Monday, September 16, 2013

Home "school"

We've entered the second year of home "school" (see photo below) and I feel like, although many days are hectic, we're settling into a mindset around here. Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes not (like when we sleep in too late in the morning) but that means there is always a teachable moment!

#1's portfolio, back from the school district
I showed her and she said "What does that mean?" I said, " It means you passed 2nd grade!"
That's ceremony or anything.

Lately I've been reading blogs with "our typical day of home school" used mainly as a teaching tool for those who are interested (or not even) and kind of clueless about what goes on. I was that person two years ago so I can relate. I just have a few things to say before I lay out our day today which, I admit, was fairly decent as far as accomplishments go. More on that below.
1. For us, there is no "typical" day. All of our days involve some structured learning, some helping around the house, and a lot of living with 5 other people (6 in the morning and evening). I think the last part is the biggest chunk because that's the way it should be. It's real life, people. There is no point in doing worksheets if you have no application.
2. Home "school" is a terrible phrase if you ask me. The kids are learning a LOT but it is in no way "school". School is a building where you spend a lot of time waiting, do a lot of worksheets, make friends, play, watch videos, have parties, etc.. We do that too. The nice thing about our school is we do it on the kids' schedule. They don't wait all that much although waiting is an important skill to learn and it is definitely practiced. They don't do a lot of worksheets. It's annoying and someone has to check them. If you work directly with your child, you know what's happening. You know what they get and you know what needs more work.
       2a. It's not school because #1 has a curriculum (which she will not have next year) and #2 does not. This is not neglect in any way. They are both learning what they need to learn (according to the state) but, because it's not all about filling time and busywork, they also learn a whole lot more. The curriculum thing is hard for me to grasp. The one we use now is basically "school in a box". If you want that I'm not really sure why you're home schooling in the first place (same with cyber-school) but whatever, that's each individual's choice. We home school because we're trying to get away from the imposition of "every child learns exactly the same thing at exactly the same time". That's not life. If they learn that things are interconnected they remember a great deal more and they are already prepared for actual life! i.e. You have to use fractions to measure (math) a have to know the difference between baking soda and baking powder (science) if you are going to be a good look at the pretty purple icing we made by mixing together blue and red (art)!
         2b. It's also not school because it happens all day long. Mass is school and family walks are school and rest time is school. Helping mom clean up the playroom is school and dinner is school. Learning is everywhere. It's called life. What a wonderful classroom.
So, here was today. As I said it's not "typical" just because there is no typical when you school without a set schedule. I was afraid of this too. Still, amazingly enough, I made up the portfolio and was kind of astonished at what we covered last year. I know even the younger ones are learning because yesterday they made up a "homework" sheet for Mr. G - everything he needed to learn this year. The older two wrote and everyone but G had a hand in one part or another. They all know something (or everything) that is on the sheet. That's pretty cool (especially since I didn't ask/know about it until it was handed to me).
8:00 Downstairs/breakfast (I wrote up a schedule that had us downstairs at 7:30 so that we could say our prayer, pledge and do the calendar before breakfast. That happened until we went for Europe and hasn't been back since. I hope to work up to it one of these days). I also put a chicken in the crock pot to roast for dinner this week. I think we're having stew tonight. I need to do more with the prior-meal-planning-thing.
8:30 Everyone cleans up their breakfast dishes, dad leaves for work and we start our art project (Monday is art) - Cards for great aunt who has a birthday on Friday.
9:00 Clean up from the little ones who were playing after they finished their cards. Mr. G plays in the back room (which makes me wonder why we cleaned up) and we have a science lesson on the parts of a plant and the structure of a flower.
9:30 G goes up for his nap/quiet time and we head to the basement to re-pot two plants. The avocado pit which is now a full-grown plant is an excellent demonstration of roots, stem and leaves. The "mommy plant" (because it has babies...I don't know the name - bad teacher) just needed a new place to grow.

We now take a break to re-clothe the 3yo who had an accident while watching the plants get a new home. This is a perfect time for mom to practice compassion (which she passed with about an 80% grade) and the older kids to witness just how much laundry they all make (yes, the cage was full again - must be Monday!) I throw in a load of laundry. I must try to remember to put it in the dryer and put another one in. Is there an app for that?
10:15 Everyone heads to the 3rd floor. #1 plays her cello while the other three play and I pull out Fall clothes. Is it possible that we need to change clothes again? It seems like we just did that! Ug. I have decided to give all the girl and boy stuff away after the little ones are done. If there are more kids, they will live from OUAC or other sources. We have too many clothes anyway. On the way downstairs, we grab G from his crib.
11:00 Story time in the living room. Our library system has a lot of great "kits" that you can borrow. Most have the storybook plus some type of activity. This one was called "The year at Maple Hill Farm" and came with flannel pieces that had the month name on a themed piece of flannel (heart for Feb, etc.). The story is about what happens each month on the farm. They loved it! Learning about nature, animals (when they have babies, move closer/farther away from the barn, what they eat, etc.), months, colors, counting. Excellent, excellent exercise for the pre-school/kindergarten crowd. The older two took turns reading and G stole all the flannel pieces one-by-one. Sharing/patience/cleaning up.
11:25 Prep for lunch while everyone plays. I was shocked but no one asked to watch Daniel Tiger. They were just having fun with building/construction. That changes as the week goes on. By Friday we're usually leaning hard on PBS. I don't mind. I watched a lot of Sesame Street. I have an Ivy League degree ;0)
11:45 Lunch. We try to talk about nutrition while we eat lunch. It used to be forced but now it's like a check-list they do to see how the cook fared. It's fun to talk about colors of vegetables and fruits and what does and does not constitute a balanced meal. I think we covered dairy, vegetable, fruit, protein and grain today. That's a pretty good day. Sometimes we have Spaghettios and that's OK too ;0) I do try to get the veggies in at lunch because they like to eat them more than at dinner for some reason. Whatever works.
12:15 Lunch was early today because #s 3&4 head out now for Sporties for Shorties with Grammy. It's once a week and they get to run around with their friends for 30 min each while the non-active child sits and chats with Gram. It's win-win because we're home doing some real school work and I get my Mr. G time in between teaching and helping answer questions.
2:00 #1 is upstairs putting her clothes away from the last load (probably two days ago - she is bad about that and we don't check as much as we should) before the next load appears this afternoon. The little ones come home and we all hear about their day of playing hockey and what else is new in the neighborhood. We have playtime for another 20 minutes while the older two finish their work and then they all head up to rest. I used to force naps but now they either nap or read books. See? Even naptime is a learning experience! I have a friend that plays them books on cd during rest time. I have not done that because it seems to keep one awake while the other two listen. Maybe in a year or so.
4:00 It is a great time of year because the Farmer's Market is in full swing and it's only a block away! Time for a family walk, with a stop to get some lemonade and see what kinds of veggies we can find. I made some awesome stew with Butternut Squash yesterday so maybe we'll find that and maybe we'll just get the standard tomatoes, broccoli and cukes. That's the fun of the FM. You never know what you will find!
5:00 This is bargaining time. Usually, if G has terrorized the playroom, I tell them they can watch TV (Wild Kratts for the 10th time) while I get dinner on if they clean up first. Usually someone does. Sometimes one or two don't want to watch so they don't pick up. I'm still deciding what happens then. For now, I think it sounds fair to me.
6:00 DH comes home and we all eat dinner. I don't have a meeting until 7 tonight so there is no urgency about dinner. I have been trying so hard to preserve it as family time and, most days, I am successful. I can see that soccer for #2 will not be repeated since practice seems to be 5:30 on most days (when do these people eat?). For now, we scramble and make decisions, always trying to keep the family together after Dad gets home and we are again one unit.
This is the great part of home school. We are a unit all day long (minus one or two). There are disagreements, quiet fun, noisy silliness and hurt feelings to work through. If it is the choice between my kids doing this out of my eyesight 7 hours a day or under my care, with my assistance, I will choose the latter; at least for now. I know there will come a time in the near future when I feel like they can go out and work through things with the help of teachers I trust. Now, though, my peeps are right where I like them. In the nest.

After dinner, I clean up and finish the laundry which then does or does not get put away depending on what else is happening. We will take another family walk or play in the back yard so that I can catch up with DH and we can all be together. Bedtime is his ritual because he needs time with them as well. So, I will go to my meeting, do my jog on the way home, shower and go to bed. It has proven to be an exhausting life but one that is mostly free from wasted time on the Internet or with television. I haven't watched a non-PBS/Roku show in I don't know how long. I have no idea what season Big Brother is on and I am better for that fact. I am spending time growing my family. We will see if it is beneficial or not in the long run. For now, it's the right choice for us.
We are blessed.


  1. Our kids love The Year at Maple Hill Farm. They think parts of it are hilarious, though I can't recall exactly what parts (and that kit sounds great).

    I enjoy hearing what other families' days are like. Our days are similarly spontaneous but full :^)

    We like to do 2-3 Bedtime Math problems during lunch (so I guess we should call it lunchtime math)-- have you tried it? We get emailed a new one every day (we're behind like three weeks), and it's good for all ages

  2. I do get bedtime math. At last count, there are 156 unread in my email folder. I guess we should start doing that...or I should unsubscribe. It is a neat service though. Sil has been reading them The Life of Fred while I'm making lunch, which is good as well.

  3. It was really good to read a real account of a typical day. I often wonder about how I will someday fit in homeschooling. But in a lot of ways, this sounds similar to our days already.

    PBS is the only thing I let Sly watch as well. And we don't have cable, so the rare times I watch tv, it's often PBS too...there're a lot of stupid shows on our five other channels. Daniel Tiger is a really cute show.