|Seminar Scheduling for Home School|
schedule - one that has been much more effective and lower stress for us than the other methods I have tried or seen.
The usual or traditional way of "doing school" for most folks is to make a daily schedule and block off a standard amount of time per subject, doing 4 to 12 subjects per day, with an approximately even amount of time spent on each. You know:
3PM Phys Ed.
About an hour each and you have a schedule. If you're a Charlotte Mason fan, you might do 15-20 minute per subject, and do even more subjects. This is the norm for both traditional school and most conventional home schools. Less conventional home schools might do something like a unit study incorporating several topics, or an unschooling day - again with a variety of topics.
We school year round, and take occasional breaks.
Over time, as we approached breaks, I got in the habit of paring down our schedule to just the tasks that I really felt needed to be completed at that moment . . . "Let's see, we really need to finish this science text before break, and the last so-many pages in English, but our other subjects are to a stopping point. We'll just focus on English and Science from now until break." Then science would finish, and we'd only have English left. Of course, Religion is not a subject that "gets done" so we'd still do Religion every day.
After doing this "pared down" plan two or three times in preparation for a school break, I discovered that those "pared down" times were WAY more productive than our full schedule times. And less frustrating, too. There was no pressure of, "We need to finish Math so we can get Science, English, Foreign Language and Art done before we go out to dinner this evening!" We could simply work at Math, Math, Math then be done for the day. And, if there was a promised break when the Science text was done - well - it was amazing how much science could be covered & how quickly! : )
And I began reflecting:
When students go to university, they don't usually rush from class to class, instead they might spend 3 hours on one class. Likewise, when many folks go to work, they might be required to spend long stretches of time on one project. So, longer stretches on one subject are better preparation for the adult world than are pressurized little capsules of time in a day (although certainly some professions are more that way).
I also thought back to my own years as a student. I attended institutions with a variety of schedules: Semesters, Quarters, and Seminar. In a Semester schedule, one would take a wider variety of classes fewer hours per week each, but the classes would each stretch 16 weeks. I found Semesters rather miserable, they seemed unproductive and the term seemed to last forever.
In a Quarter schedule, there would be more hours per week in a class, very slightly fewer classes, and the class would last about 12 weeks. I found that more tolerable. Not much more effort per week, but the time passed so much more quickly.
But my favorite was the "Seminar" - here you'd go for 1 to 5 weeks and study JUST ONE THING (or maybe 2). All day, every day. You'd really delve into that topic, be able to focus on it, and not be distracted by other stresses. I loved it - it was a great way to get a lot done. And by making a month's progress (as done in the Semester plan) in a day or two, you really felt like you were learning more effectively and efficiently. It made me feel more productive and "smarter" in the subject at hand.
And upon reflecting, I realized that we had stumbled upon seminar scheduling for our home school!
My daughter was able to focus on JUST TWO THINGS for the vast majority of her school day. And, when that was done, SHE was done. And able to do something she enjoyed more. Many of her "hobbies" are still educationally beneficial, so she might still get other work done with the rest of the day - but it wasn't required.
So this is how our Seminar days are looking lately:
Breakfast & Music
Over breakfast we listen to music - usually either Church Music, Bible Memory Songs, or School Songs
Chapel & Read Aloud
We always start the day with Chapel - because that's not a "subject" to get done - it's a way of life. This usually includes my daughter reading aloud the Bible, and a Story of a Saint. Sometimes we include other things, too, like an Icon study, a video, or a story of the Feast of the Day.
Then a brief reading session - usually my daughter reading aloud a non-fiction book that she enjoys, and provides some educational benefit - maybe stories from Science or Apologetics or some such special interest. Sometimes we also watch a youtube video on the topic, if it is particularly intriguing.
Then it's session 1 of the Seminar class. Each day has a set goal of how many pages/hours/percent must be complete to be done for the day.
Lunch & Games
Then lunch and sometimes a few educational computer games, like Multiplication.com or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Fun educational Videos - like Carmen Sandiego, might also be included at lunch or at needed breaks or some favorite music videos like Mr. Betts Class
Then session 2 - a second class for the afternoon session - again, going for a nice stretch of time.
Piano Practice or Lesson
This, of course, is an after-school lesson for children who go to traditional school - for us it finishes our home school day. Read here about the free online program we use.
We don't always follow a seminar schedule, but we find it a lovely alternative scheduling method for times when we have need to focus on one or two subjects, or when we need to finish some things before a planned break.
Using this plan, we have seen productivity skyrocket, and stress reduce. Besides that, we have seen subjects that were previously discouragingly difficult become much easier, as they are done in a nearly immersion-type method. What was before "I'll NEVER figure this out!" is now - "A week ago this seemed SO hard!" So confidence and enjoyment are rising, too.
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