Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Day in Our Homeschool

While obsessively watching the list of school closings during our recent Snowmageddon, I saw there was a daycare or preschool or some such young child corral called the Love Bug Learning Center.

I wish I had thought of it first.  It would be the perfect name for our home school.  I'm kind of tempted to co-opt it anyway, and to print up a sign and post it above our kitchen table (where much of our learning time is spent).

When The Boy Wonder was four-and-a-half years old, we began to think of ourselves as a homeschooling family.  We had long known that we would not be sending him to Pre-K, though a big emphasis is placed on the pre-kindergarten year in Georgia, where the lottery has been used to fund a public Pre-K program that now means most children enter full-day schooling at age four, and so I chose that year as a beginning point for our homeschool journey.

I started small, very small really, and used that first year to carve out an hour or two every day in which we sat together and did crafts, sang songs, and read poems and folk tales together during Princess Hazelnut's nap.  It was a precious time, just for the two of us, and though I stuck pretty closely to the Sonlight P4/5 book list and referred to this as "Learning Time," it was very easy-going and snuggle-filled.  We also joined a local homeschooling co-op that year, and met some other families and gingerly felt our way along.

For kindergarten, we used much of the Sonlight kindergarten curriculum, and expanded our Learning Time to two-to-three hours per day.  Things got a big dicier that year, as I at first tried to force some of the materials even when they stressed out The Boy Wonder, but we found an easier rhythm as I gained confidence and learned to take cues from my son.  We added a weekly homeschool P.E. class to our schedule, along with a weekly homeschool academy that offers drama, art, music and history; took advantage of classes for home schoolers at the Nature Center and the Botanical Gardens, and joined with other local groups on various field trips.

This year is First Grade for The Boy Wonder, and though there are still days when I threaten to enroll him in public school (because sometimes I think we have all lost our mind, and if we haven't yet, homeschooling will surely cause us to do so), we have finally settled into what seems to be a comfortable and lovely pattern to our days:

8am Both of my children tend to sleep until 7:30 or 8:00, and it takes us a little while to pull ourselves together, so we start our day with a cartoon while we all snuggle on the sofa and I get some time to sip coffee, check the calendar and my to-do list, and generally get all of my neurons firing.

9am The kids and I gather at the table for a hot breakfast and spend some time chatting about nonsense and about the day to come.  We do not rush.  My children will not be rushed.  It can be maddening, but I am letting them teach me the value of intentional living.

10am - noon We do the bulk of our Learning Time during these morning hours, while Princess Hazelnut (our resident temperamental three-year-old) either sits at the table drawing & coloring, causing general chaos, or participating as she sees fit.  I start by reading a Bible story from one of our children's Bible storybooks or a devotion from Adventures in Odyssey, and then we spend a few minutes on a memory verse and reciting our phone number and address.  We follow this with Science (Sonlight) and then with a few minutes of math (usually a worksheet from or from Comprehensive Curriculum).  Then we spend about an hour on Spelling, Reading and Handwriting, using a mixture of Sonlight, Comprehensive Curriculum, and good old-fashioned creative expression.  Reading is really clicking now with The Boy Wonder after more than a few fitful starts and tearful meltdowns (from both mom & child), and I feel we are finally getting to have fun with Language Arts.

Noon We push the Learning Materials out of the way and eat a long, leisurely lunch.  Sometimes we talk more about something we learned during the morning, or some new topic that The Boy Wonder wants to learn more about, or we plan out our afternoon.

1pm Our afternoons vary.  On Tuesdays, The Boy Wonder goes to P.E. for an hour, and then we go play with our friends until dinnertime (this is as much for me as it is for them).  Thursday afternoons are spent at Master's Academy, where he has drama, music, art and history (on those days, we do not do morning Learning Time).  Friday afternoons are spent at a local gymnastics center where the kids learn Spanish and Sign Language, and get plenty of time to jump around on the equipment, followed by some quiet time at the library.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I try to let the kids lead the afternoons.  We might do a science project or a craft, but just as often, the kids go off and play with Legos or walk around the yard or organize themselves into some other sort of mischief.

5pm We eat an early dinner together, usually by 5:00, and as this tends to be the only time of the day that all four of us are together, it can be fairly boisterous while we all try to talk about our day, and what we learned, and who we saw...

6pm - 7:30pm  I head off to my home office to work while I can, and my husband spends time with the kids.  The Boy Wonder generally spends another 15 minutes or so reading to my husband to strengthen his reading skills, and then Princess Hazelnut sits down with a stack of books she wants to have read to her, and then they all snuggle up on the sofa and watch a cartoon together.

7:30pm I take Princess Hazelnut and snuggle her down to sleep.

8pm The Boy Wonder and I snuggle up in bed for storytime.  Right now I am reading The Chronicles of Narnia to him, and so we also spend some time defining new words and discussing our thoughts on the story.  This, also, is as much for me as it is for him.  Such a precious time.

9pm Both kids are asleep.  Finally, blessedly, asleep and quiet.  Sometimes I have to return to my office to wrap up some work, but usually my husband and I read together on the sofa or watch a TV show after we get some time to decompress and talk.

Some days are frustrating, some are fulfilling, most are a combination of the two.  And while it can be a challenge to juggle it all sometimes, it is at the end of the day that I can look with some perspective on all the learning and loving and living that was done throughout the long, busy day and can rest assured that, for now at least, we are doing exactly what we should be doing.


Caroline H. said...

Sarah, you are my hero! You make it sound so "do-able!" Wish I had your patience and confidence. I will take a few nuggets from your post and apply it to our life. You rock! MUCH LOVE!!! xoxo

Sarah Beam said...

Oh, my dear Caroline. It is "do-able," but I do not act like a hero most of the time, and my confidence wanes many times during the day. But it is worth it, and for the most part, I love almost every minute of it.

Jessica Ham said...

Love it! I am a laid back homechool mom too. I don't try to cram it all or push the kids beyond their capacity for the day. I have some homeschool friends who have every minute of the day filled with learning activities and their kids are stressed out and the moms are stressed out too!
Having scheduled down time is a must and such a precious time to spend with the kids.
Love it that you homescool!

Sarah Beam said...

Jessica - sometimes I think half the reason I homeschool is so that my children aren't busy all day. They learn the best, it seems, when given the time and the space to explore. But I only wish I could refer to myself as laid-back...

Jennifer Jo said...

I'm glad to hear it's working out so nicely!

Nichole said...

We have a pretty laid-back approach to our days, too. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that our mornings aren't rushed!

Sarah Beam said...

Nicole, the love of a slow morning is what makes my little boy balk at the thought of ever going to an actual school outside of home.

Anne said...

Beautiful post Sarah! Thank you for sharing your day and a snippet of the journey that took you there. I homeschool my two boys 7 and 4 and love getting someone elses perspective on the life of homeschooling.

Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith said...

Thanks for sharing your day. I agree with "no rushing". I tried to do that last semester, my first of home schooling and it was frustrating for all of us. This semester mornings are slower and it has made all of the difference in the world, especially for my sanity.

anastasia said...

That looks like fun. I only have a two year old so far, but we also don't like being rushed. We're very laid back at whatever we do (unless we need to be somewhere)
I stopped by here from Simple Homeschool :)

Mindy said...

It kind of makes me break out in hives to think about having to WAKE MY KIDS UP to get them out the door so they can catch the bus. Homeschooling makes me feel like I'm actually LIVING life.

Way to find joy in the journey!

(Here from Simple Homeschool)

Anonymous said...

So how does the housework get done?

Sarah Beam said...

Oh, sweet anonymous commenter:

The most important thing I have learned while homeschooling and working from home is that I cannot do *everything* perfectly every day. There are times when the house is a mess, but homeschooling is going well, and I am caught up on my accounting work. At other times, homeschooling falls by the wayside for a day while we scramble to do some deep-cleaning around the house. Etc...

For general housework 'maintenance,' I generally just try to stay on top of things so that it never gets out of control, and doing a little bit here and there frankly doesn't take all that much time. I sweep and vacuum the whole house once a week (usually while the kids are outside playing in the afternoon), and I do dishes after every meal. Grocery shopping and other errands are done during the time my son is at his P.E. class or his once-a-week homeschool 'school.' The kids pick up their toys every evening after dinner, and I do a 5-minute cursory straightening of the house every night before I go to bed. Clothes are washed and hung out to dry in little pockets of time (while the kids eat a snack, for instance). Toilet bowls are swished and the bathroom sink is wiped down after I wash my face every morning. On the weekends, when time permits, I might mop a room or clean the windows, or organize a particularly vexing part of the house.

It is a rare day that my kids are impeccably groomed, the house is perfectly clean, dinner is a four-course gourmet experience, and all the work on my desk is completed. My goal is to have happy and healthy children, a home environment that makes me feel peaceful, simple home-cooked meals, and enough work to fulfill me professionally. Those things can be done, as long as perfection is recognized as the unachievable goal that it is.

Freedom Five said...

your comment about shirts had me cracking up. There were a few months where my girls never wore clothes, lol.