The New Order

With work on The Cottage moving along at a sharp clip, and the Homes Tour looming over us in less than two weeks, I have been one distracted homeschooling mama.

But I’ve also made a couple of mistakes that need rectifying. I need to pay better attention and, unfortunately, exercise my homeschool authority a little more by directing her studies in a particular order.

Public School Has Shorter Hours!

I’m going to chalk yesterday up as a homeschool fail. With zero other kids to contend with, the studies should go quickly and Em should be done by noon at the latest. But that was not the case yesterday, the first day of our homeschooling week. Homeschool was a grueling nine hours long, 8.5 hours if you don’t count the break for lunch.

This was partly my fault. I let Em sleep in, which meant she stayed behind while I went to my morning cleaning. And despite my constant reminders to focus, she would not finish until 5:55 p.m. And only then because I told her two hours before that she would not go to her fun extracurricular activity, Peace Quest, if she had not done her schoolwork.

Heck, public school has shorter hours than that!

No More Dessert First

The biggest reason for this incredibly long day was, I believe, the order in which she tackles her studies. First I had her list out her daily studies, every single one. There were ten of them. “Now write a number by each one of them,” I told her. “Write ‘1’ next to your least favorite activity and ’10’ by your absolute favorite.”

She did so, and here is the list in order of least to most favorite:

  1. Cursive practice
  2. History
  3. Science
  4. Language Arts
  5. Math
  6. Spelling List
  7. French
  8. Cello
  9. Creative Writing
  10. Reading

And here it is revealed – yes, Em is truly my daughter. Writing and reading on the top of her favorites list? So, so, SO my child!

The problem here was that she was eating dessert first – reading, writing, doing her French – all of the easier stuff. I’m surprised that cello was 3rd favorite, considering she never wants to practice. However, her dad has recently taken an interest in playing her instrument. A practice session the other day turned into an hour plus of them trading tips back and forth.

I wrote the list out in order and told her, “This is how you are going to tackle your studies from now on. Your least favorite first. Power through them and then you can have your dessert (reading, creative writing).”

ILS Was a Huge Influence

The private (and now defunct) high school I attended in the mid-1980s was a huge influence on my learning (and teaching) style. Students were assigned daily and weekly “contracts” and reported to a “contract manager.”

We learned primarily out of books, which worked well for me, and all assignments and tests were repeated until a 90% or better was achieved.

The idea behind this was that a student could learn at their own pace, and center on something until they had full comprehension.

A recent TED talk by Sal Khan reminded me of this.

With Em, when she takes tests in Time4Learning (social studies, science, language arts, and math), she has to make 90% or better to continue. Typically, if she bombs a test, we look it over together and find the correct answers before we consider the assignment done for the day.

I Have to Do My Homework Too!

We have two creative writing books by Karen Benke that we are currently using. One is called Rip the Page! and the other Write Back Soon!.

Write Back Soon! focuses on letter writing. Once a week she sends out a letter to a friend or family member and the other three days she does an exercise in Rip the Page! This has been going on for a few weeks, and I noticed yesterday that she didn’t say much in her letter to a friend.

“Isn’t the Write Back Soon! book giving you some writing tips?” I asked her.

She looked nervous.

“Have you been using the book?”


So today MY assignment is going through the book and finding discussion points and possible future assignments for her.

That, and catching up on my French lessons, of which I am woefully behind her in.

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