It’s been about a year since my last “day in the life” sort of post, and I never got a “daily schedule” post written last fall, so I thought I might share a bit about what a “typical” homeschool day is looking like for us at the moment.
For anyone just joining us, I have a 3rd grader (Miss M) and a Kindergartener (Mr. E) this year, plus a preschooler (Mr K turns 4 in early February), and an older baby/young toddler (Baby J is about 15 months…but not walking yet, so not exactly a toddler per say).
I started out the school year last September thinking we might try a timed schedule (I think I’ve said that every year, actually!), and having short subject blocks of 15-20 minutes for everyone. There are some merits to that sort of schedule, but I think I have finally learned
once and for all at least for the near future that running our school day with any sort of firm time schedule to switch from subject to subject just produces an excess of stress.
Early in the school year we fell into a routine that has served us fairly well. Everyone is usually up around 7 or maybe 7:30am. I try to get up between 6 and 6:30am…but we all know how that goes. Some days I’m the one sleeping in if everyone else is too! The idea is that breakfast, getting dressed, and otherwise getting ready to face the day should be done by 8:30am (or maybe 9am at the latest!). We’ve been pretty good about all making that one this year!
Sometime before that 8:30am mark, I write out Miss M’s independent work for the day in her daily planner. Back in August, I asked her if she preferred a checklist, chart or planner this year for her independent work. She selected a basic student planner from Target. Each day’s work for Miss M starts out with Bible reading, daily calendar notebook, and something for history — either her choice from our book basket or an assigned historical fiction selection. Miss M likes to “cross it off” on the list, so I write down even the items that are the same each day. Beyond these items, Miss M’s independent work often involves math practice worksheets, spelling or math practice on the iPad and reading or notebooking for science.
“School Day” begins:
By 8:30 am (on an ideal day anyway) Miss M has consulted her list and started in on her independent work for the day. Some days Mr. E and Mr. K and I are ready to start on their daily agenda at this point as well. Other days, they are already in the middle of Legos, blocks or some imaginary game involving anything from super heroes to angry birds. If they are in the middle of something, I let them play. I often let them know that I will set a timer for them for 15 minutes or half an hour and that’s when “school starts” for them for the day — it’s really more for Mr. E’s benefit since most of the “school work” that needs to happen is for him, rather than for his younger brother.
I used to start Mr. E’s Kindergarten time with his reading practice. Since the beginning of the new year, we’ve made a commitment to have everyone listening to or reading the Bible in the family. Mr. K sometimes (or maybe even often) wanders away, but Mr. E really enjoys listening to a couple chapters everyday of the YouVersion app’s NLT audio Bible.
Then comes reading practice for 10 or 15 minutes, followed often by me reading aloud to the boys from books they select. Mr. E may take a short break at this point (especially if we’ve done his reading practice and story time). I have to hope he doesn’t get TOO involved in anything else during the break time — but sometimes he does and a 10 minute break extends to 30 minutes or an hour! We typically tackle math next — Mr. E’s favorite subject. Lately this is looking like anywhere from 10-20 minutes doing RightStart B, plus about 10 minutes or so to read a chapter of Life of Fred. Mr. K sometimes sits and listens in on Mr. E’s math, but more often than not he goes off to play in the boys’ room.
By this time (unless math was preceded by a long break), Mr. E is definitely ready for a snack and longer break. Meanwhile, on a good day, Miss M may be close to finishing up her independent work by this point!
Snack time and Switching focus to my 3rd Grader:
If so, it’s an easy choice to suggest a short break and a snack for her, and then move into doing her “together” work with me — this sometimes involves spelling and usually involves math. If she’s not quite done with her independent work, she may leave it to finish later (usually not her preference), or continue working until it’s done and have a short break and snack later.
If everyone is ready for snack at the same time, I try to read aloud to all the kids. This may be a fiction or non-fiction selection for history, The Sentence Family (a story-based grammar program we started recently), or just another family read-aloud.
When Miss M is ready, we work together. Baby J used to almost always be ready to take a nap by this point…I miss those days! Now that he is an almost-toddler, he rarely is ready for a nap in the morning (maybe by 11am if he is extra tired). Especially while I am working with Miss M, I try to either distract J with a favorite toy, or convince the other two boys to please play with their brother (instead of playing Legos which distinctly leaves the baby out!). The boys are most often playing while I work with Miss M — but I am not above keeping them out of our hair by letting them play an educational game on the iPad every now and then!
After I’m finished with Miss M’s math, spelling and anything else she needs help with, my next effort is often to consider if it’s time to start lunch — I might need to get something started in the kitchen. Sometimes I take a break and for a few minutes too!
Back to focusing on the boys…
Then (assuming it’s not already too close to lunch time…on a good day, we usually still have a bit of time until everyone will be super hungry) I attempt to coral the boys for their Logic of English Foundations lessons. This is something new we’ve added since Christmas.
Usually they are pretty receptive, though it can be hard for them to stop playing at times. If Mr K really isn’t interested on a given day, I don’t push it. Preschool activities for almost-four-year-olds are pretty optional in my book.
Lunch and Reading Aloud…
Now it’s time for lunch. If I haven’t made lunch yet, the kids play for a bit while I take care of that. I’m trying to get in the habit of reading to the kids during lunch time — usually from a history read-aloud. If we didn’t get any reading aloud done during lunch, we will try and do some reading shortly after lunch. “Official” school work is usually done at this point! Yeah!
Afternoons: Free time, fun, chores, and ???
Let’s face it…Mom needs a bit of break too after a morning of focusing with the kids on school. I have never figured out how to develop that clever “quiet time” habit some moms have of sending the kids to play quietly in their rooms for a certain amount of time. Instead, I encourage the kids to pursue their interests and hobbies many afternoons. For the boys this may mean playing more legos, drawing, pretending, or playing outside. Miss M often reads or does a craft project of some sort.
I try to grab a few minutes to relax, and then spend some time doing chores or cooking (often with Baby J following me around and playing near me, if he isn’t playing with his brothers!). Miss M often has chores assigned to her as well that she needs to complete sometime in the afternoon.
Of course, some afternoons I have a project in mind for the kids — whether it be arts and crafts, cooking, or maybe even a longer science activity. And some afternoons we snuggle up on the couch and read together.
Usually about two days a week we are going somewhere in the afternoon — typically one day for an extra-curriculuar activity, and the other day for errands of some kind (library, Target, grocery store, etc). That shapes our afternoon of course, though there is still time for free time and fun.
By late afternoon, we have some clean-up time to attempt to tame the chaos around the house. We also often have some screen time in the late afternoon — “fun” iPad game turns (no educational games required during a “fun” turn) or a Netflix/DVD show of some sort (I try and encourage at least semi-educational choices). I will often be making dinner or dealing with kitchen chaos while this is going on…or relaxing if it has been a hard day!
The end of the day…
After dinner finds us doing a variety of family activities or needed chores depending on the night. Bedtime brings one final piece of our “school day” in a sense — I almost always read aloud to Miss M for at least 30 minutes at bed time — this is when we read longer chapter books (history related or otherwise) that are beyond the boys’ interest or understanding at this point.
While no two days are exactly the same in our family, this represents the way our basic routine looks as of early 2013!
I’m joining in with the “Day in the Life” link-up at simplehomeschool.net!