Written by Kari Patterson
Sometime around 7 they shuffle out, sleepy-eyed, their pajama-pants falling mid-shin, reminding me how fast they’re growing up. But we still snuggle.
They find me in my favorite chair, the big one with room for a little beside me and another on my lap. I slide my Bible to the side, set my coffee down, and gather them up, pushing back the blanket so they can crawl beneath. I kiss their cheeks, right next to their mouths so I can breathe in their morning breath. I’m weird like that, I love their smells.
Thus begins our day.
After snuggling, we read the Bible together, pray, and move toward (maybe) getting dressed. I admit sometimes when it’s cold, we might linger longer in our jammies, or upgrade only slightly, to sweatpants.
We have our bells, to keep us moving, because otherwise we’d likely stay in that chair ‘til noon! These “bells” are just alarms set on my phone, with pleasant sounds the kids picked out for each activity. There’s Bible/pray, then get dressed, then breakfast, then brush teeth. Though I love lingering, the bells remind me there’s a good, full day ahead, so let’s begin.
We start slowly. After breakfast the kids do their few chores, and I mine. (I use this personalized Cleaning Schedule for myself, and these Day Plan lists for the kids’ chores and lessons.) At 9:30 the piano bell plays on my phone. We’ve been using the online Piano for All program, learning together. We go slowly, only a lesson or two a week, and the kids have 10-20 minutes each to practice. (This is Dutch’s Beethoven face.)
After piano is art (I told you we ease into our day!), which takes many forms. They can draw, study an art book, color or paint, do a craft, pretty much anything creative. It transitions them into seatwork, and focuses their minds a bit.
Sometimes my son will type stories on his typewriter (yes, he loves his typewriter), which is fine with me.
After all this ease, we tackle math. Heidi usually breezes through it, Dutch still sometimes begins with utter overwhelm, but as long as I sit down beside him, and stay beside him, we’re good. More often than not he picks up on concepts quickly, he just has to fight the initial feelings of overwhelm.
Overall, I’m pleased with Singapore Math and find it does a great job teaching concepts and requiring students to practice several methods of performing the same operations. I like that, since some naturally appeal to me, but often a different one appeals to Dutch.
After math we do language, which includes literature, spelling, hand-writing, and grammar. Literature is, quite simply, reading literature. Right now for Dutch that is Tolkien, Lewis, or MacDonald. Heidi reads these delightful abridged Shakespeare plays, or other easy-reader books.
We use the Spelling Workout books, although I still see some significant gaps. Interestingly, Dutch reads voraciously, and can ace any spelling test where he sees the words spelled out and must choose the correct/incorrect one. But if I say a word aloud and ask him to spell it from memory, he’s lost. This is convenient for State-testing but not for living.
Heidi, on the other hand, reads less and has a harder time picking an incorrect word from a list, but can phonetically figure out how to spell most words. So, the two are quite different, and I figure that with enough practice they’ll both be fine.
For hand-writing, both kids are doing Handwriting Without Tears cursive now. Heidi’s penmanship is near-perfect, where Dutch has a difficult time with fine-motor skills, and no matter how carefully he copies, it still looks sloppy. Again, I’m unconcerned. My dad, brother, and husband, all have terribly penmanship and are successful, well-adjusted human beings. I think he’ll be okay.
First Language Lessons Grammar is pretty basic. I like the book because it takes zero brainwork on my part, and the memorization makes it simple to remember grammatical rules and parts of speech.
After grammar the kids love to announce, “Yay! Now we’re done with school!” even though we still have Story of the World to do. For them this part is dessert. They’ve finished their scholastic spinach, so to speak, and now we get the sweet treat of history, told through narrative.
I admit, it’s my favorite part too.
The kids scurry to grab their notebooks, filled with the Activity Pages, pre-copied and ready to color or fill-out. They listen along and color the maps, figures, and illustrations.
We’re doing all 4 books this year, a bird’s-eye view, two chapters each day. My plan is then to come back, and more slowly study each era, adding activities and additional reading.
But this year it’s fun to just fly over and watch the whole thing unfold. We just left Napoleon exiled on Elba and Simon Bolivar leading a revolution in Peru.
I cannot overstate how much my kids love Story of the World, and how much I have learned from reading it aloud. I was never good at history, but this curriculum has given me a love for the subject, and at least a surface understanding of major events. I also love how the author often narrates through the eyes of individuals, helping us have a more compassionate view of those involved. Seeing the complexities of situations allows the reader to empathize with everyone involved, rather than simply villainizing one side and heroizing (is that a word?) the other.
Lunch was in there somewhere too, whenever we’re hungry. We usually finish all this around 1, at which time we head outside.
I do my exercising, a brisk walk, then at 2 p.m. I take my shower (a welcomed comfort and break after a full few hours of instruction and interaction), then take from 2:30-4 p.m. for writing, speaking-prep, and online work. At 4 we tidy up the house, finish any chores, sometimes read aloud again, then begin making dinner and getting ready for whatever the evening holds. Our days are quiet but most evenings are full, so I try to have our loose-ends tied up before dinner.
For dinner, we still follow our very simple meal-schedule. My goal this year is to also have the kids make our meal one day a week. As of right now Heidi’s would be homemade bread and spinach, and Dutch’s would be popcorn and spinach. Both sound delicious to me, but there’s certainly room for improvement. 😉
One significant addition to our schedule this year is Nature Days. Each Friday, a small group of homeschool families gather at our house (we live out in the country), from 11-2, for a Charlotte Mason-inspired time of interacting with nature.
We begin with a “Nature Mission” – some simple activity a mom has prepared. This has been everything from scavenger hunting, bird-house building, leaf pressing, mushroom printing. We do a picnic lunch together, then allow free time for the kids to explore, imagine, and adventure outside. We meet rain or shine, but thankfully this year it’s only been shine!
This group has been a gift to us, providing a regular homeschool community for my kids, similar to a co-op, but without much additional planning or commitment. I’ve seen my son especially, truly thrive in these friendships. For his 10th birthday he had only one request for his party: “I want Nature Day!”
So, that’s it, friends. Our homeschool routine. My favorite parts are piano, Story of the World, and Nature Day. Spelling still baffles me sometimes, but again, we’ll be okay.
I’m glad we get to live in a world with spellcheck.
How the days have changed:
- 2016: Kari’s homeschool day in the life (with a 7- and 9-year-old)
- 2015: Kari’s homeschool day in the life (with an 5- & 8-year-old)
- 2014: Kari’s homeschool day in the life (with an 4- & 7-year-old)
What is your scholastic spinach and what’s your dessert? That is, what parts feel like a treat, and what takes a bit more work? And, how do you teach spelling?? Grateful for this community where we get to grow together and learn from each other. Thanks for reading.