Monday, December 19, 2011

School Life Overview

You've asked several times, "What's a typical day of school look like for you?" 

Well, for starters, I'm big on routine but not a stickler to a schedule. In other words, I have a general format I like to follow, for my sanity and for the nonstop questions my boys ask, but I don't like to hold to rigid time frames.
And, a lot of learning that happens is impromptu anyway because it happens in casual conversation, or while taking a hike in the backyard woods, or while reading books, or while assembling puzzles, or while making Lego creations, or while working on Bible verses for AWANA. Yes, it's true: learning happens all the time. The trick is to be intentional in how you answer questions and in where you direct conversations.
The boys love doing science experiments. Me, however, not so much. But, since hands-on learning is what they gravitate to and since they have fresh enthusiasm still, I try to plan for about two hours a week that is science-related. Maybe it's experiments. Maybe it's nature walks. Maybe it's collecting and classifying leaves and flowers. And always it's reading books.
Most of the time Annalyse is content to play near the action. For those times when she whines incessantly and wants to be a part of the learning, I try to include her. Sometimes she sits on my lap while I read to the boys. Sometimes she sits in her highchair and colors. And, keeping it real, for those times when she is a loud interruption to what we're learning, I'll put her in the play room by herself for a half hour. (Pick your jaw up. It's true: toddlers can play by themselves. Besides, self-play is an important skill to develop.)
Everyday has some form of seat work. Grady Lee and Micah work through penmanship exercises. They solve math problems, sometimes written and sometimes with manipulatives. Micah has tracing workbooks and cutting projects. Grady Lee uses tiles for logic and and has a worldview journal for apologetics. They make maps with legends and keys. Micah cuts magazines to assemble an ABC Book; Grady Lee cuts magazines to assemble Family and Community Boards.

Sometimes we do puzzles of the USA or the world and then talk about people that live in those places. We use various books with great pictures and interesting facts about those people and places. If I'm really inspired (ha!), I may pull in an art project or a recipe that ties in with the culture we're learning about.

Grady Lee really enjoys his social studies books, but I think that's because right now he's learning about communities, neighborhoods, and families in the USA. And of course, that means he's learning about firemen, policemen, and other "very brave and important community helpers."

We work on answering a phone, addressing envelopes, mealtime manners, and proper greetings with friends. We work on counting money and telling time.

A lot of learning happens through playing and pretending and laughing and working through "he took it and isn't shaaarrriiing with me!" Recess and snack time are highlights for my boys, too, just like any other kid in school.

Sometimes our school work is actually Home Economics. Seriously. They help me bake and make dinner (and really, working on fractions is way more fun when you are taste-testing sugar and vanilla and chocolate chips!). They carry in groceries from the van and empty the bags on the counter. They vacuum steps and rugs. They wipe the bathtubs and help empty trashcans. They make their beds and sort dirty laundry. They empty the dishwasher and dust bookshelves. 
I'm being serious when I say that doing these things is more than just an assigned chore. It's a chance to learn that everyone in our family has a role. It's a chance to learn the value of organization and cleanliness. It's a chance to learn responsibility and team work. It's a chance to learn how quickly a dollar is spent and the value of saving the extra.
We usually begin each day with devotions, calendar work, and memorization work (skip counting, Bible verses, grammar rules, etc.) We take turns praying, and if Micah gets his way, we sing a song or two and say the pledges. I haven't figured out why, but really he enjoys rattling off the pledges. It's pretty comical to watch Annalyse stop what she's doing when she hears us begin the pledges. She toddles up next to the boys and puts a hand on her tummy and starts shouting sounds. She misses her heart and is short on pronouncing anything sounding like the pledge, but it's pretty cute.
I plan a field trip at least once a week. We've got a great membership to zoos, aquariums, museums, and nature centers. In addition, there are several plantations, farms, nature preserves, lakes, and hiking trails within minutes from our home. And, if my schedule syncs with other homeschooling moms, we try to get kids together for a picnic at the playground or making a fun craft (did I really just call crafts fun?).
Tuesday's the boys attend a Bible class while I'm in Bible study and Friday's they attend Spanish class while Annalyse and I play in a community center with other tiny toddlers. They have Sunday school every Sunday and AWANA every Wednesday. They play soccer every Saturday for seven months of the year. I'm not the least bit concerned about lack of social opportunities. In fact, I say no more than yes to outside things simply because there just isn't enough time.
When kindergarten enrollment came around, Grady and I never thought twice about beginning to home school Grady Lee. Our reasons for doing so are endless and and I'm happy to share the laundry list of all the whys in another post.

I don't know that we're committed to homeschooling every year from here on out, but I do know we are committed to praying long and hard about what is the best way to intentionally point our kids to Jesus while ensuring that they learn necessary academics and life skills. And for now, hands down, especially in light of where Grady Lee is at, homeschooling is the best fit for us.
I know I'm only getting started on this educational journey and that circumstances change on a whim, but for right now in this very moment, I have peace and contentment and excitement for the direction we're going. Grady Lee and Micah are right where thy should be, or even beyond, in academics. That's not a comment to brag; but it is a comment to encourage you that one-on-one tutoring allows your kids jump ahead in certain areas.
Homeschooling, right now, takes about two intentional hours of my day. Some days those two hours are straight through, some days they are in 15 or 30 minute increments scattered throughout the day, some days the boys are eager and attentive and we roll through three hours or more, and (the really convenient part) some days we have other things happening and we skip school work altogether.

I know that as kids get older more and more of my time will be directed to teaching so I'm not pretending to think homeschooling is a cake walk that requires little on my part. In fact, Grady reminded me the other day, "Sarah, we're sacrificing your six figure income to give our kids a six figure education." Although I debated him on the six figure amount, I was encouraged by his point that sacrifices today will prayerfully bring dividends tomorrow.
Homeschooling isn't for everyone. I know that. Trust me, I really do! However, being a mom that searches Scripture for truths on raising kids and managing a home is for everyone. Sometimes obedience requires sacrifice. A lot of times obedience isn't convenient. But all of the time obedience is the right choice.

You know your kids better than anyone else. You know your family goals and passions and pursuits better than anyone else. And you have the privilege of considering (and being overwhelmed with!) the educational options for your kids.
So, from this just-getting-started-at-homeschooling mom, that's the high level overview. Have questions? I do too. Never ever did I imagine myself at home with kids doing phonics at the kitchen table. Never ever did I imagine myself taping up a laminated map of the USA on my wall. Never ever did I...


  1. i love this. what a great peek into your daily life. :) looks like you guys have lots of fun together!!

  2. You are hands-down, one awesome mom! You are doing such a wonderful job teaching your boys & what a sweet (and totally spot-on) thing for Grady to say, I love it! And I love this post on how you do your days! Your organization always blows me away & all the thought/planning that goes into having everything ready for each activity. God is using you in a mighty way right in your home!!

  3. Great post! Your husband is a gem. You are so inspiring and this will be helpful to many, I'm sure! Blessings!!!