Mom’s Rhythm & Theme For Each Day

Many of you may know Emily P Freeman and her wonderful podcast “The Next Right Thing“.  I have loved listening to her gentle, wise counsel she shares in her weekly short 15 minute podcasts.  This March I bought her book also called The Next Right Thing, and along with my pre-order of her book, I received free access to her online course Discern & Decide where I learnt to apply many of her concepts she shares in her podcasts.  Today I want to share on how her Design a Rhythm of Work – Theme Days  made such a simple, but wonderfully freeing difference to my work each day.

In a very similar way, we have used Themes of the Day since 2012 in order to cover all the subjects that provide the richness of a Charlotte Mason education.  Here are some examples of  our themes which I refreshed each year.

Daily themes 2015

This simple daily focus reminded us to spend time on the specific subject of the day, usually before lunch, and this helped us fit in all the extras.   Here are our updated Themes for 2016 ~

I don’t know why I never thought to apply this approach to my own work days.  It is such a simple adaption which provides enormous focus and freedom.  As Emily shares,

“Designing a rhythm of life is something anyone in any season of life can do. It’s simple and life-giving and creates a beautiful and flexible framework for decision making.”

She encourages us  to look to topics rather than the tasks to allocate different theme days and says, “Theme days are not about completion, they are about focus.”

In my personal rhythm planning, I  prayed for the Lord’s guidance and wisdom, for His “yeses” in my life.  Then listed my main topics and tasks (my basic job descriptions or responsibilities) and I allocated one or two per day in the way that felt most compatible with our lifestyle, and, voila! I had my Rhythm of Work planned.   Most of these main themes are allocated for afternoons or after my daily farming activities (I hand-milk our cow Milly and I make cheeses every second day) as well as specific household chores or regular tasks which happen daily anyway.

For me this is what it looks like ~ Mondays are for laundry and the week’s planning, Tuesdays are for Lucerne Tree Farm business‘ marketing, bookkeeping and blog content, Wednesday for Practical Pages homeschool content and development,  Thursdays for town trips & appointments, Fridays to clean house & water plants, Saturdays for gardening and cleaning the chicken coop & ironing (if I don’t plan this I keep putting it off) and Sundays as a day of rest.

Because we live an hour away from our nearest town and because we don’t travel to town for shopping the same day each week, we have all learnt to be flexible and find our flow around this variable and simply shift a day’s theme.  We have always kept a 4-day homeschool schedule and we have completed all our work in this time-frame.  Having one “free” day is really very grace-giving and life-giving.

I have found that now I seem to have much more time for business development and blog content because I have a “whole day” for that theme.  As a result, I have managed to post more regularly and have seen some growth in readership and followers in both my homeschool blog and our business.  I feel much more focused when writing blog content because there are regular flow and continuity.  I find that I can delve deeper into each topic because it is the focus of my day.

This “work before play” approach and the simplicity of my daily rhythms provides wonderful peace and contentment and I love the simplicity of knowing what to focus on each day. And strangely enough, I also seem to have more time for my own interests and I have enjoyed a lot more daily art and art journaling.

Have you found the rhythm of your days?  Why not give this approach a try?  It may well be a method that helps you develop  a creative, fulfilling, life-giving work that can make a difference to yourself, your family as well as your homeschooling … even the world!

Blessings, Nadene

Add variety for sparkle

Image result for bright sparkEveryone loves and needs variety – from the foods we eat, to learning and homeschool,  to our normal day-to-day routines.  But when schedules seem to work well, it is easy to keep using the same approach and we may find ourselves eventually getting stuck in a rut.

Even when everyone is working well and making steady progress, homeschooling while in a rut may feel boring, dull and lifeless.  When this happens, Charlotte Mason’s approach allows for variety and interest.

Here are some ideas to add some sparkle to you homeschool days.  Simply mix things up a bit each term. You don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel, but try not to be locked in to the same subjects at the same times on the same days year after year.

  • Daily themes 2015Swap different days for composer/music study, art/picture study or nature study.  I used Theme Days for our week which worked so well to help us fit all the extras into our routine.
  • Listen to or read aloud a new Shakespeare play or poet.
  • Start a new book or audio book and perhaps include a new genre such as comedy (Roald Dahl) or a mystery story.
  • Work through some exciting Science experiment books.
  • Add in a new lapbook for your Core reader or main theme.
  • Look for an interesting hands-on activity for your theme or Core book.
  • Go on a weekly park day with friends one term.
  • Start a new exercise regimen or outdoor family activity.
  • Begin the day differently or end it with a splash of something fun!  A fun action song works fabulously for younger kids!
  • Buy new art supplies and materials and enjoy new creative fun.
  • Download or stream new classical music and explore music genres.  My kids absolutely loved mom and dad’s “trip down memory lane” listening to famous songs and music from our generation!
  • Create a puppet show or make a quick finger puppet show.  You can download our Esther play and Nativity play which gave us weeks of fun and creativity!
  • Watch historical DVD or movies related to your Core study.
  • View appropriate YouTube videos.  Always preview and create your own playlist for your family.
  • Have your homeschool in a different room for the day.  Go to the library or museum instead, or have an outdoor day if the weather permits.
  • Play a “back-to-front day” and have fun inventing an upside down day!  The kids will absolutely love the spontaneous fun!
  • Buy each child a new nature journal or art sketchbook and start with new prompts.
  • Sketch Tuesday was a wonderful “break” from any tough, boring day.

So when things seem dull or lifeless or you just need a change to liven things up, add some variety and keep things fresh.  Add a sparkle to your homeschool days!

What worked for you?  Please share with us in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene
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25 Smartphone Homeschool Apps

In my early homeschooling days before smart phones existed, I carried a basket full of books, CD’s with CD player, an Atlas and reference books next to me when we studied.  But once I bought my smartphone I reduced the pile of books to mostly just our read alouds.

In 2015 I included a smartphone as one of my 3 Ingredients I would select for homeschooling.  As techno-savy mom, I have added many more homeschool apps for planning, specific subjects and especially for references.  Here are some I used with our middle school and high school children.

  1. Kindle – with current Ebooks, downloaded novels, and any pdf files
  2. Bible – I use You Version, and enjoy the different Bible versions and reading plans and Bible studies.  Sometimes we follow good Bible plans for teens and family devotions.
  3. Dictionary and Thesaurus (download the offline versions)
  4. Google Translate for 2nd language studies
  5. Duolingo or Babbel for 2nd language practice
  6. Wikipedia our go-to favorite!
  7. YouTube subscriptions, playlists or general looking up
  8. World Atlas especially with flags for Current Affairs and Geography
  9. Google Sky Map for Astrology studies
  10. Google calendar for all my planning
  11. Just plain old Google to look up anything
  12. Music playlists containing our Hymns, Geography Songs, as well as current classic musician’s music
  13. Radio streaming app such as Spotify with our favorite genres and artists while we do handicrafts and art
  14. Timer for Maths drills, arrows games, and revision
  15. Audio Recorder to record oral narrations
  16. Audible for audio books.  (I download the book for my daughter so that she can listen to her story offline)
  17. Camera to capture nature finds
  18. Bird, Tree and Plant reference apps for Nature Study
  19. Photo editor for art and drawing reference, as well as for sharing art with other family members
  20. Podcast app with my favourite homeschool posts such as TEDtalks  for Kids and Family
  21. News for our Current Affairs (note – I preview before I share)
  22. Khan Academy especially for high school Maths and Physical Science
  23. Online games for Phonics and Spelling such as Spell City, Starfall, The Spelling Bee,
  24. Shopping list app for mom’s weekly shopping. Add a menu planner and a recipe app and you’ll be completely sorted for all your meals
  25. Dropbox which enables everyone to safely store and access documents across different computers.

There are dozens of phone apps for toddlers and kindergarten, but I prefer to encourage real-life interaction and limit screens for young kids.  It is really addictive!  Also, be aware of “fluff” or “candy floss” apps which are simply fun and not really educational.  Nothing replaces time for real play and exploration and time to be creative.

As technology sometimes fails, always save and make physical pencil-on-paper plans, records and notes. I always start here and then look online for educational support.

For families with limited WiFi, opt for offline versions and select and download specific information for subjects. We made the decision to only use free online educational games and not pay for subscriptions even though many were excellent.

What others are sharing:

What other smartphone apps do you use for homeschool?  Please share in the comments below.

 Blessings, Nadene
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“Behind”- But Not

Almost every homeschool family experiences delays or disturbances that put homeschooling on hold or cause plans to seemingly fall apart somewhere along the journey.  I want to encourage you that in the great scheme of things, you are never truly behind, but exactly where you are meant to be in your life.

Life — and homeschool — is a journey and not lesson plans, schedules, timetables  and deadlines.  Sure, there are homeschool goals and graduations, and for those you need a strategy and specific plans, but especially for young children, they will always be learning, growing, developing and maturing, and they will seldom truly fall behind even when homeschooling does not happen.

7 years ago Jimmie Quick at wrote a post Homeschool—Help! I’m Behind!  Jimmie’s counsel is that homeschool is not school at home.   She says,

You are the teacher, mom. You can make the decisions about what, when, and how to teach your children. So you can’t truly be behind.  Yes, you made a plan. You were diligent to organize your lessons and make goals for the term or the year. But life interrupted. Don’t accept the guilt or panic. Instead, get productive.  RE-plan for where you are NOW.  Don’t even try to “catch-up.” Just keep working forward.

And in her post she linked to Lani Carey of The HomeSchool Flame‘s post “Getting Behind?”  where Lani wisely says,

You are not behind!! Who told you that? You might not have gotten as far in the curriculum book as you would have liked, but so what! Is your child learning? If so, then you are not behind. Behind is when the kids are going backwards, which some of our moms with LD children are struggling with. But even then, you are not on a time-table, so you can keep going over the same material again and again if that’s what the child needs and not worry about “getting finished”. 

We need to just enjoy the ride! 

Jimmie also linked to my post “How to recover from Disturbed Schooling
where I recommend to Spot, Skip or Speed when school is disturbed by life’s problems.

  • SpotStick to one important subject for the whole day and catch up everything; read, discuss, watch videos, do the lapbook and notebook pages, complete a fun hands-on activity.
  • SkipSkip the core subjects (History, Geography, Science) and only do the seat work/ basic discipline subjects or skip all the seat work and only do only core subjects till you have caught up on your schedule.
  • Speed = To make all the basic lessons short and sweet put a timer on and stop when the bell goes.  Let them orally narrate or do a quick finger puppet narration instead of lengthy written narrations.

So this post was written 7 years ago!  And now, as a homeschool veteran mom with 2 homeschool graduates, I absolutely believe now what I shared then.

I have learnt to allow my children much more freedom.  I can see the bigger picture and realize that I am no longer the one in control, but the one who comes alongside each child to facilitate their learning experiences.  Homeschooling is much more “in the moment” and much more intimate.  For each child, there are goals, specific plans and a general outcome, but I no longer fret about finishing things according to someone’s schedule.  If there are disruptions, I have learnt to take a moment and figure our way forward again.

If you are distressed and discouraged by “falling behind” may I encourage you to spend some quiet moments with the Lord and pray for His peace and for His strategy.  Ask Him to show you what really matters, what is important in His plans for your family and each child’s life right now.  With these thoughts, focus on what you can start with and begin fresh from there.

Paul says in Phil. 3:13 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”  The Message translation – “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward-to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So, simply do the very next thing — push onward, forward, upward toward the goal.  

Blessings, Nadene
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Routine versus Schedule

Homeschooling  works better when you have a plan, and most new homeschool moms feel more secure when they have a detailed schedule.  But in my first year of homeschooling, I was almost a slave to a very detailed schedule, and this approach produced a lot of stress and anxiety.  May I offer you another option?
First, let’s look at the difference between schedule  versus routine ~
schedule (noun) ~ a list of planned activities or things to be done showing the times or dates when they are intended to happen or be done or timetable or  list of the times when events are planned to happen.

versus

routine (noun) ~ a sequence of actions regularly followed or  a usual or fixed way of doing things.

A schedule tells you what to do and when to do it.  It is usually filled with times, lists, blocks, and boxes to tick off.

A routine is a pattern by which you live. It gives structure and order to your day, but it doesn’t dictate exactly when things should be done. It allows you to find a flow that works for you on the day you happen to be living.

By now you have realized that it may be better to follow a routine rather than a schedule as Mary shared at Parnips & Paisley, but when one starts a new educational program or curriculum, a schedule is often necessary to ensure that the work is covered in the allotted time.

If the schedule has you constantly looking at the clock and rushing from one task to the next, and feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you could easily fall into striving and performance instead of enjoying the learning journey, especially if you suffer from perfectionist tendencies,

I tried to schedule everything. I often became discouraged and felt like a failure.  When I decided to ignore the times listed on the schedule and follow the schedule as a suggestion or proposed outline, I immediately felt relieved and revived.  I gained confidence as we gradually found our own basic routine, and I freed myself from the self-inflicted torture that each failed schedule brought.

So, how does one set up a routine?

  1. Decide what is really important such as – building faith, making and eating meals together, working together as a family in caring for home and animals, reading good books, and learning about ___.
  2. Find the time-flow for your family – who is an early riser or who needs more time to wake? When does your family get their best work done? When are their creative times? Homeschooling allows the freedom to set suggested starting times for the different elements of the day.  With young children, it is often best to start early and work until tea-time, lunch and nap times.  Teenagers often move into a very different time flow and this is when it is best to give them the liberty to sleep longer and work later in the day.  Moms, remember to consider your own energy levels!
  3. Identify your important daily events which form pillars in your home such as mealtimes – where activities fit before and after breakfasts, lunches and dinners at more or less the same time each day. We are farmers, and so daily milking forms an important daily event. Create your routine around these times.
  4. Create habits – start with your important daily events and add the most important activities  around those; such as morning chores before breakfast, school seat-work before lunch, creative hobbies after lunch, pack away before dinner, etc.  Keep it simple and don’t throw everything in it at once. Once your family find their flow in those elements, you have space to add more things in. Stick to it to create habit.
  5. Be flexible. This may seem to be contradictory, but if your routine isn’t clicking and something feels off, adapt or change it. You are the ruler of the routine, it shouldn’t rule you. If one day you feel like straying completely from the norm, by all means, do it. Those days make life memorable. You are in charge. You don’t need to worry that you’ve blown it, the set routine will be back tomorrow.
  6. Daily themes 2015Offer options and extras such as different themes for each day.  This was a wonderful way to fit in all the extra subjects in our homeschooling without feeling overwhelmed.
  7. Add freedom and create space for your children to explore their gifts, passions, interests and talents.  Let them be bored.  Offer them the materials and some inspiration and see what they create!

Here’s to you finding your rhythm and flow in your homeschool days!  May you homeschool in grace.  Feel free to share your family’s routines and schedules in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

Making Adjustments

Encouraging new homeschool moms, and moms starting a new curriculum ~ You may need to adjust or adapt your homeschool approach, content, schedule and expectations.

Sometimes, a little tweak will provide the necessary space and grace to accomplish the work without undue stress and frustration.  When you or your child  experience some of these negative emotions on a daily basis,  you may need to make some more serious adjustments.

Here are a few Charlotte Mason-inspired suggestions ~

Size
P1070277One of the simplest ways to tweak the content is to select its size.  For example:

  • Narrations = decide how much you will read before asking for a narration.  Start with a paragraph before moving on to a full chapter.
  • Adjust the length of copywork = give shorter selections, especially for a young child who is still learning to master his handwriting.
  • Adjust dictation passages = adjust the size of the passage to fit your child’s reading fluency or adjust the size of the phrases you dictate for her to write.  Adjust the length as the child’s confidence strengthens.
  • Any other lesson or activity = select the amount work that the child does to suit their ability; tick off the maths problems or draw a line under the work needed for that day.

Highlight

Assist your young or struggling child by writing out the key words or important ideas from the passage.  As your child matures and manages to remember the content and details of the chapter, he will make these notes himself and eventually rely on mental memory rather than notes to recall his narrations.  An effective spotlight will allow the student to think for himself and make his own personal relations, and not be ‘spoon-fed’.

  • Create a word bank with key words on a board, or create a short list to spotlight the key ideas of the passage.  This list provides reminders for the child’s narration.
  • Use textmapping to help your child remember their ideas.  Here the child highlights the most important ideas, in different colours, to help note key concepts.
  • Number the correct sequence to help keep events in the correct order = or use these sequential clues = “First, this happened. Then …  After that, such-and-such happened … Finally…”  This helps a child remember the story sequence.
  • Gently encourage your child to write an opening sentence and then the concluding sentence. Work on developing 3 sentences that form a paragraph.  Before long he will be doing more and more of his own written narrations.
  • Spotlight specific topics  in subject = a specific focus in nature study.
  • Spotlight specific techniques used in handicrafts or art instruction.

Substitute

2013-06-17 21.37.09Adjust the content of your curriculum with through substitutions.  Here, the library may provide your best options:

  • Substitute a different book for your student. It should be a well-written living book, one that contains worthy thoughts well put and inspiring tales well told.  Find a story that “clicks” with your child.
  • Grade up or down as needed.
  • Personalize mental math by substituting names of people or objects in your child’s life according to  their personal interests.
  • Substitute the pictures you use for picture study.  Feel free to substitute a different work by the same artist.  You want your child to connect with the artist and his works.  I often provide 6 examples and allow my child to choose the 4 we will study each week for that month.
  • Find an alternative activity that your child enjoys instead of the prescribed narration – there are so many options and alternatives!  Purchase my Narration Ideas booklet with over 100 ideas and options instead of just writing!

Speed
My golden rule = Add more time!  Adjust the speed at which you move through the lessons especially with skill-based subjects  such as math or language arts skills like reading, writing, and grammar.

  • Don’t move on to the next concept until your child has a comfortable grasp of the current one.
  • So much of math and language arts builds step by step: the next concept that will be introduced depends on mastery of the current concept. So don’t get in a hurry.
  • Charlotte believed strongly that math and language arts lessons must proceed at each child’s speed, regardless of what grade level he might be:

“In grammar (English and foreign) and in mathematics there must be no gaps. Children must go on from where they left off, but they will be handicapped in the future unless they can do the work set for this Form” (PNEU Programmes 90–94, May—July 1921 through December 1922).

  • Adjust the curriculum to go at your child’s pace. It is more important that your child understands the concept than that you check off the lesson as done.  
  • Add other exercises from alternative books or games to practice more on certain skills or activities.

Here are several posts I have written on this topic over the years ~

Hopefully the examples shared above will give you some ideas of how you can adjust the size, spotlight key concepts, make personalized substitutions, or adjust the speed of the content as you use Charlotte’s wonderful methods with your student.

Blessings, Nadene
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Tailor-make your curriculum

It is not a failure if a curriculum doesn’t work for you!   Even if you purchase a professionally formatted, fully kitted, boxed, packaged curriculum, you will need to make adjustments for each child and yourself as you go along.  No professional or expert can possibly determine the perfect fit for your family and for each individual!

Just as a travel agent provides a suggested itinerary for a tour to a foreign country, once you arrive, you may decide to visit different scenic stops, spend longer to more fully enjoy an experience, or decide to completely skip a section of the tour.

Here’s a golden rule ~ Work WITH your package and not FOR your package = Tailor-make your curriculum!

So how do you work with your package?

Find the pace that suits your children:

  1. Spend more time on any topic that your children enjoy.  Don’t simply rush onto the next day on the schedule.  If your kids sparkle with enthusiasm, feed it by encouraging them to watch additional videos, read other books, do some fun hands-on activities, etc.
  2. Read more/ or less each day.  During our first year I felt completely swamped by the amount of reading I was expected to do every day.  The sessions felt exhausting and I almost dreaded the schedule.  Rather, I kept reading while the kids colored-in or did hands-on activities, or I read during meals, or I completed the daily reading at bedtime read alouds.  As I gained experience, I realized that if I combined more children on the same curriculum, I maximized our learning experience and had far less individual reading.
  3. Spend more / or less time on certain subjects.  Especially when starting a new curriculum, focus on just one or two subjects at a time and gradually add another subject each week, as your children master the new skills required for each subject.  Don’t dive in and try to do everything right away.  You may wonder how to keep the different subjects flowing together?  On some days, focus on the subject you see is “falling behind” and you will easily catch up.  Sometimes we spent a week just doing one subject and found it really enjoyable, kind of like an immersion approach.
  4. Add 6 months margin to the package year.  This helped me more than anything — Just knowing that I had extra time to use as and when we wanted gave us a generous freedom and removed the stress and feeling that we would fall behind.

Personalize the curriculum:

  1. Focus on your children’s delights and interests.
  2. Add extras to any spark of interest your children show –go on outings, look for projects, job shadow professionals, borrow library books, watch suitable educational movies and videos.
  3. Do a unit study on topics related to the subject of interest, where you cover all the subjects focusing on a single topic such “Horses” or “Explorers” etc.
  4. Add a lapbook on the subject of interest.  
  5. Ignore and pack away any books that just don’t suit your child or family.  Don’t feel guilty!  It is like eating off a fixed menu — not every dish will be to your taste.
  6. Adjust the activity to suit each child.  Some children hate writing!  Rather let them present oral narrations, or draw or build or calculate or design, etc.  I created an excellent book “Narration Ideas” with over 100 ideas, options or templates for every types of learning style and temperate style.  Find what your child enjoys and tailor-make your options.
  7. Don’t forget that you are an essential component of your homeschooling.    Look for a package and approach that best suits your teaching style. Don’t buy a curriculum that stresses and overwhelms you.  I love reading and literacy, so read alouds and literacy-based education worked perfectly for me. Another mom may prefer unit studies or project-based learning.  Some moms want to teach, others want their children to lead.  Whatever your preferred style, look for a package or curriculum or approach that works for you as well as your children.

I hope that this post encourages you to make whatever curriculum you have work best for you and your children.

 Blessings, Nadene
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Homeschool interesting for mom too?

Moms, you are a very important part of your homeschooling vision and you should love your homeschooling days just as much as your children.  We are all equal parts of the learning, and often plan our children’s education without considering your own part in the process. You have so much to contribute to an interest-led approach.

Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things writes a refreshingly different perspective on her homeschool planning in her post How my homeschool planning has changed this year and she writes how she includes herself in the plan.

Think about your curriculum, the schedule, the priorities, and the interests.  Instead of only considering what your child needs, why don’t you consider the following?  She asks, ~

  • What curriculums look interesting to me?
  • What would I like to learn this year?
  • What would bring me joy in our regular schedule and routines?
  • I know my son/ daughters’ special interests. What are mine? How can I incorporate them into our learning?

“What better way for my children to engage in our days’ homeschooling, than seeing their mom just as engaged, excited and involved in the learning?”

Most moms avoid a teaching style that drains them and often opt for safe, secure, predictable curriculums.  Many struggle against their natural energy rhythms, battling with boring approaches, tedious schedules or stressful expectations.  I hear from many moms who feel drained, guilty and stressed about their homeschooling.

Several years ago my youngest daughter and I experimented with silk painting! Here we are painting my scarf together

Take the time to consider your interests, the focus and style of lessons that you enjoy, and the grouping or individual time with your children. When are your energy levels low?  When do you need a little moment of peace and quiet?  Plan in a session of quiet reading or play so that you can regroup after more energized.

I very soon learnt that I loved literature-based education, loved reading aloud, enjoyed working with all my children together, loved hands-on activities, art and crafts … and guess what?  …that is exactly the kind of homeschooling we had.  I was energized after these activities.  My own creativity and joy bubbled over into my planning and lessons, and homeschool was a joy for many years.  Only when my daughters became teens did this change in favour of the curriculums, lessons presentation style and schedules they chose and needed to complete their final 3 years.  Still, all the 8 or 9 years before were a joy and a blessing!

Many years ago when we were all together in our schoolroom ~ one sewing, the others doing art and crafts. Some of our happiest homeschool days!

So, go ahead and plan in the subjects such as nature study, classical music, YouTube videos, outings, the extra subjects you want to include … just for you!  Plan your homeschool to intentionally include yourself as an active participant, and enjoy your homeschooling right alongside your children!

Blessings as you grow and learn on your homeschool journey!

Blessings, Nadene

5 Things to do when you start homeschooling after a break

The start of a new homeschool year is just weeks away for many of my readers.  Here’s What Worked for us when we started homeschooling after a long break ~

1.Prepare

Start with a basic overall year plan for each child.    I like to plan my year with a page for each month, listing each subject and I break down the themes or topics for each month.  This plan also serves as my record of work.  

Print out your notebook pages, copywork pages, and/or lapbooks.  Store your topics and pages  for your work in files ready for each child.  Copy or create an index page for each subject or topic or lapbook activity to go with your overall year plan.

2. Practice sleep and wake up routine

A good morning starts the night before.  Re-establish simple bedtime routines a few days before schooling starts.

3. Pace

Gently ease into your schedule.  Start with the most exciting aspect of the course to ignite everyone’s enthusiasm.  Usually this is the Core reader or spine of your curriculum.  But don’t overdo it.  It is far better to start with short, sweet lessons and stop, leaving your children begging for more!  Short, sweet lessons serve as a wonderful motivation.   Kids love to feel that they can master their work and eagerly look forward to the next day.  Include quick, fun games in your school day.  The Amazing Arrow game is fantastic!

4. Perfect one area before moving on

Focus on one skill/ habit/ subject until it is mastered.   Break down each subject into manageable skills and encourage your child through each step.  If your child feels anxious or overwhelmed with the full schedule, work on just one new subject for about a week before adding another subject.  Sometimes, we focused on just one subject for a whole week to get to grips with the subject matter, the new skill or the lapbook or hands-on project.  Don’t worry about “falling behind”.  Simply focus on the lagging subject for a few days, and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can catch up and flow into a new routine.

5.Read Aloud

Read alouds are the superglue of homeschooling and build a sense of unity and a focus.  Read alouds are relaxing, yet, with a child listening attentively, provides enormous learning experiences.  When in doubt, when if your kid has a melt-down or when mom feels burnt-out, stop, snuggle together and read aloud.  All will be fine.  They will learn.  Trust the learning journey through living books.

I hope these tips help you work through your transition days when you start your new school year.

Blessings, Nadene
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Mix Structure with Freedom

What Works! 

Homeschooling, like all things in family life, requires balance.

Some folks love the carefree and loosey-goosey approach to homeschooling, while others perfect a strict routine and discipline with a school-at-home approach. Some folk wake and start school early, while others flow lazily into a relaxed, informal day.  Some families work in a classroom environment, while others love to learn everywhere, anytime.

Whatever your homeschooling approach is right now, it should fit your family lifestyle. I encourage you to find the way that works for you and your children in this season of your life.

If you’re a mom with lots of young children, then I encourage you to create a simple  predictable routine for their day.  Mix in free time for unstructured play and exploration.

Here are some of the main family events that should follow some form of predictable routine ~

  • Morning wake up, washing & dressing
  • Making beds
  • Breakfast
  • Start homeschool time – circle time or Bible story, songs & prayer
  • Short, sweet seat work lessons
  • Tea time and short outdoors play time
  • Core and read alouds and other schooling or learning
  • Lunch time
  • After lunch nap or quiet play
  • Free afternoons
  • Clean up & pack away toys from the day’s play
  • Bath time
  • Supper
  • Bedtime

Habit-training is a vital part of creating an easy, stress-free day.  Work on your routine, focusing on one aspect at a time for several weeks until this is established. (Start with the routine that causes you the most stress and frustration in your family.)  Once your children can cope with that routine, move on to focus on the next area that causes you the most stress.

Many new homeschool moms have very high ideals and expectations.  Most new homeschool moms struggle to maintain a formal, strict regimen every day, and they can easily burnout.  May I suggest that your homeschooling plays a minor role in your day when you are teaching young toddlers, pre-schoolers.  If you are working with multiple ages, focus on the most needy first and then focus on the rest.

Truth be told, you can’t do everything with every child every day!

Especially when children seem bored, frustrated or aimless, look to switching the rhythm and approach of your homeschooling.

  • Change the routine and start with subjects that you normally do later in the day.
  • Change your homeschool room or learn somewhere new/ outside/ at a library
  • Change your approach and make things fun
  • Switch to a new activity such as a lapbook or project instead of reading a read aloud that just doesn’t “fit” you or your kids.
  • Do drills or physical movements instead of seat work.  This works really well if a child is struggling with a subject like maths or spelling!  Rather do jumping or skipping or ball tossing or jump on a rebounder while doing skip-counting or times tables, spelling,  etc.
  • Leave the workbooks and find hands-on activities instead.

Charlotte Mason perfected this switch of rhythm with her principles ~

Structure and discipline (Seat work lessons)

  • Short, sweet lessons
  • Perfect / excellent quality work
  • Attentiveness and discipline
  • Memory work and copywork

Informal and unstructured approach (while still requiring focus and attention)

  • Narrations
  • Fine Arts
  • Poetry
  • Nature Study

I found that having one FREE DAY worked for our family.  Although I say “Free” it was rather an INFORMAL day where we focused on Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays.  These days made the rest of the week feel better and help prevent burnout and stress.

What works for your family?  Please share in the comments below.

Blessings as you find what works for your family, Nadene

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