Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Our Homeschool System and Schedule

We finally found our homeschooling groove! I wrote here about the general things that helped us find it. Now here are the specifics of what our groove actually turned out to be. This may be nothing like your groove, or it could have one element or two that you would like to add to yours. Whatever the reason, if it helps, here's the information.

This is our school area. Also known as the dining room table.  It hasn't changed much from when we started two homes ago, but I finally have an organization system that works well for us.

The whiteboard across the table where the boys sit is new to us since moving here. The boys' verses from AWANAs is on there so they can practice when they sit down to eat. The date gets changed every morning, and the boys are quick to remind me if the date is wrong. The list of what we will be doing doesn't change every day, but it's good to work as a check list or a reminder of a change of schedule. I also keep the week's spelling list on there so they can practice it when they see it, or at least be a bit more familiar with them. It doesn't leave much room left to work on, but that's usually where the current vocabulary words go.

The second whiteboard is for All About Spelling only. I take it down from the top of the towers when we use it and then put it back up when we are done. I had to learn to do this the hard way; I left it down too many times and ended up having to buy replacement tiles thanks to a curious two year old.

The towers have gone through various arrangements. What we currently have is two here and a third in the master bedroom. Each boy has a large drawer with his notebooks and his own specific (and labeled) school supplies. They are responsible for taking their things out and putting them back in. That includes their Grammar and Handwriting Folder, Zaner-Bloser handwriting book, Reading Log, and History Folder. I think the chance to get out of their seats, even just to go to the their drawer every other subject, has been helpful for my wiggly boys.

Most subjects have their own drawer, and they go in order from top to bottom. We pull a book out, use it, and then put it back and move to the next drawer. This has helped my clutter problem and makes it so we can still eat at the dining table.

The bottom drawers are paper/lined paper or construction paper. Drawing supplies are higher up because of aforementioned mess making toddler.

One of the things in each boy's drawer is their individual Reading Log. This has been a struggle area for us. I have never been good about consistently reading aloud to them, nor requiring them to read aloud to me. We're finally getting a hang on making this a more regular occurrence, and a big help in that has been bribing them. I hand made some fun charts and bought some cheap stickers. We also kept track of the books they read so that they were not reading the same thing over and over but rather were challenging themselves. The reward for filling all the same colored bubbles with stickers was 30 extra computer minutes to play multi-player Terraria with Principal Daddy. This was the perfect motivator for them.

At first I gave a sticker for every 100 words they read. Since the first time they read Builder Boy only read 200 words or so, that seemed an appropriate amount. But by the end of the first chart Early Bird was reading 1,400 words at a go and Builder Boy was reading 600-700 words at a time. That was just too much counting words for me. So I moved it to every sticker is 5 minutes of reading. Now I can just time it on my phone and not worry about spending 15 minutes counting words. They read anywhere from 15-30 minutes at a time to me, earning 3-6 stickers. We're still keeping track of what they are reading.

Early Bird's file folders
Before this year there was no required written output. That has changed this year and we need some way to deal with all those papers. Vocabulary is still completely oral. Grammar is First Language Lessons 3 this year, and I have the PDF so I can print off copies for both boys. I print them off a week's worth at a time and we keep them in the back of a folder with pockets and brads in the middle for holding hold punched papers. Once the lesson's papers have been done we add them to the brads. We are doing only the narrations, no copywork, for Writing With Ease 2 right now. I write the boys' narrations on a piece of lined paper and then at the end of the week add it to the Grammar and Writing folder. However, the folder only holds about four week's worth of papers before I have to do something with them. I don't want to buy folders for every 4 weeks worth of work, so every four weeks I'm going to take out the collected papers and keep them in the boys' individual school records file folders.

The Grammar and Writing papers will need their own separate file folder. The other folder holds the math papers, spelling tests (and now also spelling dictation) and the Story of the World Activity Guide activity pages. The math pages go straight to the folders once they're done. (I file them.) Spelling dictations happen Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday on the same paper so get filed on Thursday, and spelling tests happen and are filed on Fridays. History pages were given together in a folder, 8 chapters at a time. Those get filed once all of the chapters are done and new ones are required.

I've got to say, there is something satisfying about filing away papers. It's a much more tangible sense of accomplishment than doing everything orally and only having lesson progression to show for it. I am still glad we did it that way when we needed to, but this has really helped me.

We don't start until 9:30 which gives the boys an hour to an hour and a half to eat breakfast and play or do their own thing. If Early Bird wakes up with something in his head he just has to get onto paper, he has the time to do that. If he needs to jump on the mini-trampoline or run around, he has time for this. This is also helpful for Builder Boy who spends almost every morning time in his room building with blocks and listening to Story of the World cds. He started doing this on his own and it really seems to help center him.

Starting at 9:30 we usually get vocabulary and grammar done by 10 am.  We take a break after grammar is done for a snack. The next subject is writing and is done completely orally so it can be done while snack is happening and that way they don't get sidetracked. After that we do spelling. Monday and Friday this takes 30 minutes or so, but usually only 10 the middle days. (I will blog about how we use AAS another time.) Then it's handwriting and then math. Builder Boy is given his math to do and he can try to do what he can on his own. Some days this is most or all, other days it's a melt down. I help Early Bird through his math, and then help Builder Boy with whatever is left.

We are usually finished by 11:30 am, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. They get the time between when they finish their work (properly) until lunchtime as extra computer time, which is very motivating for them to not drag their feet during handwriting and math. After lunch, if they get all their school done, they get an hour guaranteed on the computers. Then it's free time until Lady Bug's nap time/family quiet time. This used to be 2 pm on the dot, but lately it's closer to 2:30 or 3 pm. While Lady Bug is trying to fall asleep the boys go to their room and play quietly while listening to Story of the World 3 on cd for an hour. They have the activity pages in a folder and they can color or not as they wish. 

Sometime near the middle to end of Lady Bug's nap I try to have reading time. Sometimes this happens at other times, sometimes not at all. Sometimes Teacher Mommy needs a lot more quiet time. Everything else after that time is the same as I imagine most family's evenings go. We don't do any other academics past that time. Oh, except the moon chart the boys decided they want to do. That gets done at bed time for obvious reasons.

So that's what we have found that works for us. I imagine as they get older and their workload increases that times will change. When Lady Bug gives up her nap, though, we are still doing Quiet Time! I very much value that time. It's a sanity keeper for this introverted mom, and time to connect with adults on facebook.

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