Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Homeschool fever


It seems that every year I start to freak out because the well laid plans I have had for the school year have all fallen to pieces by half way through October.  I spend a week revamping our homeschool plans and try - hard - to get back on track. 

Well for three weeks now we have been working on the new plan.  And so far, this is the best plan yet.  It’s also the most complicated I have ever done.  But that is life, right?  Complicated. 

I will lay it all out for you, just so you can read it and I hope it helps some others who struggle to balance a homeschool life with an alternative work schedule. 


Schedule Issues:

So, here’s the skinny.  I’ll bullet point so I don’t lose people:

  1. My husband works the ‘swing’ shift.  He leaves the house around noon and gets back around midnight, 4 days per week, except on ‘changeover’ weeks.  Which we will get to later.
  2. I have “morning people” for children.  Especially the boys.  Which means the most ‘teach-able’ moments are all when my husband is home.  This can be complicated, because (and rightfully so) my husband wants to spend at least some of that time relaxing and perhaps even playing with his children.
  3. My husband works EVERY Friday.   
  4. Although he does have consistent work days.  However, those switch off month to month.  He works 4 day weeks and switches back and forth between Friday - Monday weeks and Tuesday - Friday weeks. 
  5. The schedule switches each first Monday of the month.  That week is ‘changeover’.  Bad changeover is when he works 8 out of 9 days in a row with only 1 day between the two ‘weeks’.  Good changeover is when he has a 2 day weekend, works 1 day, and then has a three day weekend in the same week. 

So with all of this in mind, I set out to find a way to get 4 days of school per week without completely loosing my mind.

Getting in 4 School Days:

We were having a heck of a time getting in school days early this fall.  I just can’t manage the emotional famine that I end up dealing with if I spend each morning doing school with the kids and then having my husband leave before that is even done, and being alone until midnight.  I realized that my solution was to take a day off in the middle of our school week.  This is where The Man and I have a breakfast date, go to church, and perhaps do a little grocery shopping. 

To get that 4th day of school and still keep my ‘sanity day’, I needed to cut into our weekends.  I took the last day of each of his three day weekends and set it up as a Field Trip/Family Day.  I got a list of good inexpensive field trips and checked dates and times for availability.  I purchased a Boonshoft membership (seriously, check out the reciprocal benefits for your area.  In ours, they are AMAZING!  And for less than one family membership to the zoo.)  Then I plugged all of the available field trips into our family day for the next three months.  Sometimes this is a Monday, sometimes this is a Thursday… but since it is always during the week it makes for inexpensive museum fares and good times to do actual field trips like the Kennedy Creek Salmon Run with other school groups.

Teaching 3 different grades:

My toddler aside, I have three different grades to teach at once.  My oldest is now a Sophomore in highschool.  My daughter is 11 and now in 6th grade.  And Logan is 5 and now in Kindergarten.  There is very little we can do together that would cover all of these levels and still be challenging and/or fun for all.  This is another reason that Waldorf and Charlotte Mason schooling methods appeal to me so much.  A literary and nature study based curriculum is best for having my kids all on the same page and yet doing all of their individual work at their own level.  So currently I am teaching a lot of nature study. 

Resources for combined Nature Study:

Shirley Woods:  An amazing naturalist turned author who creates each animal’s story like a season of Meerkat Manor.  You are following an individual animal, be it fox or polar bear through the first year of their life.  Generally from birth to finding their first mate.  Even though the story is fictional, each of their actions is explained as someone would on a good nature show.  Each book I go through has been well written, easily accessible to Logan (age 5) and still entertaining and educational for Cyan (age 11).  I highly recommend them!


Trickle Creek - Ecojournals:  Yet another amazing resource.  There is a Ecojournal for each season and Toni Albert, the author, shares her adventures with the wildlife around her home, Trickle Creek, with the reader in a comprehensive way for all ages.  Each chapter has a journal entry, a craft or activity, and a story of life on Trickle Creek.  I have used these for years. Each time we go through them we build more of an understanding of nature and get a little bit deeper in our study of our beautiful planet!

One thing both of these have in common is the AMAZING pencil sketches that fill the pages.  Around each page in the ecojournals are loads of seasonally appropriate drawings from the nature around Trickle Creek. 


I recognize that there are MANY things that can be put off in homeschooling until the child is begging to learn them.  I also understand that math is not one of them.  It has a sequential scope that needs to be built on and kept up, and if you are not doing math in an order, then the children may become very confused (especially if they are learning from me!).  So I have handed the older children’s math over to a purchased curriculum.  They are currently using Teaching Textbooks.  We LOVE it.  Love it.  Seriously.  If math is a struggle for you (as it was for me at first) then you may love it too. 


For Logan (age 5), math is just getting started.  Learning to draw his numbers without flipping them backwards was my main goal at the start of the year.  I also wanted to do some introduction to the basic functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  For this, I looked to Waldorf Education and brought in a story telling aspect to help his memory. 


More info on that process here.

Now, you know where I have disappeared to.  But I can tell you that we have had three weeks of schooling that runs smoothly and easily.  And the icing on the cake is that I am not completely burnt out at the end of the day so I am actually crafting again!  Whooohooo!  (Can’t wait to share some of that with you, too!)  Perhaps, by the time this schedule really sets in I may even (*gasp*) blog!


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