Staying Active in our Homeschool During a Challenging Season

I've been thinking and scheming about how to keep my kids active all winter (and all year) for almost a decade. As our homeschool schedule and needs change and my kids grow up, I continue to think and plan how to keep all of us active during the winter months when after-dinner hours are pitch black outside, sometimes bad road conditions keep us homebound, and single-digit temps keep me inside with small babies.

It is a constant work in progress. Here is how we are planning, scheduling, and playing this year . . . at a time when we opt not to visit indoor places with lots of people!

How I Changed our Plans After Baby

Every year I try to plan a reasonable schedule. I try to take into account my energy, my children's individual abilities for working independently, and how toddlers and babies are going to affect the rhythm of our days. So far, I've been able to make reasonable plans for 1 student, 2 students, 2 students and a baby and a preschooler, and 2 students plus a kindergartner and a toddler. 

But this year, with 3 students a 2-year-old toddler and a new baby, my carefully laid plans did not work!

Oh well. After 3 intense days, I saw the writing on the wall and our 2-week old baby took an awesome evening nap which gave me just enough time to hammer out a new schedule. After a few more tweaks, I found a way to get most (but not all) of the things accomplished each day and week. Here's how (even though, full disclosure that we aren't actually getting to the art or handicrafts as scheduled! We'll get there eventually.):

Why didn't my first schedule work?

It all comes down to my own lack of imagination. I just completely failed to appreciate just how much my third grader and first grader would need my attention to do their best work. And I didn't realize how hard it would be to try to split my attention between 2 kids and juggle the interruptions of an independently working fifth-grader plus 2-year-old Harry and baby George. 

So now my day takes MUCH longer to accomplish because I am splitting my time into different blocks spent with each child individually. But I'm able to enjoy the time spent with each child instead of falling apart from constant interruptions or realizing that a child has been daydreaming instead of working for the last 10 minutes ;-) And I can see that everyone is thriving instead of floundering. Oh, and I'm a lot more patient and resilient instead of irritable and cross.

Some other takeaways from our first 5 weeks of homeschooling

Peter was totally ready to manage his own checklist and work independently. Most mornings he gets up before I do and starts working so he can be the first one done. At first, I expected him to grab my attention for spelling, which was frustrating for both of us. But now I have scheduled it into my day so that we both have a set time to do it that works for us. He narrates to me using the voxer note to self feature and that is also working great.

It is hard having a new student who needs to get used to the schedule, the subjects, and the expectations. Sylvia just turned 6 so she is a very young 1st-grader and she is a very different student from Peter who started first grade reading fluently and doing lots of math but not writing very much and John who really struggled with reading but felt very comfortable with math and tolerated handwriting.  Sylvia does not know how to add yet, but she is picking up reading quickly and she writes fairly well. 

Speaking of reading, John has been making great progress. He is finally able to pick up books and read them!  Explode the Code online as well as these Primary Phonics readers have been big helpers recently. To solidify everyone's reading ability we've been having a read aloud challenge where the kids are reading aloud to someone 10 minutes a day. 

Half the battle in our homeschool is teaching everyone how to deal with frustration and what types of complaints and behaviors are not acceptable. I'm pretty tolerant of emotions . . . but that doesn't mean I can handle dramatic outbursts on a daily basis. This is easier for some than others. It took a few weeks, but everyone is doing better at completing schoolwork without hostility. If only sibling conflict would disappear during school time. That would be nice ;-)

And finally . . . I am so glad I planned to start homeschooling this year with a break week after 5 weeks of homeschooling. Right now is our break week and besides finding time for a dentist appointment and a couple of park visits, I've been using the time to take care of myself, take care of the house, and do some food preservation and bread baking. I'll make a big grocery run this weekend and hopefully be well-rested and patient when we begin our next 5 weeks of homeschooling.

I hope your homeschool year is off to a great start!

Quick baby update

Our baby is here! George Henry was born at home on Thursday evening weighing in at 9lbs 14oz!!!!

Big brothers Peter and John were there to enjoy the special moment with us. All of his siblings are totally crazy about him . . . especially 2-year-old Harry who loves to hold him and check on him all the time.

I'm mostly hanging out in my room bonding with George, resting, and eating. From past experience, I know that all this quiet time with George will make me more able to return to full-time duties, including the start of our regular homeschool lessons, with more patience and energy. We are so thankful that Matt is able to focus on keeping things going at home and taking care of me . . . made possible with lots of help from family, friends, and our postpartum doula. 

I still have my last homeschool planning post to publish about Peter's homeschool year but it was already written beforehand. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was working so hard on a blog post after just having a baby ;-)

3rd Grade Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans, 2020-2021

This is my second time around planning a full year of Charlotte Mason style plans for a third-grader and I know these plans are MUCH more realistic than the first time around. Below are the books and resources I am planning to use for 8-year-old John this year.

5th Grade Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans, 2020-2021

How do I have a 5th grader? I remember daydreaming about homeschooling when he was still 1-year old. I had so many plans, hopes, and dreams for him. I'm so glad that I held off the bulk of academics until I had time to read books and blogs about all types of homeschooling - unschooling, life-schooling, road-schooling, and more "eclectic" styles that blended what worked from many different styles and traditions.

Now, 10 years after meeting my first baby boy, I feel very settled in a lifestyle of homeschooling that works for us. I like to describe it as two hours or so of old-fashioned tutoring plus unschooling in a rich learning environment . . . aka the Charlotte Mason Method. I haven't found Mason's method to be limiting or rigid, but instead have found it to be an excellent foundation for my children to grow their love and appreciation for many branches of knowledge to inspire their passions, and to force them (gently) out of their comfort zones to experience the interconnectedness of knowledge.

1st Grade Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans, 2020-2021

This is my second time around planning a full year of Charlotte Mason style plans for a first-grader and I think my plans only get better each time around as I learn what books I prefer and what resources work best in our homeschool. Below are the books and resources I am planning to use for almost 6-year-old Sylvia this year.

Recap and Review of Kindergarten Homeschool Plans, 2019-2020

For the third time around, I got to enjoy spending meaningful time with my 5-year-old as I created a space for a quiet growing time before starting formal schooling. 

Although I didn't faithfully follow all of my plans, we read a lot of new-to-her books that she loved, learned MANY new songs and poems, and also completed more crafts than I would have done without planning it out ahead of time. On to the review . . . .  

Recap and Review of 2nd Grade Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans, 2019-2020

Here is where I will recap and review our homeschool year. This was my third year of planning a full Charlotte Mason style curriculum with short, morning lessons on a wide variety of subjects according to a strict timetable designed to fit our family, but it was only my second year planning for 7/8-year-old John. I love to consult Ambleside Online, a Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculum, as well as Wildwood Curriculum for ideas, but I put it together in my own way. You can see my original plans here.

This was a year with a lot of growth for John. Most of what we did worked well, especially because I gave him a little more space, but there was 1 subject that I completely let go of for John this year. On to the review . . . 

Recap and Review of 4th Grade Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans, 2019-2020

Here is where I will recap and review our homeschool year. This was our third year of doing a full Charlotte Mason style curriculum with short, morning lessons on a wide variety of subjects according to a strict timetable designed to fit our family. I love to consult Ambleside Online, a Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculum, as well as Wildwood Curriculum for ideas, but I put it together in my own way. You can see my original plans here.

Overall, this year went really well. I've become a better planner--meaning I'm more realistic about what I will be able to oversee with consistency. But as always, some of my plans didn't work as well as I'd hoped. Some things I changed midstream and others, maybe I should have changed. On to the review . . . 

25+ Best Free Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Tales from History and Literature (Free Online in the Public Domain)

In my estimation, there is no better "curriculum" to help children cope with real-world fears and anxieties than the myths and stories that have been told to generations of children and adults around the world.

Throughout these tales, regular people undertake impossible quests; heroes and monsters battle to the death; the clever and kind outsmart the wicked and selfish. Sometimes the ending isn't fair in a particular story, but overall we see the powers of good triumph over evil.

Some tales from history simplify historical events to distill powerful lessons, which if not entirely true, inspire us to be our best selves. And literature tales can make the most exciting stories of our literary past enjoyable and accessible without dumbing down the language or the complex characters for younger listeners.

I can't think of a better time than now, with so much uncertainty in the air, and so much time at home, to choose any one of these collections and read just one story a day. They appeal to all ages and can provide a rich seasoning to imaginative play. And they are all free in the public domain!