Monday, March 24, 2014

What this homeschooling thing looks like for our family

So what exactly do you do? I have been asked this on more than one occasion and there's not a simple answer. Just like each family has their own rhythm and routine, their own unique spin on crazy, each homeschooling family is unique. I remember being told once that homeschooled kids are only as bizarre as their parents. To that, I can only say, I'm sorry, kids!
Sam reviewing his memory work for Classical Conversations
I have always loved teaching. My mom will tell you, I used to teach my stuffed animals and dolls. I have a degree in Elementary Education. I taught sixth, then second, and then, my personal favorite, fifth grade before having kids and staying home. Teaching in the classroom gave me some great insights that are no doubt a huge asset to my teaching at home. On the flip side, sometimes I think that our homeschooling needs to look like my time in the traditional classroom. That is actually quite silly. In the classroom, I had between 22-30 children to teach at one time. At home I have two at different levels, plus a toddler and a preschooler. Clearly, it should look quite different. Probably the most helpful thing that I have taken away from my time in the classroom has been that I can learn along with the kids. As long as I have resources to turn to, which are abundant in this day and age, I don't have to know all about every single thing that I am teaching the kids. Which is good, because I have learned through our homeschooling experience that I don't know a lot of the things that I want my kids to learn, and I've had a blast learning with them!

I have mentioned Classical Conversations (henceforth referred to as CC--on my blog it is not short for Common Core) before in several posts, but in case you missed it, you can learn about it in a clip here. Briefly, CC gives us a skeleton of sorts for our curricula. We base our history, literature, science and even some of our handwriting on what we are memorizing at CC. Classical Conversations has three cycles that get repeated, one per year. This is our fourth year in CC, so Jon is memorizing information that he was introduced to three years ago. Obviously, at age 8, he is able to comprehend more of what he is memorizing than he did at 5. Because of that, we are actually applying much of the memory work in our math, English grammar, science, and more. Each week the kids are introduced to seven new facts (science, history, math, Latin, English grammar, geography, and timeline) that we review and expand on at home. I explain this just so that you have a better idea what I'm talking about later.

In case you're visiting, we have four kids. Jon is eight and doing third grade work. Sam is 6 and doing first grade. Will is three and is a whirlwind of activity. Maggie is one and is recently trying to give up her morning nap, much to my chagrin because we usually do most of our schooling while she naps in the morning!
 piano practice often involves a younger sibling "helping"

A typical week here is anything but typical. As I sit here with a sick three year old, I can safely say that rarely does one week actually look like the next, but...in a perfect world the following would be our norm:
Monday/Wednesday and Friday are very similar and begin with piano practice around 9am. While one boy practices, the other begins his handwriting (Handwriting Without Tears or CC Prescripts) for the day. Then they switch. After handwriting, they each do two pages of phonics(Explode the Code). This gives me time to finish up breakfast with the little ones and get my morning cup of coffee. No one wants the teacher to start teaching before she gets her coffee! Once they've finished phonics, we typically review CC together for 20-30 minutes (we review in many ways, I will write about that later). Next Sam begins his math (Saxon 2), while Jon does his spelling (Spelling Workout-Mondays: Pretest/Wednesdays: workbook pages/Friday: test). Next, I teach Jon his math lesson (Saxon 5/4) and do the first 10-15 problems with him. Often Sam finishes his math and spelling during this time and goes to play with Will (3) for a bit. Once Jon gets to problem 15 in his math, we switch to science (AIG) or reading. After completing science or reading, they'll often take a break for a snack or to play with their brother. Then I call Sam back for Shurley English, teach him his lesson and get him started on his work, and call Jon to do the same with him at his grade level. After they finish, they listen to a chapter Story of the World CD that correlates with what we are learning at CC, while I go make lunch. Sam is typically able to finish all of his work by lunch time. Jon usually finishes his math during quiet time, which is from 2-4 pm at our house, but occasionally has other work to finish up on as well.
Sam playing Mouse Trap with Will during a break from school
Tuesdays we meet with our CC community. My mom graciously comes and stays at our house with my little two, who are one and three. That gives me more freedom to help out in Jon and Sam's classes at CC. Classical Conversations for their age group, Foundations, is from 9:15-12:00. We stay for lunch to fellowship with the other families there. The kids love playing with their friends, and I love the encouragement I get from the other moms. If you are considering CC, and aren't sure if you'll stay for lunch, I would encourage you to try in for a couple weeks. I think you'll find that it is worth the effort of packing lunches to spend that time with other moms who are going through similar experiences. Next year, we'll stay for the afternoon for Essentials, Classical Conversations class for 4-6th graders, but for now, we head home around 1pm.
Thursdays we host a Bible study group for ladies from our church. It's such a blessing that they come to our house. I don't have to load up all four munchkins, and Maggie can take a nap here in her own bed. The boys get to hang out with friends in our basement with the sitter, while I enjoy fellowship and refreshment from God's Word and the ladies who come each week. It does make for a little bit of chaos with school. We don't start until after lunch, but I plan for Thursdays to be light. We do a shortened CC review, math, handwriting, and reading is often assigned as silent reading on their own during their little siblings' naps. That's the beauty of homeschooling, I can make Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays a little more saturated with work and Thursdays lighter, or we could do school longer into the summer, or...well, the possibilities are endless.
this boy is so messy-and the mess doesn't phase him a bit!
I love routine. It's for this reason that we don't take many random "days off" during the school year now. If we get out of our routines, it is like pulling teeth to get them back into those routines. And again I say, I love routine. We do take a week off in the fall to go to Alabama to visit family and have a vacation of sorts. Also, we usually take a week for Thanksgiving and Christmas to spend time with family. Besides that, we'll take a day here or there for field trips.

To sum all of this up, I am sharing this not because we've got the perfect routine or method here, but because I'm often asked and frankly, I like reading about what works for others. I'd love to hear from other homeschool moms about what works best for you. Or if you don't homeschool, but have ideas that you think my be helpful, please share!   I am often making little changes to make things run more smoothly. I love asking seasoned moms for their tips and tricks in all aspects of mommyhood. There is so much we can learn from each other along the way!

**It should be noted that I am completely overwhelmed at the thought of trying to do school with two preschoolers next year. Maggie won't be napping, and Will will just be turning four, so there will be some serious juggling going on over here. We've actually been talking to our super-wonderful-babysitter about being my mother's helper a couple mornings a week so that the younger two get some fun activities and attention while the older two can get some quality teaching from a mama who's attention is not quite so torn!**

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