Homeschool/Unschool During the Summer

You might have thought, due to my long silence, that I was not homeschooling during the summer. I am, I’ve just been distracted by other parts of my life, like my eldest returning to our home after nine years away in California and Nevada.

In fact, we are trying out something new, and I want to share that with you all…

Welcome to ILS

For the nearly 30 years since I attended a small, quirky private high school in San Francisco, I’ve been regaling folks with tales of what it was like, and how very different it was.

ILS, Independent Learning School, actually accepted grades 6-12. I was 13 when I enrolled there in 1983 for summer school to take a computer class. I started full-time the fall of 1983, my freshman year of high school.

We learned out of books, without lectures or classrooms filled with same-age kids, and our level of freedom was based on how much of our work we could get done without having to be stood over and directed.

I wish I could say I was always a Floater (someone who could sit in whatever classroom they wanted, talk, eat, and take breaks when they wanted), but for those first couple of years I was quite firmly located in the Seater room on a regular basis. I hadn’t yet learned the art of self-control, responsibility, and the biggie…motivation.

In fact, I wouldn’t learn those for quite a while. In some cases, not until after leaving ILS and my dad’s home, and striking out on my own. But the seeds of how I deal with things now were planted there, in that school.

So I decided to emulate the school model in some ways…

Congratulations, You are a Floater

When the school year started, we began as Movers (a step up from the lowly Seater) and had to earn our freedoms as Floaters or even Superfloaters. We did this by completing the work in a daily and weekly Contract. And this is what I came up with for Em…

A weekly contract of certain areas of study…

  • Math – Khan Academy – 3 sets of six questions, three times a week
  • Language Arts – Reading (20 minutes, 3x per week), Writing Journal entries (3x per week), and Penmanship (3 assignments a week from a textbook on the subject)
  • Social Studies – History (an adult reading one segment, 3x per week from Story of the World), Geography (an adult reading one state per week from a textbook)
  • Science – study two pages per week with an adult from a textbook

It ended up coming to 16 things to do each week, or 3 activities each weekday, plus one extra.

I started her off as a Floater, told her she had seven days to finish each weekly contract, and waited to see what happened.

Week 1 – Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone

I wanted her to succeed so much, that I couldn’t leave her alone. For that matter, I still have difficulty, but that first week was a doozy! Combine with that her dad reacting badly and telling me that this was doomed to fail (in FRONT of our daughter) and I will admit it was a tough week of me nagging, her whining, and her dad eventually apologizing for, as I put it, sabotaging something before it had even begun.

She managed to get everything done, but it was a logistical nightmare.

Week 2 – Getting Better, HATES Khan Academy

So the second week went better. I was less naggy…Dave was more supportive…and Em was busy putting off Khan Academy until the LAST STINKING MINUTE. Tears, wailing, gnashing of teeth, we duked it out, the two of us. But I noticed that she was working harder, and budgeting her time better, and not needing quite as many reminders.

Baby steps…by the end of the week she asked me, “So, does this mean I’m a Superfloater now?”

Yes baby, it does!

There was an interlude of a week of no school work while she attended a full week of Nature Arts Camp.

Week 3 – Like a Dream, Only Better!

Em had only a little difficulty over the Khan Academy and was actually enjoying the rest of the activities. She had a little difficulty as her penmanship practice increased, but otherwise was doing quite well.

As I listened to her practice reading out loud to her big sister I was happy to hear her sounding out the bigger words and understanding more and more. It has been so wonderful to have a reader in the house, and I am hoping that Em will soon actually LIKE reading and not just tolerate it.

There was another week off after this, as Em attended a full week of Science City day camp.

Week 4 – In Process With Excellent Attitude

By this week, the current week that we are now in, Em has fallen into a decent routine. Monday was hectic, and she only managed one of the items on her list. The next day, Tuesday, was another busy day ending with a birthday party and sleepover in Lawrence. I retrieved her on Wednesday afternoon and reminded her this morning that she had a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it in because while today and Friday were relatively open, Saturday and Sunday would be busy as well.

“Today and tomorrow, you need to get it all done,” I told her. She nodded and without a word of complaint or whining, got to work. She had her eyes on the prize, a dinner and movie out with her big sister this evening, while Dave and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary with a fancy dinner out.

She completed a total of eight items on the list, combined with the one from Monday, leaving just seven left to do for tomorrow. And all without a word of complaint.

I’m pleased with her progress and she seems quite motivated to do the work. Crossing fingers and hoping this continues!

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