Monday, January 31, 2011

When Does Homeschool Start in the Morning?

One of my pet annoyances has to do with church. The church I attend now, as well as the last one I attended in MI before we moved to SC, had Sunday School hour at 10:00, followed by the Morning Worship at 11:00. My wife and children and I were (and are) generally early. Nevertheless, there would always be some who, despite being able the next day to get everyone to school/work/wherever by 8:00 a.m., could not seem to consistently arrive on time to Sunday School from week to week at 10:00.

Worse yet, some skipped Sunday School and still couldn't get to the 11:00 service on time.

I interpret this, in part, to the fact that such people do not deem Sunday School or church to be very important. We live in a culture where virtually all educated Americans understand that punctuality is a positive good. To be late habitually implies either a consistent lack of planning—an issue of concern in its own right—or a treatment of the event as not worthy of importance.

That, however, is not the focus of this post. My last post discussed the fact that "homeschooling in one's pajamas" is not a good thing. This is the sequel, with the following thesis: Homeschooling needs to follow a schedule, and it needs to start at a regular time.

When my wife and I (mostly my wife, of course) began homeschooling two of our children a few years ago, we decided that "school" would start at a regular time each morning, generally right after breakfast and the sending off of the other two children to their school. Essentially, this meant that homeschool started in the vicinity of 7:45 a.m. Because of my wife's efficiency, combined with two above-average little intellects sitting in front of her, her teaching was generally done by 11:00, and the kids had usually completed their work for the day before lunchtime. The advantages were obvious: The afternoon was free for planning, errands, and picking up the other two from their school at about 3:15.

In Year 1, this worked very well for us. In Year 2, I volunteered to assist my wife by teaching our eldest, then in seventh grade, her math and science lessons before I left for 7:45 or so (I also dropped off the younger two at school on my way). This meant she and I were in our little classroom, with breakfast already eaten, by 7:00.

Such a plan certainly isn't for everyone. Nor does it need to be. But it did teach everybody another lesson: The self-discipline to get one's self out of bed, into one's clothes, and breakfasted by a given time in the morning. This is a great lesson to learn!

Furthermore, before the first day of homeschooling each year, we drew up a calendar for the school year, delineating the first and last days of the year, and generally (but not always) observing the same holidays our other kids' school had. This gave some evidence that we had school on a set number of days—even though no such requirement existed in Michigan.

Many homeschoolers, in addition to bragging that they can "homeschool in their pajamas" (see my earlier post), also brag that they get started whenever they get out of bed in the morning—which might not be until 9:30 or 10:00. Some also brag that they begin and end the school year whenever the kids are "done with their lessons," not seeming to realize that this sounds highly ambiguous (or even suspect, to the cynical) to most other people. First, let's consider some reasons to begin the homeschool day at a set time every morning:

1. It teaches self-discipline. When your child gets a job, he'll be expected to consistently show up on time—or he will be relieved of said job. Teaching the child to "get up and at 'em" when young is invaluable to their character development.

2. It sends a message: This is important! Nobody cares when you show up at Wal-Mart. But walk into a wedding 23 minutes late, and you might be ashamed as you sit on the back row. [Or in church, it's reversed: Show up 23 minutes late, and you'll be ashamed as you sit at the front!] When the parent doesn't set the example of getting started, on time, every day, he or she is essentially telling the student that the "event" of homeschooling is not that important.

3. It supports a good reputation for the homeschool community. The average hard-working, law-abiding citizen of this country looks askance at homeschoolers who get their day started whenever it gets started. They perceive such adults (and children) as having a lack of self-discipline, and certainly far less than their own family, who are all at school/work/wherever consistently by a certain time each morning. By extension, they will perceive the homeschooling of that home to be, as I said in the last post, "the shoddy work of amateurs."

The same principle extends to the school year. A lot of us do the math in our heads when we are told that "We started, oh, around September 15 and the kids all finished their lessons by the middle of April," and realize that there seems to be a lot fewer days of school than "normal kids" have. Some of us are open-minded enough to realize that, yes, perhaps an entire year's worth of education was done in that interval (though we reserve skepticism), but many are going to look at such an endeavor as inadequate, below average, or worse. Is that really what the homeschool community wants?

My advice is twofold. First, plan to begin each homeschool day at a set time. Make sure your kids are out of bed, dressed, and fed before that time. Tell your friends not to call you between that time and whatever time you anticipate finishing a normal day of schooling. Let your children know that this time is fixed, and barring an unusual circumstance, will be the starting time each day. Furthermore, I suggest a start time before 9:00 and preferably closer to 8:00, although this must be chosen in light of your family's specific needs.

Second, set the school year in advance. Some will have no choice in the matter if, for example, they have some sort of cyber-school arrangement and have to follow its schedule, or if local regulations dictate this. Have a "first day" of the year. Plan a "last day"—contingent on the children finishing their courses of study. If the children finish ahead of that date, continue to educate them! Furthermore, unless an emergency occurs, don't take "days off" from the calendar. Plan ahead so that you can have school each day it is scheduled.

Don't revel in (what appears to many) your lack of self-discipline. Impress us with your dedication and consistency.


Bethany Henry said...

Amen! When I was a homeschool student, my sister and I were expected to get up, be dressed, and have our beds made before family breakfast at 7:30. After the dishes were done, school started--and we HAD to work until 12:00. If we finished earlier, mom gave us more work. But, guess what? We learned so much that college was pretty much a breeze. After all, we suddenly had professors there to add to what the books had to say :-) I say, preach it, brother!

Theodosia said...

I have to disagree with you. Not only did we unschool in our pajamas, we never had a set time. And yet, my children are productive, happy adults who can get to work on time. I gave them time to be kids and explore the world on their schedule. I think that is more valuable than being dressed and sitting behind a desk by 8 am every day. And for the record, it is 10:50 am and I am still in my pajamas.

Adriane said...

I appreciate your perspective but will have to say that rigid schedules don't work for everyone and part of the beauty of home education is that it can be tailored to the individual student/family's needs. I do agree that it is necessary to teach our children in a manner that shows them how important their education truly is, but I don't believe we have to be fully "dressed" in order to do so nor do we have to start at 8:00 or whatever time others deem best.
Being diligent, creative, excited, dedicated, and teaching them in the ways that they learn best will convey the importance of what we are teaching them.

Assistant said...

I've read both of your posts and I have to say being too consumed with how others think is not good. That's what's wrong with a lot of people these days. Many feel such low self esteem from all the pressure to measure up to what someone else thinks. What you've shared is very well thought out and may work well for your family. Everyone's situation is not ideal so each one must do what works best for them and their family. When needed we have to be flexible and not put pressure on anyone when it could have such negative impact. The beauty of having the freedom to choose to homeschool is having the FREEDOM in the first place. I can understand you wanting to encourage/motivate people but it sounds like some grace is needed here. Others reading this may think you come off as being judgmental due to fears of what outsiders say. Not everyone cares about that. Besides you don't know what God has spoken into the heart of each individual.

Unknown said...

Oh my type A friend, please take the time to measure your heart and how you judge others. What is wise in your eyes is not the measure for others. I don't recall God calling us to get up early, have a schedule, and dress well. He commanded us to love Him and others for His glory. Instead of judging and bemoaning the families that are late to church, maybe you should think of ways you can help and love them. Maybe that morning is their only Shabbat, their only day of rest to have a leisurely breakfast with their family. Or perhaps life does have them so overwhelmed their doing laundry that morning to look presentable for people like you. I've been in many places in my life: growing up homeschooled with a punctual family to marrying the son of an artist who was very go with the flow. Merging our families has taught me grace in abundance. We also, with our lack of set schedule and go with the flow attitude always have time to help and love others. I can not think of any time, despite times of near poverty, when we've ever turned friends away for a meal or place to stay. And as for school, yes, we took the month of December off to spend time with family, friends, etc. That doesn't mean learning stopped however. And we don't stop school in the summer....on what planet except institutional education do you get to take summers off? Your arguments for getting up early and dressing well would be well put to having your kids school year round also. I personally don't care about your opinion as my parents raised me to be confident in what God has called me to, but I would urge you to pray about what you post because you are discouraging many of your brothers and sisters who, with small children, illnesses, pregnancies, family crisis, etc. will take your words to heart and beat themselves up about what they aren't able to do. Some may even resort to putting their kids back into the hands of the public education system. Instead, perhaps you should right it as, "These are the benefits to homeschooling dressed well and on time". It would be much less condemning and much more persuasive.

Anonymous said...

Wow! some of you bashers need to go back and read that again. You seem to be taking this as a personal attack against yourselves. If you read the article again it says "thesis: Homeschooling needs to follow a schedule, and it needs to start at a regular time." He then says what works best for his family. Not that your family must follow his family's schedule.

It is true, that some children don't need as much structure as others do. But also notice that he's also addressing the issue of how homeschooling families sometimes come across to the community they're in. Should we base all decisions on what others think? Certainly not, but when there are people trying to get your rights to homeschool revoked (and they are out there believe me) then it is important to give a good impression. If you can do this without sacrificing goals and morals and it's as simple as a schedule and getting dressed into something other than pajamas. You should try it.

Basically what I'm saying is just read it again. Even if you still don't agree, don't take it as a personal attack.

Peter Matesevac said...

Really folks? Perhaps someday, the next generation of bosses will find it OK when their employees show up with bed hair and pajamas at 11am for work.

Whitney said...

your last sentence sums up my personal difficulties with homeschooling. thank you.

LoneWolfArcher said...

VERY VERY VERY WELL SAID! My wife starts at 9am with my daughter. Recently she instituted a new policy:

If my daughter is not ready (hair brushed, teeth brushed, out of PJs, and at the table with all supplies) for school to start at 9am, then how every late she is she has to go to bed that much earlier the night before.

15 minutes late for home school? She goes to bed 15 minutes early that night.

My daughter is hardly ever late for home school since that policy was instituted.

Unknown said...

A good friend at Church stated, "it is easier to institute a rule when it is part of your routine." In other words a schedule does not need to be strict and ridged. It does not need to cross the vibes of the "freedoms" of being homeschooled,when it is already part of your routine. It is already part of you. I see the importance of getting up in the morning at a regular time, because I find that I have to drag them out of bed. Especially on a school day. It takes them forever to get started and they seem to look for ways to procrastinate as much as possible before they start school. I was looking for solutions and I believe having a regular schedule, preferably getting up early to get something done before you have to stop again to get lunch. The summer time is a good time to work on developing routines and then when school starts its all in place.