Grit Blogs > Homesteading with Mrs D

The Homestead School

By Robyn Dolan 


Tags: Home school,

Robyn DolanMy winter gardens have only produced a small crop of mint and 4 baby spinach leaves a day, hardly enough for a meal; I got rid of all the goats and am looking for a new milker; it is too cold and mucky to butcher the meat rabbits; the chickens are laying like gangbusters; it’s too early to shear sheep; the calves are happily milking Mabel the Marvelous Dancing Jersey Milk Cow, due to a “houdini” horse being housed in the milking parlor until I get his fence fixed – again. Still, homeschooling goes on, daily.

Let me tell you a little bit about our Homestead School. At 6:30 a.m. the school bus is trundling down our dirt road to pick up the public school children. I am in the midst of writing, checking email, and maintaining websites. In my jammies. My 6 year old is getting in the last few winks of a good night’s sleep before getting up, stretching, saying his prayers, and eating a hot, homemade breakfast of oatmeal and toast, grits and eggs, or pancakes. Then he dresses in play clothes (I get into my work duds), which are decidedly NOT the latest fad. It’s okay. The sheep and chickens don’t care. In winter we have school first. In the hot months, we do our outdoor chores and feed the animals first.

At any rate, we start school with prayer, then the Pledge of Allegiance and sometimes a song. Next is Daily Practice, which may involve learning to tie shoes (last year), observing and predicting the weather, reading the calendar and memorizing a short poem or verse. Now it is time for the 3R’s. Reading and phonics are our most important subjects this year in 1st grade. Our school lesson may only be about 20 minutes, but outside of “class” we are reading books, labels, mom and dad’s email or whatever catches our interest. Right now the bedtime story is working its way through the Harry Potter series, and of course discussing and comparing the books to the movies. Spelling follows reading, with simple words, copywork and puzzles. My son sometimes even participates in our weekly Scrabble games at the library. Math is next. Right now we are working with money and time – a never ending subject. He takes his math lessons into his play life to puzzle out the dilemmas he encounters there.

After math we take a short break (the aftermath). We come back and read a little of the Bible, then study the tenets of our religion. We continue with Social Studies – currently manners and character/behavior goals. This is alternated with days of map reading, and a history or science unit study. Right now we are learning about Daniel Boone. Recent playtime has included a coonskin cap (thanks to the Disney version) and a long rifle (toy). Music and art are pretty much a part of life on our homestead, so actual formal lessons are few. We are learning about coloring techniques and note and music reading. Often we just have a jam session. His hands are still a little too small to really start practicing scales or chords. We don’t really have PE either. With feeding animals, cleaning stalls, gardening, cutting wood and fixing fences we get lots of outdoor exercise. We play baseball, ski and ride bikes a lot.

So with all this schoolwork every day, how do we ever get anything else done? Believe it or not, while his public school contemporaries are getting on the bus at 6:30 a.m. and off at 4:30 p.m., Li’l homesteader is done with his schoolwork before lunch, including his chores and feeding animals too! Our homeschool is not bogged down by constant administrative interruptions, roll call, or disruptive behavior. Recess and lunch hour are after school.

Working the robotic arms at Columbia Space Center, Downey, CA

We go on lots of field trips. My student is learning to take care of his things, cook meals under supervision, manage his money, help in the workshop and at craft shows, and associate with people of all ages and attitudes as we go about our daily activities. He has had to face off bullies and has made good friends. He has been betrayed by friends and made up and forgiven friends. He has been the bully and had to make up and ask forgiveness.

Grading is irrelevant at this stage because he is not being compared to other students or being placed in a “group.” He can work ahead on subjects that come easy and take his time dissecting a more difficult subject until he “gets” it. At 4:30 p.m., when his peers are just getting home to start their homework and chores, we are just finishing up, looking forward to a home cooked dinner and an evening of playing games, reading or watching a good movie – together.

paula smith
7/22/2010 9:33:16 PM

Robyn, Your day with your 6 year old is a lot like my day with my 12 year old. We don't do any skiing here in Mississippi, but we do swim, fish, and most anything else you can do in 97 degree weather with 100% humididty, lol. My daughter is finished by 12 except on music days, when we have to go to piano in town. It sounds like you pretty much have it down to a science! Keep it up and good luck!


robyn dolan
6/10/2010 11:06:10 AM

Shannon, you're off to a GREAT start;) Just check the regulations for your state - www.hslda.org can help with that - and you're set. There's no "right" way to homeschool and you are already at it. Another helpful resource is www.thehomeschoollounge.com, a networking site for homeschool moms, lots of topics.


s.m.r. saia
6/10/2010 6:42:24 AM

I really enjoyed this post. I'm intersted in homeschooling, and spend enough time with my four year old to really get how just being with the kid during the course of daily life provides so much opportunity to work on things as they come up, that might otherwise be called "subjects". I'm thinking of one day when for some reason and I can't even remember why, a question my daughter asked started us off doing some simple multiplication tables by drawing dots on a peice of paper and counting them. Soemtimes we do addition and subtraction problems. She says she wants 10 pieces of paper - she already has 6 - so we do some counting and figure out how many more she needs. It's not math as a subject so much as it is learning to use math efficiently in daily life, and to see that there is a use for it. I read to her all the time, and lately her interests have taken her towards making books, taping up paper, coloring the cover, and writing letters inside, or sometimes asking me to do the writing. Recently we spent all day watching the movie Nim's Island (ever seen that? It's wonderful, and that girl is homeschooled) and that set her off in all kinds of directions. Everything we do prompts questions. Watching The Lion King - Mom, is there such thing as lions? Yes, and we talk about where they live, what they eat and do, things like that. The possibilities for learning are endless. I am very pro-homeschool. Your homeschool sounds great to me!


robyn dolan
3/10/2010 10:27:41 AM

Thanks Susan, that's what we're aiming for;)


susan_7
3/9/2010 11:48:54 AM

Hi Robyn, When I was nine and ten, my family lived in a two-room cabin in the Alaska Range for two winters, so my brother and I took correspondence classes, with my mom as teacher. What a wonderful two years! We'd do our schoolwork in the morning, like you do with your son, and be done by noon. The whole rest of the day was spent doing things like helping our parents with chores, playing outside with our sleddogs, checking traplines, etc. Great way to grow up, working with your family and having time to play. Kudos to you! Alaska Susan


robyn dolan
3/8/2010 8:31:14 AM

Dave and Cindy, Thanks for the encouraging words. We're not perfect here, but I am happy with our progress. I certainly have my babbling idiot moments, but I have those even when we're taking a break from school;)


nebraska dave
3/3/2010 10:55:28 AM

Robyn, you paint a utopian school environment for leaning not only the educational side of life but also the practical. So often I have run into brilliant people that can hardly tie a shoe. There mind is fascinated by learning, testing, books, and education but when it comes to putting that knowledge to practice, they are no more useful than a rock. That’s why I like the Grit community. People here are not only smart but have many talents and practical applications that they share. Your son has the best of both education and things that are not taught in school. The biggest I believe is just the handling of money. More young people have literally drowned themselves in debt before they had a chance to begin life. My youngest daughter now 25 is one of those. I too passed through a time when finances were a real issue. It can be a life passion killer. You are giving your son a real blessing by teaching faith and practical life lessons at such an early age. It will benefit him through out his entire life. Thank you for your kind words on my first blog entry. I can guarantee you that I am not a Grit spy and truly enjoy your blog entries. I’m still going through re-entry to American Culture from my trip. More about that later when I get a chance to wash up some laundry.


cindy murphy
2/27/2010 11:46:07 AM

Hi, Robyn. I envy your patience; as much as I love my daughters and enjoy being around them, there are times that....grrrr....! Let's just say if I had home-schooled the girls, there probably would've been some days that Hubs would have come home from work to find me insanely babbling like an idiot. You go, woman!