Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control. – Denis Diderot
I got a few questions via email from a pre-homeschooling mom (she’s planning ahead to homeschool her kids and wanted to get a jump start on figuring out a schedule – before her kids are even born). Wow. That’s an organized mom-to-be! I’m not sure I even had a car seat by the time we needed to go home from the hospital with our first one. I think I had to borrow one! That’s the kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mom I am!
Scheduling is a great tool to provide routine and order in your homeschool – even if you are flexible in how you implement a schedule. So in honor of miss “all-together” Laura, I’m sharing a few tidbits (some you might already know if you read here regularly) about how we “structure-ize” our day:
We are rather loose about our day right now (I’m pregnant with a third baby that is 10 and 12 years in age difference to my first set!). I’m recognizing limits that are much more pronounced in pregnancy. I have to rest. Last night after dinner I just crashed in bed while my mother cleaned up the kitchen – never woke up again until this morning!
We usually get up around 7:30 or so. After breakfast and a few quick chores to get ready, we start our day with Bible related subjects (reading the bible, memory verses, prayer journals, devotionals) and then move to the 3 R’s (Math, Penmanship, Grammar, Journals/Writing, Timeline Cards).
We break for lunch and sometimes the kids help cook and do some afternoon chores to keep the house from getting overwhelmingly dirty. We try and keep the laundry flowing or it ends up becoming unmanageable. I use a chore chart system similar to Accountable Kids (that I made myself). I’ll post about that some other day!
Then we do our reading subjects (Science, Library Books on topic with our unit study, Family Read Aloud, Free Reading, History, Geography). These are things we might take in the car with us on outing days, too. Some times those subjects will require more than reading (especially in the case of Science/Geography) and on those days, we might put them up in the 3R’s time-frame or drop some of the other reading that is time-consuming to make room. Other times we might move those activities to a co-op day (Friday) and do them with friends.
Some things that we don’t do every day are our Nature Journals, Art, and PE. We try and fit these in weekly – more than once if possible. The Nature Journals require a bit of planning from mom (I print a page of photographs for the kids to insert in their binder and give them a writing assignment and drawing assignment from the “nature walk” or other natural field trip we took). This takes a lot of time – as much as a messy art project or craft. For PE we sometimes go to the pool, take nature walks, go on field trips that require a lot of walking, ride bikes (lately we can’t because they are not working properly), etc. Daddy just joined a gym that is pretty far from our house, so when the weather changes, we might fit indoor swimming, basketball, or other gym-related sports in to our errand/extra-curricular day out each week.
Some days we leave some subjects out to get to others. I try and keep a list of goals for each subject and lesson plans handy. If I know we’ve skimped on a subject for a few days, we might spend a lot of time on that subject one day and skip others. If we are getting behind in the math book, sometimes I assign odds/evens or skip a few pages that are review to keep up with the book. I know that public school teachers do this, too – so there’s no need to feel guilty!
We try and keep one or two days in the week free from much school work so we can do extra curricular and social things. This also eliminates wasted gas and spending too much time out of the house if you plan all your outings on one or two days. Tuesdays we are gone most all day because we have Choir, Keepers of the Faith (a girls’ club for my daughter to learn skills in keeping a home and how to be a Christian woman), and once a month we have Art that day, too – taught by a retired art teacher who worked for her entire life in public schools. Tuesdays might also afford us the opportunity to add in our gym/PE if we are able to continue to pay for it monthly. As you might expect, leaving the house and attending Choir/Keepers/PE/Art will prevent us from doing much more than reading in the car and possibly getting our chores and Bible subjects done in the morning. If I was a real meanie, I might make them do Math in the car that day, too.
Fridays we have co-op on what we are studying (Unit Studies), and sometimes we do field trips with our local co-op or park days. I try and make sure they get to do their computer related activities on “fun” Fridays, too: such as GeeArt, Creativity Express, BigIQ Kids, Scholastic StudyJams, Typing, and other educational computer games. I was also considering Robotics on Fridays, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to afford it this year. Just looked up the registration and kit fees – and it isn’t cheap! We did Robotics last year.
Another thing we would like to add, but haven’t had the finances for just yet is foreign language. I’m bound and determined to buy Rosetta Stone eventually. I have a friend who speaks Italian and we really want to learn it – since we would have someone to correspond and speak with regularly that can “correct” our grammar/pronunciation easily. After Italian we are interested in Latin, Spanish and Greek. Hopefully this year we can procure one of these programs and begin fitting it in to the schedule.
The school year is very busy. Sometimes you have to adjust your schedule based upon outside activities (choose well!) or other people (co-ops). Sometimes you’ll find that something just doesn’t work (like chores BEFORE school). There are days that go well, others that don’t make it past just a few assignments and are disasters. You just have to roll with the punches and do what you can. There’s no instruction manual that helps make it easier; just advice from elder homeschool moms who have been down that road before… and sometimes advice won’t fit your family. Everyone is unique. Kids are their own people – sometimes they are unable to cooperate like you want (hence the quote at the top of this post). Distractions happen. Sickness happens. Unexpected events happen.
The best advice I ever got was from Jessica Hulcy. It is simple and profound. “Do what you can.” That isn’t an excuse to be lazy. It is a huge mandate for a perfectionist-leaning mother: don’t obsess – just take one step after another in the right direction. Learning isn’t an instant epiphany that dawns on your children overnight. It is a process… like nature. Everything to its season. Just stay in prayer and do what comes natural and feels right – according to your family’s priorities. Slow and steady wins the race.