To Homeschool Happier: A Little Recap and Refresh, Part 2

Well, it’s taken me a bit longer than I had planned to get back to write the second part of this post! But here I am, nonetheless! To recap, last time I wrote about the end of our school year and how burned out I felt, essentially. Today, I am sharing what I am doing differently going forward in order to have a happier, healthier homeschool!

First of all, I have decided to switch from the year round school schedule we have been using to a more traditional school year schedule. There were several factors that helped me make this decision. Even if we had been finished with our previous year’s work by the end of December, I was leaning in this direction anyway. My husband’s work is now completely tied to the traditional school year, for one thing. My daughter will not be old enough to start Year 1 of AmblesideOnline until April, and I think she will be even more ready for that in late summer/early fall. My son will be doing Year 5, and I need him to continue building some independent study skills before diving into that next step up. Plus, I need much more time to begin pre-reading for Year 5! Instead of rushing us all to be ready when we aren’t, we will just wait and start a new school year in August or September!

So what, you may ask, are we doing in the mean time? Well, we are taking a step back from AmblesideOnline, but we are still doing things in a mostly Charlotte Mason style while “fun-schooling” a little bit. I have lightened the load for skill work somewhat while still keeping a daily list that includes some math, handwriting, spelling and such. I created a binder for my son that has all his weekly work already organized and laid out for each day, and that has been a HUGE blessing for us both! We are doing all of our books together as read-alouds in a “morning basket” style setting right after breakfast, which is working well for our daily routine.

For the current 6 week “term” we are doing an in-depth study of Chinese history and culture using a mixture of picture books, nonfiction, missionary biographies and folktale-inspired fiction. We have been watching a lot of fun videos of traditional Chinese music and art forms, as well. I chose this themed study partly because we have friends who live in China and because I travelled there for a few weeks before beginning college. Plus, we all love Chinese food, ha! 😉 Our normal school studies center very much on the western world, which makes sense, since that is where we live! But I do want my children to have an idea of the broader world in which we live and also have a heart for the people of other cultures and locations. We are all really enjoying this time learning together, and I am so glad I decided to give our homeschool refreshing change!

Of course, it isn’t just the schedule or subjects or routine that have helped make our homeschool a little happier. I am also being much more intentional about being totally present when it is school time, not distracted with my phone or trying to multitask and do housework when the kids are doing lessons. And perhaps more importantly, I am placing the emphasis on enjoying being together and learning together instead of just checking off the boxes. I am listening to my kids and seeing how they learn best in different subjects and trying to find ways to make the most of those strengths. I am looking for opportunities to practice grace and patience, and I am prioritizing relationships over academics right now. Of course I want my children to succeed academically, but more importantly, I want them to love each other, to know that I love them, and most of all, to know and love God with all their hearts. Because THAT is the key to true and lasting happiness in this life and the next!

This Year in Our Home School: AmblesideOnline Year 4, Part 4

Welcome back to my series on AmblesideOnline Year 4 and how we are implementing the curriculum in our homeschool this year. In this final post I am going to write about how I have scheduled subjects and a little about how this works in our daily routine.

Before I get any farther with that, however, I want to emphasize that currently our daily routine is quite fluid. Some days we get everything done more quickly than I expect. Other days are a slog. Many times we have to move things around to make room for outings, grocery runs or appointments. Since we aren’t in any kind of co-op at this time, we have a lot of flexibility, and I LOVE that about our homeschool life!

I also should point out that my daughter is still only 4 years old (turning 5 next month, though!), and I do just a light preschool lesson with her 3-4 days a week. That generally happens while my son is doing this independent work. If you want me to write more about that, I can, but it really is just a few minutes of learning a different letter of the alphabet (weekly-ish), reading some Mother Goose and a folk or fairy tale, and going through a lesson from MEP’s Reception Year math.

In making my son’s schedule, I try to take into account the recommended time allotted in the PNEU’s programs for Form II. I also do my best to switch up subjects so that we don’t do too many challenging books on the same day or have several reading-narrating sessions back to back. Ok, with all that said, let’s look at our “ideal” day AO Year 4 schedule!

AmblesideOnline Year 4

Again, let me reiterate that we do not follow this schedule to a T every day, or every week. In fact, I need to point out that we are not even doing Latin at all this year. But when I made out this plan in the fall I thought we might. So it’s there—just in case sometime I get a crazy idea and decide to add it in anyway! Also, my son has some very bad feelings about Swedish Drill at this point, so when I do actually remember to get some movement into our school time, it almost always looks like doing a Cosmic Kids yoga video on YouTube or freestyle dancing to our composer of the term. Nobody’s perfect, so that’s what actually happens here, in spite of what the schedule says!

Morning Time has evolved in our homeschool, changing a little every year. Currently we are doing Morning Time at the breakfast table as soon as I’m done eating. This is what we do:

  • read a chapter of whatever book of the Bible we are reading together for devotions,
  • read about one country highlighted in the Voice of the Martyrs Global Prayer Guide,
  • pray our prayer of the month and for the persecuted church,
  • work through our Scripture memory cards,
  • sing our hymn of the month,
  • recite our poetry selections,
  • sing our folk song of the month,
  • read a poem or two from our current poetry book,
  • practice our skip counting,
  • work on a Spanish lesson, and
  • do a piano theory activity from my son’s piano curriculum.

As you can see, this packs quite a punch in our school day and squeezes a lot of subject material and goodness into a relatively small amount of time. After Morning Time, my son does his morning routine of chores, personal hygiene and piano practice. When that’s finished he comes back to the table for a brief math lesson with me before completing his practice page on his own. Copywork and one reading for the day are also done during this independent work time. When we are both done with our other morning tasks, we come back together for the remainder of the day’s lessons and finish in time for lunch.

If we are pressed for time, I will often hand off another reading assignment for my son to do on his own in the car while we drive somewhere or in his room while I do whatever else I needed to do. By the end of the year, my goal is to have him reading 2 assignments a day and only reading one thing aloud. But we are easing into that gradually.

I think that’s about it….at least it seems like a lot of caveats and details for one post! Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to chat with you in the comments!

A Brand New, Shiny Year

Ah, hello there, poor neglected blog and readers! I bet you thought I’d completely forgotten you and would never return! But no, I have thought of writing so very many times, and I simply kept talking myself out of it. The longer I am away, the harder it always seems to return. It is tricky to think of just how to begin again. But here I am at last, ready to dust off my writing cap and try it anyway, awkward as these new beginnings always are.

Since it is the early part of the new year, I am still thinking a little of the new things this year holds…a new year of AmblesideOnline with my son, beginning some gentle kindergarten lessons with my daughter, a shiny new bullet journal for my planner, a few tweaks for my daily routine, a renewed sense of balance in my approach to social media and tech, and lots and lots of new reading goals. It is all rather mundane and daily, but it is exciting nonetheless.

Unlike the last few years, I haven’t exactly chosen a word of the year for 2020. But if I did, it would probably be something having to do with intention, curation and habit. Over the last couple of months, I have been thinking a great deal about honing in on the truly valuable people, activities and things in my life. Weary of going through the motions of less-than-stellar habits, I am prioritizing intentional choices, making the most of the time I have wherever I can. My goal is to develop healthier, happier habits that will help me do just that. Our family has also been persistently decluttering both our stuff and our schedules, curating that which is truly important and joy-bringing in our family culture.

A few changes in my routine are along these lines, things like: applying digital minimalism concepts to social media and smart phone usage, tacking certain types of reading to certain times of day, and regularly using a habit tracker to see my progress. Each day marks a shift in my trajectory from just taking the path of least resistance to living with purpose and intention. Even when a change is small, it makes a difference!

What are you looking forward to as we embark on this shiny new year? Have you made any new goals? Do you choose a word of the year? I truly would love to hear from you in the comments. And if you are a fellow blogger (even if only sporadic, like me), if you leave a comment with a link to your blog, I will be sure to read your latest news!

Setting Intentions and Atmosphere in Our Home

I sat at the dining room table Sunday afternoon, notebook open in front of me and pen in hand, waiting for some ideas to come. After weeks of growing discontentment with our current routine and the attitudes in our home, especially surrounding chores and school, I was ready for a change. 

But what kind of change? I knew I had to set the tone with more positivity and a fresh atmosphere, so I set down a few ideas for adding positive reinforcement and a little more loveliness into our day. 

One of the problems we have been struggling with is in the area of completing our morning routine without dawdling and complaining. I created a little extra incentive chart for my son to do his morning jobs in a timely manner without my constant nagging. I also decided to back up the time I expect us to “start school” each day to stop us feeling so rushed. When I talked to my son about these changes, he was very excited and ready to try to get his tasks started in the morning.

Since my own attitude is really the only one I can change, I also wrote down some very different priorities for the week in my planner. Instead of usual top 3 tasks for housekeeping and work, I wrote things like “Smile, laugh, and have some fun every day,” “Create something with your hands,” and “Love God and your family well.” I also reminded myself of the importance of getting my personal Bible study and prayer time in before the kids wake each day, so I set my alarm a little earlier for Monday morning.

Finally, I resolved to infuse some fun and beauty into our homeschool routine so that we all have something special to look forward to each day. Over the past few weeks we added “Poetry Tea Time” back into our schedule once a week, and it had become a highlight for me and the kids. In my notebook, I wrote down plans for daily “tea time” at the beginning of the school day: light candles, set out the tea things and snacks, and gather at the table with smiles and anticipation of the good time we are about to have learning together. 

Finished with my brainstorming session, I pushed back the notebook and set down my pen with a satisfied sigh. I knew that none of these changes were big on their own. And I knew that none of them was a magic formula for success. But I also knew that because I was setting my intention to make positive changes and have a joyful attitude myself, things would be better. Because I was going to set the tone and prepare an atmosphere of beauty and goodness, our day would be different. I was hopeful.

And, you know what? Today was the best day we have had in a very, very long time. I hope it is not the last… I don’t think it will be!

August 2018 Memory Work and a Free Printable

Did the month of July just fly by for anybody else, or was only that way for me? We were almost as busy in July as in June, even without traveling. It just dawned on me yesterday as we finished up our school work that I needed to get new memory work plans typed up for August! And I have great news! This month I am including a free printable for you to download and use in your home.

So here they are, just in time for those of you who need a little inspiration for the start of a new school year. We’ve been back at it for a few weeks now, and you can click here to see our memory work from July. My kids enjoyed having the extra song in there, so I decided to keep up with having 2 folksongs again this month. (Their favorite part of our recitation time last month was marching around the living room singing “Over the Hills and Far Away” at the top of their lungs!)

August Memory Work

Hymn: My Faith Looks Up to Thee

Catechism: Questions 34 and 35 of the New City Catechism (shorter version)

Motto: “We read the Bible and pray to God every day with an open heart.” (from Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson)

Scripture: Matthew 13:24-30, The Parable of the Weeds

Poetry: Little Talk by Aileen Fisher

Folksongs: The Green Grass Grew All Around and Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah

Free Printable Plans!

I’ve converted these memory work plans into free printable PDFs for you to download! The landscape format is such that you can print a copy and cut or fold the pages in half to put in a small 3 ring binder, like these. I slide them into page protectors so they don’t get as messed up by small hands. The portrait format is made for regular sized binders, or you can probably figure out a way to print them 2 pages to a sheet to make a booklet. (But don’t ask me how. I always seem to mess that up when I try it!)

If you are starting a new school year this month, I hope you have a great kick-off! I would also love to hear from you if you are using these memory work plans in your home. Let me know in the comments below!