Monday, February 29, 2016

Our "Go with the Flow" Homeschool Day

 Have you ever wondered what a homeschool day in the life looks like for someone who is "structurally-challenged"? If so, you are in for a treat! (I will warn you: if you are the type of person who loves schedules and doing things by the book, this post may not be for you. It will seem terribly chaotic. I won't confidently say that it works for us, and that I'm totally nailing this homeschool thing, because I'm always striving to do better, but this is where we are right now. Or rather a few weeks ago.)

I have always resisted schedules. (It's sort of a trademark of an INFP). But even during those times when I think, "you know what? Maybe those Type A people are onto something..." there's generally some external resistance happening too. I have four children ages 8, 6, 3 and 9 months. Since the beginning of our homeschooling adventure, we've had an infant, and then a toddler, then a pregnancy, and now a new infant, and a very energetic preschooler.

I DO try to maintain some level of routine in our days. We follow one of the schedules from SimplyCharlotte Mason as much as is practical for us. I have found that it makes it easier to sort of be on "auto pilot" for our lessons and readings (the more planning and preparation and DECISIONS required of me, the less likely we are to actually accomplish any formal schooling for the day). Despite resisting schedules, we are rather creatures of habit. Our day just happens to start and end way later than most people's days. I'm working on that!
8:30-10:00 am- I'm up. I've made tea, chatted with my husband, and opened my Bible to read for a bit. I hear the baby cry, so I go in to settle her to buy myself a little more quiet time. My husband is taking the first part of his day off at work to get some errands done, so he is in and out of the house for the first part of our day.

10:30-11:30 am- Everyone else wakes up. First my 8 year old, who mills around for a bit and then asks for toast. The baby wakes up for good, and I feed her while I look at Facebook. The 3 year old wakes up to join the 8 year old who is now in the living room reading picture books. They start to squabble over something. I change the baby's diaper, and then the six year old gets up. I make toast for my 3 year old.

11:30-12:00 pm- Baby plays in the Exersaucer while I wrap up what I'm doing online. My 8 year old asks me to request some Kevin Henkes books from the library (he was on a mouse book kick there for a minute), so I handle that before I get off the computer. He starts his chores, which include sweeping the dining room floor, emptying small waste baskets, and checking the mail. (He is kind of a self-starter. Also, he knows that screen time doesn't happen until his chores are done).

12:30 pm- My husband returns home briefly before heading for work. He brought coffee. We talk in the kitchen until he has to go.
12:30-1:30 pm- The baby gets another diaper change, and I realize I haven't eaten yet! I put the baby in the Ergo and head to the kitchen to make myself something. The older kids are gathered around the tablet watching whatever the 3 year old is watching on YouTube Kids (until I shoo them away). He watches lots of toy videos (ugh), but also a variety of whatever else catches his fancy. In the past couple of weeks, I've seen Peppa Pig, Thomas and Friends, Pink Panther and some others. At some point, the 8 year old begs off of school today in favor of watching Despicable Me again (we rented it from Netflix). Um, NO.

1:30- 2:00 pm- The baby should be ready for a nap soon. I sit down in the living room with her for a feeding, and start to watch a new PBS documentary called No Mas Bebes. I am trying to see if she will get drowsy and fall asleep. The three year old begins quizzing me on how to spell the words, "um", "no", "yes", "Saturday" and "remote." The six year old comes into the room and starts to play with the baby. I fuss at the 6 year old for getting the baby worked up again, and quickly apologize for snapping at her. I send the bigger kids to play in the room while I feed and try to settle the baby. Three year old is playing on the tablet. I abandon the program eight minutes into it. The big kids were fighting. This nap time approach isn't working!

2:00- 3:00 pm- I use the restroom and put the baby back in the Ergo. Baby begins to fall asleep while I start on dishes and laundry and a new podcast episode. By three o'clock, I have put the baby in bed, and get ready for our lessons.

3:00-3:30 pm- Head to the kids' bedroom to start on school lessons. (I have deemed their room to be the most distraction-free location for lessons to take place for the time being. We live in a small apartment, so we don't have a dedicated school space, and the 3 year old is not occupied in the same way from one day to the next usually. We need to be flexible and do what works!) And I always have the three year old occupied with something in another room because being quiet is not one of his strengths! (And being loud is not one of my strengths!) We get started on Scripture memorization and Bible reading, and are interrupted by the three year old who first needs assistance in the restroom, and minutes later, requests a snack.

3:30- 4:00 pm- Attempt to transition from Bible reading to the next portion of our lessons, but end up discussing Esther the Girl Who Became Queen, and how it compares to the real story of Esther (which we haven't actually read yet- we were reading from Matthew today). The children begin flipping through the Bible, reading certain passages briefly (they are remembering many of the verses from VeggieTales). I manage to get us back on track, telling the children that they may explore the Bible more after we do our other lessons (which they ultimately do). There is a potty break, and the 3 year old requires attention again. 

I hear the baby wake up from her nap. I get her out of bed, and finish reading chapter two of The Cricket in Times Square. The 8 year old works on Khan Academy for math. I let him choose the duration, but it must be at least 10 minutes, and no more than 15 minutes. (Charlotte Mason recommends brief lessons to sustain the child's interest. It works for us!) My 6 year old works on a chapter of Life of Fred: Cats. I requested it from the library because she seemed to be having some trouble with some of the Khan Academy content. (We've tried LOF before, and it didn't sustain their interest. I LOVE the concept, but we likely won't get it again any time soon.) We end up skipping our reading from The Boy Who Invented TV (a children's book about Philo Farnsworth) because the baby woke sooner than expected.

4:00- 5:30 pm(ish)- I read Grover's Good Manners to the three year old and the baby, and nurse the baby briefly afterwards. The big kids make sandwiches while I feed the baby some solid food (she is really loving butternut squash right now). I eat something as well. I put a chicken in the slow cooker. (Mine actually runs really hot for some reason. Dinner will be ready in a few hours!) I start another load of laundry.

5:45 pm- I sit down to resume watching No Mas Bebes. (I find the story so heartbreaking. It's about some Hispanic women in 1970's Los Angeles who were sterilized without their informed consent.) This is free time for everyone. The 8 year old is having tablet time. The 6 year old usually looks on with the 8 year old, or she works on drawings, plays with her dolls or another toy. The 3 year old plays on the computer.

6:30 pm (and beyond)- The baby takes another nap later in the evening, and usually I tidy up the kitchen and do other chores with her in the Ergo while I wait for my husband to get off work. He is usually home by 10 pm, so we have a long wait! We eat dinner when he gets home. We would not be able to do this if the kids went to a traditional school, of course. (Now, I will disclose that this is not exactly intentional on my part. I would rather have everyone eat a little earlier, and be about ready for bed when he gets home, but I must admit that I like everyone to eat together too). Sometimes in the "waiting for dad" time, I let the children watch something together on TV.

Overall, our days tend to manifest as a combination of Charlotte Mason style learning and unschooling. We read lots of books, learn about a variety of subjects, but also have plenty of time to find our own rhythm and explore our own interests.

As of this writing (this day was a few weeks ago), our days do not look like this! We are taking a couple weeks off of our usual mom-facilitated learning as the baby works out some developmental stuff. (Nine month sleep regression is a real thing!) Last week, she barely napped longer than 15 minutes, so that made our school time really challenging. I decided this week, we would lean into that and give her the space to work it out. She's still not back to her usual nap routine, and a few of us have been feeling a bit sniffly, so the break is well-timed.

The older two children have been reading a book called Kid Presidents (a book about what the presidents were like as children), as well as other library books. I am working to implement a 30 minute daily individual reading time, so before screen time happens, they need to get their reading in. My 8 year old has been doing his math online this week before screen time as well. Yesterday, the two older children rediscovered their marble run. I happened to go into the room while they were taking a break from their fun, and noticed a stopwatch and paper and pencil on the floor. They had been timing how long it took for the marbles to reach the bottom, and seeing which one was faster. I don't worry much when we take breaks because I know that they are always learning! It may not look like school, but their knowledge is always growing! 

Do you homeschool? What does a day look like in your home?