Last week I promised to tell you a little bit about our homeschool days. Before we started homeschooling this year, I definitely had some preconceived notions of how our days would go. I had my concerns about how long we should spend on certain subjects, and just how much time was actually going to be consumed with our school day. Searching about and asking other homeschoolers, I found the responses to be so incredibly varied- from a few hours to most of the day. A friend generously shared with me a schedule from a public school fourth grade classroom, which obviously allows for things that we don’t need at home.
A typical day for us starts when we all get up. The kids get up and play for a bit while I spend time at the computer. After that, we do breakfast and Spongebob, followed by the official beginning to our school day. We don’t have a set time that we wake, but I expect that time will get a little earlier with the time change this coming weekend.
We also don’t have a set time that we start school. When I am ready to begin, we begin. Normally, this is around 9:00 am, but we’ve started as late as 10:30 a few times, and also as early as a little after 8- it just depends how those first few moments of the day goes.
Our school day begins with Bible. Abigail reads a passage from her Bible, and then if Zander has the corresponding story in his picture Bible, he reads aloud too. This morning we finished up reading about the ten plagues and read about the first Passover. We read from our American Indian Prayer Guide, pray together, and then we say the Pledge of Allegiance together. Each week the kids take turns holding the flag and leading us in our pledge. Finally, we work on our verse memorization by listening to scripture fitted to music. (CD is called Sing The Word.) I don’t actually require recitation of what they memorize. Each passage lasts for a few weeks, so I know they know it by their singing along.
After Bible, we move onto Math. This takes our biggest chunk of the day. So far they do it at the same time- both at the table. Abigail’s has mostly been self-directed, and she’s doing very well with it. We’ve gone over a few things together- just this morning we sat down together to learn how to write a check. Last week she learned how to solve an addition or subtraction problem for n with Andy, so there are some things she’s needing help with. Zander and I do his math together verbally and then he does some independent workbook work. We’re really, really loving the Singapore math. It took some getting used to, but I love how they present concepts. He’s learning his math facts without having to use a number line or count on his fingers- and he’s doing very, very well.
After math we go back to the living room to do our history and geography. Generally that means that they listen while I read aloud from a history book. I let them play with Silly Putty during this time too- they seem to concentrate better if their hands are busy. After the reading I ask comprehension questions- and who knew a kindergartner could retain so much information! Then we do map work, identifying any location we talked about, and Abigail will also add details to her timeline. Early American History is such a fabulous time period to study, and we’re all enjoying it immensely.
Next is Handwriting, which usually only takes about 5 minutes. They each have their own books- Zander’s working on his letter writing, Abigail is perfecting her beautiful cursive that she learned last year.
After Handwriting comes reading. Abigail dashes off with her reader upstairs to get comfy on a bed while she reads to herself. All her readers tie in directly with our History. Tomorrow she’ll finish up reading about Squanto. Zander and I go to the couch to read his readers together. His also tie in with our history, but are picture books that are at his level. He reads aloud to me, and then since his reading doesn’t take as long as Abigail, he is then allowed some computer time. Once she is done with her reading for the day, I ask Abigail a few questions about what she is reading, and then we move on to Language Arts.
Zander does Language Arts just two days a week. He is finishing up some workbooks that are really helping his small motor skills with writing, cutting and pasting, and coloring. Abigail’s Language Arts is done four days a week, and is much more involved. She starts with a Spelling test everyday- one of these days I’ll talk about that, because I really think the program we’re using is helping her become a better speller. After Spelling she works on writing activities. Monday’s are always dictation assignments, and the rest of the week is various activities and discussions that help improve writing skills. Finally, we do Grammar, which I don’t enjoy teaching her at all, but I think is very important for her to learn. We finally finished up studying prepositional phrases last week and are moving on to verbs this week.
Next we do Science most days. We were slow to start science this year, but now that we’re studying the planets, the pace has picked up a bit. We read together about our topic, and then do an activity or add something to our Astronomy Journals.
Finally, our formal school day wraps up with our Read-Aloud. This is our favorite time of day. The kids pull out the legos, k’nex, or Lincoln Logs and build things while I read out of our book- which also happens to tie in to our History. This week we’ll finish reading The Sign of The Beaver.
Surprisingly enough, all of that usually is accomplished before lunch. After lunch we do other school activities- but that varies from day to day. Tuesdays we do music class, Fridays we have gym class, and the other days of the week we try to do arts and crafts or projects. Last week Zander asked if we could do a baking class one day- so one day after school we baked cookies together. Our History Pockets are also done during this time. We may also watch a video or the kids will get some computer time, but mostly, the bulk of our schooling is done in the morning.
How is this possible? How is it that kids go to public school and spend 7+ hours there. Are my kids lacking in their education? Well, here’s what we’re not doing. We don’t spend any time during the day getting into lines to walk down the hallway to go to a different class. We don’t have to line up to go use the bathroom, and then wait our turn to wash our hands. We don’t have to take a full 45 minutes for lunch and recess. We also don’t take a recess time- we just keep going to get our day done. When one child is done with their math work, class is over, we don’t have to wait an extra 15 minutes to make sure all the students have finished their work. We don’t hand out extra worksheets to try and fill a certain time slot with activities to keep squirrely kids under control, and we don’t have to allow an extra ten minutes to clean up at the end of the day. We aren’t spending time before each recess putting on coats, hats and mittens and finding athletic equipment. We also don’t spend time after recess putting all those things away and then washing hands before moving on. School teachers have to specifically fill time slots, and they have to allow time for things we don’t need to. (Such as the extra time between subjects to line up and walk down the hall.) We don’t, we simply move seamlessly from subject to subject. Some we finish in just a few minutes. Sometimes our math takes almost an hour one day, but then it only takes 20 minutes the next.
We follow our subjects in the same order every day- but never look at the clock once- except to see if it’s close to lunchtime when I need to start something cooking. When I first decided on this loose schedule, I made it a point to make sure that all our writing work was not done in succession. We go back and forth from a sitting/reading activity to a writing activity. I think this is key to keeping the kids from getting bored. Every once in a random while I’ll also throw in a bonus- instead of a scheduled activity, we’ll play a board game together instead. Or if we’re a little pressed for time, we’ll do the read-aloud while the kids eat lunch.
Now that we’re on our ninth week of school, we’re totally confident with what we’re doing. I can’t believe that as of this coming Friday, we’ll already be 1/4th of the way through the school year. It’s going quickly, and we’re learning so much together. The kids have gained amazing confidence in their abilities to do certain activities. Zander has even asked if he can try reading a chapter book to himself. I may very well hand him a Geronimo Stilton next week and see how he does with it.
And you know what? I can, because I can do whatever we want to enhance our learning. I love that.