Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to School!!

We could not wait to get back to school!!
So, we did not.
After years of home schooling with a traditional start date of The Day After Labor Day, this year we jumped the gun and started with all the local public schools. Actually, for us, it wasn't a "start." At the children's request, last year we started schooling year-round.
What? The children ASKED to be in school ALL YEAR? Yes. Yes, they did.
Because home schooling is our lifestyle, the 3-month break from routine in the summer was just too long, and they rightly reasoned that if we took smaller breaks throughout the year, we could cover more ground with less stress: inevitable interruptions could be taken care of without worry over "getting behind", then we would return to our regularly scheduled program ;-). And so, for us, "back to school" meant picking up where we left off!

Every school year brings changes, so we are making small adjustments to the routine to fit this year's books and goals, but the power of good habits has already kicked in. By Day 4, we were up earlier, starting earlier, finishing lessons earlier, and even getting more housekeeping done than we were doing for the last month or so. The break was nice.
But ahhhhh.... our familiar routine is as comfortable as a favorite pair of jeans.

It has NOT always been this easy ;-). Since I am often asked what our schedule looks like, what my planner looks like, and in general, how we home school, I will share those processes here, in the hope that it may prove helpful.
But first the disclaimer: this is not THE way to plan, or to home school. Your home will not magically transform into a smoothly running educational machine by using these ideas. This is only Food for Thought.
(It is pretty good food, though, seasoned with 28 years of home schooling 7 kids, but each family is unique, so adapt other people's ideas before you adopt them. Especially mine. LOL!)

Let's start with schedules. We are surrounded by schedules in our society. Each of us has overlapping circles of sports schedules, meeting schedules, bus schedules, work schedules, TV schedules, class schedules, everything is clocked in and out and runs on time. theory, anyway. Have you ever been on your way to an appointment and been stalled by traffic? As the clock ticks, the tension builds, stress enters and before long, your well-timed trip is completely undone. And so are you.
Living on the clock invites stress.

Instead, create a routine. Thoughtfully consider the flow of your day: what do you plan to do when you wake up?
My family has a morning routine to follow before breakfast, and because there are 7 things we do at about 7 a.m., we've nicknamed them the "Morning 7s." We get up and get ready for the day before breakfast, therefore no one need disappear into his room to get ready when it is time for schoolwork.

What will you do after breakfast?
In our home, everyone knows that "after breakfast, we do school." Breakfast time includes our Bible discussion at the table, while we are all gathered there, and kitchen cleanup after the meal. Then, we hit the books!

Which school subjects will you work on in the morning, and which subjects in the afternoon?
Generally, we work on The Three Rs in the morning, and everything else in the afternoon.

Where in your routine will you do housekeeping, before or after school?
We quickly tidy the house during Morning 7s (it's one of the seven) and clean after school....right before playtime! Free time is a GREAT carrot. Plus, if we cleaned in the morning, by the end of the day, who could tell? ;-).

What happens after supper?
After supper cleanup, my family RELAXES. We do watch TV and movies, but we also play games, play instruments, or pull out crafts and books.

What is your routine for bedtime?
Once upon a time, our evening had a bath schedule. Nine people. One bathroom. You can do the math. ;-)
These days, each of us looks ahead to prepare anything needed for tomorrow.

Once you have a general idea of the parts in your day, establish some time anchors. Mealtimes make great anchors around here, because we always eat breakfast, lunch, snack, and supper. Pretty much always! Deciding a time for mealtimes gives some structure to the day without enslaving you to a minute-by-minute plan with no allowance for sick children, "training opportunities," mishaps, and all else that detours your plan.

If you have children in your house, you are going to have interruptions. If you have a rigid schedule, you are going to have stress. Simplify your day with a workable routine, and let your daily activities slip into place with as little stress as possible.

"Back to School" may be our favorite thing about home schooling. ;-).