I began my homeschooling journey with a very traditional, (and, honestly, pretty boring,) approach.
Now I don't regret that entirely. Okay, the boring part I'm not really proud of, but as a public school grad, the traditional, workbook/textbook approach provided a safe, familiar starting place for a mom like me who had never really intended to homeschool. And it gave me time to do my research and find out what direction I wanted to take from there.
The more I read, the more I LOVED the idea of homeschooling using a mix of curricula and approaches. But while I loved the concept, I had no idea how to implement it! I didn't know how it was possible to homeschool multiple children using multiple methods and curricula and do it all at the same time.
I scoured homeschooling books and websites looking for an instruction book or planner that would lay out a perfect schedule for me and my kids. Of course such a thing doesn't exist, simply because every family is different and every learner is different and no one system is going to work perfectly for every homeschooling mom. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is...well...wrong.
But though no one could offer me a perfect homeschool schedule, I at least managed to stumble across a blog or two where moms had shared rough itineraries of their homeschooling day. I couldn't begin to find those blogs now and I'm pretty sure I don't use any of the curricula those moms used, but their posts gave me some ideas, (and, I think, some courage,) to start mixing things up on my own.
I know how much I wanted, (and NEEDED,) a glimpse into somebody else's homeschool, so let me give you a glimpse into ours. But please keep these things in mind as you read:
- I didn't want this to be the eternal blog post, so I didn't include much information about my specific curriculum choices. We'll save that for next week. so check back if you're curious.
- Not every day looks exactly like this, but if you could somehow draw each individual homeschooling day on a sheet of glass and then stack them together, this is pretty much what it would look like in the end. Call it a "composite picture" of our homeschool
- The times I offer here are very, VERY approximate. In fact, I didn't even want to put a time on anything because it can vary so much, but I know it might be helpful for some. There are days when the first part of our school day takes 20 minutes. The next day it may take over an hour! There are days we finish school as early as 1:30. Other days we aren't finished until after 4:00.
OUR HOMESCHOOL SCHEDULE
(More or less)
6:30 a.m. The alarm goes off and I get up. I would LOVE to be able to get up earlier than this, but until I learn how to go to bed earlier at night, it just ain't happenin'. I strive for at least 6 hours of sleep, but I'm not always good at that either and I'm not a daytime napper. If there's any area where I feel my lifestyle leans in an unhealthy direction, it's probably in my lack of sleep.
But I am not trying to imply a homeschooling mom has to survive on limited sleep! In fact, I think homeschooling provides the opportunity for more sleep for most moms. If I was willing to cut writing out of my life, I could no doubt sleep much more than I do, but I think I'd rather give up eating than do that, and since that wouldn't be very healthy either, I just choose to give up some sleep instead. But I do realize this is an area where I need some improvement.
Anyway, my boys rarely sleep past 7:30, but I usually have time for devotions before they get up and then I'm trying to fold laundry, check news and social media, blog a little or answer emails, and then get a load of dirty clothes in the washer before I start breakfast.
9:00 a.m. We begin school every day over breakfast at the kitchen table, usually somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. Granted, that's a late breakfast for a lot of people, but with my husband's work schedule, we rarely eat supper before 7:00 p.m., so a later breakfast and lunch works very well for us. None of us are usually interested in eating early anyway.
We read the Bible and discuss it and we pray together. I like memorizing passages of scripture rather than individual verses, so we spend some time working on our current passage, (it's Romans 5 at the moment,) and also reviewing those we've already memorized, as well as occasionally going over the books of the Old and New Testaments. On Fridays the kids have what I call "Odyssey Friday", where we listen to an Adventures in Odyssey for our devotion.
Before we leave the table we usually look at a calendar and review the date, the months of the year, and the days of the week for the benefit of my youngest child. This is also where we discuss our "Of the Week" subjects. I vary those to include other things from time to time, but we're currently doing a weekly state, country, and painting/artist. We look over both a U. S. and a world map every day, often reviewing details like the continents or the oceans. You can read how I do "Of the Week" here.
First break: At this point we break for breakfast clean-up and morning chores. (We have evening chores that are a little more extensive than these, which helps out a lot because we can begin our day with a relatively clean house. Notice I said relatively. My house is never, ever perfect.) My oldest daughter empties the dishwasher, #2 sweeps the kitchen floor, #3 dusts a room, and #4 helps me transfer the load of laundry I washed earlier into the dryer.
10:30 a.m. After chores are done and teeth are brushed, we gather back at the table for Read Aloud. This is probably my favorite part of our homeschool day together. My kids may color, crochet, do any of the activities mentioned here, or work on whatever new project I come up with while I read from both a fiction and a nonfiction book, sometimes even throwing in a picture book as well.
Charlotte Mason and do some old-fashioned narration as part of our language arts, starting with my youngest and working our way up to my oldest. And here let me encourage you never to underestimate a small child's ability to narrate even from a book that seems years beyond his level. My youngest struggled to remember details early on, but I've been amazed at the way his memory and his comprehension have improved as we've gone along. I'll read entire chapters and though obviously he can't remember as much as my teen, he always picks up on key points in the story and he recounts enough to me to assure me he is hearing and comprehending what I'm reading.
Second break: We take a few minutes to clean up from whatever activity we've done during Read Aloud. From this point on in our day, the dynamics of our homeschool changes and kiddos move in separate directions more.
11:15 a.m. While I love doing school together as a group, (and the more subjects you can do with all your children combined, the easier,) Polly Wolly is a freshman this year. There are high school credits to consider, so she has far more individual work to do than in the past. I usually scribble her assignments for the day on an index card and she takes her books to her room to start her work.
*And just a note here... I'm planning PW's lessons for the day as I write them out. No major advanced planning for me. I know a lot of homeschooling moms don't feel like they can function without having everything written out 6 months in advance, but that only confuses me and leaves me frustrated if we get off schedule. I totally understand those who feel like they need lots of pre-planning, but I'm not one of them. I guess I just look at it like this: You did that yesterday. You do the next thing today. For me, it isn't complicated, but I realize not everyone thinks that way. I do, by the way, keep very meticulous records in my homeschooling planner of everything we do in the course of every day. (Lest you think I'm careless in my record keeping.)
Regardless, during this time PW usually completes her math, science, and health.
While Polly Wolly gets started, I take Peanut to the quiet of my bedroom so he can do his phonics and reading using an online program. He can work independently on that, (mostly,) while I do some dyslexia therapy with Doodle. If Peanut finishes, he usually plays some of the extra games included in his program or just enjoys a little free time until I call for him again.
After a little one-on-one time with Doodle, Little Man joins us at the table for their math and they immediately do some handwriting practice as soon as that is completed. Two to three times a week we also do spelling. Both of them must also spend time reading aloud to me each and every day. Doodle is usually finished with her written work before her brother, so I can get reading done with her while we're waiting on him to finish his other work.
At this point I call Peanut into the kitchen for his math and handwriting. I have to work very much one-on-one with him on these, but I'm still close at hand if Little Man needs help. Sometimes Doodle now gets some extra practice on her phonics and reading using the same online program Peanut uses.
12:45 p.m. I usually break around this time to fix lunch and we eat around 1:00 or 1:15. Like I said before, I realize that's a late lunch for some, but we eat dinner late anyway, so it works fine for us.
1:45 p.m. While Polly Wolly goes back to work on her language arts, I do science with the younger three combined, usually in the family room. Sometimes I trade off doing science and American history, but lately they've been so interested in their science I've been doing it daily and then doing history a couple of times a week as well. When we've finished that I usually do one-on-one reading with Little Man and then my younger kids are done for the day, usually no later than 3:00 p.m.
PW, meanwhile, finishes her language arts and then does a keyboarding lesson on my laptop. (We called it typing in my day, but I understand that's an outdated term. Some don't consider keyboarding a necessity anymore, but as boring as high school typing was for me, it was probably one of the most useful courses I took in high school. Oh, the time I save by being able to type without staring at the keys!)
I always try to have the younger kids done with school in time for Polly Wolly to do American history so I can join in! I love her history curriculum, which includes a quick daily DVD lecture and a reading and/or writing assignment. History is my favorite, so I find the lectures pretty fascinating and try to watch with her.
3:30 p.m. School is done for the day about this time. (Usually.) I jot down anything I may have left out of my planner, stack papers to be graded and filed, and put away any books, binders, or supplies that have been left out.
Though there are sometimes exceptions, I reserve most grading for Friday afternoons and I separate worksheets and papers into individual folders then as well. I've tried different systems of organizing and filing my kids' work and using pocket folders for each child for each subject has just been the one that seems to work best for me.
The school year is a little bumpy for the first couple of weeks, just while we get in the groove of things and work out all the kinks to find a daily schedule that's doable. Flexibility is key here and letting go of the rigidity we so often associate with education is important so real learning can occur.
Is it a perfect system? No, but trial and error is an amazing teacher. I understand that some people can't bear the thought of delving into homeschooling with anything less than a perfect plan and perfect order and everything clearly laid out for them from the very beginning. Homeschooling with an eclectic approach just doesn't offer that, but I feel like the benefits of it far outweigh any drawbacks.
Our homeschool isn't perfect, but I know the eclectic approach is perfect for us. I love the personal contact I have with my kids, the control I have over what they learn and how they learn it, and the variety in our day that helps keep things from becoming so monotonous.
Now that I have a few years of this system under my belt, I wouldn't want to homeschool any other way.
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