To make our school day flow more smoothly, with less fussing from the kids, I carefully build a rhythm into our school day schedule. This means spacing out the breaks, alternating harder subjects with easier ones and group subjects with individual subjects. I also incorporate motivation right into the day.
I’ll walk you though our school day schedule and why we do it the way we do it.
Begin With A Group Lesson
We start with a group subject, in our case memory work, grammar, and then spelling. This helps us all begin the day together at the same time and means the first subject of the day is interactive and interesting without too much demanded of the student. It’s a nice way to break into the day. But it’s also academic and tells them we’re really learning today and demanding things will be expected of you.
Next Is A Tough Subject
The second thing we do each day is writing. I like to follow up grammar and spelling with more language so all the things we just learned can be used right away. This is a more demanding subject, especially for my kids, who hate to write. We do Writing Strands, a writing course which isn’t really graded and so all my kids whatever their age and ability can be doing the same assignment, although with more demanded of the older ones. We alternate this on a weekly basis with handwriting practice.
The real key to this phase of the day though is the built in reward. The kids have one hour scheduled to complete their assignment for the day. If they get done to my satisfaction before the hour is up they get a break. If they don’t get done they don’t get a break. The ones who get done early go outside or to another room to play with Legos. This not only gives a reward that costs me nothing, but it also gives me time to work more intimately with the one or two who are struggling.
Now For Math
Math is the most difficult subject for many kids and it may seem just plain mean to stack it right after writing, but on most days they’ve all had at least a ten minute break right before beginning. I like them to start math right after having run around outside and rested their hands and brains. A lot of homeschool families do math first thing in the morning, which works great if you are a morning person, but I am not. First thing in the morning is the most painful time to think in my world so we push it a bit further into the day, when we’re all awake.
We do the same thing with math that we do with writing, schedule an hour and then whoever gets done early gets a break. They don’t get as many breaks with this subject as they do with the writing, but the possibility and even five minutes of success keeps them motivated to keep trying.
All of our toughest subjects are out of the way now, before lunch, so we all know we can cruise from here on out.
Now For Some Fun
The next hour of our morning, just before lunch, is for what we call subject-of-the-day. We do a different subject each day of the week. History, geography, science, arts, and this year, outdoor skills. This is where we use our Layers of Learning curriculum. We do projects, read library books together, cook things, mix chemicals, dissect things, watch YouTube videos, color maps, and discover the world. This hour is always for fun stuff, but the learning is real.
Our lunch break comes at noon. We tidy up the school things and clean up our projects and the kids raid the refrigerator.
Break Back In With Another Fun Group Lesson
The lunch break is longer and messier than the morning breaks so it takes more effort to transition back into the school mode. To make the kids rush to clean up lunch and get back in their seats I read aloud to them right after lunch. They get out how-to-draw books and we all sit at the table, them drawing, me reading a novel. This is hands down their favorite time of our school day, probably their favorite time of the day period.
Another Group Lesson
We do our religion studies next. We all learn the same lesson and do the same worksheet or activity at the same time, but they each do independent scripture reading during this half hour time slot as well. This year we’re putting together scrapbooks for the things we’re learning as we go to make it fun. We’ve got stencils and stickers and colored paper and printables.
Half Hour of SSR
We’re nearing the end of the day now and we spend a half hour reading (Sustained Silent Reading). Everyone reads quietly to themselves except for my youngest who is still learning to read. He and I read together. This is the only time of the day that I let my kids spread out in the house and don’t demand that they sit at the table. They love to read and the books I assign them are interesting novels or non-fiction (but never text books) that support what we’re learning in history (most often, but sometimes science or a classic children’s book). I do check on them all to make sure they’re reading their assigned book before I go do lessons with the youngest.
We do this in the afternoon because I do let them spread out and not sit at the table. This signals that the formal part of our school day is over. Also, my kids love to read so this is a rewarding and enjoyable part of the day. It is a time when they make less effort and find more enjoyment. If my kids struggled with reading or hated it I would move this subject to before lunch and make them sit at the table under my eye. Also if they really hated it or struggled with it I would probably break the reading up into two or three shorter reading sessions. But, as I say, they love reading and are more likely to beg for more time than struggle through a half hour solid.
Finishing Off the Day
The last subject of the day is the most individual, something Karen calls “specials”. These are subjects that each child is taking independently of his siblings. We have one studying French, another doing Latin, and a third practicing the piano during this time. I like to end with these because my youngest doesn’t have a “special” so he can be done and go off on his own. Each of the others can also be done with their day when they have finished their assigned work. None of these subjects require any input from me except to make sure the kids are actually doing them and not just sneaking off to their rooms, so I can be done as well.
We finish at 2:30 each day and the kids have several hours to play and be bored before chores and dinner.
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