In previous getting started homeschooling articles, we have looked at choosing your curriculum and methodology and organizing your school room. Now we can consider how to organize your day. As a state manager and practicum speaker for Classical Conversations, I have been repeatedly asked to provide a schedule and to address the issue of organizing a typical day at home. Like all homeschooling families, I have tried a number of schedules and routines. This year, with a two-year-old running around the house, we have adjusted yet again. Here are the things which make the day-to-day easier:
- Planning for the year ahead. Each summer, my husband gives me a precious gift. He takes the children somewhere fun like the zoo or the science museum and leaves me alone in a quiet house to plan for the school year ahead. During my “planning retreat,” I organize each child’s books and supplies into their file box for the year (for more details, see my article on organizing the schoolroom).
- I write out my goals for each child in three areas: academic, spiritual, and responsibility. In the academic goals, we list our ideals for what we would like each child to master that year such as reading chapter books, mastering the multiplication tables, memorizing Latin vocabulary, and so on. For their spiritual goals, I list and pray about character qualities that need extra attention and training such as complaining and impatience. Then, we consider new chores that we would like them to tackle for the year such as mopping, laundry, or making lunch. Later, my husband reviews the list and we make revisions together.
- During my retreat, I also make a list of books and supplies that I neglected to pick up at the homeschool convention or online. Finally, I try to write out what our daily schedule will look like based on our goals and our activities.
- Planning for the week ahead. On Sunday evenings, I sit down for an hour and plan out our week. For each child, I write out an assignment schedule for the week and plan our meals. I find that if we have a menu planned in advance and purchase the ingredients, we are less likely to panic on an unexpectedly busy day. Don’t get me wrong: we still eat our share of fast food on those crazy days, but the menu prevents us from caving in every night. The same is true of our assignment schedule. I find that having everything written down in advance helps me think clearly in the midst of chaos. If I need to give extra attention to my toddler, my eleven- year- old can look at our plan and keep working. I still write everything in pencil because we make adjustments when life happens.
This year, I am preparing my eleven-year-old to enter the Classical Conversations Challenge program in the fall, so I was especially passionate about him taking more responsibility for his own education. I have carefully considered his activity load each day and outlined his plan of study accordingly. I expect him to work on his assignments independently, coming to me with questions and concerns, and checking off completed work.
In math, I expect him to read the lesson and start to work. When he has a question, he knows he needs to try to look up the answer on his own. We use Saxon math which assists me with this training. Each problem notes the lesson which introduced that concept, so I have trained him to go back and review that lesson before coming to me. Other times, he needs to use the glossary to look up the definition of a math vocabulary word in order to solve the problem.
My nine-year-old is also being trained to work independently by having her own assignment guide. I expect her to complete some work independently so that I can work intensively with my six-year-old on math, reading, and handwriting and with my two-year-old who is potty-training. Often, my older children will assist my six-year-old with her math while I finish folding a load of clothes. My daughters enjoy quizzing each other on their Classical Conversations memory work, and my son enjoys helping his sister with diagramming sentences and writing papers. Older children enjoy playing teacher, a job which offers built-in review of concepts they have already learned.
This is where the experience of the one-room schoolhouse helps me most. I picture a young sixteen-year-old girl with up to sixty pupils of varying ages and abilities. For her, it was very important to introduce lessons and concepts and then leave the pupils to do the hard work of reading, writing, and calculating. I introduce lessons in math and language arts and then remain close to my children, either sitting next to them at the table or in the next room while they complete their work. (I chose the room next to our kitchen for school so that I can clean or prepare meals while they are working). In the afternoons when they are reading independently, I can finish my work. I enjoy them stopping in to tell me about their reading.
- Planning a day. With fear and trembling, I have included what a typical day might look like for us this year.
7:30-9:00 Bible reading, read aloud, breakfast
9:00-9:30 Review memory work, including maps
9:30-10:30 Math (We needed quiet, uninterrupted time this year, so my youngest is allowed to watch Sesame Street or Veggie Tales while I get us started. For those who don’t like any TV at this age, try quiet time in the playpen or bedroom. This is usually the only time that she is not right in the room with us or playing close by.)
10:30-11:30 Language Arts (grammar, spelling, and writing)
11:30-12:30 Piano practice and lunch
Afternoon Reading in science, history, or other interests as well as piano lessons, art class, dance class, book clubs, and tennis