Snapshot: February 2016

I recently noticed a comment on last fall’s snapshot post, which reminded me that I haven’t updated it, in spite of having made some good changes since then that might be helpful for or of interest to others.

Game Changer 1: A Checklist For ME

IMG_4992I don’t know why it took me so long to think of this, but when I saw Misty’s post on her checklist, I shamelessly grabbed the idea and tweaked it to fit our needs. The result? Pure gold. Here is why this works for me:

  • Everything is on one page. This is an entire week of school, for all of the kids, on one page.  It’s a daily to do list and a record keeping tool in one. Because I have it color-coded by child, it’s easy to see at a glance who still needs to get stuff done so I don’t have to scramble to figure out if someone should be playing Legos or actually still needs to finish math.
  • I pre-made decisions. To fit everything on one page, I really thought about what I need to do with each child. In some cases, that meant adding some things, and in others it meant getting real about what I could actually accomplish. I don’t have to reinvent this wheel every week. I just change the dates, change the books we’ll be reading together for history and literature, update dictionary/vocab words, change independent reading, and I’m done. Ten minutes, tops.
  • It keeps me accountable. I love checklists. Seeing something on my clipboard helps me to follow through with intentions. I am doing much better checking people’s independent math work, actually doing Latin every day, and remembering what we do on which day.

Like Misty, I keep my checklist on a clipboard, which also contains our memory work, map work, hymns, and review pieces for the week. I use sticky notes to keep track of where I am. No more hunting for a poem or looking up passages on my phone!  It’s all in one spot, and that really works.

Game Changer 2: Preschool First

IMG_4872I have read over and over again to spend time on the littlest people first, but I never could figure out how to do that. It seemed more important to get the big people through their work. However, when I don’t put a space in for tot school, it falls off the agenda way too often. I’m not talking about crazy academics here, just about the sort of solid reading, Mother Goose, alphabet/numbers, Bible stories, and fairy tale time that I used to pour out for my big kids when they were littles.  Eliza (2 1/2) gets a lot of read-aloud time throughout the day, but that often comes during our school reading, family reading time at night, or from siblings reading picture books to her.  Preschool time is 20-30 minutes of one-on-one with me going through the great children’s literature we’ve collected. We do this right after breakfast and Convocation, while the big kids get ready for Inspection and do their piano practicing.

Game Changer 3: Building in Margin

IMG_4983Homeschooling with a baby requires more margin than you might think, but also less than you might fear. I’m pretty adept at handling a baby while also teaching, but I have been a lamentable failure at margin for a long time. No more. Teaching From Rest put this in great perspective for me, although it is something I should have accepted long ago.  Maybe lessons should take a certain amount of time, but homeschooling (and parenting in general) is not about efficiency, much to my chagrin. I think my reluctance to build in margin is why my schedules never worked before.

IMG_4984This semester, I built in margin every step of the way. Lo, and behold, we actually follow this one. It’s more of a flow than a rigid minute-by-minute thing, but if I don’t at least ball park times for our routine, I’m going to try to put too much in it.  Since I built in some margin, this timed version of our schedule is actually what we normally do, give or take a few minutes.  It looks something like this:

7:30 – Put on classical music (whatever composer we’re studying) to call kids down to breakfast.

7:40 – Convocation while kids eat (mostly Biblestudy, prayer, singing, and memory work).

7:55 – Preschool with Eliza while big kids do jobs, get ready for Inspection, and practice piano if they have time.

IMG_49858:20 – Inspection (What is inspected gets done! Everyone has jobs and checklists for this) and get Eliza dressed.

8:30 – Jack’s Teaching Time (one-on-one subjects with me) – other big kids do independent work and/or read to Eliza.

9:20 – Sarah’s Teaching Time (one-on-one subjects with me) – other big kids do independent work and/or read to Eliza.

10:00 – Table Time (this is a rotating list of things we do together like memory work, geography, dictionary/vocab, art, Latin, etc) – I peg this to morning snack to make sure everyone gets protein and that we actually do Table Time.

10:30 – Hannah’s Teaching Time (one-on-one subjects with me) – other big kids do independent work and/or read to Eliza.

11:20 – The Reading (Subjects we do together using read-alouds, like history, literature, art history, poetry, science, etc) – this takes 1-2 hours but we don’t always finish it all at one time in a given day.  It can spill over to meal times, afternoons, after dinner…lots of families do this sort of thing first, but since this is what we love to do most, it’s the one thing I can reliably do in the evenings and know it will still work.

In all, school takes us about 5-6 hours per day. On paper at least! In reality, independent work isn’t always completed efficiently, and often even with margin the times wiggle significantly. Still, we generally follow this plan now and it seems to work pretty well.

Game Changer 4: The Week View

IMG_4940Another great thing about my checklist is how it helps me to see school as a week-long pursuit, not just one day.  Some days we have appointments, or a babysitter coming over, or homeschool co-op.  Sometimes we just have a rough day.  The checklist helps me to see what we have to accomplish for the week, so I can clearly see where we can do more or less on a given day.  We can have a really long Table Time, someone can double up in spelling, or we can finish up subjects at night after dinner.  School doesn’t have to happen between 8 and 3, and flexibility is part of the beauty of the whole thing.

Game Changer 5: Humility

This year has been all about humility. We’ve had crisis after crisis that I did not see coming. Things I thought I had all sewn up (potty training! getting baby to sleep!) after Kids 1-3 fell to pieces on Kids 4 and 5. I do have some systems in place so that we can stay functional, but more and more I am realizing that what I think I have “under control” is not really under my control at all, and what looks like “together” is actually God’s grace more than my competence.  That is simultaneously terrifying and freeing.  So I’m bringing my basket and doing my best and praying a lot more and continuing to learn as I go.

In light of that, please see posts like this for what they are–a snapshot of what is working, for us, for now.  It will almost certainly change, probably soon, and possibly won’t apply to your situation at all.

Anthropology.  It has to go somewhere!

What is working for your family or school life these days?


17 thoughts on “Snapshot: February 2016

  1. We’ve recently re-evaluated everything (again.) seems to be a school year of challenges here. For the moment we’ve found some-what of a rhythm. I switched curriculums (now w Sonlight) streamlined a morning time (to catch things that get left out if I don’t put them somewhere. (Memory work, music, art, fun read alouds) non-negotiables (math and all about reading) happen on the weekends and evenings (or occasionally rest/naps for the little two but most days it’s a nightmare not a naptime) I just took Sarah Mackenzies master class and came up with out familiar rule of 6 (and realized I wasn’t teaching how I wanted and in the least fun way. Thus butt-heads daily. We are definitely in a season of slimming things down as we work though the baby and red-headed 2s stage. This HSP mama can’t keep hanging on by a thread! 😬 I’ll have to check out Mistys chart! I’m all about charts and schedules …still trying to get the kids to catch the excitement of them. 😄

    1. What I’ve found about having a checklist for ME is that it means I don’t have to be as reliant on checklists for THEM. Each kid has an index card posted to the wall in case they forget what they have to do, but for the most part I realized that it wasn’t the kids who needed a checklist, it was the mama. Because we don’t do any worksheet/workbook things in our school, the kids daily assignments are really pretty much the same. That helps us to avoid battles too.

      I hope your new rhythm works out! In addition to Teaching From Rest (which I’d be happy to loan you if you don’t have it!), I’d recommend Sally Clarkson’s new podcast (At Home With Sally). I just listened to the entire archive and am going to listen to all of them again. I had the kids listen with me to some (we listen in the car). I can’t even tell you how encouraged I was as a teacher, mom, wife, person in general…I’d highly recommend them.

  2. Love these snapshots! I finally started Teaching From Rest! Will be good to implement now that we’re about to be on our own after Ruby’s birth two weeks ago.

        1. I installed this plugin:

          Instead of seeing my newsfeed, when I log in to Facebook I just get an inspirational quote. 🙂 I can see my notifications and messages, or type someone’s name into the search bar to get their page, but the feed doesn’t appear. I don’t think FB is inherently bad or anything, but it was something I needed to do–I’m also only logging in twice a week (if that) to check notifications. There are a lot of complicated reasons behind my decision to mostly get away from that platform, but if you’re interested the plugin does work!

  3. What a beautiful illustration, complete with photos, of Charlotte Mason’s statement that “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” I can just feel the live-giving, engaging atmosphere!

  4. I just love your blog. I’ve been reading for over 7 years and it’s one of the few where I read every. single. post. Just wanted you to know so you never stop blogging! ha! I’m pretty sure I get smarter every time I read your posts. ;o) You are such a blessing! I recommend your blog all the time. 🙂

    I have a few questions for you–first, what exactly does your memory work look like? Your Convocation is only 15 min? Is that like your Circle Time or is your Table Time more like a Circle Time? I’ve just pared our CT down and it still takes about 45 min (I’m ok with that). We do songs, memory work, Bible and prayer.

    How do you do evening readings?! I have no idea how to do that. The evenings here are SO CRAZY. And before bed is even CRAZIER. It’s really, really hard for me to remain patient, loving and kind enough at those times (when SO much needs to get done) to read to the kids. That said, I do read to them about half of the time before bed, but I can’t imagine doing anything “schoolish” then. You are amazing.

    Light bulb moment for me: Your “Inspection” time. That is GENIUS. I’m doing that starting Monday!

    And, I love Mystie. She’s the BEST! I’m going through her Work the Plan course and it’s so great!
    Catie recently posted..How We Do Quiet Time

    1. I actually just scheduled a post on Convocation for Friday! I’ll make a note to do one on Table Time and The Reading too. Basically, because we do a lot of the things most people include in Circle Time/Morning Time/Whatever, I break it into three pieces–at the beginning, middle, and end of our school day. Otherwise it would take us like 3 hours to do it all at once, and I don’t think it’s as effective to do it that way, at least for us.

      I think as far as reading in the evenings goes, it works for us because it’s something we all like. I’m not having to drag anyone kicking and screaming. We get the cleanup done (often my husband puts on raucous music so we have a cleaning dance party, which is fun) and then the kids get stuff to work on (adult coloring books are a big thing right now) and I read for a while. If we didn’t get a lot of school reading done, we might do school reading in the early evening before dinner too, or we might not do our for fun book that night and just read the school books. But really, it all blends together because we read good literature for the fun books, and we read good literature for the school books. If books are boring or dumbed down or trite or poorly written, I jettison them from our stack quickly! When we do school reading, or bedtime reading in general, we do often have better discussions than we do at the end of a school day–maybe because brains are rested and not hungry and everyone has had time to process ideas better?

      Let me know how inspection works! I should probably do a post on that too. I took the idea from the summer camp I went to as a kid. 🙂

      1. Looking forward to your convocation post! 🙂

        I did the inspection yesterday and it went well. I think it helped me more than my kids!

        I’ve been chewing on what you said about reading in the evenings. I *do* try to read to them most nights, but like I said, a lot of the time it’s just so crazy that time of day. My kids LOVE to read, too — the problem is mostly me! HA! I just get stressed about things getting done, so maybe I need to work on time-management!

        Maybe, though, if we did it right after dinner, that would be easier; instead of right before bedtime. 🙂

        Thanks for your thoughts on the subject!
        Catie recently posted..How We Do Quiet Time

        1. It’s also good to remember that there is no magic involved in our schedules too! It’s like with morning/circle time–who says it has to happen first or all at once? I think if you’re reading to your kids a lot and at times that work for your family, you don’t have to sweat bedtime reading if it’s not working!

          I totally get the crazy problem too–we are a high intensity bunch over here and I spend a lot of time trouble-shooting when a spot in the day is really not working for me. Sometimes I try to work backwards to see where I could make a tweak to channel energy into more productive avenues, and sometimes I decide it’s just the way things are and let it go.

  5. So any chance that you have a pdf that you would send out of your weekly schedule? 🙂 I would LOVE to see how you’ve done it for you! This was a very helpful post, as was the one that you linked from last fall. Thanks!

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