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For almost eight months (when we began homeschooling), I have been trying to establish a homeschool routine for my 10-year old son that works to get the most work done, with the least amount of angst and frustration for both of us.  And for the same eight months, I have been struggling with the answer, with mixed results at best.

I can honestly say, however, that I have made a few discoveries that have helped smooth the day a bit, and apply to home educating any child, regardless of their challenges or strengths:

1. Children need to work at their own pace, so long as the work is done correctly and they are learning within a reasonable time frame.  For example, we don’t “unschool” (it doesn’t work for my son, and in fact we use some typically public school resources for learning), but my son is allowed to work at his own pace, so long as it is done correctly and by 3:00 in the afternoon.  I used to want to begin as early as possible.  Unfortunately, if I try to impose my own schedule, the day is fraught with argument and frustration, and it takes twice as long to complete the work.  So, our rule is…whenever he wants.  My son can’t watch TV or play video games until schoolwork is done, but he is not on any particular schedule.  (And any schoolwork not done on any day, carries over to the next day, and must be done before Friday field trip.  That gets him going!)

2. Know your child’s particular daily rhythms.  Some children work best in the morning, some work best in the afternoon.  Some kids need breaks and others work better after some morning play or exercise.  In our case, my son needs some time to get going, a good breakfast and about 1-2 hours for playing before we can start schooling in the morning.  Trying to start earlier is fruitless.

3. Adapt to your child’s particular learning needs.  For example, other kids go to public school 5 days each week — my son schools for 3-4 days, with one day for co-op or STEM learning, and one day for field trips.  Any more, and we are back to the complaining and arguments again and less learning gets accomplished overall.  In addition, he does his schooling in different places in the house: language arts and science work at his desk; social studies reading together, on the couch; and math is always at the kitchen table, so I can watch over what he does and make sure he’s not getting too frustrated.  The change of scenery keeps the day from becoming stale as well.

4. Discover your child’s learning style, and use it to your advantage.  When I first began homeschooling my son, I had no idea how to handle his learning.  Should we read books?  Write?  Watch videos? Do projects?  The answer is “some of the above”, but knowing that my son is a hands-on learner helps me to decide the format of some of what he learns.  In addition, over time I have discovered that he loves to read and discuss his subjects much more than writing out homework or taking tests.  So we read and discuss, then the next day review and move on.  Much like a college class.  There is only one review with questions and answers, at the end of each Chapter (sometimes 3-4 lessons), and they are always open book.

5. Until a child is capable of working alone, doing the work together gets the work done faster and with less angst.  Sometimes my son, who is 10, can work alone, but I need to be in the room to keep him focused.  But most times we sit together, reading or doing math or art, because it helps keep him on task (and not chasing the dog, playing with Legos or eating Cheez-Its).  So we read together, and work together.  Almost all day.

I’m sure there will be new realizations every year, and you will need to adjust your patterns of learning to accommodate as needed and as the child matures.  The key is to find what works right now, but to be adaptable as circumstances change.

After all, to quote Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

To read more of Susan’s posts, visit her blog at blog.susancalistri.com.

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