If you read my post from the other day and looked at the document I linked to, you may have noticed some additional info there about our study environment and the role of the teacher. These are key elements to the success of our homeschooling endeavor, so I thought I would elaborate on them briefly. I’ll tackle our study environment in this post and come back to the role of the teacher in the near future.
Much like with our schedule, I have been guilty over the past few months of tampering with the environs of our home school. While my intent has been good, the constant changes have led to more instability and sub-par results. Consistency here is also very important. Had I only trusted the outline provided by our curriculum from the get-go, we would be much further down the road toward scholastic success than we are. I am learning as I go!
100% honesty. I am happy to report that this has been our standard from the beginning. It has been our policy since the boys started talking! The rationale for this is simple: There can be no healthy, positive relationship between individuals when there is dishonesty in the mix. And when it comes to schooling, what is the point of educating untruthful individuals?
No TV or videos. This is a tough one for us, and we have not yet adopted it completely. However, this is the standard we are shooting for. Much like a two-day vacation every week has an excessively deleterious effect on one’s ability to learn, the negative impact of daily TV/video viewing is at least its equal. Our plan is to generally allow no TV or videos during the school week, with daily allowances of between 1-2 hours if school work that day is completed without any errors. But we’ll probably find that is also too much and need to just do completely without. I’ll keep you posted!
No sugar. Sugar is a mood-altering poison that compromises the immune system. It is also very tasty! I have a terrible sweet tooth, and I find it hard for my brain, which knows better, to convince my tongue, which does not, to avoid the stuff. For this reason, we don’t keep any dessert items whatsoever in the house. Because sugar is found in nearly everything these days, we make sure that non-dessert items (e.g., bread, cereal, crackers) do not have sugar as one of the main ingredients. We do allow a little honey in a mug of hot tea and we keep plenty of fruit around. But candy and sugary desserts are for holidays only!
Lots of books available. We want to make sure there is no shortage of quality reading material in the house, on a broad range of topics. As we move toward eliminating TV viewing during the school week (see “No TV” above), recreational reading is definitely an activity we want to encourage to replace it. This is facilitated by the presence of lots and lots of reading options. From descriptive science texts to old reference manuals to plenty of children’s literature (both new and old), we want to span the gamut. And, of course, we make plenty of trips to the local library!
Keep distractions to a minimum during the school day. Two energetic boys find plenty to be distracted by without need of additional help. To stay on task, we do our school work at two tables bereft of any items outside of those needed for the subject at hand. Before we sit down to work, we make sure all the morning chores are completed, the house is tidied, and all toys and games are put away out of sight. We try to maintain a “library” atmosphere, so there is usually plenty of shushing throughout the day; the boys have little sense of their tremendous volume. Loud complaining is not tolerated at all. (Because when did complaining ever fix anything?) We don’t take phone calls or engage in any other potentially distracting activities between 10 am and 3 or 4 pm. These hours are devoted to school and we aim to keep them that way.
No breaks except for the bathroom. One way to minimize distractions and stay on task is not to take breaks. So, in general, we don’t take any breaks except to use the restroom. Some days we do break between subjects for a brief lunch, but each person usually will do this on their own so it is not a disruption to everyone else. And many times we’ll just grab a little something to eat while we’re reading. To aid this, we usually have a fairly substantial breakfast, and we always eat well at supper!
This is all a grand experiment and so subject to change as superior methods are found. At this point, these are the ones that have proven themselves effective or, for items not yet fully implemented, seem to be better than what we are doing currently. As we learn better, I’ll be sure to update here.