Independent Work

I don’t really plan more than a day in advance. I used to plan out each week for the year, but there are so many different variables (an unexpected field trip, an illness, a little extra review needed on a concept) that my schedule would inevitably get thrown off. Then, I would drive myself crazy trying to get back on schedule. That, in turn, would stress out the kids and make learning more difficult. So, I’ve learned to relax over the years. The important thing is that they’re all advancing, not that they’re following some unchangeable schedule.

Every week, I print up a chart with all the classes they have that week. When they finish a lesson in a certain subject, they cross off the corresponding box in the chart. They can choose to work ahead, they can see where they’re behind, and they have some sort of structure to their days. Below is N’s weekly schedule:


As the kids get older, they’re assigned more and more independent work. A fellow homeschooling mom gave me an idea for keeping track of daily independent work. Each morning, I look over their weekly charts, I find the subject that requires independent work for that day. I print up a list of independent work (maps, worksheets, reading assignments, assessments, etc.), along with any corresponding paperwork. I give each child her independent work packet in the morning. One can work independently while I have instructional time with one or more of the others. The kids can also choose to put off their independent work until later in the day, but I always caution them against that. I tell them they’re not going to feel like doing it later. It’s a way for me to help them develop some self-discipline and see real consequences to procrastination. Some are learning self-discipline better than others!

Schedules

The main goal of setting yearly, weekly, and daily schedules is finding what works for your family.

Yearly:

I’ve tried several yearly schedules over the course of this homeschooling journey. I started off following a “regular” school schedule.  But that didn’t allow for the kind of flexibility I was hoping homeschool would provide.

So, I moved on to a year-round schedule.  Between September and May, the kids had class four days a week, with the fifth day being free for appointments, field trips, or just hanging out at home.  Between June and August, they had class three days a week.  I liked the flexibility and the fact that the kids didn’t have three months to forget everything I worked so hard to teach them.  But, a couple of health issues, pregnancies, and surgeries threw a wrench into the works, and I ended up abandoning the year-round schedule after a couple of years.

Finally, I settled into our current yearly schedule: “Sabbath Schooling.”  Beginning on August 1, the kids have classes for six weeks (five days a week) and then have a week off.  They also have off for the month of December and for six weeks in the summer (the last two weeks of June and all of July).  There is also enough flexibility to have birthday “holidays.” I can schedule field trips or classes at the local state park on Saturdays to shorten the school year, and this year I taught a week in December so that the kids will have seven weeks of summer break instead of six.

Weekly:

Some homeschool parents fill their days with projects and hands-on learning.  I am not one of those parents.  I do think, however, that the kids need to be able to do projects and art and cooking and all those wonderful hands-on methods that stress me out more than anything else.  So, I incorporated a “Fun Friday” into the weekly schedule. The first four days of the week are spent doing “core” subjects, and the fifth day is reserved for projects and art and music. I print up weekly schedules and hang them on the wall, and the kids cross off each subject as they complete the work for that day.  Motivation!

The week is divided as follows:

For N,

  • Mondays: Math, spelling, applied grammar, reading, history, science, logic, Spanish, and music practice
  • Tuesdays: Math, spelling, applied grammar, reading, science, geography, social studies, Spanish, and music practice
  • Wednesdays: Math, spelling, applied grammar, reading, history, science, Spanish, filmmaking, and music practice
  • Thursdays: Math, spelling, applied grammar, reading, science, geography, Spanish, and music practice
  • Fridays: Reading, science labs and activities, history projects, geography mapwork review, art, and music lesson

For C,

  • Mondays: Math, spelling, applied grammar, reading, history, science, Manga, Latin, typing, and music practice
  • Tuesdays: Math, spelling, applied grammar, reading, science, geography, social studies, typing, and music practice
  • Wednesdays: Math, spelling, applied grammar, reading, history, science, Latin, typing, and music practice
  • Thursdays: Math, spelling, applied grammar, reading, science, geography, typing, and music practice
  • Fridays: Reading, science labs and activities, history projects, geography mapwork review, Latin, art, and music lesson

For S, Monday through Friday are the same: Reading, writing, and math.  She occasionally will sit in on some of the “Fun Friday” projects.

Daily:

Having two kids too young to homeschool, I started off separating the kids so that one of the older two was always available to keep an eye on the younger siblings.  So, I would homeschool C in the morning, N after lunch, and S whenever I could squeeze her in.  It worked well until the kids started getting older and their workloads started getting heavier.  It was getting to the point that I was spending 8+ hours a day teaching at the expense of housework, cooking, and quality time with family.

Over this past December, I did some thinking and decided to take a route similar to a fellow homeschooler and friend who has her homeschool set up like a one-room school house. Each morning, the girls get a list of independent work that they are expected to complete.  This includes things like assessments, worksheets, maps, reading, typing, music practice, educational videos, and the like.  While the girls are doing their independent work, I alternate between them, doing one-on-one teaching.  I combine their classes for history, science, social studies, geography, and art, with N (being older) doing some supplemental work on those subjects for her independent work time.

S can independently do her Reading Eggs lesson, read B.O.B. books to other people, and do her handwriting lesson.  I work one-on-one with her doing math and using flashcards for review either while the older two are doing their independent work or after they have finished for the day.

So far, this schedule is working well.  It requires a little more prep time from me in the evenings (writing up independent work lists, gathering and printing necessary materials, etc.), but the time I save by finishing school early is worth the extra prep time. And I like to see them learning to be independent in their studies.

The youngest three are confined to a certain area of the house where I can see and/or hear them while I’m teaching, so they get the supervision they need and I’m still able to teach.

First Things First

Let me start off by saying that I use the Classical style of homeschooling, with a bit of Charlotte Mason thrown in.  That means I follow the Trivium, which is three basic stages of learning development:

  1. The Grammar Stage (K-4th grade): After setting a solid base in reading, writing, and math, I throw everything and the kitchen sink at the kids.  Their minds are basically sponges at this stage, so I provide them with as much information as possible in as many different formats as possible.
  2. The Logic Stage (5th-8th grade): The kids begin to connect all the facts that they have learned during the Grammar Stage and discover the relationships between them.
  3. The Rhetoric Stage (9th-12th grade): The kids learn to express themselves with fluency, grace, elegance, and persuasiveness.

I currently have two in the Grammar Stage and one just starting the Logic Stage.

Secondly, let me tell you about the curriculum I’m using.  I use The Well-Trained Mind as a guidebook for curriculum and methodology, because I agree with the educational philosophy it lays out.

N is 11 and would be a fifth-grader in a brick-and-mortar school.  Her curriculum follows:

C is 9 and would be a third-grader in a brick-and-mortar school.  Her curriculum follows:

S is 6 and would be a Kindergartener in a brick-and-mortar school.  Her curriculum follows:

The kids also have accounts at http://DIY.org, which is sort of like Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts without the meetings or politics.  It gives them opportunities to do projects that are of interest to them and to earn badges in the process.

The next post will tell about my daily, weekly, and yearly schedules, which continue to be tweaked even after six years of homeschooling.