I’ve been enjoying the series of posts this week on Simple Homeschool about the different schedules and routines that homeschooling families use. Jamie, who writes the blog for Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom invited people to write a post on their blog about their own routines, I thought I would do this for a couple of reasons:
1. I really like reading about, and have benefited from learning about, other people’s way of ‘working’ with homeschool so feel like I should pay back into the system as it were!
2. I recently discovered just how important routine is and what a difference it can make not just to our homeschooling, but to our well being as a family.
Over Christmas I adopted a ‘relaxed’ approach to our days, we took it as it came, giving ourselves the chance to enjoy opportunities as they came up. With my Dad visiting we had the manpower to tackle a different approach so we were able to get out of the house a bit more. Each day offered new opportunities and we would decide which ones to go for on a day-by-day basis. Well that was how I saw it.
I’m pretty sure Huwyl saw it differently. I don’t think he would be able to consciously articulate it but I think what he felt was chaos. Our routine was gone, each day was unpredictable and our dynamic was different. Madness reigned. His behaviour deteriorated and he eventually had a massive meltdown, worse than we’ve ever seen. It was horrible.
We spent time trying to analyse ‘what went wrong’ and we realised that there was no consistent routine to our days, the rhythm had gone. Stephen, Dad and I talked about how to structure our days in a way that would be healthy for the boys but also for me so that I don’t end up burning out. They are high energy beans and take a lot of work to keep happy, so building in breaks for me was important. I got over my guilt about this when I realised the alternative is total exhaustion and an end to our homeschool journey, not the outcome I want.
Since we’ve decided on our rhythm (and stuck to it) we have a different child on our hands. He is happy and content most of the time, he seems more secure and grounded and I feel as though he trusts me more. I feel different too, knowing what is coming and knowing that I (mostly) won’t have to argue about it is liberating and very stress reducing. I’ve also found that as I am pacing myself more through the day I am more able to invest myself during the times when we are all together, even if the children seem to be demanding a lot. By thinking about their needs in advance and recognising the potential hot spots and difficult times of day (we find 4pm is a really tough time of day, we cancelled an activity because of the timing and I really don’t regret the choice) we’ve been able to avoid some of the clashes and tantrums from both the children and me!
So here is how it runs in our homeschool (Huwyl would be in SK this year).
7.00 – 9am This is basically breakfast and getting up time. This covers everything from getting up, getting dressed, eating, clearing down the kitchen and getting Daddy off to work. I often have a rest until about 7.45 as we have a nursing toddler who is a bit pesky at night, so I get a chance to have a few minutes to myself and begin my day a bit more gently. I am really not a morning person. Daddy takes over and I am very grateful to him for this!
9 – 9.45 Huwyl has some computer time and I can get us sorted for the morning. This is a good time for showers and tidying, putting laundry away, meal planning, checking emails, getting resources ready…whatever is needed. The site we use for games is Cbeebies, the games are all educational and really well thought out so they count as part of our ‘schooling’. Huwyl enjoys this kind of independent learning, he is not restricted by being unable to read and it seems to give him confidence. Plus he is having fun!
9.45 – 10.15 Snack. We call a halt to whatever we are all doing and have a bite to eat, this can be a fruit platter or granola bars, something to take the edge off but that won’t fill them so much that they lose interest in lunch.
10.30 – 11.30 Outside time / movement. Getting the boys moving is not, I’ve discovered, an optional extra. For us it is essential and non negotiable. Both of my boys have lots of energy and if they don’t have a good run about in the morning we pay for it by the afternoon. During Canada’s winters this can be a challenge but I am willing to face anything up to about -17c (as long as it isn’t too windy) as it really is less horrid than crazy kids climbing the walls by 2pm. Twice a week we have morning activities that are very physical and allow for a lot of running around, the other three days are free for either nature walks, a run around the block, playing in the garden or a playdate with a friend. As long as there is the opportunity for big body movement we are good for the day.
12pm Lunch. We are currently alternating a soup/sandwich schedule to make life easy for me! Though there is room for compromise, today we had soup and a sandwich!
12.30 Quiet time. Huwyl goes upstairs and listens to audio books, something he absolutely loves to do, and I can take time to eat lunch, catch up on a bit of computer time, get some things set up for homeschool, read to Neirin and play 1-1 with him…whatever the day demands. Quiet time ends when Huwyl is done with his stories which is between 45 mins to an hour and a half. Currently he is rotating the Magic Treehouse stories which he never seems to tire of.
2pm We start school. This includes a variety of things, some that we do every day, others once or twice a week. I try and make sure we do some music practise every day, as well as some reading and drawing/art/craft activity. The drawing is often linked to the stories we have read but it is definitely interpretive as Huwyl likes to go his own way with things! I encourage him to label things and we do a bit of handwriting practice once or twice a week. Since November we have been using Story Of The World, Volume 1 and the accompanying activity book. This is such great fun and Huwyl adores it. He thrives on learning new information and loves to regale complete strangers with information about nomads and the battles of the Egyptian kings. This makes for some fun conversations when we meet new people on our walks!
We are also working on maths through number recognition and some pattern work. I try to keep this fun and allow us lots of different approaches such as reading books and playing games rather than formal worksheet type teaching. I’m very excited about the Living Maths approach and want to develop that more as we go. Another thing we will spend time on is our nature journal, I have a proforma that I fill in as Huwyl dictates, we are building a record of our adventures through the year and I’m looking forward to noting the changes as the seasons develop and change.
Just as a side note I want to mention that Neirin (currently 22 months) doesn’t nap, so this part of the day can be a juggling act. I assume that he will be involved in any craft or art we do and am currently trying to work on our ‘sharing mummy’ skills. This isn’t what I had visualised when I planned this year, I thought we would do school while Neirin napped but…when do things ever work out ‘as planned’ where little people are concerned?
3pm Snack time, often a nice biscuit with a cup of tea, something warming and comforting. We are now done with school and depending on the weather we can head out for some fresh air or have some playtime, read a book, make some cookies…I like the flexibility this gives us.
4.15pm is usually TV time. During the winter months some tv time definitely comes in handy at this time of day. I’ve mentioned that this is a tricky time of day for Huwyl so having some ‘downtime’ seems to help us. While the boys are watching tv I make dinner for them and get some prep done for grown up dinner time later. Neirin likes to be in and out of the tv room, he plays with toys and comes into the kitchen or sits with his big brother. The shows the boys watch are pre chosen by us and they do not watch adverts (commercials) so I’m able to get on with my work without worrying they are seeing something they shouldn’t.
5.30 Free play for the boys, tidying up for me.
6pm Bath and showers
6.30 Daddy is home and the bedtime routine begins. Mummy is very grateful!
So that’s what we are up to at the moment. Our outside activities at the moment are gymnastics and homeschool play group as both are in the morning. We go along to our homeschool group’s nature walk once a month which takes us to new places and gives us the chance to mingle with other homeschool families. We also do a music class once a week (Music for Young Children) which is our only afternoon/evening activity. This also doubles up as 1-1 time for Huwyl and I, something we share and work on together.
I know that our routine will evolve and adapt as the seasons change, we will be able to spend more time outside as the days lengthen and warm, but I will work hard to preserve this rhythm we have found. This heart beat at the centre of our days keeps us on track, letting us all know what to expect but allowing room for nice surprises. I don’t know what each day will bring, but with a framework that keeps us all feeling secure I think the future looks bright.