If you were to ask people who know me well to list the things I am passionate about, education would definitely make that list, underneath faith and family. I haven’t yet talked about education on this blog so I figured I’d introduce the topic with a look into our homeschooling day, since “how” we homeschool is something I am asked about quite a bit. So come on in! I’m inviting you to visit our school for the day!
The morning starts for me before the sun rises. I make my way downstairs and spend some time journaling, praying and reading my Bible- enjoying the only time most of this day that the house will be quiet. Then I throw a load of laundry in, check my meal plan for the day to make sure nothing needs to go in the crock pot, then look through our school plans and ready any materials.
Soon the 5 and 4 year-olds will be up, like conjoined twins they operate on the same rhythm. I’ll kiss their faces and feed them a morning snack of fruit or yogurt since they won’t be hungry for a larger breakfast for at least an hour. They scamper off to play as the sun, shy at first, now boldly lights the morning sky.
I have some time to go shower and dress since our rule for school days is that the teacher and her students are always dressed and ready. I like that our dress code helps us respect the work we do here and also prevents us from having to run around and dress quickly later in the day should we decide a spontaneous trip to the library or zoo or park is necessary to our studies. After dressing, I call the 4 year-old away from an epic Octonauts action figure battle long enough to wrap her unruly curls in a tight pony tail. Then I wake my late sleeping 7 year-old with the promise of food and request that she come downstairs dressed for school. The toddler is singing in his crib but my husband will bring him down diapered and dressed before he leaves for work so I smile at his song and head down to the kitchen to make breakfast.
After breakfast and chores, there is no real structure set in place thanks to the wild toddler. It’s quite difficult to sit and teach just about anything with a toddler climbing on the furniture, or throwing a tantrum or generally destroying things, so our morning structure is loose.
Both the 5 and 7 year olds have “chosen work” for the day- a concept I learned from my years in a Montessori classroom and implemented in our school. Their chosen work is just the daily lessons I choose for them (mostly based on our curriculum) that they must complete with me before the end of the day. Their basic lessons include reading, copy work (writing) math and math facts, art, music, science and history. However my 7 year old also has grammar, narration (re-telling or narrating a story) dictation (writing what you hear) and poetry memorization. Some days we use a check list to mark off what they’ve completed. All of their other explorations and lessons are self led, though I often add items to their chosen work that reflect where their curiosities have been recently.
For instance, we spent a morning recently learning about hydrofoils after my 5 year-old discovered them in a book. Last week my 7 year-old was curious about how the human ear works, so this week we will read books and watch You Tube videos about the human ear until her curiosity is satisfied. Then she’ll label a diagram of the ear and write a few sentences about what she’s learned, and file her work in her school binder’s “Science” section. A few weeks ago we studied Odysseus and the Cyclops. We colored and labeled maps of ancient Greece and recorded Odysseus’ journey back home after the 10 year war in Troy. My five year old was so entranced by the story that we didn’t move on to study ancient Rome until we had gotten more books about Odysseus from the library, including learning about the Minotaur and the Cyclops in more depth. He still feels sad that all of Odysseus’ men died, but is happy Odysseus finally got to see his son and wife again.
We work throughout the whole day to complete their chosen work, but art and music lessons are online so they can and must complete them independently before lunch. The bulk of their chosen work is completed in the afternoon while the toddler naps. My 4 year old has work boxes she can choose from if she desires, but often she works on her own “projects” while the others do their chosen work. She is reluctant to start any formal schooling with me unless she initiates it and I never force her to do anything academic. Just yesterday, however, she got out some paper and her markers and started writing her letters and numbers, squealing with delight and rushing to show me every time she made a new letter or number. She has learned so much just from observing the lessons of her siblings.
Since most of their academics must wait until the afternoon, much of our morning, after chores and music and art lessons, is choice time: they can do whatever they choose. This is very exciting for all of us! It is during choice time that I really start to see their personal interests. One week my five year-old spent most of his choice time outdoors practicing with the new hand saw I gave him. He cut down wild branches and thick weeds all over our yard and then planned a project to build with them. Another week he spent many free hours building complicated structures out of our wooden blocks. For a few days he was quite enamored with learning about electricity using our snap circuits, and taking things with batteries apart all around the house and putting them together again to see if they would still work. I love that he has time to explore his interests at length. I love that he is learning to work with his mind and his hands.
All of them often choose to be outdoors for most or all of choice time, but on cooler days play dough or painting or sensory tubs get lots of use. My oldest enjoys making books or writing movies and will spend much of her time perfecting illustration techniques or asking how to spell certain words. I play with the toddler or read him books or he plays with his siblings while I fold laundry and make lunch. We very much enjoy our free choice mornings. Directly after lunch is when our day gets much more structured.
With the toddler strapped in his chair, we finish lunch and then read our daily devotional. We are currently using a book written about the real life stories of missionaries around the world. After that we begin either our history or science work, still seated at the table. We study history twice a week and science twice a week for about an hour each time, not including the additional reading we do at other times. (Our history curriculum is a book in story format that we have on cd so we listen to our history chapters in the car during the week.) History table work usually involves map work, narration and dictation, and a project. We made terra cotta pots for our unit on ancient Greece. Science usually involves diagramming or drawing, a project, a video, and lots of reading. All papers are filed in their school binders for review and keepsake. If the toddler can play in his high chair during this time we let him, or else he is released and plays with toys around the table or “helps” me with the project we are doing.
After science/history they gather around the coffee table with coloring pages, or note booking papers, to listen to whatever audio book we’re enjoying at the moment, which now happens to be the original Peter Pan. I lay the toddler down for his nap then straighten the kitchen while they listen. My husband comes home for lunch around this time so I talk with him as well.
After quite some time with the audio book, my preschooler will take her nap while the oldest two and I complete the rest of their chosen work. This could take just one more hour or 2+ hours depending on which lessons need to be completed and how smoothly this time goes. I try to complete chosen work with my 5 year-old first as he still gets tired in the afternoons and will rest when his work is done. After chosen work with both children is complete, our school day is done! My 7 year-old chooses a quiet time activity and I take a “break” checking email, social media, or attempting to rest before the toddler wakes up.
This is what most of our school day will be like each day Monday through Thursday, unless we have a field trip or take a spontaneous trip out of the house for some reason. We participate in a homeschool co-op on Friday mornings, where the kids take classes and I teach, so we do not have school at home on those days.
Thanks for coming along today! Any questions about our school day? Hopefully soon I will write a post about why we chose to home school in the first place. Until then-