Letting Miss 5 choose when we do school work

I follow a few bloggers from the homeschooling community. One of my favourites being the happiness is here blog, if you want to check it out. I have also watched and read numerous reports from “education experts”, and they have all, at some point, made the same statement. Children want to learn. I thought this to be a true statement. I thought it, until I watched Miss 5 this week. Now I don’t think this is true, I KNOW this is true.
I was fully prepared to give Miss 5 a week or two to recover from our trip overseas, and to ease into the idea of doing school at home. However the day after we flew back into Perth, Miss 5 asked me “when are we going to start school Mummy?”. She was so very eager to get started. And this eagerness hasn’t diminished at all. She not only showed how keen she was to get started, but continued to show how keen she was every day this week. Immediately after breakfast, every day, Miss 5 has been insistent. “Let’s get started, Mummy!”, “what are we doing today, Mummy?”.To see for myself how keen she is, is amazing! And it’s incredibly vindicating too. There have been some comments along the lines of “if you let her decide what to do and when to do it, she’ll do nothing but play all day”. I don’t particularly have a problem with her playing all day, but this proves that, left to her own devices, she wants to learn 🙂
I had roughly worked out in my head that we would do around an hour to an hour and a half of “formal” work – Maths and English, with the worksheets that she loves so much – and the rest of the day would be for her to follow her own interests and ideas……. Wait! Can you hear that?! There are at least 20 people reading this, right now, shouting incredulously “What?! An hour to an hour and a half?! ARE YOU CRAZY??”
No. I’m not. Here’s how I came to that figure; The school bell rings at 9am. 25 x 5-6 year old children collect their bags, make their way to the classroom, line up, decide they’re in the wrong spot, move, see their friend, move back, drop their bag, pick it up. The teacher calls to them to hang their bags up on the pegs, line up nicely, every body stop talking, hands on the shoulder of the person in front of you, walk calmly into the classroom and take your seats. It is 9.15am. 25 x 5-6 year olds enter the classroom, shuffle around trying to find their seat (even if it’s the same seat they were in yesterday and the day before), chat to their friends and sit. It is now 9.20am. The teacher explains to the class what they will be doing today, what they’re going to be learning about, how they will be doing it. Teacher gives them any information that they need before the day starts. 9.30am. Teacher asks if anyone has any questions. 25 x 5-6 year olds find that each one has at least 12 questions desperately needing to be answered! And likely nothing to do with school. 9.45am. The teacher calls an end to question time, tells the students what they will need to take out to begin their first lesson or activity, 25 x 5-6 year olds gather what they need, argue over who got there first, take their seats and get started. It is now 9.55am, and they’ve only just begun their day. And so it goes all day. Recess = 20 minutes, coming back into the classroom after recess = 10 minutes. Lunch = an hour, coming back into the classroom after lunch = 10 minutes. Lining up and holding hands = 30 minutes out of the day. Then there’s the time consuming factors that just can’t be helped because of the size of the class. One simple worksheet, that could take one student 15 minutes, becomes an hour long task simply because there are 25 children who will at some point need help with it. Packing away after each activity, waiting until everybody stops talking before the teacher can give the next lot of instructions. When you take all of these little things out of a 7 hour school day, all of a sudden it doesn’t leave that much time to do actual school work. When you think that there is none of that happening here, an hour to an hour an a half of uninterrupted, one on one work, is more than enough.
However, after explaining how I came to be happy with the thought of doing between one and two hours a day, I need to mention that, Miss 5 approached me and made this comment; “Mummy, I like how our school days are nice and quick, and I love how there is lots of time for me to do my projects, but some days can we have more time doing worksheets and that kind of stuff? I really like that kind of stuff, and I think I want to do more”. Just WOW!!
Today is Saturday, and you can bet your boots that Miss 5 has asked to continue with our work from yesterday, while Daddy and the two littlest girls were napping. This child is incredible, and has made this last week a real pleasure.





One thought on “Letting Miss 5 choose when we do school work”

  1. This blog post ideally describes the value of home education. So many of my home education students express the frustration and sitting in school waiting for the poor teacher to manage the class. All experiences are learning experiences. If you follow up some free or semi guided activities with some “formal work” such making a list of key words from yesdterday’s activity Your 5.5 child will soon realise that all her activities are equally important. Her advantage is that at home she has time for them all.


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