Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Four Weeks Into Schooling

We are four weeks into schooling this year and I think it is going very well. I find it interesting to learn of what kinds of schooling work for different families, with all their dynamics of dad's schedule, mom's teaching, and children's learning styles. For the time being, my routine is, well, quite routinized and that is working for us! I know there will be times (e.g., pregnancy, illness) when we'll "school in the gaps" and the flexibility to do that is the beauty of homeschooling!

The workbox system is proving good for keeping me on track and letting the children know what lies ahead each day. Each weekend, I spent two to three hours planning for the week's lessons. Then each night (if I'm on top of matters), I set out all the lessons in the workboxes and make sure the school room is neat and organized for the morning. If I didn't get to it at night, then I do those tasks at six in the morning. 

The children will stay on track if we do four mornings of school per week. One day is a "flex day" used for field trips, a class out of the home (e.g., science), or catch-up from time lost to illness. I've been coming to think of these mornings as my new part-time job, as something for which I have to prepare and have to show up. I'm doing better this year than in the prior years of not making appointments or doing any errands during mornings.

I keep each child's weekly to-do list on top of his or her workboxes.

Various school texts and the weekly book basket

My goal is to have us all gathered in the school room by nine o'clock, having everyone fed, dressed, beds made, kitchen cleaned, and first load of laundry humming. Most of the time, I have started school with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance. We read a Bible story, then work on our Program for Achieving Character Education. For August our virtue was self-discipline. We'd talk about the definition, read many stories (Bible, folk tales, Aesop's fables, poems) exemplifying the virtue or lackthereof. By the end of the month, the children were spontaneously pointing out characters or real-life children who had or lacked self-discipline! I'm really pleased with this program so far.

Virtue this month: Work!

Books  of the month

I find it helps to give Margaret (2) some attention right up front. She is now in the habit of choosing for herself one or two "Margaret books," as she calls them. For weeks, she has chosen almost exclusively the First Virtues books, which I recommend for children ages one to three.

Then we move on to academic subjects. 

I began doing regular school work daily during John's pre-K year (age 4-5). I think that that first year was about training me to show up every morning instead of flying by the seat of my pants. It took me a whole year just to learn how to do that.

The next year was John's Kindergarten year (age 5-6) and I think that was mostly about my learning some ways to manage (correct) bad classroom behavior, and about how to teach children to read (only having two data points so far: John and Mary--not much experience compared to a classroom teacher!).

We're only four weeks into this year and I think this year is going to about my learning how to manage four children in a classroom at once and about my learning how to teach in an engaging and inspiring way. I feel like I'm learning so much daily. Homeschooling is very hard at times: Chris can attest to my tears. But I'm also exhilarated! I wouldn't want to have it any other way and consider myself blessed every day that my husband and I both want to homeschool.

Mary reading (All About Reading)

One tactic I've already discovered this year already is that we do best to change subjects or students about every fifteen minutes. So instead of planning that I am going to teach John his entire math lesson #7 in the book, I plan that we're going to work on math lesson #7 for about fifteen minutes, or even less. Then we're going to move on. I believe that because of keeping each lesson very short, I am seeing that the children are really cheerful and not feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, despite the fact that they're being challenged and are learning in leaps and bounds.

Joseph exploring Buzz the Bug, which has been a top favorite baby toy in this house for four babies now

John (6) has a longer attention span than Mary (4), plus he has more subjects, so I tend to do two subjects with John, one with Mary, back and forth, and working with Margaret when I see that she would benefit from some one-one-one time with Mama.

John doing a math worksheet (RightStart Math)

Margaret playing imaginative games with bins
When I'm working with another child, the children have some standard activities they can choose and do on their own. This might include listening to an audio story with head phones or working a puzzles. Lately, they have quite enjoyed drawing from some Usborne learn-to-draw books.

Coloring birds

We tend to stop for snack at ten o'clock. I don't know how I manage it, but in only fifteen minutes (most days), I feed three children and myself and change the laundry. Then it's back to the classroom!

All About Learning Press: I can't say enough good things!

If Joseph gets sleepy before school starts, then I can take time and nurse him down to nap in his bed, which is great. But as his awake time is stretching beyond two to three hours, he's often awake when I start school: That means I don't have time to pause school in order to nurse him down, so I just toss him onto my back and he's very happy.

Eight-month-old learning by osmosis

He'll just fall asleep back there and we keep on keepin' on!

For now, I'm keeping up with check lists each week which I believe has helped me get into a good groove. But I'm under no illusion that I'll be able to do that in all phases! There will definitely be phases when I am not keeping track of lesson plans with this detail, but simply: "Make sure to do some math most days! We'll probably get through the book by the end of the year!"

Checking off John's daily work

Another tactic I've discovered in the first four weeks is that we should stop after two hours. We've usually gotten through math x 2, reading x 2, spelling x 2, handwriting x 2, catechism for Mary (John is doing his with Daddy at night right now), plus Latin, grammar, history, and geography for John. Those are an intense two hours!

We should stop no matter where we are and get the wiggles out. This month we've had glorious weather, so I've been taking the children on a jog-walk (1 to 1.5 miles) around 11:15 each morning. Then we're back in time for lunch and Quiet Time. I don't know what we'll do when the weather is very cold, so I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

I know that not all months will be like this, but I am pleased and grateful for how smoothly our first four weeks have proceeded. Of course, if I think too much about it and what it will be like to educate children in much higher grades than this and more than two at once, I start to quake in my boots, so I must stop. One foot in front of the other! "So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.' (Matt. 6:34)


  1. In my experience, the older grades are easier b/c they do so much independently. It's all downhill! :-)

  2. Sharon: That is what I am hoping! It would be so dreamy when I can say, "do this task and check back with me." :D

  3. So impressive, Katherine. So proud of you! Mil

  4. Thank you so much, Dottie! I want to educate your grandbabies well!