A few of you have asked how our afterschooling was going. Specifically, some of you were wondering how crazy I’d be to expect my kiddo to get excited about doing more school after a full day in the classroom. I don’t blame you.
If you’re wondering, afterschooling is just what it sounds like: school, after school. Basically, it’s a good compromise for families who don’t feel led to do straight-up homeschooling, but still want to do a bit of stuff after your kids are back home. I jokingly call it “Homeschool Lite.”
The short answer as to how it’s going: yes, it’s taken a bit to get our groove back into this, and yes, during the first week of school I thought this was a crazy idea. But now that we’re finding our fall routine, it’s going well, for two main reasons.
1. I’ve flexed on my idea of what afterschooling “should” look like.
Here’s what I mean when I say we afterschool: we casually learn and talk together about stuff, we read more in depth as we’re interested, and we keep it fun. My kids probably don’t know that we’re doing any sort of school at all. You probably do something similar without calling it anything official.
My daughter is tired after a full day of school; the last thing she wants to do is sit at the table and do worksheets or math drills. So we keep it simple, short, and laid-back with these main tools:
Story of the World
Several times a week, we listen to one story from Story of the World. We have the CDs in the car and as we’re driving around, and we repeat the same two minute (or so) story. Then we talk about it. As interest arises, we pick up a book on the topic during our weekly library visit.
This isn’t work for us, it’s fun. We love history, and I adore SOTW’s approach to telling accurate history in a storytelling format. We’ve had all sorts of fascinating conversations about Cleopatra, the Roman Empire, and the Maori people in New Zealand.
First Language Lessons
Even though I love Tate’s school, I do miss the classical method with which we approached our homeschooling. So to make sure she’s getting a good foundation in English grammar, we subtly, casually work through First Language Lessons in conversation.
This text is more for me than anything; it gives me a checklist of sorts to remind me what to review with her. So as we go about our day, I’ll ask her: “Please tell me all the pronouns,” and she’ll rattle off “I, she, my, mine, you, your, yours…” and so on. This takes around five to ten minutes daily.
Math is Tate’s weaker subject (as is mine), so DreamBox has worked really well for us. It feels like playing computer games because it is computer games. Through magical algorithms and probably unicorns (I’m telling you, I’m not mathy), this program adjusts as your child progresses.
It provides games based on the math skills your child needs, and parents have a dashboard where they can see progress. It’s pretty great. Reed (our 4-year-old) loves it, too.
Read, read, and read some more
We keep our books our front and center in the living room, and we go to the library often. Reading is a normal part of our everyday life around here. Nothing fancy or complicated, this afterschooling, is it?
Note: One reason we’re able to afterschool is because Tate’s teacher has a low-homework policy (one of the main reasons we felt led to this school!). As a second grader, she has a max of 15 minutes of homework each night, it’s always related to something she learned that day in class (so it’s review, not new material), it’s never busy work, and there’s never homework over the weekend. And then she also keeps a reading log, where she has to read at least 15 minutes a night (which we easily do twice that amount regardless). Pretty great.
2. I keep it organized.
I think this works for us because it doesn’t feel schooly to the kids, and one of the reasons it doesn’t is because I do my darndest to stay organized on my end. I keep all the books and paperwork I need in one place, and when I need to check on our progress, I know just where to go (it’s all at my desk).
The kind people at Martha Stewart sent me samples of her new line of office supplies, and they’ve worked great so far. I keep both our afterschooling and my kids’ school papers in one place, and what can I say?, because it’s pretty, I just keep it all out.
(Also? It must be said: I don’t normally keep four copies of my book at arm’s reach. They’re being mailed out to a few people, and I just now found them in our garage. Promise. The irony doesn’t escape me.)
My favorite bit is the vertical files, making it easy to store our stuff in a simple magazine holder on my desk. My kids’ school sends stuff via a folder in their backpacks, so when they get home, my kids put their folder in this holder. I know to look at stuff, sign what’s necessary, and put it back in the folder to return to school. The kids then grab their folders each night as they collect their backpacks.
I’m not sure if we’ll always afterschool, of course, but so far, this system is going well. It’s so much easier to keep it low-key yet intentional when I’m organized with our stuff. I’ll be honest—I feel like we’re enjoying the best of both worlds.
Our family’s educational philosophy and approach is year-at-a-time, kid-at-a-time. I don’t doubt that we’ll homeschool again down the road, so by afterschooling, I feel like we’ve kept a toe in both arenas.
Have you ever tried afterschooling? What’s worked for you? And even if you don’t, how do you keep your school stuff organized?