The ‘Less is More’ model of homeschooling

It’s been an incredibly intense first 2 weeks of school, and although I beat myself up about slacking off on Wednesday to play Monopoly instead of doing science and the fact that today was completely hijacked by Skyrim, it has been fantastic so far. By fantastic, I mean the level of enthusiasm and ‘wow that’s awesome’ kind of moments we have had.

The secret to our success so far? Less is more. Woo hoo. We should patent that, right? Actually I remember reading about the ‘one hour a day’ schooling philosophy when we first quit school and thinking they were totally insane. And look how far we’ve come….. one hour a day for serious school subjects like maths, science and English – and that is going swimmingly. Supercharged Science is as good as I hoped, Khan Academy maths is as good as it’s always been, Shams is back on Pebble Maths (must write a blog about that sometime) and everyone is settling into a nice routine.

But what I’m most excited about is our learning objectives. Since ‘real’ school really only feels like one hour (even though they are doing other learning for 3 hours), the hour the kids spend on their learning objectives doesnt really feel like school at all. Safiyah is roaming around taking photos as she learns about photography. Shams is doing flying kicks at everything in sight and rolling on everything he can find as he improves his karate skills. Diyana is learning to play the Bansuri or bamboo flute. And they are all writing their blogs without me having to push them because they have lots of talk about.

Best of all, when we first started they really couldnt think of anything for their learning objectives. Now, as we head into week 3, they are already planning their objectives next week. Since a major part of my motivation here was self-directed learning, I have found myself having plenty of those ‘Wow that’s awesome!’ kind of moments myself. In fact, I often think I’m enjoying homeschooling more than the kids…

Actually a week is a long time to spend on one objective now that we are doing it, and that’s great because it makes them push themselves a bit to persevere. In this house we tend to suffer from the 5-minute enthusiasm syndrome, so 5 hours on one thing over a week is a big deal.  But this is the beauty of the ‘less is more’ model of homeschooling…. a little bit every day is a really effective way of learning and growing, as opposed to slogging away for hours on one thing and only learning a little.

Bring it on!


Natural-born scientists

Since science seems to be becoming our big theme these days, this was just so appropriate…….

Back to school blues even happen for homeschoolers

We are back at ‘school’ after almost 3 months of summer holidays, and it seems that ‘back to school blues’ even happen for homeschoolers. Funny…. this time last year the kids had to go back to real school and they were pretty much exactly like Calvin. This year we are only going back to homeschooling, but nothing much has changed!

I have to say, I feel a bit guilty taking summer holidays from what is already pretty much a holiday kind of lifestyle (despite what the kids say)… But I realised that holidays aren’t just about doing nothing… they are a punctuation mark.

Our first 8 months of homeschooling were fantastic but incredibly stressful at the same time, as we started out as curriculum- based homeschoolers, then developed our own curriculums, then we tried out unit studies, and experimented with unschooling as well. Meanwhile the kids went through every emotion possible about homeschooling… starting with elation at leaving school, followed by devastation when they realised were were still going to have to learn stuff, wild enthusiasm about the topics they loved, and outright rebellion about others they hated. (In fact there was more rebellion than anything else most of the time, and that meant me learning a whole new set of coping mechanisms). I think the only constant thing in our whole first 8 months was my driving belief that this was the best decision I had ever made.

In hindsight it was all a bit of a mess, but looking back at our books and materials as I was packing them all up before we left for Australia, I was seriously amazed at how much we had managed to do amidst such chaos.

This year is going to be more organised!! (I am pretty sure these are famous last words).

Now we know we are not much into curriculums.

We know we like unit studies.

We know we like having flexibility to do or not to do, depending on our day.

We know we want to make time for swimming, horseriding, karate and rock climbing.

We also know we want to focus on Islamic topics more.

I know that learning objectives are a big priority, to teach discipline and commitment within subjects they are really interested in.

So with all this in mind, the plan is an hour of Islam first, then an hour of formal topics (science, maths, english etc) and then an hour of personal learning objectives each day. Three hours… that’s it. Each child has started a learning blog and their personal objectives plus anything else they are interested in, are recorded here. Apart from that they have ONE exercise book each for the year, in which anything else they do will be recorded. Last year we tried an exercise book for each subject but it just felt like school, where they used to spend half the lesson writing the date in the OCD way the school prescribed.

I have joined a great science site called Supercharged Science and I, at least, am really excited about the huge range of experiments and applied learning (the kids claim they ‘hate science’ but the other day when we launched a rocket with vinegar and baking soda 50 metres into the sky, Shams didn’t seem to hate it too much). My mission this year is that they will say ‘we LOVE science now’ by the end of the year… here’s hoping Supercharged Science does the trick.

Maths will continue as before with Khan Academy and Adapted Mind and Shams will work on writing particularly through his blog and Grammaropolis.

So that’s our year in a nutshell… who knows…. this organisation may only last for a couple of weeks and we may descend back into homeschooling anarchy again, but we sure have learned a lot from last year … so onwards and upwards!




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