As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Homeschool Day in the Life

My homeschool day in the life had a bit of a makeover this year.  When I started homeschooling three years ago, I had one student in grade one.  This year I have four in grades K-4 (not to mention my one and three year old, who always make life interesting!) And while I had managed quite nicely with a school day that went from 9-12 every day for all students, this year it became painfully clear that wasn't working for all of my kids any more.

Our new and improved schedule looks like this:

When I am on the ball, I like to get up with my husband around 6:00 am to see him off to work.  I make my bed first thing so I'm not tempted to crawl back in after he leaves, and snuggle up into my prayer corner for a bit of morning quiet time with the Lord before the craziness of the day starts.  The kids wander in one by one starting at around 7:00 am or so, and I usually try to have breakfast on the go by 8:00 am in order to start the school day at 9:00 am.

Students K and 2 are steadfast.  They are the ones I can count on every day to do the work in front of them in an appropriate amount of time, and be finished all their work by the time the school day is over.  They are eager to learn and to please, which works out great for me!  But 1 and 4 - oh my lanta!  Those boys have given me a run for my money this year.  They are both very easily distracted, smart, but not eager to please, and okay with spending an entire day staring off into space while the rest of their siblings have long finished and run off to play.  They are carefree and oftentimes stubbornly unmotivate, and school was becoming such a fight!  Exhasperated, I enlisted the help of a few trusted friends and homeschooling Moms, and with their affirmations and suggestions came to the realization that the school day as I had it was no longer working.  My "one-size-fits-all" model of schooling no longer fit all of my students.  Something needed to be done.

My oldest boy breezes through his first morning subjects in record time.  The problem always came after recess, when it was time for Math.  He would drag his feet, and I was busy by then thinking about getting lunch ready on top of teaching the rest of my students.  The baby is always extra fussy in the last hour before her nap, so all of that together means I am not at my teaching best.  I decided I would bite the bullet and break up his school day.  Saving his Math until the baby's naptime meant he would have my undivided attention after lunch, and I could enlist his help in keeping my three-year-old and Kindergartener (who is also done school after recess) occupied and happy.  This gave me some unexpected one-on-one time with students 1 and 2, who typically would have to fend for themselves during this time.  In addition, as an added incentive (on the advice of a friend) I've given student 4 the option of choosing whether to do odd or even numbered problems (of his 30 problem set), but only if he's gotten most of the previous day's questions correct.  This pretty much eliminated the sloppy work, silly mistakes and obvious guess work, as now he is motivated to do his best.  And I have made his passing this year contingent on his demonstrating that he is a good worker - no slacking off. So far, this seems to be working.

My first grader is of a very similar personality, and with him I have decided to have a self-directed school day.  He sits down at 9:00 am with all his books in a folder in front of him, and he decides which subjects he wants to do, in what order.  If he doesn't feel like working (or if I catch him staring off into space) he may be excused - the only rules are that if he's sitting at his desk he has to be working, and that he must have all of his school work done by supper time or else he needs to go to bed after supper.  If he finishes his work by 3:00 pm, he gets a sticker on his "Good Worker" chart, which is super-motivating for him.  It's been really great, because I get a real sense of the subjects he likes the best.  He always picks his reader first, and because the others are doing handwriting then (which requires no involvement from me) it's the perfect time for him to get some one-on-one time with me.  It is the subject that most often fell off our list, as by the time I would get to it in the previous schedule I didn't have time to sit with him, but since I've given him the option of choosing when to do it his reading has really taken off.  And I love seeing how confident and positive he is about learning, now that he has a little control.

We also have morning jobs, noon jobs, and afternoon jobs.  Small jobs like making beds, folding their laundry, vacuuming and emptying the dishwasher.  I figured if I attached chores to our meal times, it would be much easier to make sure they got done.  At recess I read either Little House on the Prairie or Story of the World while they are eating their snack. This works well, and I am enjoying following both series with them (and they love it!)

If there is one thing I'm learning about homeschooling, it is that it always changes.  I had a real moment of truth when I realized how hard I was trying to fit students 1 and 4 into the mold that worked best for me, when that was the exact reason I took my first son out of school in the first place.  I watched him struggle through being a spirited boy at school in his Kindergarten year, not wanting to sit in that chair all day, causing trouble and needing to be sent out of the class.  I wanted to give him something better - and now was my challenge to do just that.  This works now, but I know that as the kids get older and more students join the ranks, I'm going to have to be flexible if I have any hope of making this work for all of us.

Journeying with my children through their learning has been one of the greatest joys of my life.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend time with each of the kids, to learn about their strengths and weaknesses (and learn more about my own through them).  It is a steep learning curve and I know I'm not done yet, but I am happy to have the ability to learn with them.  They truly make me one blessed Mom.


  1. Thanks for sharing, you're a busy momma, doing God's work. Praying for you today.

  2. That is amazing! We're just starting out and I'm excited, but exhausted by the days end.

  3. You're doing a beautiful job and your children are blessed to have you as their mama. I loved your colorful chart!