What’s in a Name?

I’ve come to realize that names, or titles, are extremely important to my children.

“Is it “Family Movie Night?” Because just watching a movie is different from “Family Movie Night.” If it’s “Family Movie Night” that means they can get their blankets and pillows and set up in the living room. And there should definitely be snacks. But if we’re just watching a movie, there are no expectations. So you know, important titles like that.

When I first introduced the idea that this year after breakfast Abby, Noah, and Daddy would be in charge of cleaning up the kitchen while I did “preschool” with Emmalyn and Eli, there was groaning. Mostly from the kids… 😉 But the next day, when asked if they *had* to clean the kitchen, I said, “Yes! You guys are the ‘Kitchen Crew!'” No joke, everything changed after that. They have not whined about cleaning the kitchen after breakfast ever since. They have a title. They are a team. With Daddy. Some mornings, he even announces, “Kitchen Crew, spring into action!” Now it is fun. Just. Like. That. One title became a game-changer.

For Emmalyn, it’s the word “school.” Whatever activities I call “school”, she is eager to do. It helps her feel older, included, important. Puzzles. Blocks. Singing songs. I’m a big advocate for learning through play so, it is her school. 🙂

This is why I jumped at an idea I read in a book about a month ago. I was struggling to find a rhythm for our homeschool. Not only that, but I was struggling to get the kids excited about what we were learning. They bemoaned whenever I said the word “geography.” I get it. It’s a boring word. But it’s the very essence of what this year is about: exploring countries and cultures. The geography lessons are supposed to be the best part! I was already following a “block” schedule, meaning I wasn’t doing every subject everyday; instead, lumping science for the week into 1-2 days, geography into another, etc. Yet, I still wasn’t fitting everything in and housework wasn’t getting done at all. I felt like I was just spinning my wheels and worse, the year I was really looking forward to teaching wasn’t turning out to be much fun so far. It didn’t seem like I was really tapping into the freedom and beauty that a homeschooling lifestyle is supposed to afford.

In the book, The Call of the Wild and Free*, by Ainsley Arment, she mentions a schedule one of her friend’s follows that has a theme for everyday. In addition to math and language arts on Monday through Friday, her days look like this:

  • Sweet Sunday: worship, hospitality, family walk, board games
  • Magic Monday: art, music, poetry, baking, tea
  • Time-Travel Tuesday: history and geography
  • Work & Wonder Wednesday: household chores, letter writing, and time for wonder
  • Thunder Thursday: adventure, nature walk, nature collecting, audiobooks
  • Favorites Friday: library, nature journaling, science at Grandma’s house
  • Skillful Saturday: homesteading, prepare for Sunday

Sounds amazing, right?! And totally doable, when tailored to my schedule. You see, we already made it a point in our house to worship, practice hospitality, and have family game night on Sundays. By some coincidence, writing a letter is already built into our curriculum for every Wednesday this year. I had already resolved to go on a nature walk once a week, Fridays we have co-op and library (a big favorite among my kids), and Saturdays have long been the day we make it a point to prepare for Sunday. The rest I could easily make fall into place. We may not have a homestead, but we have skillful soccer on Saturdays! We don’t do science at Mimi’s house, but we have co-op and other favorites built into our Fridays. We are big lovers of audiobooks. And now I could fit in the beautiful things like art, music, poetry, or baking first thing in the week rather than put them off and then wonder if I’m ever going to get to the “fun” stuff that I long to do with my kids. “Geography” has been replaced with “Travel Tuesday” and I can’t begin to tell you how wonderfully freeing it has been to have household chores built into our school schedule! It’s a mid-week reset that is much needed.

Following this new “schedule” has been refreshing and fun for our homeschool. Each day is purposeful and special in its own way and I am constantly hearing how much the kids love “Work Wednesday”, “Magic Monday”, or any of the days, really. When you have little kids, life is constantly changing and once you find something that “works”, you usually have to change it shortly thereafter. The nice thing about having themed days like this is that the themes can probably stay the same, even if the specifics need to change. Either way, I’m really happy that we’re finding our rhythm… for this year, at least.

Here are some pics from a few of our “Work Wednesdays.” I love that I have built in time to teach my kids how to really clean something. I instruct them on how to organize their papers, their rooms, their toys. I demonstrate how to wield the vacuum and the toilet brush. We have a weekly checklist with rotating “add-ons” which are bigger chores that don’t necessarily need to be done every week such as cleaning the refrigerator. We blast whatever music we’re in the mood for and go to town…

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6 Weeks In: What Our Homeschool Looks Like This Year

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this. There’s a laundry basket full of clothes to be folded, another load that needs to be started, new clothes from birthdays that need to be put away, and I still need to solidify my lesson plans for the upcoming week. But I’ve been in this cycle for about 6 weeks now (school work, house work, repeat) with no end in sight and decided I needed to just force myself to break it this once–even if it means I’ll be “behind” for a day or so. These past weeks since we started school have been CRAZY. I am overwhelmed, I feel overworked, I am exhausted, a little depressed, but I am also grateful. Overwhelmed because there is so much good stuff I want to do/read/incorporate in our homeschool. Overworked because schooling kids with a baby and toddlers in tow is exhausting. Every time I go to do SOMEthing, I am interrupted by a little one with very real and very immediate needs (hunger, diaper, potty, runny nose, etc). Exhausted because of both those things, plus if I ever DO get a break from the needs of the children, there are dishes, laundry, or that email I started 2 days ago but haven’t finished or sent yet. (Yes, this has happened on more than one occasion recently and is entirely out of character for me.) I have been depressed because I set out this year aiming to truly “teach from rest” and I don’t feel like that’s what I’ve been doing because I’m so exhausted. But I am so grateful for this time with my children. I’m grateful for the hard days we have together when I get to witness some really touching interactions or triumphant breakthroughs. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn and explore with my children.

First day of school!

But let’s talk practically for a minute. Even though the days are hard, things ARE getting done. So… how? If you are thinking of homeschooling, or already homeschool and are trying to figure out a rhythm, you’re in GREAT company. We’re all trying to figure out our rhythm. These past 6 weeks have been our testing period. And now that I think we have a new groove to settle into, we’ll keep at it for 6 more weeks or so and then reassess. I’ll let you know if it’s still working then. For now, here’s how our days look:

I’ve got Abby in 3rd grade using My Father’s World ECC (Exploring Countries and Cultures), Noah in 1st grade using My Father’s World Learning God’s Story, Emmalyn doing her first year of preschool, and Elijah (2) and Logan (6 months) tagging along. I knew that structuring this year was going to be tricky so I spent much of the summer gathering our supplements and drafting a rough plan for our year. That way I’d be able to spend time during the school year working on our daily schedule and I’d never have to wonder “what’s next” theme-wise. This school year is unit-based and one of the things “teaching from rest” means to me is that each unit can be as long or as short as we feel like while we’re in it. We are exploring countries and cultures, and I fully anticipate that we’ll be more interested in some than others so we’ll explore accordingly. Math and ELA will still be done everyday at our own pace.

What We’re Adding On: We are supplementing with another literature-based world geography curriculum called “Around the World with Picture Books” from Beautiful Feet Books. I am so in love! I think the countries we learn about from this curriculum will be our favorites. Their book lists are short and quality choices. I bought the art supplies from the BF supply list and we are excited to get our paint on and improve our skills! It’s going to be a beautiful year! I’m counting this and any other art projects we do from the book Global Art as our art for the year.

For music we are using Simply Charlotte Mason’s Music Study with the Masters: Chopin. I plan to use my own piano skills to teach a few things and if Abby wants to further explore the instrument, hopefully she can take lessons next year. This year was just too crazy! We’re also using the MFW 1st grade music: a study on Peter and the Wolf. Speaking of my own skills… we’re learning Spanish this year! Or, I’m teaching Spanish to my children this year. Slowly and gently. I love the website languagelearningathome.com for help with this.

For science, we are learning about the different ecosystems that coincide with our countries by region. I’m using the MFW 3rd grade resources for this, but I also went through their 1st grade science and pulled experiments that I liked and could link to different ecosystems and fit them into my outline.

First Ecosystem: Forest

First grade is my author study year, so we are doing that as well, though not quite as in-depth as we did it when Abby was in 1st grade. We have a lot going on! But I still want to incorporate them as much as possible and I chose a few different authors that I thought would appeal more to Noah. For more information about what I do with author studies, check out that post from a couple years ago.

Starting our Eric Carle & Spanish book unit!

How We Structure Our Days:

7:30 breakfast/family devotions: We are reading through the book of Matthew, focusing on Proverbs for Noah, and using Window on the World to talk about missionaries around the world.

8:00 Kitchen Crew/Preschool Time: Abby, Noah, and Randy make up the “kitchen crew” and they are in charge of getting the kitchen cleaned after breakfast. Emmalyn, Elijah, Logan and I head to the living room for “preschool.” Over the summer I picked preschool units to coincide with the rest of our school. Some “match” clearly, others don’t and are separate themes. We do a lot of interactive play, sensory activities, puzzles, singing, work on motor skills, block building, etc. This is basically time I get to spend with the little kids right away to help satisfy their desire for mommy time. I’m not saying it magically makes them play on their own for the rest of the day, but I do believe it helps soften the blow when I can’t give them the attention they want later.

Matching letters!

8:30 Morning Work/Continue Preschool Time: Randy leaves for work and Abby and Noah are to start their morning work/individual work. This includes daily math, handwriting, spelling, and simple worksheets that reinforce what was discussed the day before, etc. They each have a list that I type out the night before and paper clip it to whatever work the are to do on their own.

9:00 Table Work: We are all at the kitchen table; Emmalyn and Eli are probably coloring or Emmalyn might have a specific worksheet or activity to do. I also have tactile boxes for them that I’m putting together for each of our ecosystem units, which they can use and play with at this time. I help Abby and Noah with their ELA and reading. Usually I’ll help Abby first and then she does 15 minutes of silent reading while I do reading instruction with Noah.

10:00 Snack/Math (Just what it sounds like!) Emmalyn and Eli have been dismissed from the table by this point and are playing independently or maybe watching a toddler DVD.

That is our basic morning schedule and when those things are done, we fit in science, geography, art, music, and more when we can. And to be honest, sometimes the morning schedule goes longer than I’d like. As I was typing them out, I was thinking “hmm, this doesn’t seem so bad, so why do I feel so stressed out?” Well it’s because our mornings are constantly interrupted (we do have a baby and a potty-training toddler). We are not schooling in a vacuum. The transitions between subjects can sometimes be a hassle in a small space, as well. But we are getting the hang of it. I’ve had to come to the conclusion that I can still teach from rest and be tired, because I have a baby. Babies are tiring. Plain and simple. So I’m giving myself grace on that end. I’m going to be tired for a little while longer, and that’s okay.

Morning Work

After I got our year and our days structured, I thought I was done. Turns out I wasn’t. Something was missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And that’s another blog post of its own, hopefully I can get around to it soon!

A weekend planning session at its finest!