The Homestead School

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My 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.

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.