It’s driving me nuts that until I get my hands on the curriculum, I only have so much power over planning our home school schedule for the year. It’s only the beginning of summer, but there are so many things to juggle, and this is so new to us, that if I don’t at least begin to loosely lay out some kind of a plan for how I’m going to tackle it all now, I won’t be able to. Or I will, but not before putting myself at risk for a stress related brain embolism.
To help ease my paranoia about not having enough time to plan and deadly things happening to my brain, I’ve compiled a list of the best advice for starters from around the web. (First awesome thing I’ve learned about home schooling: more people than you realize already do it. And they are like a really friendly cult: everyone wants to help get you in.) From that, I’ve decided to organize our year in the typical 9 week intervals that the public schools use for Marking Periods. A lot of people get creative here with all kinds of cool ways to break up the school year so that they have birthdays off and get to plan a number of cheap family vacations at weird times that nobody else can. Mary and I decided it would be best to keep things as close to what she’s already familiar with from public school as possible. So she’ll have regular 9 week marking periods, a classroom for all of her stuff, be given end-of-unit testing, and if she gets caught passing a note to Matthew in geometry I’ll suspend her for three days. ;-)
In 9 week intervals, I’ll:
-Review the curriculum
-Make a schedule and color code each week
-Use the local school district calendar to schedule breaks/days off that coincide with her friends’.
-Plan relevant field trips/family appointments and pencil them in
-Schedule a built-in catch-up day
-Have goals for what to finish/turn in by the end of each week
-Print and laminate everything we’ll need (for all 9 weeks) ahead of time
-Make a supply list (for projects, etc.) and get all of them before we start
-Have each day cover a different elective
-- gym, art, choir, MEK meeting, library/computer
*computer-skill assignments will be done at the library so that the little kids can play and read in the children’s section with friends. When her assignment is done, she can check out a new book.
It’s recommended that about 40 minutes be spent on each core subject, with about 2 total hours a day typically being spent given one-on-one instruction. Don’t quote me on this, but I want to say that something like 180 days out of the year have to be scheduled school days. Mary obviously has a lot of public-schooled friends, so I’d like for her days off to coincide with theirs. If we’re able, her friends could spend the day with us and maybe I could plan to take them out to a movie or lunch at the mall or something. I’ve also been told that a good idea is to tell the state that your school year stretches a little longer than you plan for it to, that way if you need longer than you thought to finish a part of the curriculum or have unplanned days to make up for, I don’t know… the world won’t explode in your face.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that because only about a third of the typical public school day goes to actually teaching academics, that their kids are able to successfully blow through all the day’s work in a couple of hours at home. Realistically, we’re new to this and it isn’t like our home life is without it’s own distractions, so - while I can see this being true for a lot of reasons - I’m setting aside the recommended 40 minutes to an hour for each one. If we finish earlier, great. If not, we’ll order take out for dinner and I won’t fold the laundry. So really it’s a win, win.
Based on sample schedules provided by other home schooling families and the way our personal household runs throughout the day, I came up with this as a rough plan; just something to start with that we can work our way out from.
Typing - 15 minutes of keyboarding exercises
Prayer journal - 5 - 10 minutes
I’ll have a scripture or quote for her to copy everyday. Then she can record her thoughts on it or a prayer she’d like to make herself. (She’ll also do them in cursive because it’s something she’s asked me specifically to teach her. The girl’s almost a teenager and she’s never had to write more than a few practice sentences in cursive before. From third to forth grade, I remember every paper and assignment I turned in had to be written in cursive. So, yeah, we’ll work on that.)
Pledge of Allegiance and morning prayer:
This is absolutely my favorite piece of God’s word in regard to my kids. Short, sweet, (easy to get) and refreshingly, to the point. I would love for this little acknowledgement to be something we start each day by saying aloud with the good ol’ P of A -- which, by the way, I’m also pretty stoked about teaching to Matt-man.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.”
Bible study - 10 minutes
Language Arts - 40 minutes
+ reading - 20 minutes
Science - 45 minutes
Math - 40 minutes
Walk to the park or trail with Scarlett and Matthew
Social Studies - 40 minutes
Elective (‘gym’, art, choir, MEK meeting, computer/library) - 30 - 60 minutes
MEK is a Christian junior high home schooling group that only meets once a month, so that day will be open to other things most of the time. Maybe we’ll start a light Spanish curriculum? Maybe we’ll leave it open? I’ll talk more about our electives in another post.)
Chores (includes tidying of schoolroom) - 30 minutes
Since Mary’s not a morning person, I plan to give her a slow start to the day with some easier, independent work to kick off with while I enjoy some early morning time with the younger two. Then, I plan to get as much of the heavier material (or “mom-intensive”) as I can, knocked out of the way with Mary in the mid to late morning window, when Scarlett naps and Matthew’s already accustomed to having ‘quiet time.’
With that in mind, I also know that there will be times aplenty when Matthew decides to switch it up on me just because he’s four and four year olds are awesome at being unpredictable and difficult. I’ll need to have a plan in place for keeping him safely in and out of our hair in exactly the right measure. One thing a lot of seasoned home-schooling parents say helps with these ages is that 1.) preschoolers are not only eager to, but can often benefit a great deal from getting involved - even if all you do is set them up with a binder of their own “work” (mazes, letter-tracing, etc.) to work on in the same area while you teach. 2.) middle-schoolers are old enough to do a surprising amount of the work independently. So she’ll need me to instruct, demonstrate and evaluate her work. But in between, she’ll have time to actually complete assignments and study while I keep Matthew and Scarlett from juggling knives in the kitchen or drinking shampoo.
After lunch we’re going to take a daily walk to the park or trail for a little ‘recess’ and some extra one-on-one time with the littles before finishing up the last of our subjects and getting out of the house for our afternoon errands/elective activities.
We’ll wrap everyday up with chores, which will include tidying of the schoolroom. That’ll mark the end of her day.
Mid-afternoons are usually pretty easy on me, with Scarlett napping and then playing quietly out in the yard before dinner needs to be started. Mary and Matthew are almost invariably playing at a friend’s house around this time, so the house is quieter now than any other time of the day. This is usually when I pick up around the house, fold laundry and do one major chore for the day, but before I do, this will be the time I set aside to grade and file papers.
I have another post planned about our elective activities, another one planned about managing the younger two while I teach, another one planned about the makings of our school room and absolutely zero planned about Scarlett beginning to potty-train or Matthew making a name for himself at summer camp or Spencer being in Canada for two weeks or Mary's birthday coming up or our new kitten almost dying. I think it's safe to say that I am officially geeking out.