Saturday, August 22, 2015

How we Homeschool

We planned to start our schoolwork this past Monday. We had friends coming over for a play date and then we were going to jump in after lunch. Our conversation was flowing and the kids were so engulfed in playing that everyone stayed until about two o'clock that afternoon. Needless to say, we didn't have the energy to get started once everyone made their way home. I love our play dates though. It's the perfect escape for my boys and the most effective therapy for me! I always come away feeling so encouraged and thankful for the incredible women God has placed in my life. They lift me up when I'm at my lowest and ground me when I am floating too high. They're the best and I am so blessed to call them friends and sisters in Christ.

If you follow along here, you already know we had a day trip to the MO State Fair planned for Tuesday so it was a given that we wouldn't get any book work in that day. We did, however learn lots about farming, agriculture, interacting with others, staying safe and having fun so, I count that as a big win (and you bet I was able to log some hours!).

Bright and early Wednesday morning (okay more like nine thirtyish Wednesday morning) we all met in the schoolroom ready to begin our year fresh and new. Last year we began with a lesson from our Bible Study. This year, however, I didn't get a specific study to do with the boys. I plan on instead doing some Bible readers, stories and activities throughout the week. I still feel like this is a very important part of schooling, especially at home. So, before we began book work, we all sat down and took turns praying. I started us out and then each of the boys chimed in with their own. It was a really great way to start our school day. They loved it and I really feel like it got us off on the right foot.

So, I'm quickly learning that schooling one child is completely different than schooling two. I anticipated this when we began planning for our year and it gave me quite a bit of stress for a while. But, after our first three days, and completing a week's worth of lessons, I feel much better about my plans for the coming months. Before I dive into what really went down this week, I'd like to give you a little overview of the schedule we followed last year. When I was "schooling" one child daily and doing only beginner skills with Lucas.

Here's the plan I started out with //

8:45 am   : Bible
9:00 am   : Phonics & Reading
9:30 am   : History
10:00 am : Math
11:00 am : Science
11:30 am : Penmanship/Spelling (alternating days)
12:00 pm : Lunch Break
1:00 pm   : Free Reading/Play time
2:30 pm   : Art/Music

8:45 am   : Bible
9:00 am   : Letters
9:15 am   : Colors
9:30 am   : Free Play
10:00 am : Numbers
10:15 am : Free Play
11:00 am : Science
11:30 am : Creative Time
12:00 pm : Lunch Break
1:00 pm   : Free Reading/Play time
2:30 pm   : Art/Music

This looks pretty formal at first glance, huh? Keep in mind, this is the schedule I wrote out before we began doing any work. I had the subjects I wanted to do, I felt well organized and this was what I thought we should be able to accomplish in a day of schooling. I planned to fit Lucas' beginner lessons in when I knew JD would need minimal help (i.e. reading, phonics - he's always loved that). I planned out every minute so there wouldn't be any surprises after we began. Then, I got a wake up call. That's just not how it works. The awesome thing about homeschooling is having the freedom to go at the pace that works for your schedule and the way your kiddos learn. Did we follow this schedule for the first couple of weeks? We sure tried. Was it easy to fit into our everyday routine while not feeling like we were confined to the house (and school room!) eight hours of the day and getting completely stressed out? To be perfectly honest, no. It didn't work at all.

That's when I began reading blogs, researching, asking other home school moms questions and evaluating what I wanted us to get out of homeschooling. One thing I knew, I didn't want it to go the way it was. So, after gathering lots of info and tips, I reworked our plan and this is more of what it looked like for us from them on.

9ish am : Bible with both boys
9:15       : JD - P& R / Lucas - Letters/Numbers (I would usually do one of each a day)
10 am    : History with both boys
10:30     : JD - Math / Lucas - Colors/Shapes/Puzzles
11:15     : JD - Penmanship/Spelling (alternating days)
12 pm    : Lunch Break
12:30     : Free play/Outside time
1:30       : Lucas - Nap / JD - Reading/Quiet time
2ish       : Art/Music (if we weren't busy or had other plans)

That is a much more realistic schedule of how our year went. I quickly realized that they were not at all interested in Science. Most of the topics and lessons included in the curriculum I purchased was too advanced, too messy or just plain boring. We would occasionally work a fun experiment or discussion into something we were already doing but, it was very rare for me to break out the curriculum after those first couple of weeks. Thankfully, I hadn't spent much on the teacher guide and student book that I purchased so it wasn't a major loss.

We would start our day whenever we finished breakfast, which was usually around 9am and finish up all of the important things before I began preparing lunch. By important I mean, the things I knew I wanted to take the time to do. The things that they needed to learn and get a strong foundation in because, not only would they be tested on them at the end of each year, but they would base all future learning off of those things.

By following that, more casual, schedule, we were able to do more than just schoolwork. We were able to do life. And I think that is equally as important as book learning. We had play dates, took shopping trips (yes I almost always take my boys grocery shopping and they love it!), enjoyed the nice weather, made many trips to the Library and took the occasional day to visit Daddy for lunch. We had a really great year learning and gaining many new experiences. And I know it made a big impact on my boys and how much they love learning because they were all too excited when we began talking of plans to start again this year. We also had the freedom to join Shared Learning with our local home school group for another year. They get together for classes twice a month for six months out of the year and it such a great thing to be a part of. My boys love making new friends and being around kids their own age while doing fun and engaging activities. I, of course, opt to sign them up for the classes that will play well into what we're already learning (this year, you can bet those are core subjects) but, the boys just love the socialization and always have a great time.

Jumping back to real time, let's get into our "schedule" for this year and what I've decided to do a bit differently. Because of my personality, I have to have a plan. So, I got the same brand of home school planner that I purchased last year and loved so much to begin laying out this year's lessons. This is what I've got written down for us to follow this year. Keep in mind that I'm schooling JD in 2nd grade and we have to log our hours this year because he turned 7 over the summer. I'm also starting Lucas in Kindergarten, which we'll take two years to complete. That worked out so well for JD and, with the new baby coming in a few short weeks, I want everyone to have plenty of time to adjust to all the changes. So, I'll be doing two days a week for schoolwork with Lucas and one day of little activity books to keep him progressing and interested. We'll begin our Shared Learning classes again this September and all three of JD's classes will qualify for logging hours. Yay!

8:30     : JD - Language Arts
9:30     : JD - Math / Lucas - Phonics & Reading
10:30   : Social Studies/Science (alternating) / Lucas - Math
12 pm   : Lunch Break
1 pm    : Gym (either outside, in the play room or somewhere else)
2 pm    : Assigned Reading (can include Bible, Science Magazines, Specific Books, etc of my choice)
2:30     : Art/Music
3 pm    : Free Reading (they get to choose what they read/look at)
3:30     : Free Play

This has worked out really well for us. Even with two full days at the beginning of the week, we've been able to complete everything I had planned to get done so we are right on track to start Monday morning with a new week of lessons. It's going well for me to fit Lucas' lessons in when JD is busy completing book work. They only take a few minutes normally and he is so excited to learn that he breezes right through what I ask him to do. It's been such a big blessing to see how everything has come together with so much less stress than I had anticipated. Of course, we may end up tweaking this a bit but that's just another great thing about schooling for yourself to fit your needs.

I also like to let Blake do mini lessons along with Lucas. He loves feeling like he's involved yet I don't have to set out a schedule specifically for him. For example, Lucas' math lesson today included placing colored bears on a page covering an entire row of bears they had drawn for him. Then he had to choose the color of crayon that matched the bear he chose and color in the bear drawing below it. Blake wanted to do it too so he got a coloring book, picked out a few bears and colored patches on his book. He didn't get the point of choosing the same color crayon as his bear, but he still enjoyed using the learning supplies and being a part of that lesson. It was really sweet.

If I had to give one piece of advice to any home school parent, I would say to ask questions. Don't compare yourself and the way or pace that your kiddos learn to another family but don't be afraid to get advice when you need it. Beating yourself up over not being "good enough" will never help you grow in your homeschooling journey. If anything, it will bring you down and give you more stress than you need. Ask other moms for help, tips, their experiences with curriculum or co-ops. Helping each other be successful is one of the main reasons why I love homeschooling. Of course there's the one on one time with our children, the comfort and assurance of knowing what they're learning and how it's being taught, the knowledge that they are safe at home (or with you) and not in danger of something unplanned occurring and being able to watch them grow and progress with the confidence that you played a huge part in that. But, the encouragement and camaraderie that I've been able to witness, and feel myself, since becoming a part of my local home school group is so, so amazing.

God truly does have a plan for your family. Whether it be through public school, private school or home school, trust him with your decisions and he will never lead you somewhere you won't succeed as long as you make him a part of it. I know this was an extra long post, but, if you read my previous home schooling post, I'm sure you sort of expected this one to be lengthy as well. Lol

I pray you all have a very blessed weekend and you are able to lay your cares on the Lord. He knows our every circumstance and has exactly what we need to not only make it through but, to do so with flying colors. Have a great weekend and happy homeschooling!

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