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This article is intended to be descriptive of one type of homeschooling. There are hundreds of different ways to homeschool and there is not one prescription for any family.
Homeschool is life together—exploring the good, true, and beautiful of God’s creation and order. Trust me, we do thrive with order. Routine helps my family work together most joyfully and efficiently. Savoring coffee and a few moments of silence, I peacefully start the day. By seven o’clock, little feet start scampering. My youngest, age 4, throws me his shirt so I can coach him in finding all the necessary holes. While preparing breakfast, a clasp from behind alerts me that my six-year-old son has met the new day. Meanwhile, my nine-year-old daughter stealthily sneaks loads of laundry. She wants to surprise me, so I aim not to see! All dressed, some of us matching, breakfast is served at half past seven.
So the new school day begins!
No matter what, Morning Prayer always follows breakfast—even if we can’t start exactly at eight due to some unforeseen kerfuffle. Morning Prayer includes catechism and Scripture memorization, hymn singing, and readings.
After prayers and upon announcing any special happenings, the children hustle. Once any remaining chores are complete, they are free for a few moments of fresh air before our academic time begins sometime between 8:45 and 9:00. “Mommy’s coming!” they prompt one another as they gather in the front bedroom-turned classroom and stand, hand on heart, to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Schoolishly, we count the date along with its factors and multiples, and then note the phase of the moon on our Currier and Ives calendar.
First, a focus on daily skills.
For the first couple of hours, our work is always focused on skills that must be developed daily: math and language, including phonics, reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, copy work, dictation, and Latin. The older children begin their math while I give the day’s first lesson to my youngest child. We meet at the whiteboard in the corner for his phonics lesson. He’s four, so the lesson is direct and short, less than ten minutes. With my youngest fulfilled, he happily attends to the work of play while the older children are ready for assistance with their math lessons. They shuffle between two math books. One is easily self-directed, with much repetition for speed and accuracy. It is used while they await their lesson from the faster paced and more abstract second math book.
Both of the older children have a homemade assignment book, a hole-punched list of their lessons along with space for details. Once they check math as complete, we determine what tasks can be done independently, done along with Mama, or done together as a group. This way I can bounce among the children as needed. While my four-year-old enjoys the luxury of self-directed play, joining school at his pleasure, my six-year-old needs my attention for almost everything. Often, we head to the sofa for a reading lesson while my daughter works in the quiet classroom. Later I’ll read her dictation, help with editing, or tackle Latin with her, while my sons take a “go dribble the basketball fifty times” break or sit beside us and work semi-independently.
Next, it’s time to drill.
Together we take nearly a half hour to drill Latin vocab and endings, English exemplars and definitions, history facts, our timeline, geography, math facts, and science terms. Drilling may just be the happiest time of the day! After a focused time of seat work, drilling is loud, active, and fulfilling. Best of all, everyone does it together, so even my littlest learner can fully participate in the oral activity, beaming with pride as he rivals his older siblings!
Continue with a content-studies loop.
Content-based classes—a rotation of science, history, and geography—are also done together. Naturally, a multiage group requires some individualized modifications. My oldest or I may read aloud while the little boys listen or look at related picture books, hunting for corresponding illustrations. For geography, the children begin by tracing a map, then advance to copying and labeling the map, followed by drawing the same map completely from memory. In these ways, we learn together with differing levels of assignments and expectations for mastery.
Then, rest and play.
After much diligence, everyone is ready for a break. The children tidy the classroom and then play outside while I prepare lunch. Once lunch is cleared, the children are free! They head outside to absorb their morning of learning. I love to see their latest backyard creations or listen as Robin Hood, King Richard, and Maid Marian reenact adventures. Is there a better evaluation tool than watching children internalize and play with ideas? For this reason, they have a nice long afternoon break—and I have a few quiet moments to work while watching them through the glass sliders.
Sometime after two, play becomes dull; they are hot and tired—a perfect time to relax under the cool fan while listening to a story. This is literature time. For a half hour or so, we enjoy good books, books well above their reading level, carefully chosen to complement our studies.
Some days, three o’clock means preparing to leave for choir, swimming, or some activity. My favorite days, however, are when we stay home. This is when we take in God’s goodness and beauty by exploring poetry, fine art, nature study, and the like. These enjoyable activities often spill over into afternoon play.
Four o’clock is “tea”; the children run back outside, snack in hand. Soon Daddy is home and the children share their books and papers with him over dinner. Shortly thereafter, it’s time for baths and bed. Gathered again, we read Treasury of Daily Prayer and sing Luther’s Evening Prayers and the Doxology. Then it’s time for one last hug and kiss. Reading in bed is then enjoyed by those over the age of eight—and longed for by the little boys.
It looks neat and tidy in print, doesn’t it?
Despite a thoughtfully ordered day, there are plenty of spills, scrapes, and tears too, sometimes mine. We are plagued by selfishness, anger, and rudeness, overwhelmed with sin, but Christ Himself orders our days with forgiveness, with His goodness, truth, and beauty. Living in love, forgiving and seeking forgiveness, homeschool is life.
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