Here are your questions with my hopefully helpful answers. I am not the final authority on these matters, but I hope my own experiences will be beneficial to you.
Do you focus on one study at a time? Or are there times when you have multiple studies going on? I am trying to help Parker focus a bit more now that he is getting older. But he has this crazy desire to plan out six projects to work on at one time.
Elijah focuses on one major topic at a time. He often finds one hour or one day projects to do (a game to create, some math fact tables, an invention idea to draw) within his long term study. And the short term projects are completely unrelated to the main study. These break up his day and allow for spontaneity. He might read a book about Pompeii or research the answer to a question about a Venus Flytrap in the midst of a study on outer space.
I would have Parker write down all his grand plans and choose one project to complete. Once it's done, revisit the list and see if he's still interested in any of the others. If he is resistant to only working on one, possibly choose two.
I’d love to know what a typical day of learning looks like in your home. How about even a typical week? How much time is spent at home vs. out?
Elijah's typical day:
Poetry and Bible Memory ~ 10 minutes
Editing Excercise~ 5 minutes
Math Lesson ~ 30 minutes
Copywork or Dictation ~ 10 minutes
Narration (any books he has read) ~ 5 minutes
Read Aloud with mom & Simon ~ 60 minutes
That's 60 min of foundation education plus 60 minutes of reading aloud.
He has to fill an additional two-three hours with good stuff (research, reading, project making, math enrichment, etc.) ~ all his choice.
Monday is co-op and park day, so we are out of the house. We try to sneak in read aloud time on Mondays, if we can.
Tuesday – Friday we follow the pattern above. I've been without a car this year, so field trips have been reserved for Saturdays.
How do you encourage project completion? My son is great at starting things. Not so much at finishing. I’d love to help him complete projects without things feeling forced just to get it done.
When I notice interest waning, we sit down and chat. We determine, together, what the end of the project will look like. I may even offer my assistance, but I don't push my way in. In the real world people hire workers to help see their vision to completion. A child can ask you to do the same–just make sure you are doing it their way and not your way.
You can also encourage your child to make some changes in the original plan in order to make finishing possible and painless. For extra motivation, you can offer a presentation night (where the student will show and tell his project to the entire family).
For what subjects do you use actual curriculum? And are there any subjects where you plan the study totally yourself? For instance, do you have a history curriculum that you use, or do you wait for your kiddos to become interested in something historical?
I am also very curious to see what curriculum you use for a base – i.e. math.
I'm always hesitant to rattle off our curriculum choices because there isn't anything magical about them, but I'd hate to stifle your curiosity, so I'll answer. And if you like to research curriculum (like I do), you might want to check them out.
We use RightStart for math. We've used it from the beginning. We've coupled RS with other math resources (Life of Fred, Challenging Word Problems, fun books from Scholastic), but RS has been our main course for math.
Language arts choices have included: Handwriting Without Tears, Draw Write Now, Primary Language Lessons, Daily Paragraph Editing (2, 3, and 4), and Spelling Wisdom (for copywork and dictation). I have not done formal grammar or writing instruction with my students.
I do use curriculum/pre-planned studies based on my children's delights: various unit studies from Homeschool Share, NaturExplorers Studies, Download N Go, and Elijah is gearing up to use the wonderful living books found in one of Heritage History's programs as he embarks on his Ancient Greece quest.
I’m wondering how you’ve seen this work in larger families?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive, and it's difficult for me to answer. I've never seen it in action in a large family.
Personally, I would train the most eager learner of the bunch — how to track topics of interest, how to research, how to fill large chunks of time with profitable activities. Once that child is going strong, I would see if anyone else wanted to follow suit.
If I had a lot of littles (multiple children under the age of 7), I would simply ask the children what they want to study and rotate through the ideas, giving each one a chance to have their delight.
During your large chunk of time that you give to the child to learn do you have any parameters on what they can or cannot spend their time doing?
Yes. They each have to do the foundation education work first.
The younger they are, the less I require as I try to let them just enjoy the gift of childhood! Simon can do his core work and then fill his time with something (anything) constructive. He likes to listen to books on tape, help me cook, and play LEGO. He also loves to be outside and makes great observations out there. When he plays out, he is cultivating his curiosity.
Elijah loves lists, so I made one for him to remind him of all the wonderful things he can be doing during his independent time. He does not have to stick to the list, but it gives him a guide when he is having an "I don't know what to do" moment.
I don't think I ever qualified this in the entire series (shame on me!), but my kids aren't always working on big studies. There are days when Elijah does his foundation education work and then finds smaller projects to keep his hands and mind occupied.
Do you have to submit a yearly plan to your school district? How does this affect your schedule for the year?
I do not have to submit a yearly plan. I'm not sure how I would handle that. I don't know what is acceptable for your submission, but if permissible, I would write-up something listing all the core work we would do. I would also list all the required readers and read alouds and use the topics in our read aloud books as science and history study topics. And then I might add something that says, "We will be following the interests of the students throughout the school year. Topics studied may include dragons, dinosaurs, volcanoes, Ancient Egypt, pirates, spiders, frogs, etc."
So my question would be, how do you structure your days/weeks/years to cover the bases, or do you?
The only bases I believe need covered are reading, communication skills (writing, speaking), and math. I do cover those bases, and I leave the rest to my kids (who are doing an unbelievably wonderful job).
If you made a list of your top 10-20 dd resources to have on hand what would they be? (REALLY would love to know this!)
Oh wow! I will have to come back to this question. Hopefully, I can write a blog post (next Thursday or Friday) detailing my favorite resources to have on hand. Did you get the fan freebie hand-out on my Facebook page? There are lots of ideas there, but I will still work on a list for you.
How do you steer your kids toward these things without it seeming like you’re pushing?
I turn off the TV. I know this won't make me Miss Popular, but when we limit media consumption, our kids find amazing things to do. My kids aren't bereft of video games or movies (trust me, they get plenty), but our society is raising an entire generation of kids who sleep, eat, and breathe media. Why would they want to engage their brains when they can have them on auto-pilot all the time?
My real secret weapon is read alouds. We can learn about Columbus with Pedro's Journal. We can venture into the French and Indian War with The Matchlock Gun. If I want sparks of interest to fly for the middle ages, I'll pick up A Door in the Wall. And read.
I'm still up for questions, so let me know if you have any. I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I'm willing to share from our own experiences. Thanks for following along with Ten Days of Cultivating Curiosity!
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