Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Homeschool Day in the Life

This is my first time attempting to write our "day in the life" to go along with Simple Homeschool's series. So here goes...

I have four boys: Henry (8, who is attending our local public school this year*), Jude (5.5), Felix (4), and Ezra (5 months). I like to call what we do "waldorf-inspired interest-led project-based unschooling." I provide a general rhythm to our days, materials (art supplies and open-ended toys), and as much of my time and attention as I can give, while also attending to the baby and the home. I observe and support my children's interests; we don't have scheduled lessons or "school" time. Above all, I believe my job during these years of early childhood is to work on character development and instill virtues. I try to leave ample time in our days to work on patience, love, kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity. Having two children so close in age certainly provides many opportunities for them to work on these qualities with one another! I am very thankful that they all adore Ezra and are wonderful about bringing him into their activities throughout the day.

Our general rhythm consists of:

Breakfast (around 7:30)
--if they seem amenable to it, sometimes I read 2-3 picture books after breakfast--
Project/activity/playtime, which might consist of:
  • sitting at the dining room table drawing, painting, writing, making all kinds of creations
  • sitting on the library floor playing playmags, legos, or dinosaurs - or a combination of all three
  • make play dough and work with it - rolling snakes, making letters, using cookie cutters
  • I might make something in the kitchen and they decide to join me (granola, bread, dinner prep - they LOVE to chop fruits and veggies!)
  • playing with their trucks and tractors - lifting and moving, filling and dumping various objects
  • over the past month, Jude has initiated writing and typing the ABCs
Snack (around 10:30)
Outside/out of the house time:
  • if the weather is conducive, we might take a walk around the neighborhood, ride their plasma cars up and down the street, jump on the trampoline, etc.
  • if it's rainy/too cold, we go to the Loyola gym to ride the plasma cars there
  • or we might do a "close to home" trip like the library or grocery store. These seem to work well after the baby's first nap but before lunch. These often push lunch later but that's ok.
Lunch (around noon) - sometimes I read aloud during or after lunch, other times I just eat
Quiet time - they watch a few shows on PBS kids or Netflix. I need this time with no one talking to me in order to be a calm and patient mama the rest of the day (not that I always am, but I most certainly won't be without it). I use this time to nurse the baby in peace and do whatever helps me to gather myself for the rest of the day. Usually just the 30-60 minutes of no one talking to me does the trick.
--There is usually some project and/or playtime either after lunch/before quiet time, or after quiet time/before teatime. This week we've been doing some embroidery in the afternoons.--
Teatime (around 3 pm) - just a fancy word for afternoon snack. This is also the time that Henry arrives home from school. This transition can be quite challenging, I'm still trying to figure out how to help him make a peaceful re-entry to our family after having been at school all day.
Playtime - if it's warm enough we go outside, if not they might play or work on projects.
Dinner Prep - I try to get everyone involved (did I mention they love to chop fruits and veggies? Jude's favorite thing right now is making fruit salad for dinner), but some days I just don't have jobs for them, or they are exhausted from the day's activities, or whatever, and they watch a couple more shows while I make dinner.
Evening routine - dinner, showers (not every night in the winter, maybe 2-3x/week), books, and bed. The goal is to have everyone tucked in by 8 pm, usually it is more like 8:30-8:45.

Outside of our general rhythm, which is quite flexible, we are part of a homeschool group that meets for weekly "Discovery Days" in different locations each week - we've been to art museums, farms, nature centers, and more. We're also doing a monthly "Wooly Bear Club" at a local nature center for 3-5 year olds that has songs, stories, arts and crafts, outdoor exploration, etc. Since it's been so cold, we've been going to an "open gym" time about once a week as well, possibly our favorite activity right now. We also have a membership to the Science Center and the B and O Railroad museum and try to visit those about once a month. Generally, I'd say we go on 1 or 2 "bigger" outings per week, the other days we're at home or only leave for an errand, the library, the Loyola gym, etc.

*A note about Henry attending school: Henry is extremely social and outgoing, and has always (as in since he was 6 weeks old!) loved being out of the house basically all day, every day. He also loves schedules, structure, routine, and predictability, which school can provide better than I can with two littles and a baby. I was pleased that his teacher said he made a seamless transition into 2nd grade. She said "I never would have known he was homeschooled!." Pretty good for no formal lessons (except the ones he requested), eh? As for next year, we will continue to evaluate what is best for each child, one year at a time.

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