ScheduleA day. A quarter. A year.
Here at LOCAL STEW U, we operate the full year. We do this for several reasons. First, the students are engaged in their work and the process of being curious and learning. After being so wondrously occupied, they usually find the long summer break tedious and boring. Then, there’s the growing season, the projects and experiments. Much of what they are doing is at its full peak of productivity in the warm summer months. They won’t have many opportunities for data collection and refining processes if they leave their experiments just after getting them started.
To that end, our school year begins the first weekday of each October and our marking periods are on the quarter—March, June, September, December. At the end of each, the students get two weeks off. During each quarter, the student has additional floating days to be used for sick days, family trips, or whatever the family needs are. This schedule is much more flexible for the family while keeping the student engaged, active and learning.
Quarters are used to focus on farm and team projects, reading lists and various assignments. Each quarter, the students will be given a particular problem to solve, a real-world learning exercise with real deadlines, which they will work on in teams. These projects will be tied to the seasons. For example, considering the feasibility of bringing a new product to market, such as farm-raised fish would occur in the winter. The students will research types of fish, growing conditions and costs as well as market interest, potential customers, where & how to sell it, and all the costs associated with bringing the item to market. They will fully develop and flesh out the business, as well as, marketing plans for their potential product. Then, if they determine it is feasible, they will implement the plan as a farm project in a later quarter. Implementation will include financing the plan and implementing each aspect of it from the growing, monitoring, and managing, to marketing, selling and assessing results.
We begin each day at 9:30 AM with morning farm chores followed on by 30 minutes of exercise. The property has a perimeter loop which the students will walk/jog each morning, checking fences and the animals in the fields as they go. At 10:15, we have a morning meeting. This is announcement time and review of our daily task/goals list for the day. This is both individual based on the student as well as goals for group projects and farm projects. As we move through the day, students will check things off their list and make notations of items that need to be added.
After the morning meeting, students will have an hour for academic time. This is their time to work on math, reading and language arts as they wish. One on one tutoring is offered as needed. The second hour is spent on group projects. Students break for lunch for an hour. Lunch can be spent where/at the student’s discretion. It can be an extension of the learning time and can be taken individually or in groups. It can be reading time in the library, sitting on the dock with your feet in the water, kayaking the lake, or a nap in the hammock outside.
The afternoon session entails the farm work – outside. Students will be team up and work on various projects across the farm. At the end of this time, students will clean up the work areas, put tools back and take a few minutes to cool off/unwind. Students will rotate through various farm activities including welding shop, mechanics class and carpentry. The last full hour of academic time is time for electives. The day ends with a quick clean up of the inside school areas, a short end of day meeting to discuss the accomplishments of the day and air any items that need to be addressed. The last 15 minutes are spent journaling about the day. On Wednesdays we will break up the monotony of farm work and spend the normal farm time playing games.
Off Farm Adventures
Once per month, the students will be taken on an off-farm excursion. These overnight trips will usually occur during the week and may be one to two nights, depending on the particular adventure. Some trips will be learning tours. for example, we may do a series of farm tours to see other farmer’s solutions and approaches. Some trips will be bonding adventures. There are many activities we will try as a group including white water kayaking, caving, rock climbing, backpacking and more. Our accommodations for these adventures will be tent camping.
Sample Schedule for an individual student
At LoSU, we don’t use an hourly schedule. We allow the students large blocks of time for projects and development and move gracefully between activities. What follows is a typical day in the school.
9:30 – Student arrives, places her belongings on her shelf, and checks her chore list. She sees she’s on chickens today, so she heads out to feed and collect any eggs.
9:45-10:05 – She joins some friends and jogs the permitter loop. Then she meets others on the deck to cool down and joins all the students in the meeting area.
10:15 – Student listens to announcements for the day, reviews task list and asks instructor about a particular item that she needs clarity on.
10:30 – Student spends 20 minutes on Kahn Academy, wraps up a new math skill then grabs a quick snack and heads to the library computer for 30 minutes of French language studies.
11:30 – Student grabs her laptop and joins her group in their chosen area. They log into their Google collaboration center and begin a discussion about the potential markets for farm-raised tilapia. She and the others in her group use their collaboration tools and a digital white board to work through their discussion topics and concerns. The group reaches a decision and makes notations.
12:30 – She retrieves her lunch and decides that she’ll reward herself with some quiet reading time in the hammock by the pond.
1:30 – The student reviews her work list for the afternoon. She will be working with 3 other students to reorganize the milking parlor to accommodate the new requirement for milking the jersey cow who is now ready for production.
2:45 – The student and her group accomplish their task with time to spare. She helps them clean up the work area and return the tools and notices another group that could use some extra hands. She and another of the students jump in to help.
3:15 – The student helps the others wrap up and heads to the outdoor shower with a change of clothes to freshen up a bit.
3:30 – The student rejoins the others in the learning center. She has chosen photography as one of her electives. She reviews the requirements for her assignment, grabs her camera and heads outside to work on it.
4:30 – The student meets back in the learning center. She picks a room to help clean, vacuums the floor, puts away the vacuum and heads to the main area for the end of day meeting. She noticed there was a possible problem with the milking machine hose and mentions that. The meeting is short. She takes out her journal and writes about her day, then heads out to meet her Dad in the pickup area.