Just before Christmas, my older two kids (ages 10 and 12) had particularly challenging attitudes about school. I know they were tired, excited about Christmas, etc, but the attitudes, especially from the 12 year old, were just not cool. The day he started complaining that he still had another page of math left to do at 3pm (even when he had started school at 10am) I decided that I had had it. The local public school kids had stared at 8am and wouldn’t be done until 3:20, and then would have homework on top of that.
I knew that the kids intellectually realized the benefits they had from being homeschooled, but never having really experienced public school, I knew that they didn’t REALLY get it. Homeschooling had become a huge challenge for me the past month or so, and I was at the end of my rope. The bickering, fooling around, complaining… I was ready to be done.
Instead of throwing in the towel, I decided to do an experiment to help them (and me) appreciate what we have in homeschooling. My husband LOVED the idea when I told him about it and he helped me fine tune it.
We announced to our children that evening that the next day they would be going to school. Without leaving the house. Instead of sleeping in until 9am, they would be setting their alarms for 6:45am and would have to be ready to leave the house by 7:30. At that time, the 12 year old, who in theory would be catching the bus to middle school, would put on his coat and sit on the deck for 10 minutes “waiting for the bus”. He could then come inside and sit on the couch doing nothing for 20 minutes or so while he “rode to school”. School would begin promptly at 8:00, just like the local middle school.
I then followed the middle school schedule as it was posted online, with academics for an hour and a half, followed by 2 45 minute sessions of “specials” (which I assumed meant gym, art, music, library, etc), followed by more academics, lunch, and more academics.
I told my older two that once they were “at school”, they would not be allowed to interact with each other at all. No reading on couches, only at desks. No playing with their own toys on lunch break. I found the perfect school bell alarm on my phone and set it to go off when it was time to change classes.
I was nervous about pulling it off, but it went far better than I ever could have imagined. Here’s some very surprising things I learned:
1. I am much more relaxed when I can get the kids up at a decent hour and get some of the academics done first thing in the morning. We used the “specials” time mid morning to do chores, devotion, read aloud, clean rooms, etc. We had already finished 2-3 subjects by that point, without rushing them at all, so I felt much better taking the time to do other things.
2. Having the older two not interact with each other during academic time was GLORIOUS!!!!! I didn’t realize how much their bickering and fooling around with each other had been disrupting everything and driving me nuts. My daughter especially said she had a much easier time focusing without her older brother being silly and goofy with her.
3. I did let them interact during our mid morning “specials” time and they were actually nice to each other. I also let them play together at lunch. The non interaction during academics is definitely something we’ll keep!
4. In spite of the challenges, homeschooling still rocks! Being able to read on the couch, not having to run to catch the bus, my not needing to drive kids to and from school, and of course avoiding all the negative peer pressure and bullying are totally worth any extra work on my part at home.
The kids and I had a nice debrief time at the end of the day and we decided together that we will be keeping several of the components that we liked about the experiment, but happily chucking the other things out the window.
What other takeaways did I find? If things aren’t going well, don’t be afraid to really shake up the routine. Even if you try something new and it fails miserably, you’ve still learned something about what works and what doesn’t. In what ways have you really shaken up your school schedule for better or worse?