2.15.2017

A Day in the Life of our Fall/Winter Homeschooling Semester

I feel so grateful to be living in a time where there are online communities of people learning and growing together. I have been profoundly shaped by those in both the sewing community as well as the homeschooling one. I'm so grateful for all of you talented people who inspire me so deeply!


I mentioned in a previous post that I wrapped up our year last year with a solid case of homeschool burnout.  I love to listen to podcasts while I sew and I found myself adding more and more layers to our homeschool.  Three separate, complete Waldorf curricula.  Classical language arts.  Singapore math. And while we're at it, let's throw in a good dose of Charlotte Mason.  Instead of ramping down at the end of the year, I ramped up.  My friend Rachel from Stitched in Color ever so gently asked, "You ramped up in the last month of the school year? That's a time when teachers tend to wind down." She is so gracious and wise.


This year, we made a couple of changes, the biggest one being that we enrolled Jude, Indigo, and Tia in a two-day homeschool enrichment program. (Initially we had enrolled Iris for one day as well, but she preferred to stay home with me and I am great with that.) The homeschool enrichment program offers amazing classes, which I wrote about near the end of this post.   The kids are learning so much and thriving there.  After three years of being home together every single day, seven days a week, it could sometimes feel a bit like Groundhog's Day. The change of pace has helped keep the kids so much more focused on their days at home with me.   And now I have a couple of days each week to focus on my two little girls, which has been wonderful!



Then, I simplified.  One thing Charlotte Mason, Classical, and Waldorf education all have in common is their focus on "the good, the beautiful and the true."  So it is around those three things that we ground our overall homeschooling philosophy.  Here's what our typical homeschool day looks like.

We wake up around 7-7:30.  (Dan has usually left for the day by the time we wake up.) We eat breakfast and do a few chores. Indigo cares for her chickens and I unload the dishwasher.  We all tidy up the kitchen after breakfast.


MORNING WALK

Then it's time for our morning walk.  Every day (except on co-op days) the kids, our dog and I go for an almost two-mile walk.  This is an idea strongly encouraged in our Waldorf curriculum (Christopherus) and one I am so grateful to have adapted. Not only is it a great energy burn for the kids (and our dog!), but it gets us out observing nature, the seasons, the weather, and we get to know our neighbors better, too.  Some studies have suggested that walking to school improves academic performance and concentration.  We all love our morning walks!


MORNING TIME

After our morning walk, we do "morning time".  This a time where we all gather at the table to study and learn together as a family.  We generally start with a Scripture passage we are memorizing together, followed by time where we work in blocks (or units).  Block scheduling is part of the Waldorf philosophy and works so well for us! Here are our morning time blocks from last semester.  {We checked out most of these books from the library, using the library holds system.}


We began the year reading The Story of Mankind, pages 17-87 which covered ancient civilizations.  After reading about Ancient Greece, we were inspired to do an in-depth study of Alexander the Great. We read: Alexander the Great : Master of the Ancient World (so informative), Alexander the Great by Demi (beautiful illustrations), You Wouldn't Want to be in Alexander the Great's Army (interesting facts), and Alexander the Great : The legend of a Warrior King (great photos).


For our second block, we completely shifted gears to composer study, a Charlotte Mason focus which my kids love.  This semester, we studied Mozart.  We read : Who was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 59 Fascinating Facts for Kids about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and The Magic Flute, which is one of Mozart's operas.  During this block, we played a lot of Mozart's music during our drawing and clean up times.


Next we moved on to a Saints block.  This was a Waldorf second grade block that I did with Indigo and loved it so much I wanted to do another, different block together as a family.  We read Patrick the Patron Saint of Ireland, Brigid's Cloak, St Francis of Assisi : A Life of Joy, and Elizabeth of the Roses.  Then we spent a lot of time reading from the Loyola Treasury of Saints.  That books was a true treasure, was all factual (vs including some legend) and included modern day 'saints' like Martin Luther King, Jr and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well as many saints of old.  To see these amazing human's love, dedication, and self-sacrifice for humanity was humbling, inspiring, and so moving.


In December, we read Jotham's Journey and lit the candles on our advent wreath.  This book was very intense, especially for little ones. Iris could not participate in this block, which was disappointing.  We also tried out Compassion's homeschooling curriculum.  It aims to teach children about world cultures, social justice and care for the poor, but it was so bare bones and I had to do so much supplementation, that I didn't prefer it.


Our morning time lasts about 30 minutes and often the little girls will draw or color while I read aloud. Including picture books made this block inclusive for our little ones. We also did some crafts, like molding and painting clay shamrocks to remember St Patrick and making paper flowers when studying Elizabeth of the Roses.

30 MINUTE ROTATIONS

We clean up the table after morning time and then we move on to 30-minute rotations.  I got this idea from Sarah MacKenzie here.  Essentially, Jude, Indigo, and Tia take turns playing with Hazel for 30 minutes while I work with one of the kids individually and then we rotate. It's not a perfect system but it helps a lot.  Last semester we generally did one rotation in the morning and two in the afternoon.


Julie from Brave Writer has said something about implementing a Classical education in the fall, Charlotte Mason in the winter and unschooling in the spring.  Keeping that in mind, we decided to do most of our classical-based language arts (Michael Clay Thompson) in this first semester.


This is our fourth year using Michael Clay Thompson and I can tell you this - he know how to teach children grammar!  This year I decided to only use two of his books per year instead of four.  Four was just too intense and didn't leave room for other things we wanted to pursue.  We completed all of Grammar Town (Indigo) and Grammar Voyage (Jude). That took around 8 weeks.

Then we took a break from MCT and took an online course called Declaration : Foundations in American Government, around the time of the election.  Interestingly, the instructor went into quite a lot of detail on the pros and cons and controversy surrounding the electoral college, which was pertinent in this recent election.


After that, we worked through a Pouch of Boomerangs (Brave Writer) literature guide for Number the Stars.  It was excellent and Jude and Indigo loved this book.  We wrapped up the semester completing 5 of the 10 weeks of Caesar English 1 (Indigo) and Caesar's English 2 (Jude). And we completed half of our Practice Town and Practice Voyage sentences for the year.


During my 30 minute rotation with Tia, we mostly worked through the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  I loved the first half of the book. It taught Tia how to blend sounds together in a way that she easily understood.  She made progress quickly. I was less impressed with the second half of the book. We also worked through a few other readers and one Life of Fred book.


MATH

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have a math tutor work with the kids individually for around 50 minutes each, for a total of 2.5 hours (from 10-12:30). I've heard that some math tutors are exorbitantly expensive, but ours charges the same rate as what we pay a babysitter.  She is a college student studying engineering and is excellent at explaining math concepts.  We use Singapore Math for all three kids.  We use the textbooks, workbooks and intensive practice workbooks.  (I have our Singapore Math schedule posted here, though we now use it as a weekly guide instead of a daily one.)


Last year, we gave up the intensive practice problems workbook and that was a mistake.  I'm glad we went back to it this year.  Jude is using the Singapore Math Live website for help working through his Singapore Intensive Practice problems and it is excellent. Between this website, the math tutor and the fact that Jude is rock solid on math after 4 years of Singapore math, I don't spend much time working with him on math anymore.  I do still spend time most days working on math with Tia as well as some time with Indigo a couple days a week.  So our math tutor doesn't exclusively teach math, but she helps us so much and I am immensely grateful for her.


On math tutor days, I leave from 11-12:30 to go to the gym and pump some iron (haha- but for real).  The little girls love playing in the childcare there.  The staff is so nurturing and amazing.  And my older kids can work in peace with their tutor.

Then we eat lunch.  After lunch, the kids clean up the kitchen and living room while I get Hazel down for her nap.  It usually takes around 15 minutes, and then we start quiet time.

QUIET TIME

During quiet time, each of the kids has to do something individually (and quietly!).  This is Jude and Indigo's time to read independently.  Last semester, Jude read the first four books in the Fablehaven series, Robin Hood, The One and Only Ivan, and The Beyonder.  Indigo is an avid reader.  She read Pippi Longstocking and Charlotte's Web aloud to Tia.  Then on her own she read the first four books of the Fablehaven series, Stuart Little, The Sign of the Beaver, The Search for Delicious, The Trumpet of the Swan, The One and Only Ivan, The Birchbark House, Homer Price, Wonder, and Who Was Albert Einstein?  Jude and Indigo enjoyed these books tremendously which is why I thought I'd list them here!  Many of these book ideas came from the Brave Writer book lists.


Tia was not reading well enough to read chapter books yet during quiet time.  The audio book thing just does not work for Iris and Tia.  So the girls mostly worked on coloring and art projects during their quiet time. I often print coloring pages from Pinterest.  In the photo below, Dan drew the outline of a horse and Iris turned it into a zebra and then watercolored around it.  She colored in and watercolored the chicken coloring page.


Quiet time/Hazel's nap time is the time that I work on sewing projects, blog posts, photo editing, or email.  It usually lasts around 45 minutes.

AFTERNOONS

In the afternoons, we tried to get in two of the three rotations (mentioned above).  Though it was not uncommon for us to squeeze in one in the evening after Dan got home.  Our co-op has science class, STEM, and lab but it's not a complete curriculum for the older grades so Jude and Indigo do Singapore Science.  Unlike Singapore Math, it is not an overly time-consuming curriculum in fact,  it's a little bare bones, but it works well for us.  I love that it's holistic, including topics like wellness and nutrition.

This year, instead of using a spelling curriculum, we started using copywork and dictation to learn spelling using Spelling Wisdom by Simply Charlotte Mason.  Jude and Indigo do two passages per week.  They will often work on their science and copywork in the mornings, too.

The afternoon is also the time when the kids practice their instruments.  Indigo and Jude both take piano lessons and Jude recently started learning the guitar as well.  They also sing in our city's children's chorus - (it's Jude's fourth year!) so they attend a 2-hour rehearsal one evening a week. They love it.


Creating is such a big part of our family culture and my kids often have some project in the works.


Last year (2016), Jude, Indigo and I read the Bible in a year together, along with some friends in the sewing community.  So we wrapped that up last semester. This was my fifth time reading it in a year and I am a big fan of The Bible Project which has illustrated videos for each book of the Bible.  The kids and I watched those videos together and listened to a dramatized reading of the Bible performed by Grammy-award winning African American actors while I folded laundry.  It was an incredible experience.  I feel there can be a real danger in only learning random verses in the Bible outside of the story line as a whole as well as without considering the passages' original context. Sadly, passages have been used to oppress others rather than to love them.  I was glad they were able to read the entire book as a whole, and that we could do it together.


On most days the kids play outside with our neighbors from around 4 pm until at least 6, sometimes later.  Our neighbors are also homeschooled, which has been a major incentive for them to get outside.  Even when the sun went down earlier (and it never goes down too early here) they would play in the garage together.  I would try to get dinner started after that, so it would be ready when Dan got home around 7.  Not because I'm trying to fit an ideal of a 1950s housewife, but because we need to keep our night moving along. :P


We usually eat around 7.  After that, Dan and I give Hazel and Iris their baths while Jude and Indigo clean up the kitchen, load the dishwasher, and Tia helps pick up the toys and mess from the afternoon.  Usually Dan will supervise an evening pickup somewhere in there, too.

After bath time (around 8) we usually spend about thirty minutes to an hour reading books.  I often like to use this time reading to the little girls.  We have so enjoyed the Read Aloud Revival picture book reading lists so much.  Sometimes Dan and I will swap and he will read to the little girls and I will read a chapter book aloud to the older kids.  

Bedtime is around 9 for the three little girls.  I rock Hazel to sleep while Dan lays by Iris and Tia.  Jude and Ind usually stay up for a while and play board games.


Our days were not often this straightforward.  They were filled to the brim with life and life isn't predictable and doesn't always yield to the plan of the day.  There was joy and fighting, creativity and huge messes, cleaning and tidying up, illness and times of abundant energy.  Often our homeschooling spilled over into the weekend since we couldn't get it all done in a given day, or even a given week.  It was beautiful and good and hard and messy and worth it.



13 comments:

  1. Even though I don't homeschool, I really love these little glimpses into your everyday family life! (Also, I see a couple of houseplants! Nice little pothos! Or is it a philodendron? I still can't tell the difference, LOL!)

    Based on your instagram question about podcasts, I've started following Read Aloud Revival and I am really enjoying it! Based on her recommendation, I read the kids the Catwings books, Wizard of Oz, and My Father's Dragon. They were all hits! That website and podcast is awesome!

    I am impressed at how much you do, and your days, honestly, seem quite long! While I can see that no one child is putting in more than a few hours of solid study in a day, you seem to be putting in many hours of teaching and rotating. I admire you homeschooling mamas, the work is no joke! Big hugs and thanks for this lovely summary. Beautiful photos as always.

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  2. I loved reading about your homeschool day! We homeschool, too, though a little more simply. :)

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  3. Oh my goodness I'm so excited and thankful you got this written!! I'm going to go back through it again later. I think we could definitely be homeschool buddies. We think alike and use the same resources!
    Enjoy your evening. :)

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  4. I love how you make everything around you so beautiful! Thanks for sharing your routines and thoughts and book recommendations! I will have to look into Fablehaven for Ansley.

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  5. I really enjoyed reading this Rachel. Actually seeing how it all works day-to-day is so inspiring. I do sometimes feel sad that my children are in mainstream school. Although they are very happy, and we are lucky to have a very nurturing little primary school almost next door to our house (which does mean we have no 'morning walk'!) I think you are offering something so rich to your children, and also real closeness as a family... I also wanted to ask you one specific thing. How do screens fit into your life? Do your children use ipads, computers, even TV at all? It's something I am very conscious of. The only screens in our entire house is my smartphone and my work laptop. (no TV). But at school many things now are screen-based. Some of my son's maths homework is set on the computer etc.... It's a big subject I know! I may at some point write a blog post sometime about it. x

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    1. I’d love to read a blog post by you on screens!

      We have pretty structured rules around screen time. We don’t do screens during the week. On Fridays, we do family movie night. During Hazel’s nap time on the weekends, they can watch something or play on the iPad. That has worked out beautifully for our family, because there is no fighting about screens. And they have found many other ways to occupy themselves - it’s really a non-issue.

      In the summer, because it’s so hot here, I do let the older ones play a few learning games on the iPad like Duolingo, Squeebles, Stack the States, and Dragon Box for up to one hour a day. Iris also sometimes played Squeebles during quiet time on the days the kids were away at their homeschool co-op. She loves to practice her math facts, so initially I was okay with it, but then she got more and more addicted-acting about it, asking for it a lot, begging, crying, not wanting to stop playing or wanting to start new games, having tantrums, etc so I have mostly tried to phase it out and she is much happier now. :)

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  6. I am glad to hear the enrichment program is working well for you guys. It sure sounds like you guys are busy, but in a good sense. Finding balance is oh so difficult. I always love seeing your beautiful photos. You capture such beautiful everyday moment :D

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  7. Your photos are so stunning! This was lovely to read. I think for those of us with younger kiddos one of the biggest mysteries is how to make it all work with multiple ages and a wide range of needs and abilities. This lays it all out in such a clear way. Your days are so rich and varied and yes very full! I love all the resources you shared. Some we love also and many I've never heard of. I think that eclectic homeschooling is really the most sustainable path because it allows you to pick and choose what works for each child. The block approach really appeals to me too, but I often wonder how I will make it work with three school-age kids. That comment about classical in the fall, Charlotte Mason in the winter and unschooling in the spring is so interesting! It seems like you've struck a great balance. I definitely find myself leaning more toward unschooling in the spring because after a long, rainy winter there's such a powerful urge to get outside!

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    1. One thing that's great about the block approach is that you can combine. So for example, in our morning time we are currently reading Norwegian folk tales. Folk tales are a Waldorf 2nd grade block. So I can have Tia do a main lesson book for this block, while still sharing the experience with our whole family. And even PhD students write dissertations on fairy tales and folk tales, so I don't think these stories can be outgrown. :) Also, I have tried to combine with Jude and Indigo as much as I can (right now I am doing the 4th grade Norse Myth block with them together vs two separate Waldorf blocks). I think they get more out of it too when they work together. :) I love the variety of blocks, too, where we can go deep and then completely switch gears with the next block versus studying the same topic year round. It keeps things so interesting.

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  8. Yes totally agree. I feel that blocks have kept things fresh (this is our first year implementing blocks) and right when we're getting antsy it's time to switch things out. My kids are quite far apart (four years and then three years) so I'm not sure what that could look like for us as far as combining. Thankfully I don't have to have it all figured out right now!

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  9. I loved reading about your daily schedule, Rachel! I"m sure it has its moments, but I picture it as being so idyllic and grounding. Of course, your gorgeous photos probably contribute to that idyllic feeling!:) Reading this makes me wish I had considered home schooling for our kids, though they do attend an excellent school. I love the focus on family time and on caring for/helping one another - not just seperate entities doing their homework in their own rooms (as my kids do). I also love the morning walk concept! I can see why that would be a wonderful way to begin each day.
    Thanks for sharing this and for giving us a peek into your beautiful life:)

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  10. Thanks so much for sharing your day! We don't homeschool, but I do a lot of reading and extra activities with the children. It's lovely to have a glimpse of how you make homeschooling work with a variety of ages, and I really appreciate the book recommendations too... some sound like they would be great for my 9yo.

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