Never actually looks the same around here. I think that has been the hardest part about homeschooling, finding out the routine that works best for us!
When I was lesson planning over the summer, I had all of these amazing ideas of how our week would love, filled with lots of reading, laughing, projects, exploring and of course – school work.
At the end of our first week, I cried. I realized I had no idea what it would really be like, and that my expectations were way too high. I overwhelmed myself with books on different methods of teaching, and for a month I was convinced I was doing everything wrong.
See, there a a million different types of homeschooling families and a ton of different ideas on HOW to teach kids…
Some of the main methods of homeschooling are:
“Unschooling” – also referred to as “child directed learning.” The least structured method of schooling, parents that choose this method allow their children to follow their interests in choosing topics, then they attempt to organically fit in the different subjects taught through the lens of that topic. I believe it varies from family to family, but I assume that being mostly child led, each day would look a lot different from the rest. I know a lot of families who have fallen in love with this method, but I knew right away it wasn’t for us. I wanted something a bit more measurable, with somewhat of a routine…
So then we looked into another method of learning – “Unit Studies”. I wanted to love this idea. I began planning our months around specific units (history and science typically), and then included writing assignments, reading, health, and bible around these topics. It went well in the beginning, but I began to crave even more structure to our day…
So we moved onto researching what I thought would be my most favorite method – the “Charlotte Mason” method. Modeled after the teachings of Charlotte Mason herself, this curriculum focuses a lot on reading, dictation, and time spent outdoors. It incorporates a lot of life skills to reinforce subject matter and prides itself on not “watering down” subject matter for children, but instead pulling them up to the level of the subject matter. On paper, this is my absolute FAVORITE, the ideals of instilling a love for learning, independence in developing new skills, and the emphasis on great literature fits completely with our values…
But, actually translating those ideas into our “new normal” turned out to be too much of a culture shock to our household. We had to scale back, and while we still enforce a lot of the ideals of Charlotte Mason in certain subjects, I wouldn’t call our schooling style “Charlotte Mason” by any stretch of the imagination.
What I did find, was that I was gravitating more towards a classical education for my children, without even knowing! I had stayed away from researching this more structured, and rigorous form of educating children because I thought that it would not fit our family style at all. Then one day, out of sheer desperation for direction, I cracked open my obligatory copy of “The Well Trained Mind”. As I was reading, I realized that classical education was much different than I thought! The emphasis on good writing, excellence in reading and the mastery of academic skills necessary for adulthood actually DID fit in with our ideals. I also realized that, while some classical families tend to follow a more demanding academic routine, classical education could be molded into slightly less structured, yet still academically sound curriculum that allowed us to add in some of the best features of each of the other schools of thought!
Finally, I had a revelation! After months of doubting, questioning, wondering and having full blown panic attacks over choosing the “right” school of thought for out family, I realized that I didn’t have to pick just one! We went into homeschooling to educate to the best of OUR CHILDREN’S needs, not the direction of one book or another on how to teach!
So where does that leave us? Somewhere in between all of this! I realized that our family does better with a combination of structure and freedom, and that is OKAY!! We tend to do all of our subjects in the same order, so that the kids become used to the routine of school at home, but we start and end at different times, depending on what outside classes the girls have that day. Two mornings a week we are out for playgroup for the preschoolers, and gymnastics for Autumn, so the bulk of the work is completed in the afternoon, where we also typically don’t do any formal preschool work because of the additional instruction the little girls are getting from sources outside of the home. The other days, school work is done first thing in the morning, and ends in the early afternoon, where crafts/projects/free time or resting time will take up the rest of the day until dinner. Fridays is typically swimming, which rounds out the girls gym requirement (dance, swimming and group sports games at Awana fill in the rest of that requirement).
Our typical schedule looks something like this:
Bible during breakfast – reading, discussing or following a devotional, we let where we are that week lead our bible study time.
Math for Gabbi – which is mostly independent because we purchased a computer based instructional program. I do sit with her at least one day a week to go over all the problems she has struggle with to see if we need to add in any remedial work, or if we need to take a step back and repeat a concept. During this time we also do our “formal” preschool – which is usually a letter study, small craft, song, counting and simple math, and then independent crafting.
Grammar – Writing well is such an important skill, so we study grammar daily. We use a more rigorous Abeka curriculum, as well as editing all journal entries and writing assignments together to fix grammatical errors. I have seen a huge improvement this year!
Writing – Also focused on daily, we study different types of writing through our unit studies, grammar focus or just for fun. We don’t use a curriculum because writing is my happy place! We have studied: journaling, creative writing, responsive writing, persuasive writing, writing letters and we did a full research paper this year! Moving forward this year we will be covering character development, theme forming, setting, poetry and more story building techniques! I’m so thankful that this is my daughter’s favorite subject because it allows us to have fun everyday.
Reading – Another area where we don’t use curriculum, we are using reading time to both enhance the girls vocabulary, comprehension and writing. I made a book list at the beginning of the year and we spend time daily reading both out loud and independently. I use note taking methods with Gabbi to see where her comprehension is, as well as verbal discussions of each chapter. Were going to be looking more closely at character, setting and theme development the second half of this year using more fiction! The first half of the year we read a lot of non-fiction and focused on the ability to learn concepts through reading.
Science and History – this is where we focus solely on unit studies!! We are using a two whole units of curriculum for history by Homeschool In The Woods (stay tuned for a full review on this FUN way of teaching history!!), New World Explorers for US History, and Ancient Egypt for world history. The girls are VERY excited to start Ancient Egypt in a few weeks! For science we have done a unit on the human body, a unit on nutrition and will be doing a second unit the human body covering diseases and hygiene later on this year. We group health into science, because for these units go hand in hand. The best part about these unit studies are that the little girls love to join in and I can really modify each activity so that everyone can participate at their level!!
The rest of our days involve studying topics of interest, learning new skills, spending time outdoors, or enjoying our extracurricular classes!
This post got much longer than I expected it to! So, I am going to end it here for now. Next week, I will tackle the topic of socialization – the ever popular question that we get from concerned citizens who don’t truly understand what homeschooling your children is REALLY like!