People, mostly mildly curious, but sometimes sincerely wanting to know if they could ever manage homeschooling, ask me what do we do when we’re “doing school”? I usually give a short reply like “workbooks and stuff”. How exactly do you coherently and yet succinctly explain what a homeschool day at your house is like?
But here on our blog where I have time to organize my thoughts and add images I can do a better job of explaining what it is we do all day.
on the dot or thereabouts we get up and do our “morning chores”. Get dressed (usually), take care of the animals, brush teeth, have breakfast, and make beds (sorta).
Tim getting water for the chickens.
8:00AM We start school. Most days we’re pretty good about starting on time. I’m passionate about ending on time so starting on time is really important too. But if we get a slow start for whatever reason we don’t freak out. I either shorten the day or we work into the afternoon.
From here on out the kids are each doing their own assignments. They each have a box, prepared the day before and waiting for them, with their assignments in it.
Garrett working on his math.
To learn more about how I organize their work boxes click here.
Each of my children is at a different grade level so they have different assignments and need different levels of help. Because there are six of them from high school down to pre-school I tend to do less hands on mom-intensive stuff and more workbooks. For example with my two oldest kids we used English For the Thoughtful Child and Simply Grammar for English, which are oral language lessons to do with your child and which I loved, but as I’ve gotten more kids in the school ages it’s just not possible for me to do four separate English lessons, five separate math lessons, a history lesson, reading instruction, and spelling practice all during our morning school time. So we switched our English program over to Spectrum workbooks, which I also love and which the kids can do more independently.
Isaac, 2nd grade, doesn’t need help with his reading every day, but once or twice a week I make sure I listen to him read to correct him, to help him, to keep track of his progress.
During their school time I sit at the table and work with one child at a time as needed. I try to organize their subjects so that the things they need extra help with occur at different times. If I know my 9th grader needs extra help on math to get some of the tough concepts then I plan it so that his math assignment doesn’t fall at the same time I’m helping my Kindergartner with his reading. Of course this doesn’t always work out so my kids learn to wait, or to move on and come back to the stuff they need help with. I’m also pretty good at multi-tasking this process.
Pre-schooler on my lap, I’m helping my Kindergartener with math and my 4th grader with a spelling worksheet. My 2nd grader is across the table with his math assignment as well. The big boys are off doing their assignments on their own.
Having the little one on my lap the entire morning is a bit draining and hampers my ability to help the others so I make sure he has puzzles, playdough, or an educational computer game to spend some of his time on.
They have a scheduled fifteen minute break built into their work boxes as well. Sometimes, if I’m especially organized they even get a snack. They always have to go outside for their break since everybody gets a break at a different time and would be disturbing the others and because what are they going to do inside? Video games? I don’t think so.
CJ riding his bike during the break.
I save the Layers of Learning curriculum for the end of school time. It’s the fun part of the day where we do science experiments, history projects, geography explorations, or art. My big boys join in some of these activities, but not the science generally because they’ve moved on to a formal college prep science text book.
We’re learning about electricity right now and we built this circuit using batteries, wire, and a fan.
12:00 PM We’re done with school and moving on to lunch. We all clean up the mess from the school day and the kids get lunch. I check through all their work from the day and get their work boxes ready for the next day. Sometimes one or more of the kids won’t have finished their work yet, so they have to carry on working after lunch, but I’m off no matter what. They know I’m available for four hours every morning and never after lunch. After lunch I work on my blog, write the Layers of Learning curriculum, do errands, go for a run, read, clean house or work in the garden and take kids to sports or scouts.
So are they cheerful, industrious little workers who give me no trouble?
No. I get frustrated, they slack off, they pout, they dig in their heels, they stumble over the same concept again and again and again, I yell, I give up and quit every once in a while and at least once a year I seriously consider putting them back into government schools. Quite often our science projects flop, the kids burn out, I burn out.
But not most of the time. Most of the time the kids are obedient and do their work, they understand their math, they sit quietly, they are cheerful, I am sane, I am nice, I keep up and on schedule. We look forward to every day. The majority of our harmony comes from me being prepared and organized and me not accepting bad attitudes or behaviors. I tell them when their behavior is out of line and they get in trouble for it. And the kids have no desire whatsoever to go into the government schools (mostly because they see how late the school bus arrives at our road every afternoon).
So what do the kids use to study out of?
- Everything For Early Learning workbook
- Jumpstart Kindergarten software
- Maze books
- Connect the Dot Books
- Lace and Trace sets
- Hidden pictures books
- story books
- Explode the Code for phonics instruction
- Easy readers
- Saxon, for math
- Journals for writing practice, we buy Mead journal books from WalMart. They have space at the top of each page for a picture and then ruled lines with a dotted center line for beginning writers.
- Spectrum Language arts for basic English skills, starting in 2nd grade
- Spelling. I’m still flip-flopping on spelling programs. We’ve tried Spelling Workout, Spectrum Spelling and doing it our own way all with very little luck. Still looking for that perfect fit.
- Layers of Learning Curriculum for history, geography, science and art. We do the subject-of-the day method, covering each of these subjects once a week.
- Latin Primer I starting in 3rd grade
- Saxon, for math
- Spectrum Language arts until 7th grade when we switch to Stewart Principles
- Spelling: see above ambivalence
- Editor In Chief, we use this series just to mix up our grammar work.
- Latin Primer series until they’ve finished book III
- Powerglide Spanish once Latin is finished
- Latin Roots, starting in 8th grade
- Layers of Learning Curriculum for History, Science, Geography, and Art. By 5th grade, kids are doing all of their “school” reading out of this curriculum, so there’s not a separate reading course. Also their writing comes primarily from this as well so we don’t do an additional writing course, though we have used Writing Strands in the past.
- Mind Benders Series, this is a forerunner for the logic course they’ll be taking in high school. I start ’em in this by 6th grade. Younger kids can handle it, but sometimes work overload ensues. If I could have a $1000 gift certificate to this publisher I would be in absolute heaven. I LOVE their products.
- Saxon, for math
- Stewart Principles, the grammar/writing course has three workbooks, ending with Stewart Writing. We just work through until we’re done.
- Powerglide Spanish, they do years one and two and then they can quit if they like or do another language or do more Spanish at higher levels
- Apologia Biology, this publisher is decidedly evangelical Christian, but they avoid simpering or mentioning their beliefs every other sentence. As a biology major in college I was impressed with the detailed and rigorous content. I also particularly wanted my kids taught my beliefs about evolution, which coincide with the authors so this book was perfect for us. Next year when we do chemistry we may or may not stay with their series, I haven’t decided yet. We have a high quality microscope and purchased the slides and dissection specimens to go with the book so the boys really got a full on college prep biology course at home.
- Layers of Learning Curriculum for History, Geography, and Art. We step it up in these years and do the more advanced material from the Layers of Learning program, except we skip the science, opting for dedicated courses for the high school level. The curriculum goes through history in order and gives reading options with each unit. So the boys read historical novels, popular history books, and classic literature. For example right now Nathan and Tim are learning about Elizabethan England and reading these books: Behind the Mask: The Life of Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare: His Work and His World, and Hamlet and Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare. The curriculum also covers writing assignments and has discussion questions, maps, timeline dates, and activities. So it covers our English requirement (along with our grammar program) as well as history, geography, and art appreciation. A bonus is that when we’re using this program all of our kids of all ages are on the same subjects at the same time.
- Our government courses are covered partially by the Layers of Learning curriculum and partially by the Foundational Principles of Good Government. We just insert FPOGG in when we cover the US Constitution in history. The LoL curriculum covers stuff like Plato and the Greeks, Enlightenment and Montesquieu, Adam Smith, the Reformation and the effect that had on thought and politics, plus in depth looks at other philosophies and governments across the world. All of this gives a great background understanding when it’s time to actually study the Constitution. My kids will actually read Plato, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, Washington, Jefferson, Karl Marx and others as they learn about government.
- James Madison Critical Thinking Course, this is formal logic in an informal easy format, that kids can (mostly) do on their own.
- PE and Health are perhaps my most slacker subjects. I put the kids in community sports at least once a year and make them go play outside. I should probably spend more time teaching them skills like throwing a ball and kicking and batting and you know, but I don’t.
- In 11th and 12th grades I plan having the boys do dual enrollment, CLEP exams or college correspondence classes. My goal is to have two years of college under the belt before high school graduation. Because, the first two years of college (all those general eds) are just high school 2. And because there will be no problem at that point of getting into colleges. Also if I have a non-college bound kid he will at least have a 2 year degree, which is an easier jumping off place if he changes his mind later. I also expect it will save lots of $$$$ and I have no intention of having my kids start out life massively in debt. That. is. insane.
So that’s how we do it, any questions?
Do you have a blog post about how you do school or what curriculum choices you have made? Leave us a comment with a link so everyone can come see.