Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae
It seems this “day in the life” assignment always comes around when I’m in the midst of transition or crisis, but I suppose that’s just what homeschooling is: educating our kids in the middle of Life.
Our family moved to a new house last month. My school room looks like this. Not exactly Pinterest-worthy, yet, is it?
The good news is, despite moving, the flu, the holidays, and another cold amongst us, we’re still plugging away with school.
Our school day is divided into two chunks. We have a morning session that involves me teaching directly. Once their time with me is finished, my kids are free to play for a bit. After lunch, there is a chunk reserved for independent school work.
I’m essentially working with two levels of students: those who can read and those who can’t.
My independent readers receive a hand-out at the beginning of the week that includes all of their assignments, maps, and worksheets. They are responsible for finishing all of their reading and projects by Friday when they are tested.
I charge five dollars for a lost assignment packet. I don’t care if they file it in their backpack or on the ceiling fan, as long as they know where it is and they follow its instructions. This cuts back on my nagging and teaches them responsibility and organization.
My non-readers, of course, rely on me for keeping track of their assignments.
We try to start at 9 in the morning. However, if the stars align and the baby sleeps in, we are perfectly okay with throwing the entire day’s schedule late just to catch up on some shut-eye.
I don’t apologize for this homeschooling luxury any more. As a family, we are all in agreement that well-rested parents and students are crucial to better learning and better relationships.
Inspired by Brave Writer’s book “The Writer’s Jungle,” we’ve recently (as in, last week) added both copywork and dictation into our day. Both the kids and I find it enjoyable and I don’t have to do any nagging or prodding for them to gather.
First, my six oldest children sit at the dining room table. Everyone is included (except the baby, who might be napping or he might be eating raisins off the floor.) We pass out composition notebooks and do 15 minutes of copywork. My Littles sit and scribble in their books. I play Classical music. It’s a very warm and cozy way to begin the day.
Which is good, because all bets are off once that 15 minutes is up.
Copywork is simple enough that they can do it well consistently. Everyone leaves the table feeling confident that no matter what happens next, they did something well today.
When this is done, I speak to my 3rd graders for a minute, reminding them of assignments, and then I set them loose to do their reading or work on projects. I gather my kindergartener and my 2nd grader onto the couch and we do our Read Aloud for the day.
My Littles wander in and out, as do my big kids. I usually field several questions, break up a fight, and change a diaper somewhere in there.
Then I send the second grader off to play with his younger sisters while I do reading with the kindergartener.
When we finish, I swap them. It really helps to assign an older child to play with the Littles. I don’t have a system for this, I just do it as it works out. But I highly recommend it.
By the time I’ve run through my various list of subjects to cover with my people, we’ve killed about two hours, give or take an interruption.
Independent Work Time
After lunch, I put the Littles down to nap and then the four olders work on their book work. This includes math, handwriting, or any other work they can do independently. I make sure to go over their assignments with them and then I go to my room (but I leave my door open.)
I’m an introvert by nature and I’ve learned that with all the voices around here, Mama needs some room time in order to get through the day without my head spinning off my shoulders.
My kids know that if they get really stuck, they can interrupt me and I will gladly help them. But I’d like for them to try to work it out on their own first. This fosters independent learning, which is really one of the ultimate goals of schooling at home.
Once I’ve had my break, I re-emerge and check everyone’s work. The kids have usually wandered off at this point. Unless there’s a major issue in their workbooks that needs to be resolved immediately, I save giving them minor corrections until the next day when they’re fresh.
One of the perks of schooling year round like we do is that I can put some subjects off until we finish our core curriculum. We will do a science intensive unit during our three months when we aren’t doing Tapestry of Grace. This allows me to balance everyone’s work load to something I feel we can reasonably complete.
In the meantime, we are watching lots of “Magic School Bus” videos by way of supplementing science.
And that totally counts…
A look back at Lora’s homeschool days:
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does it affect the way you plan your school day? And are you jealous of my school room decor?
Great post! I feel like I have done something wrong. My kids won’t do anything unless I am micromanaging them, breathing down their throats. How do you get your kids to work independently? I struggle everyday trying to get them to do anything without me having to beg and plead. As soon as I turn my back they are distracted with other things.
I think this question and struggle would make a great series, in fact. Bring it, simple homeschool moms! We need it!
Oooo, I like this idea! Thanks for the suggestion!
And actually, I have a feeling one’s educational philosophy is one of the main driving motivators of how this plays out at home. I’m interested in hearing from all points of view!
I have the same issue with homeschooling my 13 year old! Ugg!
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My kids work much better independently, when they have their own list of what needs to be accomplished. Takes me out of he equation…no asking, it’s either done or it’s not. Even my “non-reader” learned many of the words on his simple list or could ask and was able to take charge of completing his work.
I’m a major introvert and this is one of the things that concerns me a little bit about homeschooling. My kiddo is only three and has given up her nap but we have “relaxing time” every day where she spends some time playing quietly in her room so mommy’s sanity stay intact.
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priest's wife (@byzcathwife)
I’m very introverted, too- it is hard but you can do it!
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Then you’re on the right track! Building quiet times into your day now will set the pattern for the future, too!
Those assignment packages look really nice! Do you mind sharing your resources for those? I am schooling a 8-, 6-, 3-, and 8 month old and would love to use something like that for our older ones. Thanks so much!
Rebecca – I make those assignment sheets in Olly, which I wrote about here: http://simplehomeschl.wpengine.com/lesson-planning/
I still really like using it and highly recommend it!
Thanks Lora! I plan to check it out.
glad to hear i’m not the only one who uses magic school bus to get extra science in 🙂
we love it and i’ve learned right along with them 🙂 thanks for the great post! you’re incredible to love on 7 little ones in 7 years! i had my 4 in 4 years and some days i just don’t know how we did it, but by God’s grace~
I love the $5 charge for lost papers! Very clever! Maybe I should start charging for lost shoes, jackets and the like? (Mine are 6, 5 and 2.) I’m an introvert, too, but never thought about taking some time to myself! No wonder I’m crazy sometimes! 🙂 My 6 yr old will soon be 7, but I’m not sure he’s going to be so independent. I do think he will get there – maybe 2nd grade? And they love copywork? What is your secret? My 6 yr old HATES to write and drags it out all the time whining. I am tempted to just let him slide, but then I remind myself that there will be more writing as he progresses through the grades. Will he ever not mind it?
Andrea – Actually, I have charged them for other lost items in the past, too. I usually charge if they can’t find it and I can. For awhile, to hold everyone accountable, we charged ten cents for any shoe claimed that was out of place. I got cranky when I had to pay up (I’m notorious for leaving my shoes lying around, too), but we did see improvement in the shoe putting away. And being able to hold the parents accountable made it fun for them.
Well, it’s still new for them, and for me, but we are liking copywork so far. I let them pick their own book. I choose the passage. And the goal isn’t so much that they finish it in 15 minutes as it is that they do their best at copying it accurately. If it takes them two days to do one passage (and I know they’re not dawdling on purpose) then that’s ok. I’m also not making them copy anything more than once. We fix their mistakes when they’re done, talk about the grammar they learned from it, and they pick something else. I’ll write more about it when we’ve done it longer. Hope this helps! (p.s. For my littlest writers, letting them pick their books helps A LOT. They’ve copied a lot of Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton!)
Thanks for sharing! What a refreshing post. I’m introverted as well, and agree a little “room time” for myself does help. Mine are 11, 9 and 6. We use an assignment sheet successfully, too. I’m working now on a workchart that puts it all their other jobs in order for them to complete better on their own.
I just had an “aha!” moment! I too am an introvert, and never thought of room time or anything like it! I have 4, 4 and under all day, so if I actually did that the whole house could be destroyed. But, it does explain my lack of sanity sometimes 🙂
Sabrina – I’m thinking this subject may need a whole post, but just to encourage you, I’ve done the 4, 4 and under thing, too and it’s intense. But your breaks are that much more important. Yea, they might burn the house down if you just locked yourself in your room, but you might try “room time” or “quiet time on the couch where nobody talks to mommy while the baby is sleeping.” Start small. Try not to get frustrated while you teach them what you expect. And then enjoy the peace and quiet!! *fist bump, fellow introvert*
So, are you actually using The Writer’s Jungle curriculum for their copy work or are you using something else? I love the idea of a morning writing time together. Seems fairly painless, since they’re all doing the same thing at the same time even if it’s on different levels. The less fussy the morning, the better for Mom et al is my motto.
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Jennifer – I’m reading her book and just implementing the ideas. I may try the curriculum at some point, but for now I just want to slowly add the ideas to our schooling. It’s a fantastic, easy read and I am loving it.
Ok thanks! I always do a “soft start” any time we try something new, and with each semester or year, actually. I gotta ease in to the hot water, so to speak! 😉 So I might follow suit with you. Thanks!
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I like the idea of charging, but how do they get the money in the first place?
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Steph (The Cheapskate Cook)
Ha! I like that last part. Magic School Bus totally counts. I grew up on that and other PBS shows, and I can attest to remembering many educational parts (as well random useless parts, but who’s keeping score?)
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I love this post sooo much. It makes me feel nearly normal.
We had 9 kids in 6 3/4 years. Our nine kids are 2 – 9 years old. We have 3 with special needs that function around the 18 month old to two year old level and then our six others are 9, 8, 7, 5, 4, 2
I’m an extrovert and so our school happens at home, and sometimes out (usually dictated on my whims). It ends up working out just fine and we’re building relationships as a family with people working at local coffee shops and stores who work during school hours. It’s fun. I LOVE how you take things as they come and don’t feel like your homeschooling ‘schedule’ is wrecked by having a sleeping in day or things not going according to plan. My life seems that way now and I often wonder if I can do homeschooling well as my kids get older with this tendency. Your post encouraged me that it can work! I can break up a fight, do school, change diapers and still come out on the other side, even if my ponytail is a big ragged. 🙂 Thanks,
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Thank you for the peek into your day! Makes teaching my two look very easy! My mom taught all five of us and I still am not sure how. Magic school bus totally counts 🙂
Glad you mentioned Brave Writer. I looked into it a bit and plan to add it in next year.
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I’m totally fascinated that your kids like copywork. Out of everything we do, they hate that the most, and I’m really not wanting to give it up. I’ve reduced how much I ask them to do it (i.e. it’s no longer a daily task) but I don’t really understand why they hate it. It’s working, their handwriting is totally improving, but gosh. The emotional drama involved!
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I really loved this post! I have 5 kids(6,5,3,2,9 months) that I home school, and reading this made me feel a little bit more normal. 🙂 I especially appreciate you sharing that you go to your room while your younger children nap. I’m an introvert as well, and I have my older kids who don’t nap still take a rest when my younger ones nap. I’ve been wondering what I’ll do when they all have outgrown nap/rest times! Thanks for sharing!
Jessica – I make sure my olders have some schoolwork to do. But when they are done, they have some free time, as long as they don’t get too loud. This is when I let them do messier crafts, now that they’re old enough to clean up after themselves. Yea, it gets out of hand sometimes, which is why I have to hold my room time very lightly. I may be in my room but interrupted ten times. So I try to enjoy the fact that I’m iN MY ROOM, even if All The People show up occasionally. It’s not a perfect system, but it keeps me sane. 😉 It gets easier every year!!
Thank you for sharing this post. I am loving the day in the life homeschool posts. We have a 4 year old and a 2 year old that we want to homeschool. I too tend towards being a introvert and I get concerned about how to balance this with while doing what I think is best for my kids. Sometimes I fear I wont be able to do it and keep my sanity. Its’ always encouraging to see other mama’s who are doing it! Thank again
I am an extrovert, but that doesn’t mean that I’m on all the time with my kids. I’m an extrovert that needs time with my peers!! I need intellectual conversations about the culture, politics, art and theology. I love my children dearly and think that as they grow they might satisfy some of my extroversion. In the meantime, I still need to get away and read or have a cup of coffee. 🙂
That being said, I think the I/E dynamic has less to do with my homeschooling, but the P/J has a LOT to do with it. I’m not the most structured person out there, so I LOVE your idea of printing off the assignments for the week and having the older kids responsible for them.
What age did you do that?? My oldest is almost 7, so he might be ready. Thanks for sharing your day with me; my “homeschool room” isn’t any better! 😉
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Lana – I think I started to teach them about assignment sheets around the age of 7. But it takes time for them to grasp it. So we started with making a daily check-list together. Then I’d show them how to check stuff off when they were finished. They did the exact same stuff every afternoon, but it was good practice for them to understand how a list works. It truly took an entire school year for one of my twins to grasp the concept, so don’t get discouraged. Once they were reading independently, it got a lot easier. And the key is teaching them HOW to keep up with their assignment sheet. So make sure they have a place to store it. Mine rarely put theirs in the right place, but as long as they don’t lose it, we’re fine. But I want to be certain that I’ve given them all the tools they need to succeed before I cut them loose with that responsibility. Baby steps. It’s totally worth the effort!
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Anastasia @ eco-babyz
Very interesting, thanks so much for sharing! Love reading all the comments! I have two littles (5 and 2) and am a major introvert. I love the work I do (all online) and need lots of quiet time. I find the only way this works is if I get up 3 hours before the kids – which makes it mandatory for me to go to bed with them to get enough sleep.
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