My homeschooling method and style have changed SO much in the last few years that I thought I would give you a glimpse into what an average day looks like after four years of homeschooling.
Hold on a minute! FOUR years? Wow, you know that’s how long a bachelor’s degree is supposed to take (give or take a year or so). I think given all of the “on the job training” I’ve had, I should get an honorary degree in education and child development!
Back to the subject at hand
Matt’s schedule is not very consistent. Sometimes he will have to be at work by 4:30 AM, sometimes not until 8. Since his days seem to go better when we get to spend a little time together in the mornings, I try and get up with him whenever possible. If it’s really early I will go back to bed after he leaves, if not I will just stay up and get a jump start on my day. Regardless of when he needs to leave, the rest of us are usually awake and downstairs by 8am. I don’t wake the kids up unless we have some place to be. They are growing fast and need their sleep. Nothing we are doing can’t wait until they awake on their own.
After everyone has come downstairs I gather everyone into the front room for our “family reunion” (aka family devotional). We say a family prayer, say our family scripture, sing our family song, and work on scripture memorization. I choose the scriptures we try to memorize based off of the LDS Seminary Scripture Mastery list. We spend one month on a scripture and then move on whether we have mastered it or not. After scripture mastery we watch a video from Mormon Messages on the Mormon Channel (on our Roku). I aim for one video but we usually watch three or four before the kids start requesting their favorites. Spencer’s favorite is A Mother’s Hope.
Right now we are trying to make our way through Mormon Messages for Youth. I have found that they spark some wonderful discussions on the gospel that might not otherwise come up with every day conversation. I will often text Matt a link to the videos we watch so that he can watch them when he has a minute. Fortunately they aren’t usually more than four or five minutes… perfect for a bathroom break for a busy man This was one that we watched today. Just wonderful (both the message and the cinematography).
After the videos we all kneel and say our personal morning prayers. This is really helpful for me because I ALWAYS forget to say mine otherwise. Thank goodness for Spencer who reminds us every morning
Family Reunion is my favorite
After we break from the “family reunion” I send the kids to get dressed and do their chores while I make breakfast. If all has gone well the night before there aren’t many chores that need to be done. I will usually make eggs and toast for the kids and me to eat. Lucy doesn’t like eggs so I also like to keep a large supply of homemade waffles in the freezer for her to pop in the toaster. I usually also tell her to eat a piece of cheese or glass of milk so she can have some protein to keep her from getting hungry before lunch. If the kids finish their chores before I am ready they are free to play with toys or look at books. If they are too loud, obnoxious, or pester me while I’m in the kitchen they don’t get to play with toys.
We try to eat together at the table but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I eat standing up in the kitchen while the kids eat at the table. I don’t mind because they often ask for seconds and I want them to eat as much as they want so they won’t get too hungry before lunch.
It’s usually around 10:00 by this point. I put Henry down for his nap, we all clean up the table and then sit down to begin school.
This is the time in which I teach what is mine. By that, I mean that I teach them the things that I am passionate about and we learn the things that I want to learn together. I have a very loose “scope and sequence” that I refer to when I am not particularly inspired about something but in general I just let spirit guide. I will give you a few examples so you know what it looks like.
I usually start family school with a vocabulary word. I will choose one or two words from either English From the Roots Up or Lone Star Learning cards. A few weeks ago our vocabulary word was eu, which is the latin word for “pleasant, well and good”. I gave them examples of English words that have eu as the root such as eulogy. Another word that uses eu as the root is eugenics. We talked about the history of eugenics, the horrible things in history that have happened when governments and leaders embrace it, literature that we had read with eugenic and utopian undertones (such as The Giver), the kinds of people that eugenicists would target years ago, and the modern manifestations of it. We even got into a bit of detail of genetic disorders like Down Syndrome. It would be little surprise to know that my girls were a little more than slightly disturbed to know that “little” piece of our nation’s history. Our talk of eugenics and traveling the various tangents that the discussion gave us took so long that it encompassed our entire allotted family school time.
Another time I was reviewing a world news and current events magazine subscription for children. We started by reading one article on illegal gold miners in South Africa. We spent the day reading the history of South Africa, studying Apartheid, and the differences and similarities between US Southern segregation and South African Apartheid. If my children were older, we probably would have watched the Power of One, but they are far too young for that movie.
These are good examples of what happens when I am carried away before I even get to my schedule but often I am not given the opportunity to become passionate until later on. Today is a perfect example of what happens on a regular basis. This morning we spent about an hour on our family devotional so our family school didn’t start until later.
After some greek vocabulary and a few of Aesop’s Fables, I opened up my America the Beautiful book and started reading about the 1850′s (and continually called the boys back to the table). We read about the gold rush (which we had already discussed in a previous lesson) which spirred a question from Lucy about economics. She wanted to know why the people who searched for gold (even those who struck it “rich”) ended up dying paupers while those businessmen that sold supplies to the 49ers left a legacy.
Her question was easily answered by Dave Ramsey in his lecture on Dumping Debt. We listened to his take on playing the lottery vs steadily saving your money over a prolonged period of time. Those who want to “get rich quick” are far less likely to find financial peace and security than those who work hard and are responsible over the course of their lifetime.
With her question answered satisfactorily we went back to America the Beautiful. We read about the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Dred Scott, the Fugitive Slave law, John Brown and Harper’s Ferry. I wasn’t satisfied with the few short paragraphs that described these important historical events so we went digging. We pulled out our copy of American History Stories, read what was in there on the Fugitive Slave Law and John Brown, and then listened to the appropriate chapter on Dred Scott from The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. After listening to all of that I mentioned how I didn’t necessarily agree with the portrayal of John Brown in American History Stories. I told them that I agreed with his cause but his methods were far closer to those of modern terrorists than the freedom fighter he claimed to be. We talked about the kinds of methods that would have been more appropriate and effective for him to support his cause. Among other things I specifically mentioned Harriet Beecher Stowe and how influential Uncle Tom’s Cabin was in garnering support for the abolitionist movement.
Family School is my favorite
One on One School
Once we have finished what is “mine” we break off into our individual studies. I once or twice a week I let Jack play some games on the iPad that help him develop his verbalizing skills. I have found them really helpful for him overcoming his speech issues. On the days he doesn’t play on the iPad, he will either sit and demand to be included in Spencer’s lessons or go off and play with toys.
Spencer spends no more than five or ten minutes on a reading lesson (we usually do one entire lesson over the course of the week with a little bit every day) or math lesson (never both) after which he goes off to play with his brother.
Emma and Lucy will alternate piano, reading in their chapter books, and math or language arts lessons with me (aka math, spelling, etc.). These lessons will often give me a few minutes here or there of down time (like right now I am waiting for Lucy to finish a set of math problems).
During that “down time” I will often write for my blog, catch up on emails, or work on my own education. For goal setting purposes I make it a point to to work on my math skills while she is working on her math skills (except for today, of course). She likes it when we do our math together
This will usually get us to about 2 or 3 pm. We break for lunch either before or after the one on one schooling depending on how big or how late our breakfast was.
One on one school is my favorite
Afternoons are our free time. I try to avoid turning on the TV on until at least 4:00, so during this time the boys play with playmobils or other toys while Lucy has free access to the sewing machine and uses the time to create endless dresses and accessories. Emma will usually flit in between the two, either playing with her brothers or sewing with her sister. On days that she doesn’t sew, Lucy reads, draws, or does pretty much anything she wants within the bounds of reason. I read, clean, make dinner (in theory) and write.
Afternoons are my favorite
After School Learning
Since I try to keep the TV off unless I need it as a distraction for the kids (so I can make dinner, etc.) we have to be creative in our afternoon entertainment. Audiobooks seem to be the media of choice. Lucy often listens to books while she sews, draws, etc. Listening to books in the afternoon is really great because it keeps her mind engaged and she just loves it. Lately she has been listening to the dramatized radio broadcast of the Chronicles of Narnia. Today she came to me while I was writing and asked what an albatross was. Since we are in the habit of nearly always answering these kinds of questions in detail, we looked up a picture of an albatross and then (knowing the context that it was likely used in the book she was listening to) we looked up the history of the term “having an albatross around your neck”. After explaining the metaphor she went on her merry way, and I added Rime of the Ancient Mariner to my list of things to read.
Another time, Spencer spent days making a cardboard “Spencer-bot”. He found a box and spent hours carefully collecting household items to put on his robot. At last he said he needed some lightbulbs for the eyes. Somehow he had gotten it in to his head that the lightbulbs would actually help his Spencer-bot see. I could see that he was determined, so we sat down and researched robots together. We talked about the difference between a robot and a machine and what his bot would really need to be a true “robot”. The next day he had moved on to another project, but he remembered and talked about robots for days afterwards (not to mention the memory and knowledge that I took the time to discover it with him).
After school learning is my favorite
Our evenings aren’t nearly as structured as the rest of the day… which is probably why evenings are NOT my favorite.
Some days the kids and I meet Matt at the gym. This is great because we get to have a date of sorts as well as a good workout. It’s not so great because we get home far too late for me to start making dinner. Usually dinner on gym nights are fast, easy, and none too healthy.
On the days we don’t go to the gym I can spend a little more time on dinner and Matt has time to play with the kids, but I don’t get a workout or time with my sweetheart.
I try to alternate the days in which we do each because it gives us balance, but it lacks the structure that I love so much. I guess I can’t have everything.
By the time dinner and the house is cleaned up it’s ideally 7:30 or 8pm (though much more likely to be 8:30 or 9pm). Matt and I put the house to bed, and take all of the kids upstairs to brush teeth, change diapers, and jammify our kids.
Once everyone is ready we kneel in family prayer and then everyone gets in their beds and we listen to Matt read from the scriptures.
After scriptures Matt will read out loud from a chapter book. He will usually read at least until the boys fall asleep, sometimes he reads several chapters if we got an early enough start. Right now we are reading Michael Vey: The Battle of Ampere.
Once he has finished reading for the night we say good night to the girls (who are the only ones still awake) and go to bed ourselves. Since Matt’s mornings have to start so early, we try and be in bed by 9:30 or ten. It doesn’t always happen but that is our goal.
Bedtime is my favorite
There you have it! An average school day in the Wilson house. I would love to know what an average day looks like in yours!