In my heart I am an un-schooler. I would love for everything to be spontaneous, all learning child directed and based on burning interests. In my experience, total spontaneity leads to doing nothing all day. Boredom is good for kids, it gives them a chance to be creative. I'm all about downtime. But I have learned that structure is necessary if you want spontaneous moments to happen. There needs to be an underlying routine and rhythm to it all. In essence you are forging space for learning to happen by establishing a routine.
I've finally learned the power of a routine, versus a schedule. A routine is something you do automatically, flowing without thought from one thing to the next. A schedule feels artificial, is tied to the clock, and is work to maintain. The difference is the time it takes to sit down and figure out where things already naturally occur in the day and fit other things you want to do in with them. Then you need to remember to do them for a week or two and they become habit, something you do without thinking. This is especially important for kids. Other people have written about this far better than I. So I will leave it there.
The kids have chores to finish before breakfast that are age appropriate.
- get dressed
- make bed
- empty dishwasher
- water plants
- wipe down bathroom counters and toilet
- take out trash
During this time I am, hopefully, spending a bit of time praying, and exercising and stretching for half an hour. Then I shower and get dressed, and do my chores.
I almost always have muesli and yogurt made ahead of time and they get their own breakfast. We usually end up eating about the same time anyway.
After breakfast chores.
- clear the table
- load the dishwasher
- brush teeth
- quickly pick up anything laying around.
Once things are cleaned up the Boy reads a chapter of his assigned reading, if he hasn't already, and I read to the girls.
For writing practice I have them copy out another verse in the passage we are memorizing. The act of writing it out helps with memory. I write it for the Girl to copy as well, even though she doesn't really read yet, she loves to draw letters.
We all sing together a few hymns. We learn new hymns as the desire seizes us, or I decide it's a good thematic tie in, and talk about what the words mean. This also tends to function as a small voice lesson as well, because I can't refrain from giving pointers, and so far they enjoy it.
Memory and Recitation
We recite the passage together, adding the new verse of the day and then they each take turns saying it alone. We focus during this time on diction, projection, posture, etc. No laying on the floor yelling it out, I'm trying to teach more than a passage of scripture, just as I'm trying to make the most of writing time by having them copy out something they need to learn.
We say The Lord's Prayer together. We learned it a line at a time last year talking about what it meant. Sometimes I'll throw in another liturgical type of prayer from time to time as well. And then we spend a little bit of time specifically praying, for each other, daddy at work, the kids in Thailand, that sort of thing.
This all takes about an hour. I have staggered it; doing some things one day, and some things the next if it seems we need more time.
Then it's time for "school". We usually do only one subject a day, or two related subjects. I like to let them have enough time to really work on it.
After school time, we put away the books. They get to play games together or have free play. This is when I get a half hour to get things done. Check my email, sweep up the post school mess, write a post, pay a few bills. Whatever is at the top of the list.
I keep it simple. I'll start dinner at lunch if needed; fill a crock pot, defrost something, soak lentils, etc.
After lunch we clear the table, put the dishes in the dishwasher and then it's quiet time.
Those who need it, sleep. Those who don't sit quietly in their rooms and entertain themselves. Reading, toys, etc. It gives us all a break from each other, a good things when we're together all day. And it gives me about an hour to myself. Hooray. Since I read A Mother's Rule of Life I spend 10-15 minutes praying. I wouldn't have even though of it before then. Then I jot a few things in my gratitude journal and the rest of the time is mine. I usually work or make a dent in a project. Little still sleeps more than an hour so I can keep working once the kids wake up. They usually have a bit of tidying to do in their room before they may come out.
I'm done with school for the day by this time. The kids may have more work to do. This is when they finish anything they ran out of time for in the morning. If they are all done their work they can play outside, or play inside, it's free time for the rest of the day. If they aren't finished, they must work until they are before they get free time. This helps motivate them to make the best of their time in the morning.
One or twice a week this time is needed for outings. We like to walk to the farmer's market and Library, and we walk to the stores and post office that are close by.
I try to stay away from watching any kind of TV on weekdays. It's too tempting for us when we're home all the time. Shows are reserved for the weekends and days off. Sometimes, if the weather is bad or they've done everything and played outside a long time already, I'll let them watch Planet Earth while I make dinner. But that's usually it. Their lives divide into two categories, show days, and school days.
This would be the time of day when my kids fulfill their Phys Ed requirement, by playing outside. Well, "technically" they are supposed to receive some sort of structured instruction in this, it's required. I think family walks count. As do after dinner treks to the school across the street to they can run around the track and shimmy up the climbing pole and stuff, and playing catch, and then there is the bit where they always abandon their chores to run and stretch with me in the mornings when I'm exercising. Or the 5 laps around the building when they are restless. We get it in. Just looking at them will prove that.
At some point I try to go over the next days lessons, make sure we have what we need. It's a good idea to look ahead at the whole week at least once, especially if you have any projects that you need to purchase supplies for.
- History-geography naturally falls in here as well.
- Reading and writing (Explode the Code)
Teaching 3 at once
Now, in ETC and math I have to teach two different lessons, one each for the Boy and Girl. So I need filler activities for the Girl to keep her quiet while I teach the Boy. She finishes way faster than he does and wants to do more rather than run off and play. She would love it if I let her do several lessons in one sitting. Once the Boy is set, he can work independently. He is often distracted by teaching his sister how to do her work however. This is otherwise known as shouting out the answer before she has time to figure it out.
I fill in for her with computer games, flashcard assignments, scavenger hunt clean up items, a little Montessori style work cupboard, etc. (I can't wait until she can read to herself it will be so much simpler.)
As for the resident toddler, Mary has some great ideas for how to accomplish anything (at all) with preschoolers in the house. Little however is a social animal, and doesn't care how fun an activity is if she has to do it alone. She squeezes herself right in at the table and yells, "ME DO IT!" I keep old workbooks and give them to her to scribble on. She's happy because they look like the big kids work and works on them a long time. She's starting to enjoy the work cupboard as well if she can do it with the Girl.
Where does school happen?
Usually at our dining table. (We only have one.) There is a child sized table in the bedroom as well and anyone who is too distracted, or distracting, can take their work in there. They generally prefer to be all together though, even when their work is different. Fortunately, we only have two days a week of different work. The rest is all done together.
It may feel daunting to try and get all of this to happen in a day. But it only takes a couple of weeks of dedication before your kids will be dragging you along through the routine you've established. "Mommy," in shocked tones, "We forgot to sing." On holidays, "Why have we not done school all week?" "Today we're supposed to do science not math." We moved to year round school when less than a week into summer they started to say, "I'm bored, can we do school now?"
Also, as smooth as this may or may not look on paper, it never goes just as planned in real life. I've learned to stop expecting it to. Things always come up. As well as school, you are living life together. So relax a little when your plans get derailed. There's always tomorrow to get back on track. Sometimes we all need a change of pace. That's one of the advantages of home schooling. You can take the day off and go to the beach just because. You can also say it's a field trip and learn about stuff while you are there. Or read more when you get home. There's a lot of room for creativity.If you feel overwhelmed, relax. Remember, you have to do what works for your family. Your main goal is the same: to create space and an environment in which learning can take place.
PS. I just found this post on homeschooling by Anne Voskamp that's well, way better than mine. Go be inspired.