Today I think I'll talk about the rhythm of our homeschool days. I'll do my best to keep this post on topic, and not drift to other areas that I plan to write about in the days ahead. It's a bit of a challenge as they so easily blend together, but in an effort to be clear and organized... a little separation will be a good thing.
First, I know you all understand this but I'd like to make one point if I may... the style in which we homeschool is based on our own preferences, with the heaviest consideration being Emily's needs and desires. If I had a different child, or several children to homeschool, this post would read differently than it is about to. And I think that is important to note before I move forward. The way our days play out has more to do with who Emily is than some preconceived plan that I read in a "how to" homeschool manual. The freedom to tailor the rhythm/schedule to suit individual or family needs is a beautiful opportunity that is central to homeschooling.
We have a pretty solid routine to our days. I do write a "schedule" for us each day, and it changes somewhat from day to day. For instance, on Tuesday and Thursday we homeschool with our neighbor for a couple of hours in the morning (though I think we may switch that to the afternoon). Emily and her friend are both taking the same Physics and Civics course so it's fun to do those together. On Fridays, Emily and her friend go to a homeschool co-op for teens (there are many 12 and 13 year olds in the group) for a full day of classes and visiting. This semester she has chosen Student Council and an Interactive Stock Market Class to take. There are also "free" periods scheduled into the day for independent work brought from home or simply down time with friends. That is the general flow to our school week.Breathing Room
Where would I be without it? I think this is so important. When you look at our schedule board, it appears as if every moment is planned and accounted for each day. This is sort of true. Things generally happen in the order that you see listed (though that order changes daily), but the times noted we are not attached to. They definitely shift as the day goes on. We think that is pretty great. It's more a point of reference than it is a time keeper. Emily prefers to work at a steady yet moderate pace and I am finding that "scheduling" a full hour per subject is more her speed. She'll often take 1 1/2 hours to work on something too. This is her choice. She likes to sink into an assignment and work through it's entirety (usually) in one sitting. Emily does not like unfinished business. Often times when studying one area (Queen Elizabeth I for instance) she'll be inspired to read/learn about something else (say Queen Elizabeth II) and I will happily support her in spending an extra 1/2 hour on an assignment to honor such a teachable moment.Everyone in our home is very aware that although we follow a schedule of sorts each day, there is plenty of breathing room throughout. If we need an extra 10 minutes here, or 15 less somewhere else, we allow for that to happen. If we are so into studying one thing that another falls off the schedule at the end of the day, so be it. No harm done. That is the subject we'll start with the next day... things will roll on just fine. This is a freedom we treasure.
Goodness, will you look at those time errors on this schedule! Who wrote this thing anyway!? Needless to say, there was a lot of "breathing room" that day. ;)
Given all of that s p a c e mentioned above, you should know there are a few things about our days that remain pretty consistent. They are as follows:
- We start our school day at 8:30am (give or take 5-10 minutes). The exception to this is the two days a week we do an extra math lesson with dad (at 8:00) before he goes to work.
- We begin each and every day with a walk around the neighborhood, umbrella's extended if it's raining. Going outside for fresh air gets the blood moving and when we return home, we walk right into our school room making for a very easy transition.
- I always have the school room prepared for the day so when we do arrive home from our walk, we sink right in. Windows are open with fresh air blowing through, lights are on, music playing softly, maybe a pot of tea on the table. I have the day's schedule already written and waiting. Emily takes a few moments to copy it into her planner (apparently, it's a "middle school thing..."). This is something she likes to do - it's gives her a routine starting point and a self-directed place to begin each day. She also likes to note due dates in her planner for bigger projects.
- We eat when we are hungry. Drink when we are thirsty.
- We take a fifteen minute break (with breathing room) at some point in the morning. If we need another break we take that too.
- We take an hour for lunch each day. We call it Lunch and Leisure.
- Emily has a "Choice" block of time available to her each day. I make a list of a whole bunch of things she can choose from, or she'll have her own idea. Things we have done during Choice to this point have included; friendship bracelets, acrylic painting, nature photography, building a patio table, assembling a rolling, swivel chair for a certain student, pleasure reading, hanging bulletin boards with power tools, guinea pig training (uh-huh), bike riding, letter writing... things like that.
- We "do school" until 2 or 3:00pm. I don't want to get off topic (so far I've been pretty good!), but I'll just touch on the fact that when we decided to homeschool, I made a personal commitment to be present for a full school day. Now that Emily is in seventh/eighth grade, the academic load is a bit heavier than in the past. We take our time, and fill each day with learning and curiosity. I'm not looking to be done by noon... there are too many hours left in the day! For now we are keeping our work time pretty sacred. Doing our thing during "normal" school hours... sometimes with friends, sometimes just the two of us, sometimes indoors, often outdoors... but a full day of living, learning, and growing together is something I am very committed to.