Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A day in the life of a homeschooling family…

I wrote this several years ago, but it still pretty much describes our day. Not any two home schools are the same. There are even books out there that tell what each family is like. The key is to be yourself. Do what works for you and your family and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.

There are so many myths out there. This is what I have learned...I am not a public school and I don’t NEED a separate classroom. I don’t NEED a row of desks and chalkboard-my children have not and will not fail miserably because I let them sit on the couch to read their science book. And guess what? We often before breakfast had a history lesson (reading) in bed and in (gasp) PJ’s! You don’t need a BS in Education to know what your children want to learn about, how they understand instruction best or that they do better learning at night than in the morning. It's one on one and its the ideal environment to learn...with Love!

A typical day...
The alarm usually wakes me about 6:15am. I set it a little earlier or later depending on the day before and what is in store for us that day, but today, it’s typical. I shuffle to the laundry room and throw a load of laundry in the washing machine, get a loaf of bread started and hit the start button on the coffee maker. Fully awake now I can settle in my seat on the sofa with my Bible for a few minutes of undisturbed reading. Five minutes into my dream morning, my son flies into the room and lands on the couch with a decidedly earth shattering landing. I put my Book away and cuddle with him for a few minutes.

My coffee machine is soon making its gurgling noises which signal that my cup of energy is moments away. By the time I have my cup of coffee and am back on the couch with Brandon, Savannah appears with a sleepy grin and joins us. The two siblings battle for a position closest to mom and we cuddle until Brianna, my oldest, makes her way out of the bedroom and into Daddy’s recliner. Once everyone is seated, we discuss our dreams. Not a planned activity, but it has become a trend in the morning. My daughters discuss their bizarre dreams with vivid detail and Brandon always has a story to tell that, while he claims is his dream, bears a close resemblance to a combination of all of our stories. We always get a good laugh out of his vivid imagination.

By now, it is near 7 and I am ready to read from our devotional. This year we are reading from the “One Year Bible for Kids” which has taken almost two years to read! After reading and a short prayer for a good day, we read from my latest choice of historical fiction. Today it is Memories of Anne Frank. The girls sit still and listen, but Brandon can only make it through our devotion before he is ready to play on the floor, so he transitions to the carpet to drive his construction vehicles through a newly found pile of Lincoln logs and I read until almost 7:30.

After reading, everyone is up and off to do chores. I flip on the radio or cd player to add some music to the house and make breakfast while the kids get dressed and do anything from feeding the dog to emptying the trash baskets in each room. We have used this time to listen to specific composers, types of music or music with the time periods we are studying. Today we are enjoying a contemporary Christian station that we love and Focus on the Family is just starting as we sit down for a good breakfast and then finish up with chores after we eat. At this point I usually make a beeline to the computer to see if any “emergencies” need my attention and address home schooling emails with my “support group leader hat”.

At the beginning of each week I print out a sheet of assignments for the girls(Brandon isn’t ready for that kind of structure) from my Homeschool Tracker software. So, the girls know what to do and choose how to do it and in what order. Generally I try to have them do the “strenuous” brain stuff early on in the day so they don’t fizzle out before they get through Math U See and Analogies. Both girls are doing Wordly Wise 3000 for vocabulary and Savannah is using Daily Grams 2 / 3 and Brianna is using Rules of the Game 1 for grammar.

For science, Brianna, is working through Apologia Chemistry. For biology, she attended a lab with several friends about twice a month at a close friend’s home. I wasn’t particularly worried about teaching the lab, but when my friend, who has is an RN and has a Masters in Biology offered, I was more than willing to turn her over to a professional! This year, the labs are done at home if she desires to do one. Since she already met her lab requirement for science and isn’t planning on pursuing a career in Science, I don’t push it. Savannah and Brandon receive no “formal” instruction in science. Anotherwords, we don’t do text books. Brianna didn’t even know what one was until she was old enough for Apologia General Science and transitioned without incident. I like to let the kids explore topics of interest and we frequent parks for nature walks with our NatureHike Backpack and have created living quarters for numerous critters using the tips outlined in the book “Pets in a Jar”. I never push a subject and allow them to pursue it to their hearts content. We once spent six months on Astronomy and followed it up with about 2 days on spiders! Whatever they are interested in drives our learning. We currently have two Ladybug Lands occupied with ladybugs and our butterfly bush in our herb garden is filled with Yellow Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails and two other species they have yet to identify. We have watched Praying Mantis emerge from egg cases in this same bush and seen mockingbirds hatch and learn to fly from it as well. Life is full of opportunities for learning, so I try not to bog them down with too many required books when there is so much out there to pique their interests for free! So while Brianna finishes up a lab sheet, the two younger ones go out to feed the fish in our pond and check for toads and other critters in the front yard.

Soon Savannah is back in for some tablework(its too hot” she says) and Brandon wants to watch his Rock n’ Learn and Leap Frog videos. I tell him he can after he plays quietly for a while. I am trying to teach him to use his own skills to occupy himself more often and let him play on the floor for about 30 minutes with beads and shoelaces before we pop in his ABC video. He has learned all his letters, colors and numbers with these DVD’s and although my initial reaction to his ambivalence toward my teaching was to take in personally, I soon found that the key to him learning was music, colors and action. So we give him that whenever we can. He isn’t big on sitting still either, so we learn without seats most of the time. I am introducing him to Handwriting without Tears because it uses stuff he loves like play doh, water and magnets. It’s a good fit for a kid that can’t seem to handle a pencil very well and he likes it.

Lunch is soon upon us, so we whip up some sandwiches and pack our bags for the afternoon. Both girls take music lessons every other week, so they pack some things they can do in the car and get their music books together. Today we are listening to Focus on the Family’s presentation of The Hiding Place in the car. I have a small library of audio tapes and CD’s that present historical fiction and literature in a refreshing way. I LOVE Jim Weiss’ tapes and we all adore his renditions of Shakespeare and the GA Henty books have been wonderful. We listen on the way to lessons and on the way back, the girls read from the historical fiction reading lists I have given each of them. I present history in segments somewhat like in the Well Trained Mind and give them lengthy lists of “Living Books” to choose from for structured reading. We are studying modern times at the moment. 30/45 minutes minimum must be spent on this type of reading, but I find the both girls read much more than that. They love the books we choose from a wide variety of sources. They can spend additional reading time on books they choose to read(unstructured reading). Savannah is currently reading “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by CS Lewis again. Her first time reading this book was in anticipation of the movie release. They cannot see a movie remake of a book unless they read the book first, and of course, the movie has to be acceptable as well. Brianna is reading “The Lord of the Rings” by Tokein and working through the Lord of the Rings Literature Unit by Amelia Harper. She is looking forward to watching the first movie after she finishes the unit she is currently working on.

After lessons, I make a side stop for a few groceries. I started couponing a few years ago and got really serious about it last May. I read a book called “Smart Spending” and have saved at least 50% on my grocery bill every month since then by refining a few of the ways I was shopping. It has made a huge difference in our grocery bill and as a result, we can attend more activities outside the home when we want to. As soon as we are home, Brianna is on her laptop doing research for her Debate class with The Cultural Commission and Savannah flops on the couch to read. Both girls finished their table work before we left the house at noon, so I sit down to check their work before I start dinner. Brianna is using the computer a lot more this year for school. In the past, she did an Alpha Omega Switched on Schoolhouse course of High School Health, took a research writing course with ‘Write at Home” online and has learned the value of a good search engine. We use Earthlink Kid Patrol to help protect her experiences online and time is limited to 1 hour per day. It leaves little time for email and we don’t do chat rooms. She is on a closed forum for her debate class but it is strictly moderated and is a safe place for her to reflect on her faith and the issues our country is facing in today’s world. If she wants to chat with a friend, she can call her friends on the phone after dinner. All computer time is spent in the living room with everyone around as an additional precautionary measure. My husband and I both want her to learn everything there is to know about technology without getting an eyeful of all the undesirables out there.

I start dinner about 5:30 and the girls assist in getting the table ready and fixing side dishes. Sometimes, when we aren’t going out on errands or lessons, I organize shopping lists, spot clean or work on my website. When we don’t feel like work, we play educational games. Some favorites are “Blink”, “Equate”, “Bethump’d” “Scrabble” “Mancala” and “Payday”

Brandon is busy with blocks at this point on the floor and I ask him to pick up his trucks from the morning if he is going to play with blocks. Daddy comes home around 6 and we have dinner and clean up and get ready for bed. Then we have “settle down time” We turned off our satellite some time ago. Instead of paying that fee every month, we invest in DVD’s of our favorite television shows. Our latest investment was in the first season of "Little House on the Prairie." They are all new to my kids and Charles and I love them. We watch one episode each night. My husband recently planned out a TV programming schedule for us which is posted on the fridge …”Sunday is Extreme Home Makeover, Monday is Little House, Tuesday is “Andy Griffith”, Wednesday is Little Rascals, etc.” I think it’s a wonderful idea! The kids are off to bed around 8:30 and the older ones can read in bed if they aren’t too tired, but I want no complaining the next morning if its hard getting up. After they are in bed, I finish grading and prepare for the next day. And, if it’s before 11:00pm when I turn off the lights, it’s been a GREAT day!

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