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Homeschool Q & A with Jackie, your host of the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast.
This article and podcast episode addresses the following question.
I’m trying to create my school year calendar but I’m coming up short by 15 days. I want to start in September and end in May, but that only gives me 165 days.
I’m just not sure if I can be ready by the middle of August and don’t want to extend into June.
My oldest will be PreK if that helps.Anonymous Mom. Quote paraphrased.
HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast
Q & A
How To Easily Add School Hours & Days To Your Calendar
The mom who asked this question was concerned about accumulating the correct number of school days in the upcoming school year.
There are a number of ways that you can supplement a traditional school-at-home curriculum model with additional school days.
We all know that kids take field trips at both private school and public school. They have parties, watch documentaries, take field trips, and do other non-textbook activities. Those activities count toward their school days and your non-textbook activities count toward your child’s school hours and days too.
Here are some activities that you might be able to count toward your school days.
- Museum visits.
- Library visits.
- Public, private, or charter school programs geared toward homeschooled children.
- Youth programs such as drama clubs, sports programs, outdoor recreation, etc.
- Homeschool group activities, camps, or conventions.
- Community or recreation center activities.
- Church activities.
- Outdoor recreation.
- Nature center activities.
- Group lessons like ballet, art, gymnastics, martial arts.
- Recreation center activities.
- Private lessons and tutoring for music classes, reading, golf, etc.
- Family vacations.
- Online education like the Backpack Sciences membership and courses.
Here’s the truth: Your kids are learning all of the time.
Oftentimes you are doing things that might not be curriculum based, but they are inherently educational in value. Some of these activities can count toward your school hours and days. Let me give you an example.
Family Vacation Education At The Museum
We just got back from a family vacation. On our vacation, we went to the Museum of the Rockies, in Bozeman, Montana.
Learning About The Vikings
At this museum, they had an amazing Viking exhibition. I can tell you, my kids absorbed a lot of information about the Vikings that day.
My husband and I learned from this exhibit as well.
Before we even left the museum, I was thinking that when we get home we should find some documentaries about the Vikings so that we could learn more. Seeing these amazing artifacts inspires us to continue learning about this time in history.
Learning About The Dinosaurs: Montana’s T-Rex
At the Museum of the Rockies, they also have the largest collection of North American dinosaur fossils from in and around Montana. So, we also learned more about dinosaurs and had an experience that a textbook simply cannot match.
School can happen in any month or on any day of the week.
Our trip to the Museum of the Rockies was not part of a typical school day. However, my entire family learned a lot from this exhibit.
Does it really matter that we took this school day a week before our local school district started school? Not one single bit. This counts. So did many other days of our family vacation.
I want to encourage you to include those types of activities toward your school hours and days.
Regardless of whether it’s in February or August, a weekend or a normal school day, field trip days and “educational parts” of family vacations can count toward your mandated educational requirements.
More Educational Lessons On Our Family Vacation
So we did a lot of other things on this vacation that were inherently educational as well. Things like looking at a real atlas, not just Google maps. We helped our kids understand more about the highway system and how everything connects. This is pretty important now that our oldest daughter is driving and will be moving out in a year.
We also stopped at a bear, wolf, and wildlife refuge and learned more about wild animals and how we can help protect them. While my kids are older and you might consider that more elementary, they certainly read and absorbed more of the information than they would have at a younger age.
The bear refuge also gave my kids an excellent opportunity to put their photography skills to use. While my youngest daughter still uses her phone’s camera for pictures, my oldest daughter has more advanced photography skills. She’s taken multiple photography classes at our local community college and continues to advance her photography skills by watching tutorials on YouTube and following photographers she admires. Now that we’re back home, she’s editing photos for her portfolio and will share them on social media.
Everyday Educational Opportunities
While you can find ways to add hours and days to your school calendar outside the home, you can easily do this from home as well. I’ll share a personal example with you.
Kitchen, Fitness, & Nutrition Lessons
My youngest daughter is really into fitness, exercising, and nutrition. As a result, she’s constantly reading and learning about these things. From reading nutrition labels at the grocery store to adding up calories in a recipe and figuring out how many calories are in each serving, this is all educational. Her cooking activities are also educational. These activities can easily fall into various subject areas like home economics, physical education, and health.
Lessons From Games
When you play games with kids, you might be able to add these to various subject areas as well. For example, Yahtzee works well as multiplication or addition practice, while Scrabble and other games with letters, can work as a spelling practice. If you’re interested in educational games, check out this article about math games or this blog post about spelling games.
Planning Your School Year
The mom who asked this question is likely using traditional curriculum. She probably knows how many lessons are in each book and is spreading the lessons out over the course of the school year. She has figured out how to get 165 days in the year, but isn’t sure how to get the other 15 days. By utilizing other educational opportunities that aren’t textbook based and rethinking traditional education, this isn’t difficult.
Help Your Children Develop A Love Of Learning
It’s important to remember that you want to help your children develop a true love of learning. It’s also important to remember that while learning and education are important, they don’t need to happen at school or even in a school like setting. There are many ways that children can learn. At HomeSchool ThinkTank, we’re fans of experiential learning and intentional unschooling.
Homeschooling A Preschooler
As a homeschooling mom, I’ve done it right and I’ve done it wrong. Here’s what I did wrong. When my oldest turned five, I felt the need to start doing “school-at-home.” While my child had been learning quite well through games, experiences, and reading for fun, I began to focus on completing curriculum rather than learning a concept in whatever way was best for her. In addition, I also felt the need to push my three-year-old into doing “school” at the kitchen table too.
In hindsight, I recognize that pushing my three-year-old to start “school” so young was counter-productive. Education from workbooks should be an invitation, not a requirement, for young children.
Workbooks for younger kids should be an invitation, not a requirement.
Pushing my child to do work that she was not developmentally ready for didn’t work out so well.
She simply was not ready to sit at a table and learn. Here’s what started to happen. My three-year-old daughter began to have a disdain for learning. Where learning was all fun and games before I tried to engage her in workbooks, learning became drudgery at the kitchen table. Pushing her to do work she wasn’t ready for started setting up a foundation for resistance to textbook learning. This also interfered with our relationship. This is why I created the motto Connection Before Curriculum.
As parents, none of us want to discourage our children from developing a love of learning. In my opinion, if you don’t want your children to resist learning, then you need to invite them to learn rather than push them to learn. Learning should be fun and enjoyable. If the lessons you are trying to teach are causing tears for your child and frustration for you, then you need to postpone the lesson or find a better way to help your child learn the concept.
Suggested Reading For Parents
Young children learn best through play. Most people learn better by doing something than reading about it. One of my favorite books is called Free To Learn by Peter Gray. I strongly recommend that every parent read this book that is backed by science.
In his book, Mr. Gray talks a lot about the value of play and how children learn naturally. You can learn more about unschooling and Peter Gray’s book here.
My Recommendation For Pre-K Children
Provide educational opportunities for young children, but don’t worry about doing “school” with your pre-k child. There is a tremendous difference between your child learning and doing school. Learning is necessary while “doing school” can actually be detrimental to young children.
Know Your State’s Or Country’s Homeschool Laws
You need to know what your state’s or country’s homeschool laws are and consider them as your child approaches the mandated school-age. However, if your children are not required by law to be engaged in compulsory schooling, do not worry about it. Simply give your kids opportunities to learn. Take them to the children’s museum, get out paper and pencil and crayons. Give them the opportunities to write, to draw, to learn, play games, and get together with other children.
This isn’t legal advice.
Please keep in mind that at HomeSchool ThinkTank, we do not dispense legal advice. This is my opinion as a well-educated homeschooling mother with an abundance of homeschooling & real-world experience.
Join A Homeschool Group
Find a homeschooling group in your area and give your children the opportunity to play with and get together with other kids. Even if your oldest child is only three, you can join a homeschooling group in your area. While your child might not be school-age, there will be other children they can play with. Most homeschool families don’t have just one child. They have many children. So while they may have children who are truly school-age, they’re also going to have other children who are not school-age for your kids to play with. So even if your kids aren’t of a compulsory school age, you can still join a homeschooling group. If you need help, you can book a call here and we’ll help you find a local homeschooling group.
How Children Learn
Remember that there are many ways for children to be educated and to learn. There is a tremendous difference between learning and becoming educated and school. While children can learn and be educated at a school, they do not need to go to school to learn. Learning can happen virtually anywhere.
If you are interested in examining your own belief system around education, then you might want to dive into this four part series about the school, education, and learning.
A Quote From This Episode Of The HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast
I think that if you try to make your four year old sit down at the kitchen table or at a little desk, or what have you, every single day and do specific lessons, that you are going to start killing their innate desire to learn. And your goal as a homeschooling parent, one of your goals, is to help your children develop a true love of learning.
Education and learning are really important. School, in my opinion is not so important. So help your children develop a desire to learn. Don’t squash their desire to learn by forcing them to do things that they are simply not developmentally ready for.Jackie Wheeler Wiebe, Host of the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast
We always share more in our podcast episodes than we can possibly share in an article. You can listen to this episode on iTunes, Spotify, or nearly anywhere that podcasts are played. Look for episode #109.
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