When we started homeschooling, I had this vision of our days. We would be engaged in all kinds of creative activities. Mom and child, snuggled on the couch reading a story in front of the fire. Planting in the garden, organically learning about plants instead of the kindergarten curriculum of coloring in pictures of plants.
Since homeschoolers all come with different stripes and spots, it is important for this post to understand we are the flavor that does do “curriculum” particularly in math and English. The other subjects we cover and this kids are heavily engaged in how that happens, what they would like to learn about.
All three of my kids attended a Montessori preschool and when my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher gave her a kindergarten folder. Each week, she and the teacher sat down, reviewed her work, and the teacher made suggestions about what learning goals for the week were in different subject areas. My daughter was free to complete the work at her own pace, free to complete the work as she saw fit, all at once, in little pieces, whatever.
This was my fantasy about how we would home school too…who says Math must start at 9:05 and last for exactly 20 minutes. It seemed to me rigid and limiting. So off we went, weekly lists for my 7 & 9-year-olds. The 5-year-old was still in story book time, we read several a day for pleasure so no lists for the little guy.
Did I mention that none of my kids are easily put off, all want what they want now, and all still think the best thing about homeschooling is they get to see me everyday? I don’t quite understand this last one as I am not the most laid back mom in the world but they are great kids, what can I say?
So back to the weekly schedule. Little did we know that one of my kids had an LD and vision issue. As parents who have been in the situation can tell you, planning and organizing is not a strong suit of these kids. It was taking my child 3 times as long to do his work. Add to that his difficulty with written output, I ended up typing most of his work while he dictated to me. All three kids, demanding my time now. If I was working on math with one, the other two would stand over us and pout until we finished. Pleasant learning environment? Not really. Mr. LD would start tapping his pencil or repeating the same sounds over and over as only a little boy can do. And me, I am an introvert with undiagnosed auditory sensory issues. It all drove me up a wall! My mantra was, “I love my children and I will be calm!” over and over.
Finding the solution has been a journey with many changes and revisions. The current system works pretty well. The first thing we did was make a schedule…mainly for me. I looked at the work I required each child to do and marked the subjects that they need me for. For my now 10 & 8 year olds, there are many subjects where I just need to get them started or to check in on a project they are completing. My little guy, now 7 needs much more direction so most of his work is with me.
I made a daily chart by time of day and child’s name. I plugged in the “Mom” subjects first so there would be no overlap. I then plugged in the “alone” subjects so they have a time and don’t get forgotten. The kids know that they can really do the alone subjects whenever they like and in any order. The “Mom subjects” must be completed at their assigned times and no one may interrupt. Well, ok, maybe for blood or fire, but not to ask me if they can have an apple or to tell me that they just finished their work. We talk a lot about how important it is that they each get their alone time with Mom when there are no interruptions. The most recent change has been to make sure that little guy gets his time with me first. He is not yet able to self start like the other two.
The finishing touch is putting the daily schedule in a plastic sheet protector. Each day as they finish their work, they cross off the subject with a dry erase marker. The next morning, they wipe it clean and start fresh. Less waste and work rather than printing the same list out every day.
It took a little time to make it perfect, but it works for us. Work is done much earlier in the day. My kids didn’t like the schedule idea first, but when they saw how much more free time they had, all three were sold on the idea. For both perfectionists and the dwadlers, I think it has helped to know it should take you about 1/2 hour to do this much work. And for Mom, it has helped me feel that the flow of the day is much more pleasant!
I would love to know what others do to keep their days running smoothly!