Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Relaxed school days

This is our fourth year homeschooling. Noah is eight and a half years old and is in third grade. Avery is technically in Kindergarten, although she has been sitting at the table with us for Noah's lessons and taking part in various crafts and activities since she was three! Last year we did an early variation of Kindergarten for Avery even though she missed the Kindergarten deadline by a couple weeks because of her birthday date. When Noah was in Kindergarten I was super laid back. We did Oak Meadow together and Right Start Math. He was five and a half and his sister was three and if they ran off and started playing really well together, I was not going to interrupt their play for lessons. When Noah was in first grade I was a little more diligent. We stopped blowing off entire days and started making sure that we at least had a morning circle time all together followed by a morning main lesson, but we were still pretty laid back. We were all three doing farm chores together every day in addition to cooking together and doing art projects in the afternoons, which is what the early years of school should be all about in my mind.

Last year I stepped it up ten fold...or maybe three fold. In order to fit it all in I made not one but two large poster board schedules, one with our weekly schedule on it and another more specific school day schedule with what Avery and Noah were doing at all hours of the day. We started no more than fifteen minutes late most mornings and we only blew off a couple days all year, when five of our goats kidded in the space of a week and I'd spent the nights up delivering goat babies and was too haggard the next day. Last year I planned most every breakfast the night before, always had a loaf of fresh made bread on the counter for easy meals and I never did dishes after breakfast because that gave the kids a chance to escape and start up a never ending playmobile battle.

 This year we are having a more laid back approach to our school day and I'm proud to say that we are still fitting it all in, we just don't always end by 1 or 2. I've realized that if the kids get inspired to make themselves spinach, lettuce, apple juice and then drink a pint of that juice for breakfast, that the valuable kitchen time in addition to a pint of super nutritious juice full of enzymes, vitamins and minerals is way worth getting a later start to our day. Or if they have a lot of questions about something at breakfast we'll just start googling answers to their questions and that might take us on a different school path for the morning.

So, these days the kids wake up by eight a.m. or so, otherwise I wake them up by quarter after. We sit on the couch and read a chapter or three out of a novel that we are reading together. This morning we finished Poppy by Avi. I drink my one cup of Morning Thunder and try my darnedest to time it so that it is the perfect temperature for reading time, which always makes me happy when I succeed. Then we eat breakfast. If it is porridge, then it was slowly simmering while we were reading. This morning we had lots of green apple juice and brown rice cakes with peanut butter and bananas. Tomorrow Noah and I are having omelets, Avery a fried egg, and veggie juice. Then we take are vitamins if we are game...sometimes I just have to wait till later in the morning. Brush teeth and get dressed.

We've been starting with our morning verse and calendar time between nine thirty and ten. Some mornings we have an all together circle time with songs, verses, finger poems, movement activities, hand clapping games, bean bag activities and string games... and some mornings we just skip right into the heavy work. Last year I had about forty five minutes set aside for one on one circle and story time with each kid, and it was so special and they are still asking for that one on one circle time, but I'm trying to go without it because the whole morning can pass by and all we've accomplished is circle and story time and it's time for snack or lunch and we haven't even started math or writing.

As far as the rest of our morning it's all a mish mash and each morning is somewhat different. Mondays the kids both do weekend journals with writing and pictures. Noah get's new vocabulary words. They have a new form drawing on the chalkboard. They each have a one on one math lesson with me and Noah and I have a one on one language arts lesson. Noah reads on the couch to himself for fifteen minutes each school morning and then reads to me. To end the day I read a story to each of the kids on their own. I'm reading Enki Torah stories to Noah and Enki Fairy Tale letter stories to Avery. Today this schedule took us from 10 to 3 with a half hour lunch break. That was a longer than usual day and I'm not sure how that happened. I was feeling laid back.
This year we are having full school days from Monday through Thursdays with a play afternoon scheduled one or two of those days. Our home school cooperative is going to be trying out a Friday morning schedule with afternoons spent ice skating together. So, Fridays will be our big fun social day away from the house.

By the time our lessons are over I'm ready for a break. The kids, however, have been asking for crafts and kitchen projects, but I've been shooing them away to go play so I can plan and make dinner in solitude.I have been feeling slightly guilty though and as a result, I've been mentally preparing myself for some late afternoon craft time. Today I dug out unfinished finger knitting projects leftover from last winter as well as Noah's knitting tower and Avery's braid star. In no time at all Noah had finished his four finger knit garland and had tied wood beads to it. We hung it across a window and I got to see the proud look on his face before he covered it up. He also started and finished a knitting tower project and Avery chose new yarn and started on her braid star. We all sat on the couch for over an hour while they crafted peacefully and then I read to them. It was one of those spaces in time that are set apart from the rest; where you can't believe how smooth everything goes; no arguing or fighting, no whining or accidents or mistakes needing fixed. You wonder why can't every day be like this and at the same time you remind yourself that if every day were like this you wouldn't appreciate or notice how special it is.

When thinking about what I wanted this school year to be like, I wanted our days to be unhurried. I didn't want to find myself snapping at the kids out of frustration with myself or them because of our slow progress. Any day that we have to go to town after lessons ends up with a different feel to it, so I try to keep at least two of our four school days, home days as well.

One of the best parts of home schooling is that each family finds their own daily and weekly rhythm. That rhythm will vary from year to year depending on kid's ages, needs, desires and goals. I'd love to hear about your families homeschooling days!

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