I’m often asked how I manage to teach three different grades during our school day. It came quite natural to me because my kids are different ages and wake up at different times.
We officially start our school day at 8am. My eldest son who is in grade 11 is always up first so we start earlier than 8am. I run through his schedule of work for the day, which sometimes involves him going to the maths tutor or a tutor coming to our home. He mostly works independently and will ask for my help when needed. I mark and check each task as he completes it throughout the day. He also watches online lessons when necessary and History videos, which he finds very interesting. My kids all love visual learning, so wherever we can, we watch a video on the topic for the day.
My eldest also has a study time-table which allows him a break after school and at least two hours of study time at night. This is done daily as he studies for his weekly test. During exam time he studies weekends as well.
I am more involved with my second son who is in grade 6, and my daughter who is in grade 3. They do not sit in the same area because they distract one another. I also tutor every lesson aloud which distracts the other child, so for this reason I separate them for written task.
I will teach my eldest son a particular subject and he will independently complete the task until his next subject starts. While his gets on with that subject, I can then start with my daughter. This will go on for all the lessons for the day. We have a break at 11am where they will go outside and have their lunch and a time of free play. After lunch it’s back to the same routine until the end of the school day. I’ve recently changed our daily time-table as starting with maths wasn’t ideal for us. We now begin our mornings with English and Spelling.
In-between these lessons, I’m continually marking their task as they complete it. They do corrections on the work as I mark. This allows me to judge whether that section was clearly understood. If it was not understood, we revise before moving forward. We also do experiments during or after their lessons when necessary. We do experiments almost weekly, as I find practical experiments reinforces what we have learned for the lesson.
They each have a reader for the term. Reading is done at the end of the school day. They are required to do a book report at the end of the term which counts toward their English mark.
After our school work is completed we use maths flash cards to play games, and match Afrikaans words to English words to expand our vocabulary.
We have extra murals most afternoons, so our school day ends by 2.30 the latest. If we do not complete the school work during the school day it is done as homework, this is not often. If there are any test scheduled for the week, they will also spend some time studying in the evening.
I try to keep learning interesting and fun by allowing them to lead the discussion. There is often a few why questions which we can explore during our lesson. The one on one time spent learning and researching different topics is invaluable. It’s always an enrichment experience for me as well.
When my middle son was in state school doing grade 4, his teacher called me in to show me his workbooks. I was stunned to see that none of his activities were completed. The teacher therefore could not mark his incomplete work and had to formulate a term mark for his report based on what he did complete. He would start and never finish the given task. His teacher had over 30 students in the class and could not check each child’s task for every subject, so my son often got away with not completing his work. I suggested my son be kept inside during break to complete his work, but this wasn’t always possible due to various other commitments his teacher had to tend to. When I questioned my son his reasons for not completing his task, he had two reasons. One he didn’t understand the work well enough to continue alone, and two he didn’t have enough time to complete the task.
This was one of the reasons I decided to home-school him. I can now not only make sure he completes his work but also understands it. Whatever he doesn’t complete during the allocated time, is now done as homework. He hates having homework so his learning that there are consequences to incomplete task.
His always struggled with concentration and when he was in school he was on Ritalin, because this was suggested by his teachers. As a parent you never choose to medicate. One of the main benefits of home-schooling is the one on one attention, which means he can be closely monitored and reminded to focus and complete his task. I made a difficult decision when I chose to home-school that I will no longer continue with Ritalin. I decided to face whatever challenges going without medication would bring. It is difficult but not impossible to manage a child with concentration issues. Some days are more challenging than others and there are often tears. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve managed so far. Each child and each situation is different, what has worked for us may not work for others.
One method that I find works for us is a stopwatch. He sets his watch to an hour and this allows him independence to monitor his own time. Every 15 min I check how far he is and encourage him to focus. Often, I find him playing with a toy, drawing or reading a book. Each time I gently remind to focus on completing his work.
I notice his slowest work day is a Monday due to the relaxed weekend. With all the long weekends in April it’s been challenging to say the least. I constantly remind myself that this is very normal and allow him space. He eventually completes all his required work by the end of the week. He achieved three A’s for his weekly test. When we have a successful week, it allows me to relax, knowing that he does understand the work and he is learning something new every week, and to celebrate the small victories.
Deborah Pretorius is a mother of 3 kids and a BCom graduate on the amazing adventure of home schooling her family.