Thursday, April 27, 2017

Education and Such: Schedule, Routine, and all my Many Charts

As we are nearing the end of our kindergarten and voyage home school year, I wanted to write a bit about what we did and didn't do over the past 9 months. Some things that worked, some books we've loved, the schedule we've fallen into, etc.

Last year at about this time, I was obsessively planning for this school year. This is, no joke, the actual schedule that I wrote down for the boys' kindergarten year:

Daily Schedule:
7:30- 9, Breakfast, scriptures, memorization, Poetry
9-9:45 clean up breakfast, make beds, get dressed, etc (take turns doing yoga / individual reading time)
10-10:45 SCHOOL
10:45-11:15 snack/ free time
11:15-12 SCHOOL
12 Lunch
Afternoon, read aloud during snacks or at bedtime (Biographies/Lit)

MW Math, Fairy Tales, Art, Journals/Thank you notes
TTH Science, Scriptures, Geography, Copy Work
Daily: History (biographies), Narration & Artwork, Reading practice
Mid Morning: Reading Practice, Math/Geography, Art/ Copy Work
Late Morning: Journals/Scriptures, Fairy Tales/Science, Narration & Art Work
Afternoon: Reading together (alternate biographies / lit)

Want to guess how long we followed that schedule for? LITERALLY NOT EVEN ONE DAY. 

Just reading that schedule above makes me cringe. I invented that schedule based on lots of other homeschool moms' schedules, based on what I was pretty sure we were supposed to be doing, and based on my naive assumption that I could just have lesson plans constantly ready every single day. 

Honestly, most of our year, the schedule looked like this:

8am: breakfast, scriptures
9am-7pm: reading books and running around

Okay. That's a slight exaggeration. We did some school-work, and most of the time when we were "running around" it was to science museums, aquariums, hikes, etc. which I consider pretty dang educational. But they are kindergarteners! People were constantly asking me, "How many hours a day do you do school?" Um. Like 15 minutes?

Really, throughout the year, we would "do school" (ie. work on math, writing, and reading) really well for a few weeks at a time, and then we would do really poorly for a few weeks at a time. The truth is, I actually feel totally fine about that. I predict we will continue that flow of doing a lot and then taking a break throughout the summer as well. It happens really naturally, and it's nice to be able to move at a pace that feels comfortable. And since we will be schooling through the summer, I'm not too worried about falling behind.
Then, inevitably, after not doing school for a few days or a week- we would all start to crave the routine of schoolwork again, and I would probably make a new chart. I love charts! No one is more falsely optimistic than me with a new school chart. 

I made a chart where I listed each of the boys' school subjects with screen time rewards: Do one math assignment, earn 15 minutes of tv/video games. 
That sort of worked, but also- they were earning too much tv some weeks (weeks when we did school) and then some weeks, Travis wanted to play video games with them, even though they hadn't earned their time and so they would play anyway. And obviously that totally undermined my system! They weren't motivated to do anything.

So I made a new chart, where the week was split into five days of schooling. One day might include reading, math, geography, science, and spelling. Or perhaps reading, math game, fairy tale narration, and nature journal. 
Each morning the boys could choose which day they wanted to do, and needed to complete three full days a week or all five partial days in order to get a prize on Saturday (usually their prize of choice was a pack of gum.)
That chart worked for a month or so, but the truth is, we often felt overwhelmed. And many weeks we got four partial days done, and the kids were upset they didn't get to earn anything. 
So on to the next chart. And so on. 

The only thing that we consistently did every single day, through good school weeks and no-school weeks was Morning Time. During Morning Time, we eat breakfast, read scriptures together, recite the poem that we are learning, and talk about our plan for the day. 
(My kids and I all love "the plan." Every day they ask, "What's the plan? Where are we going? Who's coming over?" It helps them to mentally prepare for the day, even if all I say is, "Today the plan is laundry and a walk after lunch.")
We also recently added a book about manners for children, and every morning after reading the scriptures we read a new topic from that book. Today we learned about handshakes. 
We have done morning time five days a week, rarely missing a single day, for about a year. It changed our lives! That sounds dramatic, but it's true. Whether its the routine or the scriptures (a combination of both, I think), it sets our days off in a much better and more unified way. 

Concerning scheduling again:
Things took an immediate upswing when I discovered Loop Scheduling. Basically, Loop Scheduling consists of a to-do list that you just work through and then start over on. So now we have daily tasks (Reading, Math, Piano, Chores are on our daily list) and we have rotating subjects (creative writing, handwriting, science project, geography, music study, art study, poetry, nature journal, Shakespeare, fairy tales, history, spelling, etc)

Each of the boys has a spiral bound notebook in our morning basket (a basket next to the table that contains scriptures, Manners Kids Should Know, daily medicines, etc). Every evening I write a to-do list for the boys in their notebook. Their to-do list includes the daily tasks from the Loop Schedule, 2-3 chores, and 0-3 additional school tasks. 
Today we were planning on going down to Grandma's house fairly early in the morning, so their lists were short:
Put Away Clean Clothes
Unload Dishwasher

They had to do everything on the list before we could leave.  Tomorrow's list is a little fuller. 

Fairy Tale Narration
Clean Under Couch 
Clean Bedroom Closet

They don't always get the same chores as each other, but they are going to work together at those jobs tomorrow because they're a little bigger. 
Instead of holding to a strict schedule, (like 9:15-9:25: Spelling), we now hold to a routine. I'm all about that change! We actually things done now without feeling rushed or behind!

Our routine is this:
When everyone wakes up, we have morning time together. 
After morning time, we all get dressed and clean up breakfast. The boys can start on their chores or piano if they want to or go play for a bit. (They usually choose to do some work here, because they are motivated by knowing what is expected of them for the day and knowing that they can't play with friends until piano and chores are done.)

At 9am, we start school. We do school until the work is done, OR until 11am. If we don't finish everything, I just don't check it off the loop and we continue it the next day. If they finish everything by 9:40, GREAT. They're done with school for the day. 
I set the timer for each boy, too, and spend about a half-hour one-on-one. Usually, during this time they read to me for 15 minutes and then we work on anything else that they want or need special attention with. The other two brothers play together. This lets them all get a break in the midst of the "school day," too- which helps them concentrate when they need to. 

(Also, I don't put this on their to-do list, but I do put it on mine: Reading aloud together. I read them so many books. In addition to picture-books, we also try to read a chapter or two of our current big-kid book sometime during the day. Currently we are reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. This doesn't go on their list because I don't want them to know that I consider it school. It is a treat for all. It usually happens during a lull in the afternoon or during lunch.)

On Mondays, they have piano lessons in the afternoon. On Tuesdays, we have a poetry teatime in the afternoon. On Wednesdays, the big boys attend school through a local charter school. They call it "project school," because they do so many fun things and never do any boring busy work. It's our favorite thing and the greatest find!
And, in fact, because of this school- my kids aren't technically considered home schooled! We don't have to file an affidavit with the state or anything. Instead, I meet with an Education Specialist once a month and the boys take Standardized Tests, etc. It's been a really great comfort to my husband, who is worried about us being held accountable to the nefarious "system."

And so! We are doing school! We do school almost every day!
On the days when we don't start off by working together until 11am, 4pm comes and we still haven't gotten anything done and are all crabby with each other. It's great way to have a routine and keep the house in order. I suspect we'll continue it throughout the summer. At the very least, we'll do it 3 days a week. Although- I guess we'll see how we feel when it comes to it!

I was going to add pictures and such, but it is now 9:20 pm and all my children are asleep. I better get to bed too, since my baby will undoubtedly wake me up in 3 hours. 
Besides, I know exactly who reads this blog (hey guys! Thanks for sticking around. Casey, Josh, Alissa. Maybe my grandma.... ) and this is probably boring to all of you. I wrote it mostly for my own record. 
But hopefully I will find time later this week to write another post about what we actually do during that 9-11am block, curriculums and such. 
I'm telling you guys, this routine is making such a difference. I find myself with free time thinking, "I could write on my blog for a while," and that hasn't happened in YEARS! And yet, I wrote three blog posts THIS WEEK. Amazing. 

Okay. Goodnight my friends!


Courtney said...

I don't know you but I love your instagram and you're blog. I'm just curious as to what you did when your kids were preschool aged or what your philosophy/curriculum is for preschool. My oldest is 3 and I'm not sure if we will homeschool yet but I definitely don't want to be paying hundreds of dollars for her to go to preschool.

Casey said...

Ha!!! Thanks for the shout out! I feel so special. 😊 Also, I've been doing morning time every day since before Sam was born. Same thing for us! Breakfast, scriptures, review the schedule for the day. I agree 100%-- when we don't review the plan for the day, the day goes terribly. It works wonders for kids! Also, they know so much more about the gospel doing spiritual thought in the morning when they're fresh. Such a short time, but such an effective time. You go girl!

Mr. and Mrs. Hillarious said...

Oh man, I totally could have written a post similar to this one! I started homeschooling my second (and then my 1st came home from elementary school half-way through the year) and had a schedule with times on it. Then we found Charlotte Mason and switched over this year. Our charts are very similar. A list of daily tasks, a list of all the chapters in books they have to read every week, and all the "extras." They have to read two of their books a day, and do all their daily stuff, plus a chore they are assigned for the week. They are in 1st and 3rd grade, so it's a little more structured. I think I tweaked their charts almost every week, but I'm pretty happy with them now. We plan to get through school in about 4 days and spend the extra day out in nature. That's the goal anyway!