Anne, I was reading about your new school year. How do you fit in “together time”, individual time, and your other subjects that I read about? Do you do all those subjects every day? I am having trouble [figuring out how to get it all done].
I’m so glad you asked this question. After doing school with my kids for a couple days now, I’m absolutely positive I don’t have it all together. That’s the frustration of the Internet. It always looks like everyone else is managing, when in fact, anything looks easy on “paper” (or online).
But let me see if I can give you a couple ideas anyway. Honestly I can wear out really quickly. Sometimes, like now when I’m pregnant, I can have a rough week or two when I just don’t have much energy. So I have some days each week scheduled for “together time” and some days scheduled without it, so that I’ll have some flexibility.
Our “together time” is planned three days per week, when I attempt to do subjects such as Bible, Latin, music, drama, read-alouds, history and grammar (whew!). On days we don’t do “together time,” we just do Bible and read-alouds. I try to do Bible every day. (I don’t always succeed, but it’s our goal.) Our “read alouds” are all audio books this year, so if I’m too tired, I can turn those on during lunch.
I sometimes get up at 6 a.m., but if I’m not feeling well, I sleep in. Either way, we eat a good breakfast, and that takes a while to make, then we try to at least have the kitchen cleaned up and all our bedrooms neatened up before school starts, so realistically, it’s 9:30 or later before we start. I aim for 9:30, but if we don’t make it, well, we just start when we can.
It takes us about 2 hours to get through “together time,” or about 20-30 minutes for just Bible on the lighter mornings.
After that, my older kids work independently as much as possible. That’s my goal. (I DO drill math for about 10 minutes, but only 2-3 days per week. Ideally, I’d drill them daily, but I just can’t fit it all in. I also have little ones who can’t read yet, so I have to save some energy for them.)
I make up “assignment sheets” for each student in the summertime, and I print them and put them in their 3-ring binders. This gives them a checklist that they each work through every day. (See sample.)
For instance, my 4th grader knows to do one lesson each day in Arithmetic. Then I divided up his language book into about 180 lessons, and he works on that next. If he has a question, he knows to come ask me. (His weekly quizzes also alert me if he needs more help in a certain area.) For language, I hang charts on the fridge and try to remember to help him memorize the prepositions, helping verbs, pronouns, etc., as we’re doing dishes.
Same with spelling. Each day of the week I gave him a different assignment, such as alphabetize the list one day, write half the words in a sentence one day, have his sister quiz him another, etc. The test is always on Friday, and sometimes his sister gives that to him. Sometimes I do. But his assignment is in his 3-ring binder, and he doesn’t need my help to work on this each day. (See sample spelling assignments at this website – scroll down.)
For reading, I just listed all the books I wanted him to read for the year in a list, and he reads a story a day. Sometimes the books don’t quite last the whole year, but when he has finished what I’ve assigned, he gets to pick out chapter books from the library or our bookshelf and read a chapter a day for the rest of the year. That’s as fancy as my planning gets here. Sometimes at supper, we’ll have him tell Dad about his story for the day, just to be sure he’s reading it and understanding it. This has worked for us.
Okay, for science, I did the same as for the other subjects and divided the books and experiments into 180 lessons. I keep these as independent as possible. My children make pages for their notebooks, and we also try to discuss it together occasionally. But I try to encourage independent study as many days as possible.
For my 8th grader, who is studying high school Biology, I also try to help him be as independent of me as possible. I bought the Apologia science schedule produced by Sonlight, and I bought experiment kits from Home Science Tools. My husband does some of the experiments with my son. The Sonlight schedules have vocabulary words on them, and I take one day a week to quiz him on these words to be sure he knows what all the words mean. Otherwise, he works independently.
And so it goes for the other subjects.
So I guess the moral of this story is that I want my kids to work without my help as much as they possibly can. I give them a checklist of all their subjects, and they work through this checklist each day. We all sit at the table together (me with my laptop, working online) so they can ask me questions and I can keep them on task. But outside of those “together” subjects 3 days a week, they work on their own. We try to start at a consistent time, but when we finish each day just depends on how well they work. Some days are great… other days are SLOW. They’re pretty normal kids! 🙂
I hope all this made sense!