Online Learning

Online learning can be a boon for some, but for others it can be the exact opposite of what they need. I’ve seen some children thrive in an online learning environment, and still others in the same family begging for books instead of the computer screen. Online learning is definitely something every family should explore, but very often it can’t be the ultimate choice. The child’s individual learning style has to be taken into account, as well as other factors.

When my daughter started her homeschooling journey, I had a boxed book-based curriculum. I very quickly found this to be too restricting and too boring for her. Being as it was only 1st grade, that didn’t matter all too much, but I knew that the following year I’d want to find something different. More often than not I found myself skipping some things and adding others, to adjust to the way my daughter liked to learn. I didn’t know then, but I was applying the fundamentals of why I wanted to homeschool to begin with.

The next year, we discovered Time4Learning, and it seemed the perfect fit for us. My daughter enjoyed the animation, and she seemed to progress much faster than when she sat down with the books. I loved seeing her progress in her studies, and I felt as though we’d made a huge step in our development as homeschoolers.

However, after about 6 months my daughter came to me and told me she missed the books and the papers she used to work on. She expressed that she didn’t just want to stare at a computer screen all day, and that she was getting bored. I was perplexed, because she was progressing well and her grades were great. However, I knew she was serious.

We spent the next few years trying a few different things out, although I always kept a Time4Learning account open; we just didn’t do it every single day. Now, my daughter is in 5th grade, and we’ve comfortably settled into – what I think – is the model that works for her and for our family.

She still does the bulk of her schoolwork online. As she progresses up in to the higher grades I feel like this is helping her to learn more and retain more. But, while doing her work online, she also takes notes and works out problems on paper. This gives her the best of both worlds, both online and book. We also have days where we take field trips, or find some outdoor educational opportunity.

She never says she’s bored anymore.

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Motivation

Motivation. At one point or another we’ve all been lacking in it, and it makes any day that much tougher. Some mornings I get up and just know that it’s going to be one of those days. On those mornings I’d like to call a “teacher conference day,” or perhaps call in my substitute, but … I can’t. I’m it, and I have to drum up some motivation and get going.

I think lack of motivation is a two-fold thing. Some days are just THOSE days, and no matter what you’ll barely be able to get out of your own way. On days like those we take the path of least resistance; we try to do the kids’ favorite subjects in as lighthearted a way as possible (while still learning). Time4Learning is also wonderful for those days, because they can work at their own pace and I can check on their work after.

I’ll be honest, sometimes on those days I DO call a “teacher conference day,” or perhaps it’s a “snow day.” There is nothing to be gained from banging your head against a wall if everything seems to be going wrong and you just can’t get going. I’ve found, personally, that by taking a day off the rest of the week flows so much better that we more than make up the time. Besides, we don’t always take the real snow days off anyhow, so it all comes out in the wash.

Other times, I think motivation wanes because it’s almost time for a vacation. There is only so long you can go, and go, and go before you have to take a break. This applies to adults as well as children. Once you learn to recognize the signs of burnout it becomes easier and easier to let go and take breaks as needed.

As I’ve written in the past, we generally follow the public school schedule for vacations, simply because the kids have friends in the neighborhood that they enjoy playing with on their breaks. But homeschooling allows us the freedom to take breaks when we need them, and still finish early because we get so much more accomplished in a typical school day.

We also take our own mini-vacations as needed. It may be needed by the kids, or perhaps I need a few days off to recover my equilibrium and replenish my reserves of patience, but whatever is needed we try to attend to it. If we don’t we end up paying for it in less work getting accomplished. I’ve found that by paying attention to the needs of each individual one of us – including me – we are a happier, healthier, more productive homeschooling family.

The ability to serve the needs of your family as a whole when you’re lacking motivation is yet another reason why I love homeschooling so much. I can tailor our program to accommodate everyone and in the end we’ll all be happier … which is really the point, isn’t it?

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