April 3, 2020

our homeschool rhythm

When we headed home from California after our first week of spring break, we came back to social distancing/quarantine conditions. As soon as word got out that schools might be closed for awhile I got pretty darn excited about the prospect of homeschooling for awhile. And the wheels in my head started spinning and viola! A homeschool plan for 5 kids ages 2 to 16 was born.

(the basic plan with revising notes)

I will start by saying that my kids are used to a homeschool plan every summer and usually during spring and fall breaks as well. (Never this intense, but still). So when I presented a plan to them it really wasn’t a shock. I’m certain they were even expecting it and glad that I came through for them.

We started out homeschool routine before the official spring break was over. Perry thrives off of a schedule, and so do I. And I wanted to give us a few days to ease into it and work out any adjustments to my original plan so the next week we would be ready to go.

So day one we went through the routine all together but kept each activity to 15-20 min. I explained how it would look on the real homeschool days—how much time they would normally have, what the expectations and options would be, etc. Perry joined us for the whole thing and that was a treat to have him there reading, playing games, and drawing with us.

The next two days we tried out the plan for the full day, but stayed really flexible and relaxed about it. I learned it would be best to make a few changes to the time that we started and our afternoon schedule. 

Now we have completed two full weeks of homeschool and we have found our rhythm. Some days the most important lessons we learn are how to resolve conflicts, but an education is an education for life.

Our day looks like this:

8am-8:30am : wake up, eat breakfast, chores
8:30am-9am : Seminary/spiritual (come follow me as a family, personal scripture study, study general conference talks, do seminary assignments, read the Friend magazine, explore the church website/videos)
9am-9:45am : Writing (handwriting, journal, compose letters and emails, language arts lessons, grammar, editing, spelling)
9:45am-10:45am : Outside/PE (exercise, ride bikes, go on walks, jump on the trampoline, sidewalk chalk, collect bugs, etc)
10:45am-11:30am : Math (lesson, worksheets and then play board games with each other)
11:30am-12:15pm : Create (art-drawing, painting, coloring, music-piano, singing, recorders, dancing, building toys-kapla blocks, marble run, magna tiles etc)
12:15pm-1pm : Lunch (eat, clean up kitchen, break)
1pm-2pm : Reading (independent reading, language arts lesson, vocabulary, poetry, read aloud)
2pm-2:30pm : History (history program all together, read aloud, research, history videos on topics we pick from you tube)
2:30pm-3pm : Science (experiments, cooking, games, health)

We stick to the schedule each day, but we stay flexible and try not to stress about it. (Mostly I have to remind myself of this...). The schedule is built to make sure we have enough downtime, academic time, alone, sibling, and family time, fun, productivity, and lots of choice and control over our own goals. It gives us a chance to have valuable experiences that we don’t always get to have with our normally full days of school and sports. It gives me time to meet with individuals while the others are working independently. 

Phones are supposed to be put away during our school day, but I have to keep reminding some people about that. 

Thursday’s are our cleaning day. So lessons and outside time might be cut short and modified because we have a list of extra chores (bathrooms and floors) that we divide up to get done at some point during the day.

Friday afternoons we gather for poetry recitations and storytelling. Eric tries to join us for those, so that’s a bonus.

Perry’s day looks slightly different than the rest of us. At first we had an awesome respite worker here every morning to work one on one with Perry and that was amazing. We have been without him for the last few days and, while we are making it work, we are hoping our respite provider can come back soon. Instead of his day being run by a time schedule, Perry is given a check list of things to do each morning. His list includes something from every subject the rest of us do during the day. However, he has the flexibility to do things in whatever order he wants to and however long it takes him to do it. Usually, he works really hard so that he can be done and have his screen time right after lunch. Or when respite was here and he had total one on one time, he got done even before lunch. When respite isn’t here, we have been dividing up his checklist so each of us takes time to work with him on one thing. Brinna even takes a turn to be Perry’s companion with things like building toys or outside time.

I meet with Layla multiple times a day for mini-lessons. We meet for about 15 minutes each time during writing, math, and reading. History and science are also done together, but history is a family lesson and science is usually just me and Layla, but sometimes the others join in, too. Sometimes Layla is given a specific task for writing or art, but mostly she decides what she wants to do during those times (actually, it is rare that I direct her during create time at all).

(Layla working hard to prepare her poem for the week)

Kyler and Kacin are given a list of assignments from me. But they have the flexibility to do them when they need to, as long as it all gets done at the end of the week. They do stick to our schedule of when we do what for the most part, but some days they change things a bit. I check in with them in the morning and throughout the day just to see if they need help with anything. Usually while I am working on math with Layla one of them is sitting at the table with us so I can help them too as needed. But mostly they are completely independent during the day. We all do history and read aloud together. And then this week we have started having a check-in at the end of the day and so they tell me what they have done during the day and their plan for certain things for the rest of the week. 

Our curriculum comes from multiple sources.
The Good and the Beautiful is our resource for handwriting, language arts, history, and some of the science. (I use some of their free stuff, but I also ordered a couple of things as soon as I knew school would be canceled for a few weeks at least. Luckily, I caught a 15 percent off sale.) I also use a random assortment of books and activities I have from our summer brain quest books and from when I was teaching. We got some papers  and work books from the elementary school teachers so I can pull from that if I want to as well. The older boys get on google classroom to access assignments from their HS teachers. I still give them some assignments from me in language arts and history, but mostly all of the high schoolers assignments come from their teachers. And whenever they have their own goals or projects they can incorporate those. For example, Kyler decided on his own to keep a Covid-19 journal and so he writes in there each day during his writing time.

(When we picked up Layla’s workbooks from her school and saw her teacher)

Little Brinny gets a lot of attention from the six people who surround her and love her the most. She wanders between all of us joining in on the activities, games, art, and toys that she wants to. Sometimes she sits at the table working on her “writing” alongside us. Sometimes she plays on her own or reads her books. She always finds someone to take her on bike rides each day.

I do not get as much time during the day as I used to to get things done, to study, and to rest. Some days that is hard. But Eric is great about taking the kids out in the evenings to give me a little quiet time when I need it. Overall, I love every minute of homeschooling. 

We have found a good rhythm and this homeschool schedule is working well for our family right now.