Creating your homeschool routine

I almost said schedule. But, it is rarely a true schedule. Maybe if you have one child. Maybe if you are very structure driven people. Maybe if you are using virtual resources that dictate a schedule.

But, for us, homeschooling is a routine, a framework for our day rather than a true schedule. As with most areas of homeschooling, there are a million ways to do this and you might come up with the 1,000,001 way. Not a right or wrong.

First, questions to ask yourself:

  • What does our daily routine already involve (number of people in household, waking time, work schedules, vacation plans, health concerns, appointments, etc.)?
  • What are my priorities in homeschooling (get these in before lunch, or during your family’s prime time)?
  • How independent our my kids about their school work?
  • What habits do I want to help my kids develop?
  • Are we morning people or evening people?
  • What outside sources am I going to use in our homeschool?

Once you have taken some time to think through, and maybe talk through as a family, those different issues you are ready to put your schedule together.

Yearly Schedule

In general terms, the school year spans roughly 36 weeks, or about 180 days. That leaves 16 weeks a year with no school.

As the teacher, school administrator, principal, superintendent, guidance counselor, and department head, you can decide how to fit in those 180 days. You can start in January or September or November. You can finish in June or May or December.

There are many, many ways to do this and we have tried most of them over the years.

Traditional – Many people for a variety of reasons simply grab the local public school’s schedule and duplicate their days in person and off school for their homeschool schedule. This is easy, gets the job done, and means your kids won’t complain about seeing kids playing outside while they press on inside.

Year round – This is the complete opposite of the traditional plan of taking 12-14 weeks off every summer and helps your family settle into a regular routine of school, while still allow lots of days off here and there. Maybe you school 4 days every week all year and take a week off four times throughout the year. Or, maybe you take a month of three different times throughout the year, or two weeks 8 different times, or whatever. “Year round” generally just means you don’t take three months off in the summer.

Cycle schooling – This is kind of an off shoot of year round schooling as it chips away at the amount of time taken off in the summer. Some people have found that they can really get high quality work done in six week chunks. So, they school six weeks and then take a week off, or a week and a half. School six weeks, take a week off. Repeat 6 times and you have a school year that took 41 weeks to complete and still leaves you with an 11 week summer. Any combination of on again, off again schooling can work in this way.

Challenges of following a non traditional schedule include:

  • Dirty looks from complete strangers because your kids aren’t in school when they are “supposed to be.”
  • Questions from your kids about why they have to do school when no one else is.
  • Fatigue midway through 8 weeks of solid schooling.
  • If you take a month off you can still experience some academic sliding and even after two weeks there is a little adjustment as you return to your daily school routine.

Find what works for you, and enjoy it. Or, try one way, and keep trying new ways until you find one you like. And, don’t feel locked into it. For a few years, schooling year round might be fantastic, then if you start outsourcing some subjects, you might find that your weeks off don’t line up with enrolled classes. No right way to do it, just get your subjects covered and keep trucking on toward graduation.

Daily Routine

I tackled the easy one first. Yearly schedules are way easier to determine than your daily schedule. My yearly schedule has settled into a traditional one for the past 6-8 years, but our daily schedule continues to change each year, and sometimes each semester.

Start the day with your highest priorities. We begin our day with a group Bible and history time. I read aloud, we usually have some memory work that we work on as a group, we discuss what we read, and we start our day. Together.

Figure out your prime time for productivity. Maybe it’s not morning. Maybe its evening. Maybe your house does better sleeping until 10 and starting after a late breakfast. Maybe you love the early morning and will start school at 7 (that is way easier when you don’t have to pack lunches and catch a bus). Find the rhythm of your home and embrace it with your homeschool.

Encourage independent work. My kids each get a weekly assignment sheet that they check off and keeps us all on track. I still walk through their English and math lessons with them, and usually their science as well. Then, they work on their own, bringing questions to me as needed. I’m rarely sitting around bored, but as my kids get older, our school days have gotten shorter as they don’t rely on me quite as much.

There is no universal best way to structure your school day. We generally do Bible/history from 9-10:15; individual subjects (math, English, etc.) until noonish; afternoons for other group discussions, reading, PE, art, science, and everything else I feel like throwing in or throwing out. Grade schoolers are generally shortly after lunch, and my high schoolers are usually done a couple hours later, but sometimes they like to take breaks or start early and you can find them doing school at 7:30 am or at 7:30 pm, although they can stop as they get tired and work whenever they are fresh. We definitely don’t punch a clock.

Leave time for passions. My kids find a lot of discretionary time in their days and fill it as they see fit once their assigned work (and chores) is done. My ten year old loves to read. So, some days he will get into a book (neglecting his other work . . .) and read for hours on end. The next day he will make up for it and do double lessons. Others are into art, digital projects, fitness, creating, or a passing phase. The flexibility of homeschooling lets them pick how to fill their time and grow their interests in doing so. Before their weekend truly begins, they must have completed their weekly assigned work, but they have some flex how and when they work Monday through Friday.

Chores. Maybe that doesn’t sound like school, but maybe if you found your family all at home more the past few months you understand. Homeschoolers tend to do more chores than other kids their age (I have only anecdotal evidence for this). We are home all day. We all eat there three meals a day, most days. We use the bathroom at home. We drag school books all over the house. Our house is lived in 24/7. Because of this, our chore list is well beyond my realm of personal responsibility. They clean the bathrooms and have chores related to meals. It’s nothing excessive, but it is a necessity of having many people using the space for so much of each day. Therefore, chores become part of our daily school routine as well.

Find your groove, tweak as often as necessary.

Homeschooling from scratch in a hurry

Sometimes we enter homeschooling as a journey, a gradual zero depth wading pool. Sampling, testing, experimenting, exploring, researching. Other times people enter their homeschool journey from the high dive. Many parents find themselves there now. Toes on the edge, wondering if they can do it, terrified by the risk, but with a growing line behind them and the clock ticking, it’s jump or ??? Well, the analogy falls flat there. There are other options. Your child will not fail or die or be ruined for life whether you choose to homeschool or not this coming year. Whatever successes or challenges they face this year can be redeemed or neutralized in subsequent years.

I know this, because we have had “those years” before. Like the year my grandfather died. I spent hours many days driving to visit him, bringing him lunch, knowing the trip might be the last of its kind and choosing to ignore the way I “failed” as a homeschool teacher that year. Another year I started a new job that should have been 15 hours a week and turned into 50-60 before settling into 20 after a few months. Homeschooling happened in bits and pieces with the stress pooling in the corners of my eyes and the strain in my verbal instructions many days.

And, somehow they thrived. They knew we loved them. They knew some days were better than others. They learned greater independence and the value of elders and serving others and a million other life skills that I didn’t realize I was teaching as assignments were graded weeks late instead of daily.

They also thrived academically. In the bits and pieces, the “car” schooling (Thank the Lord for audio books) that sometimes become more the norm than the exception, the Saturday studies done of necessity, the shortened Christmas or spring break, they learned more than I ever could have imagined.

Yes, sleep was in short supply, and I wanted to quit (homeschooling, life, my job, parenting, everything!) Hard days and seasons came and went and we all stood stronger because of them.

So, what now? You’ve decided to take the leap, or prepare in case you get shoved off the high dive. First order of business (and the one I honestly get asked the most when people find out I homeschool) — what curriculum do you use?

If we were wading in, this is one of the later questions, but assuming you are hoping to start school in a month, it is kind of pressing. No time to research educational philosophies, or sample a few methods to see what you enjoy, or interview academic experts in your sphere of influence. We need to jump right in. The water’s cold, but you’ll adjust quickly.

This is where the self-interview begins:

  • How much time do I want my child to spend on the computer?
  • Do I have a religious affiliation that I want reflected in the books I choose?
  • How much time do I have to find this curriculum?
  • How much time on a daily basis do I have to help my child with their studies? (this is not asking how capable you feel, that is a whole different issue)
  • How much can I afford?
  • Am I planning on returning my child to a traditional school in the near future or am I trying homeschooling as a potential long-term option?
  • Does my child do well with more desk work, or do they need to move regularly?
  • How much room do I have to store extra materials?
  • Do I have access to a well-equipped library that I know how to use (or am willing to learn)?
  • What technology is available in our home or am I willing to invest in?
  • Are there other like-minded families around me that I can rely on for mutual support?

Once you come up with an idea of the boundaries of what you are looking for, you are more prepared to actually look at curriculum. Set your budget, determine some expectations, and tomorrow we will look at some resources and how to make up your mind.

In future posts, either here or on the Facebook page we will explore more curriculum questions, age specific considerations, working with special needs, setting goals, record keeping, and setting a schedule.

Guest Post: Making the Most of Museums

3 Ways Museums Can Foster a Love of Learning Among Children

The word “museum” conjures quiet images of dusty manuscripts, poorly stuffed lions, and maybe even a dinosaur skeleton or two. While these things may be found in many museums, modern times have drawn museums from stuffy to colorful, advanced, and exciting. The displays are often kid-friendly, catering to field trips and instructors. However, by bringing your children to museums before their formal education begins, you may be giving them a leg-up. Here are a few of the ways museums can teach your kids to love learning:

1. There’s an App for That

Most museums in the modern age boast apps that act as virtual tour guides through the museum. These apps might have additional information on each exhibit, supplemental resources to learn more about the exhibits, or fun little games to play to include younger children. In fact, some apps will even allow you to take a virtual tour of a museum without leaving your home.

By using these supplemental apps, you make the process of learning about the exhibits an exciting, interactive adventure. Your kids will be thrilled to be allowed to hold your phone or table and wander through the museum, accessing information on their own.

2. Hands-On Learning for Exhibits and Classes

Most children and even adults find lecture-based learning dull. And while there are a many fun and creative ways to make learning engaging for kids, nothing quite beats hands-on learning experience offered by visiting a museum.

For example, many museums that incorporate dinosaurs will include a sandbox that allows children to dig for fossils. What could be better than spending an afternoon pretending to be an archaeologist, complete with rocks, dirt, and all the tools of the trade? A museum volunteer may even bring out a real fossil for children to view up close.

This sort of learning teaches children that education does not have to mean sitting quietly, listening to an adult talk about a topic for an hour or more. They will begin to associate their impending education with exciting, hands-on activities that will allow them to get up close and personal with a variety of topics that interest them. In fact, adults may learn a thing or two about educating kids through a trip to the museum.

3. Kids Get to See Parents Enjoying Education

Kids want to emulate the adults in their lives, and taking a family trip to a museum will allow your children to witness adults learning and having fun at the same time. Museums are fascinating for people of all ages, making them an ideal opportunity for learning by example. Furthermore, museums house all kinds of information. Whether you spend a day learning about art history or the evolution of humanity, your kids will find themselves exposed to new and exciting information that piques not only their interest but their parents’ as well.

It is never too early to teach your kids how fun learning can be. If you teach your children that museums are an exciting treat, they will learn that education is fun. Furthermore, museums of all kinds make for fun, wholesome family outings that engage all ages. Everybody loves learning new things, particularly when you get an up-close or hands-on experience. If you find it difficult to get everyone out of the house, you might consider downloading a museum app and allowing your kids to take a virtual tour of a famous museum. In the modern age, the possibilities are endless.

Image via Pixabay by Unsplash

Post from Jamie at scicamps.org

Fermilab Open House

Family Open House

(from their website)

Join us for an afternoon of science fun.

The Fermilab Family Open House is a party for children of all ages to learn about the world of physics.

Watch video on YouTube of a previous event. Watch the calendar for the next one! The Open House is co-supported by Fermilab Friends for Science Education and the Education Office.

  • Watch Mr. Freeze’s fabulous cryogenics show!
  • Tour the universe!
  • Explore physics concepts with hands-on activities!
  • Ask a scientist your physics questions!
  • Take a tour, and more!

When: January 31, 2016, 1:00 to 5:00 PM.

Audience: The Open House is most appropriate for children in grades 3 and up. Children must be accompanied.

Registration (Tours only): The event and tours are free. Registration is only needed for the tours. The minimum age for Linac tours is 10 and for the Neutrino Horn Production Site and Muon g-2 tours is 14. No exceptions. Go to the Registration Page to sign up for a tour.

Contact: Maureen Hix, Lederman Science Center, Education Office
P.O. Box 777, Batavia, IL 60510-0500
(630) 840-5588, edreg@fnal.gov

Teacher appreciation at Barnes and Noble

Received via email:

As our Barnes & Noble Educator Appreciation Days
approach (Oct 10-18), I wanted to take a moment to let you know that
Barnes & Noble Webster Place offers Homeschooling parents a 20%
discount on most book purchases made for the homeschool classroom year
round through our Educator Discount Card program. And, during Educator
Appreciation Days, the discount increases to 25%!

We have made applying for the Barnes & Noble Educator Discount Card
easy for homeschooling parents – they can apply by simply identifying
themselves as parents who homeschool their children and completing the
Educator Discount Card application here at the store. No letters or
other information is required for homeschooling parents to participate
in this discount program.

Check this out at the Chicago location at 1441 West Webster Avenue.

You could also follow up with other local Barnes and Noble stores if this is not convenient.

SELAH meet and greet

Christian Life Center in Tinley Park is sponsoring
a Homeschool Support Group and their first “Meet-n-Greet” is the first
step in offering a central support group in the Chicago south suburbs.
Join us as we discuss the needs of our south side homeschoolers: i.e.
curriculum fairs & teacher workshops, student science and history
fairs, family movie nights, performance platforms (fine arts, poetry
slams, modest fashion show, etc.), family banquet and dance, and end
of year graduation service.

Open to all families that practice homeschooling or are interested in
finding out more about it! They will meet the first Friday of each
month throughout the school year for a family activity and the third
Tuesday of each month for a “Mom’s Night Out.” (No meetings in
December.)

First meeting this Friday, October 2nd at Christian Life Center, 6363
W. 183rd Street, Tinley Park, Illinois, 60477. Visit
selah-enrichment.org/support-group or contact
gwendolyn.bielicki@gmail.com for more information!

Memorial Day events

It’s not too late to add some meaning to your Memorial Day.

Here are some links to local events, and hopefully things will clear up for your afternoon BBQ and picnic plans:

Many ceremonies throughout the area

Cantigny concert

Various Chicago area events, some of these were Saturday/Sunday (like the big Chicago Memorial Day Parade), but there are some ideas you might like to add to your day “off”

Received via email:

Hi Friends,

Thought I would personally send you the upcoming dates and flyers for the My Father’s World expos in Illinois. Registration is free on mfwbooks.com, (under events tab) so it is a great way for homeschool families, or those considering homeschooling, to have an opportunity to browse materials in a more relaxed setting.  They are all open house style from 11-3.

Peoria is Thursday, April 30th at the Embassy Suites
Naperville is Friday, May 1st at the Marriot by 88 and Naperville Rd.
Crystal Lake is Saturday, May 2nd at the Holiday Inn on Rt.31

Please pass along to any groups or families that may have an interest.  All of the teacher’s manuals, curriculum sets, as well as math and science books will be set up on display.  Doug and I are not sure yet if we will be joining the team for the Illnois events this year, but all of the travel teams are super helpful in answering questions!

Happy Spring,
Love,
Kristin

GIFT in Elgin is waiving their registration fee for this month!

G.I.F.T. – Quality Fine Arts Classes for Homeschoolers

Godly Influenced Fine Arts Training – Established 2001

GIFT says their registration fee will be waived for new families enrolling in December 2014 for second semester starting in 2015.

Take advantage of this soon if you are interested. You can find all their information at the website, GIFThomeschool, http://www.gifthomeschool.org/.