It’s not unusual for me to shake things up when we reenter our homeschool routine in January after our extended December hiatus. While we are ready for some structure again (whether the kids realize it or not), we aren’t great at abiding by strict schedules. Routines, though? They’re our jam.
What I had been doing from our July start through the end of 2022 was beginning reading our unit to them while they ate breakfast. Historically meals have been a wonderful time for reading because I have a captured audience. It worked well for us with our Beautiful Feet History and just general read aloud time. However, I noticed with Gather Round that it didn’t lend itself to the same relaxed flow.
The Gather Round set up is straight forward: you read the same passages/pages to all the kids, then they have their specific level notebook work to attend to afterwards. However, my kids liked to thumb through their workbooks while I was reading which began leading to an unfocused, messy, and hurried start to our school day. So I decided to switch things up for our second part of the year. Some things I changed:
- Implementing a slower morning. I get most of my focused work done in the morning and I like to take Finley on a walk. My kids like to sleep. This is a perk of homeschooling, so I adjusted my expectations about when we “should” start our day. Now they set their alarms for 8:15, but they aren’t expected to be ready for lessons until around 9:30. This is giving them time to wake up and have a more peaceful start to the day.
- More morning independence. One way I love on my family is by cooking for them. However, I realized that the kids are at ages where they can (and should) be capable of making their own breakfast. So we switched from me making it for them to them being responsible for themselves in the morning, making and cleaning up breakfast. Then getting dressed and ready for the day. While they do this for themselves, I also have more independence to finish up computer work, get dressed, take care of the dog, etc.
- Using the homeschool/play room. We shall see if this sticks, but right now I am really liking all meeting in the play room instead of the kitchen table. It gives us a place to leave our materials instead of pushing them around the kitchen.
- Doing the extended activities. I’m not proud of it, but I have a tendency to want to just “check the box” with lessons sometimes. This means skipping the recommended videos or not taking the time to gather the supplies for a hands on activity. Not surprisingly, my kids like those parts the most, so I’m committing to doing them. In the first week of doing so, it’s been a lot of fun for all of us. And next week we’re getting together with friends also doing chemistry for a day of experiments! We’re pumped.
Our Current Homeschool Routine
- 6:00 – I get up- computer work, walk Finley, get dressed, breakfast
- 8:15 – kids wake up, breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed. (H has actually been getting up and going for a short run with Finley; and K joined her today. Will be interesting to see if this sticks!)
- 9:30 – meet in the play room and dive into our unit (currently: chemistry)
- 11:30 – math lesson
- 11:50 – the extras: typing, cursive, piano practice, chores
- 12:30 – lunch and read aloud
- 1:15 – outdoor time
Recently Received Homeschool Questions
How long do you plan to homeschool?
When we started I said we’d reevaluate each year. That’s still true to a certain extent (I know better than to say never or always), however I don’t see us changing course. We love homeschooling. We love learning together. We love owning our schedules. There are SO many resources available now that I no longer worry about teaching high level math or sciences, because I won’t be the one teaching those. Maybe it will be online or in small local group tutoring or courses through local colleges, but I know it’s all possible now without me having to be well-versed in every subject.
What age did your kids become more independent?
It grows a bit every year! I honestly thought it would make me sad to have to do more real work and not as many “let’s go on a picnic and study the leaf we found” lessons of the younger years, but I’m really enjoying this next level learning. We are studying real things that I find interesting, AND they are able to do more on their own. They are in 5th and 3rd right now and 5th grade can do 80% of work on her own and 3rd grade can do about 50% of work on her own.
What’s working for your family right now? What’s not?
Working: morning independence, hands on activities like experiments, online math
Not working: switching curriculum after the end of the unit study. Gosh I was excited about this set up (the best of both worlds!), but it’s feeling clunky and like we can’t get into a rhythm with the writing/spelling/grammar.
Do your kids ever ask to go to public school? Do they feel left out?
They really don’t, which has surprised me some. I figured they’d be curious and ask about it, but the only thing they’ve ever been curious about it what it would be like to ride a school bus. I think it’s mostly because of the early wake up and time commitment. They stay busy with evening activities, see friends in the afternoon, and we have a lot of fun together both at home and out and about. Their only frustration is that some friends don’t get home until so late in the afternoon so they have to wait for them.
Tips for helping a 10 year old with time management?
It depends on your child, but for mine, especially the oldest, it’s helpful to see the full list of what is expected of her for the day. I use the responsibility chart or “my day” printable found here. My kids are motivated by screen time, so they don’t earn their tokens until all tasks are completed. Read all about our system here.
Do you directly supervise all time spent homeschooling?
The unit study time, I’m 100% present and involved. The piano, typing, cursive, and sometimes even math they are able to do on their own.
Do you do co-ops?
Yes, we are part of a great co-op, parent-led, that offers Spanish, PE, science, and art. It’s a great group of families! Read about a day at our co-op here.
Do you feel like your girls are missing out on the school experience?
The way we’ve discussed it, there are tradeoffs with everything, and the school experience is no exception. For us and our kids, we feel the benefits of homeschooling outweigh the disadvantages. If you’re thinking about if it’s it right for you, there are a plethora of online and in person educational resources if your concern is there, and many co-ops, activity groups, and clubs if your concern is socially focused. It’s worth exploring what is available in your area; you might be surprised at the offerings.
Do you still like Synthesis?
Yes! We paused for the month and December, but H starts it up again tomorrow. She’s really looking forward to it. We discussed pausing it for longer because of the cost, but we discussed it with Hailey and she feels it has really helped her gain confidence in leadership and problem solving within a group of her peers from around the world.
When curriculum doesn’t work for you- how long until you switch it? Should everything be fun or is some stuff just necessary?
I think this is going to depend a lot on your personal educational philosophy. I do put a lot of weight into “is this fun?” because I know we all learn best when we are interested and engaged. You can’t shove knowledge that will stick into an unwilling participant’s brain.
However, it’s not all giggles all the time. Math is necessary, but that’s when I take my role (or David’s, as he is a natural at this) into consideration and see how I can shake things up and make it more engaging. A benefit to homeschooling is being able to slow down on the tough stuff and make it more palatable.
There are some days, however, when everyone is just in a mood. When they were younger, I might just stop the lessons for the day, but now I’m more likely to give a speech on “this is what needs to be done today and you can pick your attitude about it.” Luckily those days aren’t all too often.
As for curriculum, I usually give it a couple months and if it continues to feel like a slog and I can’t get into a rhythm then I search for something new.
How is the online Singapore curriculum? Will H switch next year?
Singapore online was a GAME CHANGER for us. It broke lessons into bite sized pieces, gave enough instruction for me to easily see how they were teaching the concept, and took the tears out of math. I don’t think it’s the right fit for everyone but it worked wonders for us.
It only goes through 5th grade, so yes, I will be looking to switch H in the next year. I’m thinking Teaching Textbooks, but still have a lot of research to do in that area.
Still using IEW?
Yes, but switching off with the unit studies has made it feel clunky. I’m a big fan of IEW and just bought themed unit for both kids that I plan to start using in summer when I figure out our new rhythm. For now, we are doing 2 weeks of IEW in between 4 week long unit studies of Gather Round.
How do you handle when you’re working with one and the other is being needy?
It’s an ongoing battle! What has helped me lately is explaining to them I can only help one at a time. If I’m busy helping the other then their options are to wait patiently, or pick a different task they can complete on their own to keep them busy until I’m available.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to all the questions, but thank you for sending them to me! Please feel free to keep them coming. I’ll do another homeschool journal update in a couple months and tackle some more. I love sharing our experience with you, though know there are a hundred ways to homeschool and all these answers obviously come from my personal experience and philosophy.