Post by Contributing Writer, Emily
Our school journey is one of constant re-evaluation. We are tweaking what we do constantly and have tried schooling options ranging from expensive private pre-schools all the way to months of seriously unschooling. With each season of life and with each of my children I am always striving to make sure that what we are doing is the absolute best fit for each child in that moment.
Some Background Details
This fall started out a bit rocky with some unexpected changes to what we thought was going to be a pretty traditional year of potentially shifting away from homeschooling and into an “open classroom” charter school.
We’d had some experience with this school before and it had fit our needs perfectly in the way we participated in it last year. Within a few weeks though, we knew it was not what our family needed anymore. So we prayed, re-evaluated and shifted our plans.
We approached a brand new charter school that was just built in our neighborhood, and we expressed our passion for homeschooling mixed with our desire to be engaged in our neighborhood and community.
God laid an answer on the table in ways we couldn’t have imagined. The charter school was started by former homeschoolers, the philosophy of the school identifies parents as the most important teachers in a child’s life, one of the main goals of the school is to be integrally engaged in the local neighborhood and community through service projects and presence, and they use an Expeditionary Learning model of study. We couldn’t have imagined a better opportunity to arise. So that’s the background on how we find ourselves in our current school routine. Let me tell you a little about how we make things work for our 9, 7 and 5 year old. I would love to answer any questions you have about the way we’ve chosen to do things, I hope you find encouragement or inspiration as you read on.
Our “Normal” Routine
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are our dual days. We are home in the morning and the older two go to the charter school in the afternoon for music and dance classes. The afternoon is also the time that their classrooms spend focusing on the specific Expeditionary Learning topic that they are currently working on.
On Tuesdays while they are at school my youngest attends a homeschool PE class at the rec center near our house.
Wednesday morning my youngest attends ballet. My oldest plans a “boy project” to do with a younger homeschool friend and we drop him off at their house on the way. This gives my middle daughter and I 45 minutes of time to just be together each week without distraction. A huge necessity for this child and this momma.
Thursdays are a full home day and Fridays are a full school day. This is because Fridays are Expeditionary Learning focused and they go only until 1:00pm. Friday afternoons finish up with Lego Club which I coach for a small group of kids in our neighborhood.
In addition, my middle daughter does gymnastics after school on Tuesdays and my son’s activities vary by the current sport of the season. Both older kids also take theater classes off and on through the local Children’s Theater.
Where’s the Learning?
We do not have a rigid routine with our “schoolwork”. I am blessed to see that the years of approaching school as just a part of everyday life have made my children eager to grab notebooks and math books at all hours of the day and choose to “do school” just as they might choose to play with Legos or read a book.
Some days the math lessons are more than halfway completed before breakfast and sometimes we end our day with a science project or a story from a history book well beyond bedtime. Some week days we will go to a museum or park ALL day. And some Saturdays we sit at the table writing and editing stories, breaking only for meals.
The different curriculum we have chosen are available to the kids at all times to grab and work on. However, these are the goals and curriculum I frame our week with.
- MATH- At least 4 days a week, we use Singapore Math, Standards Edition. We also play a variety of board games and mental math challenges in the car which we can adjust to each child’s skill level.
- WRITING- Everyone has a journal that I give them prompts for about 2-3 times a week. We share these writings aloud at dinner with dad. They also write often in their journals as they desire or need to; these writings remain private unless they choose to share.
- LANGUAGE ARTS- We love the simple solid foundation laid out in the Explode the Code Series. They work through these each at their own pace. We have just recently added Sequential Spelling to our routine as well.
- READING- This is such an integral part of our lives it hardly seems worth mentioning. We live 2 blocks from our branch library and the kids are comfortable and familiar with all the librarians since we visit several times a week. They choose their own books (upon approval by mom) to have available to read throughout the week as they desire.They each have a book that we choose together to be reading aloud a bit from nightly. My oldest uses a comprehension guide to keep focused on what is happening through challenging books. They all read above grade level so we are fortunate to not need a focused reading curriculum.
- SCIENCE- This is an area where we follow the lead of the kids’ interests, seasonal learning opportunities, local museums and events, and lots of hands-on projects. We have a variety of topical science books on the shelf and utilize the library to further our research.Lapbooks are a common way the kids choose to delve into a topic they want to learn more about on their own. My youngest is working her way through Usborne World of Animals this fall as she was fairly young the last time we worked our way through that book in depth. My son’s class at school is focusing on environment and our role as stewards of the earth so this is flowing into our own home studies.
- HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES- Another area we follow the kids interests. We have several large “history books” that the kids browse through and again we look to the library to bring home everything we want to know about a topic. We also use E.D. Hirsch Jr.’s What Your ___grader Needs to Know to pull off the shelf and read stories from history at a grade appropriate level when we need inspiration.My daughter’s second grade class is studying games of different cultures throughout history which is again guiding some of the things we are studying. We also subscribe to Time for Kids at each of the kids grade levels. These magazines provide conversation starters on current events that are age appropriate and enjoyable for each child.
- ART- Can You Find It books of art are one of our favorite inspirations. Some days are spent just looking at art. If we find a picture we want to re-create or experiment with, we will study the artist before jumping in to create our own art.We try to visit small local art exhibits to learn appreciation for a variety of art. We also have shelves of art supplies available to pull out and explore with at all times. A lot of the pre-planned art projects we do are collaborations with other homeschool friends and are often seasonal.
- RELIGION- We are working our way through Egermeier’s Bible Story Book this year by reading the stories and then discussing them all together. This is a part of our evening routine. We also enjoy the Christian Heroes Then and Now series. I read aloud from these a few times a week. The interest in these stories was sparked by our reading of Missionary Stories with the Millers a few years ago.
- LIFE- Cooking, gardening, caring for 11 animals and living with 10 people are all providing ample opportunity to develop life skills in management and cooperation. All of my children are old enough to be a significant help to me in the kitchen at meal times. This is a huge relief that those years of being slowed down by eager little helpers were completely worth it in seeing what they are now capable of on their own.
- ONE LAST THING- In addition to these I am also using Wee Folk Art’s Homeschool Companion Guides as a supplement this year. I love the seasonal focus it provides for us. I feel at times as though my youngest was whisked into doing more sit down school than was necessary at a much earlier age, due to the nature of being the youngest child!This guide helps prompt me to find activities that really fuel her imagination and provide her with whimsical, seasonal crafts, projects and stories to share without any pressure. She still participates in most components of the older kids’ school routine and they eagerly jump in on the crafts and stories of this element of our curriculum as well. It provides a very nice balance for all the kids.
Emily lives in Salt Lake City with her husband Jeremy and their 3 wild and crazy kiddos! She loves reading, running, baking yummy treats for her family, her early morning yoga, walking to the library and all things creative and crafty. She especially enjoys exploring nature with her children and learning side by side with them. You’ll find her chatting about all aspects of life at her blog, Industrious Emily* and also sharing her crafty side through the blog, Life at the Table.