This year marks the 17th year that our family has homeschooled. There have been as many different schedules and curriculums as there are years to count and I love to look back on our years and see how we have been led to make our home a place where kids can live and learn. Nuturing a love of learning and fostering close relationships has become for me one of the most important goals in our home. From our two high schoolers down to our preschooler, you can be sure that the differing ages, learning styles and talents make our house a most interesting place!
5:30AM: Our days begin at 5:30am, the time I have set to get up before my family for devotions, and planning and preparing for our day. I started this new habit over a year ago by setting my alarm back in 30 minute increments until I got used to getting up at each time. Then I found the hour that gave me enough time to accomplish all that I wanted to before the kids awoke. This simple practice of filling myself with the Word, prayer , coffee and a plan has made a world of difference in the peacefulness and productivity of our days.
I have spoken to a few people recently about getting up early who felt guilty for sleeping in comparitively late. Honestly, if I had a choice, I would rather stay up late (when I tend to be more productive anyway) and sleep in later in the mornings. However, in my life, at this stage, with young kids who go to bed and get up early, it is either this or no quiet time. The point: Find what works for you. No guilt. No comparison to the blogger next door!
7:30AM: I wake whichever kids are still sleeping. Usually (always?) this is my 2 teens. I know that teens need more sleep so we encourage them to go to bed no later than 10:00PM so that their wildly hormonal bodies can do their thing while they sleep. Some mornings I make eggs or baked oatmeal, other days one of the kids will make pancakes or french toast for breakfast. I confess, it has only been recently that I have learned to let go of worrying about the mess caused by juvenile cooks in the morning. Other than this, breakfast is a casual affair with a variety of toast, yogurt, fruit and cereal from which the kids can help themselves.
All of the kids 5 and older have a list of morning chores including everything from kitchen duty, to pet and personal care. They go through their lists while I go over any business needs of my self-employed husband. We aim for a 9:00AM family meeting on the well worn, black leather sectional couch in our living room. I lay out some simple, open-ended toys like Kapla blocks or Wedgits, for the younger kids to play with while the older kids and I read through a morning devotion, go over the plan for the day and pray.
At this point, our 15 and 14-year olds head to thier computers to work on their History, Math, Science and Spanish while I sit at the dining room table with our third and fourth graders. They are both finishing up the Explode the Code series and working through Learning Language Arts Through Literature. If the 2 1/2 and 5-year old are having trouble playing nicely together, I will divide the girls up and have one play with the boys while the other does school with me and then switch. At some point in this mix of playing and schooling, both girls slip away to do their Teaching Textbooks Math on my computer in our home office. These morning hours are necesarily flexible and often the exact order of events changes to accomodate the many needs and moods in the house. My Kindergarten-aged son and I sit together during this morning period and work through his 3 Rs: Math U See, All About Reading, Pocket Phonics on the iPad, and a read aloud or two. I am super excited that his Sunday school class is working through the Genesis story with the Answers in Genesis Curriculum so I have been keeping all of his take home sheets together and going over the verses and little home assignments every morning. He joins us in the afternoons when we listen to History, read some science or draw. His lessons are necessarily short and sweet, just enough to keep him learning without bogging him down.
A few habits that bless:
- Mom works from youngest to oldest.
- Budding readers read aloud to the youngest non-readers.
- Set out some preschool aged ‘school things’ like PlayDoh, magnets or dry-erase pens and work papers while working with the older kids..
- Put all school books needed for the day out on the table and put them away as we finish.
Two afternoons each week, I drive two of our dyslexic kids to their tutor in the next town, leaving the house right after lunch. On days when we are at home, we fit in the extra learning like History, Science and Art with the younger kids. This might include listening to a lesson or two and doing the map pages of our History of the World cds, watching a See the Light art lesson DVD or reading about whatever area of science is intriguing the kids lately. While we were down with the flu, we watched a bunch of the Magic Schoolbus DVDs that are full of science facts and information. After some outside play the yougest kids are ready for the much cherished Quiet Time hour.
During this time, the youngest boys (2 & 5) lay down in their beds and sleep. Our 8 & 9 year olds read or play quietly in their room. This is the time that my two high schoolers have my undivided attention if they need help with any of their school. This is also the time that we work through their science reading to make sure that it is making sense. We also go over their English assignments. We are working on a lot of paper writing this year so we are usually in some stage of writing; either brainstorming, outlining, researching or writing. It amazes me how much can get done in just a little bit each day.
The days that we go to tutoring are my writing days. I bring my laptop and head either to the library or a local coffee shop with WiFi and write my posts for the next week. This is far more efficient than trying to write between interruptions at home. I enjoy the few hours to myself and when I get home, I can be fully focused on the family, not thinking about writing or a blog posting schedule.
Crazy, Busy, Fulfilling Life
No two days are ever the same. Honestly, some days are way too crazy with more needs to be met during the school hours than I can manage. It helps to keep the big picture in mind and let go of expectations that are unreasonable. It is all about striking a balance: purposing to be diligent yet leaving breathing room so that we can still function as a healthy family. Over the years I have struggled with diligence – years where I just lacked the self-discipline to plow through those difficult subjects or those long, frustrating reading lessons with the kid that just didn’t get it. The years with infants and toddlers were also a stretch for me. Then there were years that I was so bent on getting it all done, I made life a misery for me and everyone around me. I guess with age comes wisdom and so these days I am more sensitive to when things are beginning to vear out of control.
How do you structure your days?
And last year’s post:
Curriculum Choices 2012-2013: