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I have been slowly revamping the website, bits and pieces at a time. Recently I began work on the About Page, updating pictures and the like. I turned to the followers of our Facebook Page to ask them what they wanted to know about me. This blog post is a whole lot longer than usual, but I hope you stick it out with me!
Sarah said: “I would love a peek into your homeschool day. Also, what about time management? What helps you manage being a mom, teacher, wife, internet homeschool sensation, and all the other jobs you have? Do you get your curriculum ready a week ahead, go day by day??”
Brandy asked: “What’s your typical day of homeschooling look like? What are some favorite curriculums and why? Do you have tips/tricks for a reluctant homeschooler?”
I was initially reluctant to answer those questions. Why? Because they intimidate me. The truth is that I’m not, and have never been, a planner. We’re more of a wake up and wing it family, and frankly some people see that as irresponsible. But the truth is, the kids are alright!
My oldest is an adult with a job, a husband, a kid, and another on the way. She’s contributing to society and living a happy and fulfilled life. My second child is a community volunteer, an accomplished actor, and an insanely talented costume designer and make-up artist. My third child writes 8-10 THOUSAND words of historical fiction a day and is completely self-taught in grammar and history. My fourth child is constantly making things and experimenting with science. My fifth child doesn’t need to be taught, he’s the rare gem who has the inexplicable ability to learn everything he needs by existing. Kid #6, well, she’s still a toddler 😉
We’re doing well and I realized that there is no need to be ashamed by how we operate. The biggest benefit of homeschooling is being able to customize your world to fit your child’s needs. So, I’m taking a leap of faith and sharing a typical homeschool day and how we plan in this post 🙂
How I Plan Our Homeschool Year
Every summer I sit down with the kids and we talk about the upcoming school year. We talk about what they’d like to learn, if they have any future occupational goals, graduation requirements and how to fulfill them, etc. Then I do the best I can to make those things happen. Not everything will happen, but I try to make the important things happen.
I then take those subjects and break them up into how many times a week we’d like to cover them. Things like math get 4 days, writing may be 2 days, etc. I give myself a pep talk every year, reminding myself that it’s ok if we don’t actually do this much school…we have 365 days a year…
Then I hop on over to my favorite planner ever…Homeschool Planet. Seriously guys, in 16 years I swear I’ve tried every planner out there and Homeschool Planet is the only one I’ve ever stuck with. It’s online but everything prints out so nicely so I can have the best of both worlds: an online planner I can never misplace and a paper planner I can keep for our portfolio reviews!
How I Schedule Our Homeschool Subjects
You should know something about me: I have ADD. I don’t do schedules. I love schedules and I created them for many, many years…but I never used them so I decided to quit being someone I wasn’t.
Homeschool Planet makes it so easy for me. While it has tons of advanced features, I only use the basic. I add my kids to the planner and then I add the subjects and assign them to the day I want. I don’t assign a time or lessons, just the subject.
Every Sunday night I print out the schedule for the coming week and hang it on the fridge. I write in any appointments, meetings, and anything else I forgot to add to the planner. The great thing about Homeschool Planner is that I can easily make changes from my cell phone, the planner is just as customizable as home education is!
In addition to the basics I add in silent reading time every day, journal writing a few times a week, two or three field trips a month, and a weekly arts & crafts co-op for the younger kids. This is scheduled around the volunteer and other commitments of my teens.
Here is what a typical week looks like for us:
Keep in mind that this is a planner and not a complete list of what we actually do. I add in details what we do each day and save the pages in a binder for our portfolio reviews. Also keep in mind that this is an exceptionally dull week around here. I also don’t have my 18 year old’s lessons written here because he’s technically not of compulsory & reporting age anymore.
How I Deal With Time Management
Yes, I have a ton of kids and they each have a ton of activities and we have all sorts of things to do and people to see and appointments to not be late for… the schedule is key!
Aside from the Homeschool Planet planner my husband, the teens, and I make frequent use of the Calendar app on our iphones. We all place all of our activities on the calendar and share with everyone, and most importantly, WE SET ALARMS. An alarm the day before an event and another one a few hours before the event. Trust me..set the alarms…
My biggest tip though: be honest with yourself. Know your limits, learn to say no. Delegate when you can. Limit the number of outside activities your kids have, especially if you’re like me and need time to decompress after being in a social situation. Your children won’t need therapy because you made them pick between soccer and baseball their third grade year, I promise.
Accept that you cannot, and should not, do it all. You know what? I am supposed to do a Facebook Live broadcast every Wednesday morning. I have a lot of fun doing the broadcasts and they get some pretty decent traffic (over 21,000 people watched my Doodle Lit review!) I haven’t done one in two months because in addition to having ADD I deal with frequent insomnia. If I don’t fall asleep until after 3am (and stay asleep!) I am NOT getting up at 7am to do a live broadcast at 8am. Nope. I prioritize what needs to get done, work down the list, and forgive myself for not getting it all done all of the time.
Our Typical Homeschool Day
We don’t have typical days, lol. I’ll share with you what a GOOD day looks like. On a good day I’ll wake up between 6 & 7 feeling well-rested, I’ll get up and make some coffee and enjoy a 3-4 hours of quiet before the kids wake up. (Yes, my toddler often sleeps until 10am, I consider it a reward for making it through the first two years of her life when she didn’t sleep more than an hour at a time!)
I generally check my work email (I run a nano business offering group discounts to homeschoolers), check for new orders, and do what is needed. Hopefully this doesn’t take more than an hour, but it often does. When that’s done I switch over to one of my blogs and get to work. This blog gets the bulk of my attention, though I am slowly reviving my frugal living blog.
Once the kids are up all bets are off. Here’s my secret: We don’t usually do schoolwork during the day. Our days are just too busy, even when we stay home, to effectively do any schoolwork. Sure, the kids may do some science activities or play Prodigy Game on the computer, but just as often they play video games and run around outside with their friends. Somedays, like today, we gather around the television and watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog for the ten thousandth time. AND THIS IS OK. It’s what works for us! My toddler is very spirited and frankly, I can’t make my kids do schoolwork when they have to compete with her need for attention.
So, when do we “do school”? It’s complicated…I’m of the belief that every minute spent pursing an interest (even video games) has educational value. It’s not my job to decide what is important to my kids. Also, my teens are completely self-directed, with the occasional reminder from me to do their math. They do their schoolwork in their room and then go about their lives. As for my younger kids, we work in the evening. We don’t have early bedtimes and it’s just so much easier to work on math and writing journals and whatnot when the baby is in bed for the evening and when their bellies are full from dinner. We also watch educational shows (we’re LOVING The Great Courses Channel on Amazon Video!)
What is our favorite curriculum?
Another complicated answer to a simple question, ha! The truth is that we don’t really use curriculum much, and we change a lot. I can tell you what we’re using right now, if that helps.
LANGUAGE ARTS: My younger sons deal with dysgraphia and are reluctant writers so they use Dude Diaries and other similar books for their writing journals. My younger sons also have quiet reading time daily (they pick what they read). We’ll introduce grammar and spelling as they get more comfortable with writing, I’m not stressing it. My teens mostly do their own thing since they are natural born writers and have been writing and reading since they were preschoolers. (Past programs we’ve enjoyed have been Teach Your Monster to Read and All About Reading.)
SCIENCE: We’re testing out Mystery Science this year with my younger ones, though it’s kind of bothering me that I need to buy so many supplies to complete the experiments. We were originally going to use Bite-Size Physics but I changed my mind (after paying $30 to have to book printed, LOL) because it’s just too much of a commitment for my schedule this year, maybe we’ll use it next year. My teens are taking various science courses through The Great Courses Channel since neither need lab credits this year. (In the past we’ve greatly enjoyed R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey & the very affordable Janice VanCleave Science for Every Kid series of books.)
HISTORY: History is done via The Great Courses Channel and lots of other streaming media options. We also make frequent visits to museums, historical field trips, and generally have a lot of discussion. We also listen to historical fiction and non-fiction audio books and do a lot (I mean, A LOT) of projects and play A LOT of games. We don’t study history chronologically because it just doesn’t work for us, we usually pick a time period and go with it until it can’t take us any further.
ART: The younger kids and I go to a weekly arts & crafts co-op, it’s not formal instruction but it’s fun and the kids get to hang out with their friends (especially important since we moved a few months ago!) I recently purchased a few volumes of Home Art Studio (look for a deal at the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op)and they look fantastic BUT we haven’t actually used them yet because I haven’t gotten the supplies for them yet (keeping it real, folks!)
The truth is that we’ve tried curriculum out of a box and never could find one that worked for us, and now that we have so many kids we couldn’t afford it anyhow.
And finally, do I have any tips or tricks for a reluctant homeschooling parent?
Do I ever!
- Be kind to yourself. You’re not going to be able to do it all, and that is ok.
- Be honest with yourself. Don’t do things that make you go crazy.
- Learn to say no to outside commitments and unrealistic expectations.
- Don’t compare yourself to other homeschooling families. They aren’t YOUR family.
- Don’t try to recreate the school at home.
- Allow your children to be who they are, don’t try to force them to learn in a way that isn’t natural to them.
- Streamline everything you can. Meal plan, order groceries online, have the kids do activities at the same place and the same time…whatever you have to do to make things faster & easier.
- If something is causing great frustration, it’s either not the right time for the material or not the right source of material. Be flexible.
- Do not buy all the things! I know it’s tempting but don’t spend a dime until you learn how to buy curriculum.
- Schedule YOU time. Wake up a little early, stay up a little late. Go for a walk in the evening. Read a book YOU want to read. Meet a friend at the park and talk while the kids play. It doesn’t have to be something huge, just do something little for you every day or two.
And there you have it…I hope I’ve answered your questions Sarah & Brandy! I hope this gives you a little insight into how we operate and why it works for us. I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below, join us on the Facebook Page, join us on the Facebook Group, Instagram, and Pinterest!
Meg Grooms (she/her) is a decades-long secular homeschooler, mother of many, writer, Florida ex-pat, and all-around swell gal. Meg & her partner have raised their kids all over the USA, finally settling on Southern California. For now, anyhow.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool. Meg is available for speaking engagements, workshops, and gameschooling classes. Please see the About Us/Contact Meg page for more information.