Our Afterschooling

The Hubby and I had planned to homeschool…there are a number of reasons for that–greater flexibility and independence for the kids, less “teaching to the test” (and more teaching kids), the opportunity to better develop critical thinking skills, getting to spend more time experiencing our kids and experiencing life with them, a not-so-great public school system (due to budget cuts), and a lack of affordable non-religion private schools with adequate (to us) educational philosophies, to list a few.  Due to the economic necessity of being a two parent working family, that plan fell through.  Instead, we are going for a hybrid approach, trying to fill in the gaps and ensure that the witchlets remain challenged–this used to be called parenting, I think…but today its called “afterschooling”, lol.

What one might do as an afterschooling family varies on kid ages and interests and personalities, the school(s) they attend and the teacher(s) they have, one’s personal religious and philosophical outlook, etc.  And there is always the simple fact that kids need to play, to be kids–since schools no longer seem to incorporate enough of that for kids anymore.  Our afterschooling plan is pretty flexible, but it includes a couple key components which we hit on a regular basis.  Also…you might notice that the list is a little long, afterschooling is not about adding another school day on top of the school they’ve already had.  While families will vary here, we usually do one or two things from this list a day, and our “afterschooling” lesson time that overlaps school stuff should ideally not take more than 30 minutes.

Our PreK-early elementary afterschooling “plan”:

Outdoor Play/Exploration Time— I’ve said it before…but I believe in  outdoor experiences the way some moms believe in going to school or church on Sunday.  There are lots of reasons to take kids outside…but it all boils down to this:  “Kids that play outside have lower stress and anxiety level, better coping skills and show less evidence of hyperactivity.  Kids that play outside are more physically fit, with a lower BMI, increased bone density and muscle strength, and better cardiopulmonary health…and it may even lessen their chance of needing glasses.  Kids that play outside  learn better (and are more motivated to do so), interact with their peers better and care more about the world around them.” (from an old post)

Copywork and Recitation (discussed here)

Family Storytime–Like most families, read to our kids.  The “when” varies a bit, before bedtime on most days, but sometimes in the afternoons on the weekend or before school during the week.  The “what” is pretty eclectic too.  We have our Read Aloud Project, which tackles more advanced fare, and we also take turns telling stories.  There is an idea in Waldorf education that I love…the idea that if you teach kids to love the story, reading will follow, when kids are ready.  The school system differs in their ideas of when “kids should be ready” than Waldorf educators do, but I think the key part to teaching a kid to read, regardless of when one starts formalized education, is in them loving stories.  This means that kids need to be a part of language–they need to tell their own stories (and they learn to do this by hearing stories), to make their own songs (by hearing music), etc.  Part of our family storytelling isn’t just reading, its also the telling of old stories, and the creating of new ones.  My daughter loves to hear the story of How Mommy Met Daddy-Man, The Day Chickadee Was Born, and What Was it Like When You Were a Kid…Sharkbait on the other hand, he likes to hear about monster trucks and dinosaurs.

DIY Field Guides for Science and Nature Inquiry –For us, outdoor time and science and nature inquiry often go hand-in-hand.  See something neat outdoors?  Draw picutes, write notes, check it out with a magnifying glass or microscope! Look it up when you get home and learn more about it.    It really can be that easy…  Seriously though, I’ll get around to this one in more depth later!!

Family Dinner & Discussion–The Hubby and I can sometimes get a little lax on this one, particularly with some of our “schedule variety” in terms of working hours, out of town work trips, etc…but we are a fan of sitting down and eating together.  Even better, start it off by cooking together, though we don’t this quite as frequently (usually only on the weekends, since we have more time).  Our goal is every night…but realistically, there’s always that day when one or both of us is beat from work, or sick, etc.  Either way, we use dinner time as the time to talk about stuff like our beliefs and opinions and values–and we let our children have the opportunity to develop and express their own beliefs and opinions and values with us, with minimal judgement (though, sometimes we are called upon to redirect some conclusions).  We also talk a bit about current events in a way that they can understand, as well as personal events–how did our day go, what challenges did we have and what decisions we made (and why), and what other options we might have had.  At least one day of the week (or at least that is the goal), we turn out all the lights, electronics (otherwise we usually have music somewhere) and have dinner by lantern/candlelight…and then we leave everything off for the evening.

Hands-on Math Practice–For extra math practice, I’m pretty free-form in my approach.  The one thing I do push though, is real world practice and math manipulatives for extra practice and homework help.  I have the kids help with cooking, shopping (and paying for things) at the store, etc, so they encounter math in real world scenarios.  We also bust out measuring spoons and cups and gallon milk containers with a bucket of rice or a tub of water to practice measuring and figuring out things like “How many cups do make a gallon?”.  The kids also have their own thermometers, rain gauges, rulers and tape measure (goes with their science supplies) that help them learn about using math in science. 

For homework help and math practice, we have a base 10 set and a set of Cuisenair rods, an abacus (this one actually, which I like because its 10 sets of 10 and they are color coded in sets of 5, which makes visualizing the numbers faster and easier).  When kids have difficulty with certain math concepts, there are tons of ideas you can find on the web–we’ve made “ants on a log” (10 black beans on a popsicle stick) to teach counting in tens, number jars and number farms to teach the concept of place value.

Phonics Practice and Sight-Word review–I use The Ordinary Parent’s Guide for Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise for phonics lessons.  Sure, I could probably have figured it out by myself or gotten some set or something, but really…this book is nice.  It has everything divided up into short lessons, in a logical order for teaching different sounds.  And you can’t beat the price compared to something like Hooked on Phonics or whatever.  Seriously, everything you need to teach your child to sound out words to read is here, and its an easy program to add on to.  There is one little problem though…there’s not enough focus on sight words if you are sending your child to school.

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