wanted Digital

My kids prefer educational computer games and programs over textbooks and worksheets. I agree, they are way more interesting and effective. So I expanded our subscription of CTC Math from two kids to four, and re-enrolled my two most math challenged kids in Mathseeds.

I also re-enrolled four of my kids in Reading Eggs. When you sign up for Reading Eggs, you automatically get Math Seeds, and Reading Eggspress. Yeah!

Reading Eggspress comes with a library of over 2000 e-books. Each book comes with a quiz to test comprehension.

The cool thing about these computer based learning programs is that they are individualized. This allows me to move around among my kids, and for me to multitask as well.

We Went Shopping

Four of my kids can work independently. I can give them assignments and then check on their work when I have time. This allows me to be more hands on with the other two, who need just as bit more attention.

Except when we get to math. When it comes to math, even my four more independant kids need me to be right there. We have four computers so I put them on CTC Math and the four of us sit in my office working together. Two of them at a desk, two of them on the floor, and me sitting in a chair in the midst of them. It works out pretty well, considering all four of them are in different grades.

But what to do with the other two?

Solution! We went shopping.

Covert Math
Undercover Spelling
Science Fun!

I had a few dollars of actual cash in my pocket (which is very rare). We loaded up the Maxi Van and went to Walmart. The idea was to pick up some games and toys for the kids to play during down time or when they have completed their other assignments. Anything to keep my kids from watching Teen Titans!

Still Worry Free

In the end, I think I was successful at removing most of the unnecessarily tedious and boring stuff from their school day. After all, learning should be fun. Filling out worksheets and reading textbooks are most definitely not that. When given a choice I’ll always opt for the more fun and organic way for my kids to gain knowledge.

Unfortunately I still have to insist that Renaissance Girl learn how to add those mixed number (fractions).

In the meantime, I’ll try to make it as quick and painless as possible, so that she can go back to doing what she really loves.

Brian Wood

Daddy Go To Timeout

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