As my newsfeed fills up with adorably-posed pictures of excited kids and parents heading back to school, my family of six is gearing up for another year of home education. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a twinge of jealousy as I think of all of you moms who get to put your child on a bus and enjoy a more relaxed morning routine than the summer provided you. But then I am reminded of the learning adventures we will be going on together this year as a family, and I get excited for our school year to begin at home.
This is our fourth official year of homeschooling. My oldest will be 10 just a few weeks after we start school, and I have an eight, six, and three-year-old.
While the details of each day change, the rhythm stays pretty consistent. It has to, for all of our sanity. Here are five elements of our day that are imperative for our homeschooling journey.
We have to do the bulk of our learning, together.
Because my kids are close in age, I capitalize on group learning whenever I can. After we have breakfast and do our morning chores, we gather together at our kitchen table and start our learning, together. I focus first on my three-year-old, by mimicking circle-time type activities. We talk about the elements of a calendar, the weather, and sing songs together as a family. Then we listen to a podcast, or I read something to generate discussion among the older boys. After that, we usually do handwriting before splitting up into separate math and language programs where I work with the kids one on one. Later on in the day, we come together again to do our History, Science, and Spanish.
Frequent movement breaks are a must.
I don’t know if my kids are more kinesthetic than other children or what, but we HAVE to incorporate movement in almost all of our subjects. For math facts, I ask them to answer me using karate kicks or jumping jacks. We take wiggle breaks every 20-25 minutes. Not only do they enjoy having small breaks, but they need them, too. I notice a huge difference in behavior if I forget to give them ample opportunities to move.
After the core of our school-work is done (around 1:30- ideally), the kids have a quiet time. They can read, draw, or nap as long as they are quiet. The constant movement stops, for an hour of theoretical quiet. Does it always stay quiet during this time? No. Have I broken up the occasional wrestling match or argument or whatever because kids are kids and staying quiet can be difficult? Yes, of course. But I do get a chance to have a cup of coffee, by myself, and hear myself think for at least a few minutes each day. And the kids get to hear their own thoughts, too. Theoretically.
There will be doctor appointments, sicknesses, and days where we need to get out of these four walls. Especially around February. February is a hard homeschooling month, so flexibility built into our days is necessary. I designed our schedule so that we can take an afternoon here and there, and still stay on track. Our core subjects (math, reading, language arts, writing) take around 2 hours to complete each day. Anything outside of the core can be easily moved to the next day.
Memberships and Passes
Field trips abound when you have a membership to one of the many local treasures we have here in New England. Over the years, we have enjoyed membership passes to Roger Williams Zoo, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Providence Children’s Museum and Old Sturbridge Village. My personal favorite is the Audubon. The family membership for the entire year is only $50. There is a small museum indoors, and a walking trail outside where you can go on your own bird-watching adventures. You also have access to other trails around the state. We love it.
If you have a friend who is homeschooling, it is certain that his/her family does things completely differently than my family. When you choose home education, you choose the flow that best supports the personal and educational goals you set for your children. I have a friend who HAS to leave her house every single day. I have a friend who, if she gets out of the house twice a week it’s a major feat. Another friend of mine adheres to a strict schedule, incremented by 15-minute blocks. Yet another friend of mine is very flexible with her family’s time. ALL of these women are doing well by their families.
There is no one right way to do this. Honestly, other than making sure you are following the law, the way you choose to home school is completely up to you. That’s the beauty of home education. If you’re interested, you can read more about why my family chose to homeschool, here.
However you choose to educate your children, here’s to a fruitful year of learning for us all!