However frightening it seemed to me, I knew something had to give. I am happy to report that we have been “relaxing” now for the last six weeks. A new routine has been taking shape for us, and it no longer includes spreadsheets or checklists. Things have been better – more fun and less frustrating. We spend more time working on things together as a group, and being together is one of the things I like best about homeschooling. Our new routine looks something like this…
6:00 – 7:30
Wake up! My alarm goes off at 5:45, but I usually snooze until 6. Then it’s time to make sure my 16 year old is up and gets out the door. She attends a traditional high school. She is usually gone by 6:30, and I may or may not have a half hour to myself before the other kiddos start coming downstairs. Often I am nursing the baby during this time. If not, I will usually tidy up the kitchen and prepare for the day.
7:30 – 8:30
Breakfast and Chores – The kids usually opt for playtime in the basement after breakfast, rather than getting their chores out of the way like Mom always recommends. "Eat the Frog", I always say. However, they apparently don't like to eat frogs, and chores almost always get pushed off to the end of the day.
This section of our day has come to be known as “Morning Stuff”. This has always been my favorite part of the day because we are all together. When I was deciding how to proceed with our new approach, expanding our group time seemed like the best way to keep things light and fun. We still cover a lot of material during this time together.
Prayer - We start every morning with prayer, each of us mentioning any special intentions, and we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We discuss a different character trait - honesty, diligence and contentment, to name a few - every two weeks. I think it’s important for my kids to learn about the qualities that their dad and I would like for them to encompass as they grow.
Art Study – Depending on the day, we will either study an artist, a composer, or a poet. Currently we are actually looking at famous sculptures, listening to a story about the life of Franz Joseph Haydn, and learning about Edgar Allan Poe.
History – Right now we are studying the American Revolution, and we are using Liberty’s Kids to take us on the journey through history. The show is educational and enjoyable, and we are supplementing with biographies on some of the key figures from the library. My kids have never liked history so much!
Grammar – I decided even grammar could be made a part of our group time. I am only a few lessons into it, but so far I really like the book we’re using. We also LOVE the Schoolhouse Rock: Grammar Rocks DVD.
Read Aloud – This is absolutely my favorite thing we do each day. We are about a third of the way into Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes. Already this year we have finished The Secret Garden, The Railway Children, and Anne of Green Gables.
Snacktime! Oh yeah...and Math – Math seems to take the longest of any subject at our house. With four kids working at four different levels, it really keeps things interesting for me. Big D does his math lessons on the computer. CB’s lessons come from Saxon 6/5, and Banana and Mr. H use Abeka 2 and 1 respectively. During this time I am inundated with requests for help, and often have to ask a child to be patient while I work with someone else for a while. When their lessons are complete, they're supposed find a quiet place to read (often hard to do at our house J). I ask that each child read for 30 minutes each day. Currently, Big D is reading Around the World in 80 Days, CB just finished Half Magic, Banana is reading an American Girl story, and Mr. H just started Judy Blume's Superfudge.
I almost forgot....the G-man is reading Baby Touch and Feel Farm.
Afternoons – At lunch, we talk about how we are going to spend our afternoons. In our effort to relax our days a bit, I have given the kids the afternoons to use as they wish, so long as there is some learning going on. They love LEGOs and playing games of all kinds. We have a variety of card games, board games, and games on the computer. It is amazing how many educational aspects there are to some of the things they just naturally do each day. We also have group science lessons on some afternoons, doing experiments, watching videos, or going on field trips.
I like the flow we have to our days, even without a solid plan (imagine that!) I am a lot less stressed, which means we are all a lot less stressed, which makes for a happier home and a better learning environment. And although I can already see that some things will have to change for next year, this way is working for us right now.