Back to Homeschool Update

{Homeschool Schedule}  {A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool}  {Homeschooling Kindergarten / 1st grade with a three-year-old in the house}

playdates are a regular part of our homeschool schedule

At the beginning of September I wrote a column for the newspaper titled “Back to Homeschool” because we started our new school year and homeschool routine.  More notable, however, is that this is the first year that we are “official” homeschoolers. That is, we have filed our intent to homeschool with the Georgia Department of Education.

When I wrote that column I had a “plan of action” of how I’d proceed with our daily routine, but I wasn’t sure how it would look in reality. I’ve been a mom long enough to realize that things rarely go according to MY agenda, so having a flexible schedule is a must.

Now that we are a month into our new routine I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s going so well, though I have tweaked it as necessary.  This was my original plan:

  • We’re late sleepers, and though I don’t mind that, I also knew we’d make more use of our day if we got up a little earlier.  So I planned to wake up early and also wake the six-year-old by 8:30 so we could start our lesson by 9:00a.m.
  • I would e-mail my son a loose agenda for the morning the night before, and first thing in the morning we would check his e-mail and go over this agenda. (There’s more than one reason I’ve given him an e-mail address, and I wrote about this in Using E-mail in Homeschool.)  Telling him ahead of time what our plans are has always been essential to getting him to cooperate.
  • After checking e-mail and going over our agenda, I would start off with our main lesson. I planned to alternate a math and reading lesson Monday – Thursday.
  • On Fridays we would have a more relaxed day with just a project, and I also planned to move my cleaning day to Fridays and perhaps partly on Saturdays too.
  • After the lesson, we would do some kind of project either initiated by him or me, but it would be based on his interests or a lesson I want to teach him.
  • I thought by this time, it may be lunch time, so I planned to have lunch and then do “book time” after lunch.
  • After book time, he would be free for the rest of the day, although, of course, we still have other parts of our daily routine too.

As for the three-year-old, I was hoping I could keep him occupied at least during the math/reading lesson with a learning box I made for him.  I filled it with paper, crayons, and coloring pages, which he likes to do sometimes.

So how did that plan pan out?

Here’s what we have been doing:

  • I have been getting up a little earlier and waking the kiddo up a littler earlier too.  He can be very hard to wake up, though, so I’m not using an iron fist with this rule.  It’s my opinion that being able to sleep as much as we need to is one of the many benefits of homeschooling.  But after waking earlier for a few days, he’s starting to wake up on his own around 8:30 anyway.  It’s been good for me to have a few minutes to myself in the morning too.
  • Using the e-mail has been great, and my son enjoys checking it every morning.  An occasional message from a friend or relative is a treat too.  (See Using Technology in Home Education or Using E-mail in Homeschool.)
  • We’ve been alternating a math and reading lesson Monday – Thursday, and that’s been going great. My son has been showing his maturity by being able to complete the lessons, and mama has finally figured out how to stay at his level so that it’s not frustrating for either of us.  Keeping this lesson under 30 minutes and doing it first has also been a key to its success.
  • Having a relaxed day on Friday has been helpful too.  I’m struggling with keeping my house clean, but I think that has more to do with an illness I’ve had, and I’ll get back into a routine at some point.
  • Having a project planned has been working too, and so far, my son has liked everything we’ve done.  Though not completely “child-led,” the projects are inspired by what I know he’ll like.  In an upcoming post, I’ll list what we’ve been doing in more detail.
  • And as I suspected, it’s usually lunch time after we’ve completed our project, so I stop there.  The difficult part is fitting in “book time.”  Unless the project is short or I include a book within the project, we don’t have time for book time.  After lunch, the boys clearly need to be “let loose” to play, imagine and sometimes create, if they ask for the art supplies.  I’ve decided this is okay because unstructured play, movement and make-believe is still my highest priority for them right now.  We have found time to read books at other times, although not everyday.  Since my son seems to enjoy the spontaneous reading moments more than when I insist on reading to him, I think I’ll just leave it at that. (I should note that every night before bed, I still tell him a story that I make up, and I read a book to my three-year-old at that time too.)

As for the three-year-old, he’s not interested in the learning box, and this is what I’ve figured out:  whenever he wakes up, he needs a good dose of mama.  If I can give him my undivided attention for 20-30 minutes, he usually goes off to play by himself while I work with the six-year-old.  Sometimes he wants to be with us, and he might be content playing with puzzles on the table next to us.  Many times, I’ve been able to include him in our projects, especially those we do outside.  If he is in a particularly needy or difficult mood, I let go of my agenda and direct my six-year-old to work on starfall.com while I stay with the three-year-old.

Staying flexible and light-hearted about the whole process has served me well, and it’s made me realize that while we all operate better with a little bit of structure, I can also feel free to stay relaxed and yield to our whims on occasion too!

You may also be interested in:

  • In addition, I’m still keeping track of our homeschool with the method I described in this post.
  • To read about our homeschooling schedule last year when the boys were 5 and 2, click here. (We did everything after lunch!)
  • And, I’ve updated this post in Our Mid-year Homeschool Update….I have tweaked a few things since writing this!

How is your homeschool year going?

7 thoughts on “Back to Homeschool Update

  1. I can’t even begin to tell you how jealous I am that you have late sleepers! My girls have ALWAYS woken up early – and I mean reeeeally early. I was hoping our move to Japan would reset their internal clocks, but I haven’t been that lucky. They wake up every morning at 5:30am and are ready to go for the day. I put them to bed at a normal time (between 7:00 and 8:00pm), but with them wakinig up that early, it’s a loooong day without a nap or rest time – even for my 4-year-old. And, all these homeschool blogs I read talk about their schedule and routine, and how they are able to get up before their kids and plan their day… or how they can fill their mornings perfectly without using the tv… and I just can’t seem to do it! I hate to wake up any earlier than my kids, but that leaves me feeling like I’m a bit behind before I’ve even gotten out of bed. And, we can get through a lesson, reading time, and snack before it’s even 10:00am. It can be very frustrating and I’m not exactly sure how to make our schedule any better.

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    1. Hi Kim ~ You are not the only person I know jealous of my late sleepers. I wish I had some magical formula to pass on to you and my other friends. (One friend in particular has two boys who also wake up ay 5:30a.m. no matter what!) No, you definitely can’t push yourself to get up earlier than them. And I haven’t not gotten up earlier than my boys since before my second son was born. Even now, it’s hard to do because naturally I’m a night owl. Funny thing is, I WISH I was an early riser because I LOVE mornings! But without an alarm clock, my body naturally sleeps later and later and stays up later and later….not even years of working 8-5 cured me of that!

      I will tell you that my boys go to bed much later than most kids. Usually around 9~9:30p.m. They have been known to stay up even later too. So I know that helps them sleep in later, but I also know that my other friend said that putting her kids to bed later did not help them sleep later!

      We have just always operated this way, and I used to do that bad thing I sometimes do – compare myself to other families – and stress out that they didn’t go to bed “when kids are supposed to.” But then I realized that was silly. We are homeschooling, so it doesn’t matter when we get up. We’re all late sleepers, but if I have to get them up early for a special occasion, I’ve never had any problem doing so. So I finally stopped worrying about it. You just have to do what works for you and your family. Maybe you can find some time to yourself in the evenings, which is what I do. Or during their T.V. break. You know how I feel about T.V. – it’s not something to worry about. If it helps you and is balanced with lots of other activities, let them watch and give yourself a much deserved break!

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  2. I would love to read more about how you keep things on your son’s level and avoid frustration. I struggle so much with that with my 4 year old daughter. Sometimes I wonder how we will ever get through a year of home school!

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Mari, and your suggestion for a new post! I will think about that some more, although I’m not sure I’m perfect at it. Just getting a little better. In the meantime, I can tell you that I did write a little bit about it in this post: https://mamaofletters.com/2011/10/23/review-teach-your-child-to-read-in-100-easy-lessons/ While using Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, my son went from enjoying it to not wanting to do it at all. I struggled with that for awhile and then decided just to stop doing it, and I’m glad I did. Now that he’s six, I can see this new maturity and willingness to sit and do lessons (though I’m keeping them very short, fun and easy). I think four-years-old was just too young (for him) with reading beyond Lesson 50 in 100 Lessons. I’m trying not to push. I don’t want to turn him off. And I have just really looked at the different resources we have in the house (gifts from family, friends and cheap things I’ve found at library sales), and I’ve tried different things to see what works and doesn’t. I have learned that if he starts to goof off, space off and avoid looking at the page, then it’s too hard for him! If he stays engaged or at least can do it with a little coaxing, then I’m probably on target. My thought is that I’m not trying to teach him above his level – just keep him from forgetting what he already knows and just building up from there very slowly. I have learned to be very patient and just stop, if needed. (At least in this one area. lol)

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  3. I really enjoy your blog. Thank you and I hope you keep writing. This is my first year homeschooling with my 5.5 yo daughter and 2.5 yo son. I find myself in similar situation as you last year — taking notes as we go and getting a “free” year without having to report yet. I laughed about your younger son not wanting anything to do with the learning box as I had a very similar experience with my son. A good dose of mama time is exactly what he needs, but sometimes I try to rush it which never works out. I have often been resistant to schedule but find it makes our lives a lot easier. I’m interested in hearing more about email for your son and experiences you both have had with it. Do you plan projects with activities for both kids? Are you making them up as you go or using something as a guide? I find after our lessons, my kids really want to play for a while and my younger child needs to get outside and run around. Maybe down the road we can add in projects or just start with something small once or twice a week.

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    1. Hi Aileen ~ First, thank you so much for reading my blog and enjoying it. That really makes my day. 🙂 I think a lot of your questions I’ll address in upcoming posts, especially about the e-mail which I’m going to start writing tonight (hopefully!). At this time I’m not planning projects for both kids. I’m letting the three-year-old tag along, and especially if it’s easy (like we were collecting rocks in our yard to do a rock study project), he can join in even if he doesn’t understand exactly what we’re doing it for. So far I’ve been using projects that I’ve found accidentally. I’ll be writing about our ant project soon – something I happened to read about in the Field Museum’s magazine, and I thought the 6yo would enjoy it. The rock project was something I got from the teachers of my son’s homeschool science class at the nature center. They e-mailed some follow-up activities we could do, if we wanted to. I read through them and picked a couple I thought the 6yo could do and would enjoy. We’re still working on my son’s snake book, which I wrote about in an earlier post, and that’s a more child-led project. I have purchased a civics unit studies guide, but I haven’t started it yet. I think I may try doing it once a week or so. I really want to do more child-led project-based homeschooling such as what Lori Pickert talks about on her blog. I just purchased her book, and I’m planning to read it, so I’ll be able to write about it more when I finish. I think at such a young age, we really don’t need to be doing much formal/planning stuff for our kids. I really keep my mine short and light. But I have found that having a loose structure helps us too. While I like the *idea* of “No Schedules!,” I have noticed that life is just so much easier with some kind of schedule. Without it, I start to feel out-of-sorts and even a little depressed. I hope all this makes sense ~ I have to run now, but I’d be happy to discuss this further, if I haven’t been clear. And as I noted, I’ll be writing about it in the future. Thanks again!

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