I'm giving you a sneak peek into our homeschool day. I'll give you a warning, its messy, chaotic and loud. Some moments are more tranquil than others, but more often then not, it's crazy town.
This is our 5th year homeschooling and it is a pure blessing from God. I am grateful to God each and every day I get to wake up and spend the day with my kids all day long. In years past, we would have our day completely scheduled out and if the kids were focused and determined, they could get there school work done by 10am and have the rest of the day to play. Sometimes though, on very distracted days, we wouldn't be done with school till 3 or 4 pm. We had no determined start or end time but we did have our work for the day completely mapped out. Those days that seemed to last forever were draining on the kids and on myself.
This year, we are trying a different approach. With me running multiple businesses from home, I need time to work every day while still keeping my job as mom and teacher first priority. That has meant a few things.
1. I have to say no to more things. No, I can't go get coffee this morning. No, I can't join this moms group. No, we can't go to this morning event. We need to keep our priority of school.
And IN THAT, I also want to have a perfect balance of flexibility. Sure, let's have our homeschool day be at the children's museum. Yep, we can take a break and run some errands. Yah, come on over and have a cup of tea for an hour.
There has to be a good balance. Which means that flexibility can occur, but not EVERY SINGLE DAY. Which could easily happen, in my case. I'm so go with the flow and truly believe life experiences and situations bring the greatest knowledge. But I am the sole teacher for my kids education and I have to take the job very seriously.
2. We have completely changed the structure of what our day looks like. To allow for schedule + flexibility, our school day starts at 8am and ends at 12pm. Which means, 4 hours of school per day. Yes, that is plenty enough time for a homeschooling to get all the education they need in a day. And yes, it means they have tons of imaginative play time the rest of the day to also grow and learn.
We are usually all up and moving around by 6:30/7am which gives us time to have breakfast and spend some time in the Word and worship before jumping into school. We have a designated area in the house for our studies, which we rightly call "The Homeschool Room."
If one of them finishes their assignments for the day before 12pm, I give them more activities to work on until lunch time. If they still have work do to after 12pm, we will save it for the next day. Our cut off time occurs right at noon and then the rest of the day is free play. I usually begin preparing supper around 4pm and we sit down to a big family dinner each night around 4:30/5pm when my hubby gets home from work.
In the afternoons, I am able to spend some time on my work while the kids play. This isn't very intense focused time for me. It is distracted and interrupted time because well, there are 5 kids running around. But this is my beautiful chaotic life and we make it work each day. Some days are peachier than others but we are together, and that is what matters to us.
Honestly, we are still getting into the flow of our new routine and it s a big learning process transitioning from our free summer hours. And here is the thing, I am teaching 3 children with 3 different age curriculums.
This year, I wanted to try the All in One Homeschool online Christian curriculum. It has been working thus far for our first couple months of homeschool but I am looking into My Father's World for the second half of our year. Gotta love the freedom to do what we need and want.
I also have plenty of supplemental workbooks and worksheets from various curriculums including the one we have used for the past 3 years: Christian Liberty Press. I set up one of the kids at my laptop and the other 2 with some workbooks. Honestly, I am just hopping in between kids. Sometimes, they have time to work on an assignment by themselves once I have told them instructions and sometimes I feel like a mad dog running back and forth in between children.
Not to mention the 3 year old who is whining for attention for me and the 22 month old who is opening every bin of markers and crayons and scattering them across the floor.
Makkedah is 8 years old and doing a 3rd grade curriculum.
Samaria is 7 years old and doing a 1st grade curriculum.
Nehemiah is 5 years old and doing a Pre-K curriculum.
Shiloh and Zion are having the time of their lives making mayhem while we work on school.
For the 2 older girls Bible, History and Science lessons, I am actually teaching them together. Sometimes, all the kids will gather around the floor while I teach these subjects and we work on activities with them. It's been a nice section of the day for the girls to work together.
And for many of Nehemiah's lessons, I have Shiloh come and sit and watch what we are doing so she can begin to learn the concepts as well. She is already picking up colors very well while observing the lessons I am going through with her big brother.
Combining some of the lessons has been a nice break for me, and fun for the kids. It's also the first time I have done something like that it only works for certain subjets. For instance, Makkedah and Samaria's math lessons are completely different levels, so it would not work as much in that instance.
Truth is, I've never taught 3 kids at once. I've never taught 3rd grade before. I've never had a toddler AND a baby while having to teach the older 3. I'm learning as we go. Trial and error is okay with me. We are in this together and we are in this for the long haul so we might as well experiment now.
I opened up a Q + A section on my Facebook page so wanted to make sure to address some of the questions that had popped up on there.
1. Do you use any "brain break" activities to give the kids a little break but not long enough to lose them? What style do you use? What has been the most difficult? What is your favorite part?
At 10am each day, we have tea team. So, we all pull up to the kitchen island and sit down to a warm cup of tea and a snack. It's the perfect 15 minute break that they really look forward to. If I find them feeling overwhelmed with worksheets or a particular lesson at some points, I will grab a coloring book for a break. Or I will grab the little different colored plastic math bears and have my 5 years create a " color army" with them and let him sort them by colors and count them. I'm all about utilizing tools and play for more learning. I wouldn't say I have a particular style of teaching them as of right now. And the most difficult thing right now is that my 22 month old son is like.... 5 kids in 1. He demands a lot of attention and so a lot of times, we are able to get more done once he takes a morning nap. My favorite part is just the blessing that we have very calm relaxed mornings and get to spend all day together.
2. Do you ever feel like you need to get away? How do you make sure you still take care of you?
Oh, heck YES, I have times I just need to get away. I am very grateful that I don't have to say goodbye to my children for 7+ hours a day but I'm also a huge advocate that us mamas need to care for ourselves and fill our own cups so that we have more to give others. If there are just some evenings that I am overwhelmed and need a breather, I let my husband know and even if that just means running some errands, I volunteer. And most Sundays, we have an arrangement where I sneak away in the afternoons to the local Starbucks and do one of my favorite things: write. Knowing that I have a 3 hour window each weekend to myself, is a huge benefit. And sometimes, if I'm a little desperate for a break. There is no shame in me slapping on a Netlfix movie and taking a mid-afternoon bath. I'm a better mom for them when I even take that 20 minute pause to regroup.
3. How do you balance more than one child, especially when they're too young to learn more independently?
I kind of addressed this above but it is sometimes super messy with my little man who is loud and rambunctious and needs a lot of attention from me. I try to set him and my 3 year old down with some toys but he is usually only interested for a few minutes and is then onto the next thing. My 3 year old can get lost in some toys or a coloring activity or will join my 5 year old in his lessons on the computer. It looks different each day but we take it in stride. Sometimes, in this season of life, our most productive time is when the baby boy goes down for a nap.
4. How much is in a table and chair setting? How do you know what to teach each child each year? How do you do testing?
This is the first year we've had an actual spare room that we created to use for the purpose of homeschoolin (its actually what is supposed to be a formal dining room.) Prior to this year, we've just used our kitchen table for school and a hutch I got off Craigslist that we called our "Homeschool Hutch" which housed our entire curriculum. You don't need anything schnazzy or special to homeschool. And I shared a little bit about our curriculum above but there are so many options available. Whether it is pen and paper books or online or video based, the resources are endless. Some curriculums you can pick and choose which books and lessons you want for each subject and some companies have complete sets set up for each grade, ready to go. There are even some online courses where each student has their own teacher and the parent isn't the direct teacher. There are so many homeschool options! Testing is different for each state but in Minnesota, you don't need to notify the state/district of your intent to homeschool or results of testing until they are 7 years of age.
I hope this was beneficial for you and answered any lingering questions you had about homeschooling. It allows you to cater to each of your children's specific learning styles and give them the attention they need. There is help and assistance if you don't feel capable of the job but give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Have confidence in your ability to teach and train your child. I've dealt with my own insecurities in this matter as I only have as much as a high school education (I went to cosmetology school after high school and then got married and began having my lovely kids shortly after.) I could focus on my shortcomings and my lack of a college education, but really, I'm grateful for my freedom to homeschool my kids. And I'm so confident in the fact that God has equipped me for the task and continually guides me in this journey. He is my rock and the reason this all works out.
Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions I did not address!