Practical Homeschooling magazine runs a monthly feature written by homeschooling mothers that details the usual schedule in their family's lives. As it has always fascinated me to found out what really happens in everyone's else's home, I thought I might try my hand at describing how the Sleadds do real life, er, home school. This will be a typical workday during the academic season, which for us is roughly nine months, mirroring the institutional schedule. (We've tried year-round school, at least with math, and it usually lasts about one week into June before we give it up. Who knows, maybe this year will be different...) Bear in mind that we have launched our two eldest children into marriage, with three children remaining at home. Aaron is a senior this year, Alexa is a junior, and Caleb is in 6th grade. John is bi-vocational as a pastor and a 4th-grade public school teacher. I am a WAHM (see previous posts), with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue/pain (read: If I can homeschool, so can you!).
So here is our typical school-day schedule:
5:00am John rises, showers, has coffee, personal devotions
6:00am John rousts the children out of bed for personal devotions
6:30am John and children read one chapter from the Bible round-robin aloud together; they discuss the content, he asks questions, shares his observations. Then one of the children is called on to lead in prayer, a different child for each day of the week. They agree in prayer for certain friends, church and family members, missionaries, government leaders, etc.
7:00am John leaves for work. The children find some breakfast for themselves, do grooming, and morning chores as indicated on weekly chore chart, posted in kitchen. I get up (I have to move slowly in the morning or I won't make it through the day), have personal devotions and breakfast, and ensure the children are getting their morning jobs done.
8:30am "School" starts. (Well, the academic part does. The chores are just as important for character- and life-skill training as the academics. )
The first hour of the school day is what I call the Recitation Hour. During this time we gather on the comfortable sofas of our living room, with a fire in the woodstove if necessary, and I give direct and interactive instruction to them all together. (Aaron, however, has started to work independently from us during this time. I think he would benefit if he was still with us for this hour, but he has asserted his independence on this point, and I have acquiesced. Because he is so responsible with scheduling his use of time, I felt I can afford to let him have his head as he attains to manhood.)
The Recitation Hour is roughly broken into three 20-minute periods for three subjects. I and each of the children have a two-ring file-card binder and a pencil in our hands during this time. The first period is spent on Bible memory work. I select verses from the scripture portions being studied at our church, or as the Spirit leads. We copy the verses on cards and keep them in the binder, to flip through and review as needed. Then we recite them together for a few weeks until they are well-memorized, adding new verses while rotating through old ones on occasion.
The second and third subjects I cover during the remainder of that time varies from month to month. Currently I am teaching them grammar and reading poetry. They are taking notes on the grammar in their card binder as well, and I review with them some of the basic definitions and concepts of grammar from those cards.
I currently use Warriner's Grammar, First Course. I keep it simple. I read aloud a page or two from the text book, help them take notes on their cards, and we orally work a few exercises together.
During the first half of the year we used this time for Spelling and Vocabulary. I used The Writing Road To Reading's Ayers' List to test each child, and they copied all their mispelled words into the card binder for future review. When I ran out of words from that list for the older child, I used the vocabulary words from our Robinson Curriculum. I have done this simultaneously with all the children, going around the room, one at a time giving them a word to spell orally, a la spelling bee. For some reason, the children have expressed enjoyment in learning spelling this way more than most anything else. Go figure!
I just administered a Basic Skills practice test (http://www.basicskills.net/) to Caleb and Alexa last week, and found that their spelling and vocabulary skills are excellent. What they are lagging in is mechanics (punctuation)--the part of Warriner's I haven't gotten to this year. So we are hitting punctuation hard for the next two months before they take the real test in May.
While we work on this, Aaron is usually working on his computer programming homework. Aaron is being apprenticed by a programmer-friend, who meets with him once a week in his home. The arrangement has been a great blessing.
9:30-12:30am Individualized school work.
With direct instruction done, we discuss what each child needs to accomplish for the rest of the day, and they write their tasks in their student planners. Then I set them loose to do what they need to do.
Caleb has been spending the remainder of the morning on: geography, math, and research.
For geography, we have used the National Geographic website http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ extensively as a resource for our study this year. He competed in our cooperative-academy's geography bee last January. It was a good motivator for both of us and found it very fun!
For math, Caleb is in Saxon Math 65. He can usually do the lessons on his own, and asks for help as necessary. He also researches for his writing assignments, which are geography-related, on the internet.
Alexa uses her morning for physics, debate, and math. I have been hosting a Physics study group with her and Aaron and three other homeschooled teens. They are preparing for the AP Physics test using Apologia Physics and Advanced Physics textbooks. On occasion they have emailed Apologia with questions, but for the most part they have been self-teaching straight from the texts. On Tuesday afternoons these five teens meet together in our home to do the module experiments and discuss the lesson content. This has been a boon to their science knowledge.
Alexa competed this year in LD debate with our local speech club, and as the topic of this year's debate resolution was very philosophical, she has been reading some heady stuff about the Greeks, pragmatism vs. idealism, etc.
Aaron also spends this time on physics and computer homework. On Wednesdays, after he goes to his computer training session, he also does our weekly grocery shopping for me, and stocks the family-owned snack machine at the YMCA for some income on the side.
While the children work, I am in the kitchen cleaning up, thinking about meals, answering emails, and fielding any phone calls or other interruptions. I consider my job, as gate-keeper of the home, is to ensure a good environment for learning. No music other than soft instrumental classical music is allowed during study time. Nor can they use headphones to listen to music. Talking, joking and singing is discouraged, unless they are directly helping each other with homework. Sometimes to blow off steam, I tell them to run around the house three times before continuing with school work. This can help break up the monotony.
12:30pm Lunch and Chores. The children again refer to the chore chart for their assigned chores: laundry, dishes, vacuuming, collecting and washing eggs, etc.
1:30pm School resumes. The children work independently again. Caleb does writing, mandolin practice, and reading. Alexa does apologetics writing, research and reading. She has been competing in apologetics with the speech club this year, and writes new "cards" to add to her file. I have compiled and refined an assigned K-12 reading list that is a combination of the Robinson Curriculum core reading and my own books in our personal library. Aaron and Alexa have finished reading most of the books on the list and have four more for the year. Caleb has been my most avid reader, and I have had to augment the list with more books appropriate to his reading level.
Alexa at age 15 is also a gifted blog writer, artist, illustrator, seamstress and photographer, as well as main cook in the family. She fills her time quite well, with little direction from me.
3:30 or 4:00pm School is over; I go to the YMCA for my water workout (three times a week) or run errands, and sometimes the kids go with me to swim, climb the wall, or run at the park. Alexa or I fix dinner. John comes home.
5:30-7:0pm Dinner, Devotions, Kitchen Cleanup. This is one of my favorite times of the day. We talk about the day's happenings, the news, and John reads from a devotional from R.C. Sproul's Table Talk. The boys do the dishes.
The rest of the evening may be spent at the computer, reading the paper, reading aloud to each other, playing a game, or what-have-you. Our Tuesday nights are for speech club, which the children love, and John usually coaches. Wednesday nights are date night for John and I, and we often go visit our grown children on that night. The rest of the week we try to be at home.
I love being home. I love our family life. I love what God has called me to do. We have our spats and conflicts, but we keep short accounts, ask forgiveness, and work through the messiness. Family life is GOOD!