(From my submission to the TCHE newsletter, spring 2000; used with permission)
As I type, Anna is curled up on the sofa in the school room, reading King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry so she can work on her History of the Horse unit (a Beautiful Feet publication). Leah is packing to join Anna and me to minister for a week to a precious 92-year-old woman with dementia, in order to give her daughter an opportunity to visit grandchildren in another state. Rebekah will stay here with Dad, since she works three days a week. Anna is doing her laundry, and Rebekah is doing something with dirt in her room. It’s okay, because she’s a high school senior! Five of my girls are grown and gone (sigh), so I’m down to just three at home. Sometimes it feels so empty!
We aim for being ready for our school day at 8:45—there’s a list to consult for those who can’t remember what needs to be done before school. That means morning chores, personal attention, breakfast, room tidying, etc. should be finished (not a perfectly spotless house, but I can relax) and we can have family devotions in the living room. We sing a few praise and worship songs, read from a student devotional that parallels our adult devotional, then have a short Bible lesson from Character Building for Families (we just finished deference and are working on cheerfulness).
After we pray for each other and our day, we break up into different areas for individual Bible study. Anna is studying about blessings and curses (the fruit of our lips), while Leah is learning about spiritual warfare. Bekah is doing an intensive study of the gospel of Matthew. I am just starting an online study of Genesis. For this, Bekah is in her room, Anna and Leah share the school room sofa, and I’m at the computer. They went through some workbook studies in the past (Pro Series, Children’s Inductive Bible Studies, etc.), then in junior high I started them on regular “grown up” studies according to their needs and interests—including Kay Arthur (Precept), Joyce Meyer, God’s Priceless Woman, and other studies/workbooks.
When each is finished, she’ll go on to her math work. Each girl has an overview-type of schedule, plus a daily schedule. She can adjust her daily schedule as long as the week’s material gets covered by the end of the week, but for those who have trouble staying on target, the daily schedule lets them know what they need to do in order each day to stay on track. [See routine “list” at the bottom of the post.]
Rebekah has just finished transplanting some flowers and is beginning her Latin for today; in her spare time, she works on Telugu, Tamil, and Hindi. She is not in a regular math course this year, since she’s finished algebra 1, geometry, basic economics and investments, and done recordkeeping/payroll for a corporation. Rebekah works pretty much independently, with Mom checking up from time to time. When she’s done with Henle Latin, she’ll work on composition (Comprehensive Composition by Kathryn Stout—I made a check-off booklet using all the exercises in the book).
She’s also going through a child-training program as part of her child training unit. She teaches dance on Monday nights, then tutors on Thursday nights, so gets to do lesson plans for her math/reading student. Since it’s Monday, she’ll leave a little after 2:00 for the dance studio. She will run the household while I’m gone this week, cooking for Dad and cleaning up, etc. plus keeping track of convention correspondence/email for me while I’m away.
Anna sprawls out on the rug to do her geometry—she’s working through the Key to Geometry series and has one booklet left. Leah does her Saxon math, checking her practice set, then going on to her problem set and putting it in my “Check this” box on my desk (dishpan!). They like to finish math because they then can exercise, which means a workout tape or some softball in the backyard, a long walk to the pond, etc. The physical exercise gives them a break and gets them ready for some quiet, mental exercise.
When they get back inside or cool off from their workouts (they’ve both discovered handweights), they’ll hit language arts. Both of the girls are working in the Learning Language Arts through Literature series from Common Sense Press, augmented with occasional work in Easy Grammar. This will take about an hour.
We started Latin, but I haven’t been very faithful in it and it’s not easy for the younger girls to do this themselves. I need to get motivated again. Meanwhile, I’ve started gathering French resources; since that’s my language background, I’m hoping it will be easier for me to stay on track.
They have assignments in their unit studies and will work about an hour before lunch; we don’t eat till 1:00 p.m. because we aren’t early risers. After lunch, the clearing person clears the table and the tidying person tidies the kitchen and we all spend at least 30 minutes in Quiet Time.
Then it’s back to the afternoon schedule, which is pretty much independent study time in unit/maps till about 3:00. If they are done with their work earlier, they work on projects, read, play outside, bake, build, or otherwise entertain themselves.
But if interruptions come, we try to be flexible. And sometimes we make our own interruptions, like if I’m hungry for cookies and the girls feel like baking. When we make tortillas for lunch, it’s often a family affair, as is bread baking. We bake bread Friday afternoons to take to families at our fellowship on Friday nights. Wednesday is generally our library/errand day, which may change when softball starts. Right now, the girls don’t have anything in the day, but soon Leah will be taking horseback riding lessons for four weeks, and softball will take two days in spring. By then, they will be closing some of their regular work, so it won’t be a hardship.
They have “regular” math four days a week, with Friday designated for a math game or catch-up. They also do thinking skills activities then. Art, music, geography, etc. are built into the units. We school five days a week, eight weeks on and one week off, with a four-week break at Christmas time and a four-week break in July. That gives us 40 academic weeks, which is four weeks longer than a conventional school year. I find that we have less time to forget what we did previously, so we spend less time in review to bring us up to speed for a new year. Less boredom, less stress.
Again, I try to be flexible when other learning opportunities come up. Last year, Rebekah spent eight weeks performing as Anne Frank at Swift Creek Mill Playhouse every day, leaving the mill at lunchtime to work in her dad’s office, then teaching dance or tutoring. That helped her raise funds for her summer missions trip to India (which I counted as a sociology practicum). Someone asked me about “letting her off school” during that time period, but to us, that was school: drama, vo-tech/distributive education, early childhood development, PE, etc. Plus, she worked on her term paper in the evenings, and she grew in responsibility and dependability and other character qualities.
I am blessed that our girls have learned to enjoy each other’s company (well, most of the time!) and will spend their time helping each other with assignments, playing educational games together, doing chores, etc. At this point, I am kind of on the sidelines, evaluating, coaching them along and being available, making necessary adjustments to the game plan as we go along. We have plenty of opportunities for character training, just like anyone else. We just try to have a learning environment in general, not a school. Our goal is for our children to know God, to know His Word and His world, to understand how they fit into His plan, and to be prepared, discipled, and trained to walk in obedience to His will for their lives.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:
When I was brand new to homeschooling, I was greatly relieved to discover (in A Survivor’s Guide to Homeschooling) how different families homeschooling using different approaches. I hope that reading about the day in the life of another homeschool family will give you a few ideas to implement in your own home, or give you confirmation of something you are already doing (and probably make you groan in sympathy or give you a laugh or two!).
My Daily School Routine
(This was not a literal schedule, but a routine. We did not ding a bell to move from subject to subject. This was simply a suggested routine to (a) be sure we progressed through some projects I wanted to see us finish and (b) be sure I had allocated enough time in the day for any daily or weekly work. It was simply to give us a pattern to our day.)
independent study/unit study
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