This will be the first of a few posts about homeschooling with lots of littles in the house. I have had several emails recently on this topic that motivated me to add more details here about how it looks in our family. Right now, I am homeschooling only one grade (second) but have four other little ones to care for at the same time (ages 5, 3, 2, and 1), with another baby due in May. I think that in many ways, it's much more difficult to juggle many different grades at once than it is to juggle many littles underfoot! But having a house full of small people does have its own challenges, and I hope to share a bit about my experiences here on that topic. I'm no expert, but I am in the trenches...and let's hope that I'm getting something out of my time there! ;)
|two of my current toddlers in all their adorableness|
Today, I simply want to share our daily schedule as an example of one way school can happen when there are littles involved. In the next week or so, I'll go into a bit more detail about the core parts of our schooling schedule: Morning Basket and Naptime School. I also hope to hit a few other topics, including how to take steps toward a routine and how to "keep toddlers busy," so if there's anything you'd like me to talk about, please let me know--share a comment or email me. :)
Before I get to the nitty-gritty, a few caveats:
:: A "daily schedule" is a bit misleading in that several days we don't follow this schedule at all: one day we're out all morning on our nature outing, another afternoon we're gone for piano lessons, etc. As I have mentioned before, I schedule our school on a weekly basis. So we have daily subjects that I aim to hit four days a week, and then we pick and choose on a daily basis from our weekly assignments. By the end of the (perfect) week, everything on the checklist should be checked off
:: I'm assigning times to our routine, but there are only a few items that actually have a set time here: wake up, naptime, quiet time, dinner, bedtime. The rest depends on daily tasks, moods, and so on.
:: This is what works for us. I'm not suggesting it's the only way to do things nor am I suggesting you try duplicating this approach. Take this post in the spirit of one homeschooling mom offering up her schedule as one way of organizing a school day. .
:: As you're reading, feel free to sprinkle this record liberally with "break up squabbles," "get children in and out of time out," and "spend time dealing with a tantrum." I think it would be hard to find a home dealing with so many personalities that doesn't devote time to child-training on a daily basis. But I don't actually schedule those kinds of events. ;)
:: I'm sharing our complete daily routine rather than just our "school" schedule because as you'll see, school happens in bits all day at our house.
So what a school day looks like here:
6:45am - Children up! Kids read books together--bigs often read picture books to littles. They often trade off 20 minutes of piano practice during this time. Breakfast, prayer, morning chores, and computer time for me.
8am - Morning prayers with the children.
8:15am - Breakfast for the kids. I start Morning Basket work: calendar, memory work, poetry, a bit of Italian.
8:45am - Breakfast clean-up.
9:15am - Kids head out back to play. I keep the baby entertained indoors for a couple hours while doing chores, school planning, household tasks, computer time.
11:15am - Kids come inside and get washed up. Big kids start on their math warm-up while I read a few picture books to the littles and give the baby her naptime bottle. Tidy up.
11:30am - Naptime School. Naps for my youngest three (ages 1, 2, 3) and rest time for my preschooler (age 5). Big kids and I sit down with some of our weekly books and see what we get through in 45 minutes. For example, we might read and narrate a chapter from Our Island Story, half a chapter from Mother Mary Loyola's First Communion, and two short chapters from The Kirbys' The World at Home. Then I might read a few pages from Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales, one of our free reads. My preschooler looks at her own book lying down next to us or listens in, as she prefers.
12:15pm - We go back to our math. I set up one child at the dining table and one at the kitchen table. After teaching each his or her lesson, I go between the two while I eat lunch and they work.
12:30pm - My preschooler joins us. She draws while we finish up math.
1:45pm - Babies are up from naps. I send my preschooler up to entertain them while the big kids and I finish up any other schoolwork, put things away, and make lunch.
2pm - Youngest three come down from nap. Lunch and drawing at the kitchen table. Baby has lunch and her afternoon bottle. I get dinner started.
2:45pm - Tidy up, then "Quiet Time," which is actually anything but quiet (we should probably change the name of it now that it has morphed into its current iteration). All the children head into the living room. Littles play together. Big kids read a couple of their school assignments for the week and come to me in turns to narrate while I make dinner, handle kitchen chores, etc. For example, they might read a chapter each from The Burgess Book of Animals, Children's History of the World, and Heroes of God's Church, stopping between each to run in and narrate to me in the other room. They also keep an eye on the littles, including the baby. When they're done with any school reading, they can choose from their free reading selections.
4:00pm - Playtime for all in the living room. Big kids trade off practicing piano if they didn't have time in the morning.
4:30pm - Clean up and dinner time. Then the kids do their after-dinner chores.
5:30pm - I finish the dishes, clean the kitchen, and then putter around with my own projects while my husband either gives the kids their baths or plays a board game, bocce ball, or wrestling. You know, Daddy stuff. ;)
6:30pm - Back downstairs for Family Rosary.
6:45pm - Tidy the house and head up for the bedtime routine (brushing teeth, evening devotions, a couple picture books if there is time).
7:30pm - Bedtime for all the children.
My husband and I spend the rest of the evening however we please: watching a show or movie, reading, writing a blog post, working on crossword puzzles. I luxuriate in the all-kids-are-asleep quiet. :) I have a strict 10:00 bedtime that I
always usually follow.
So that's how we fit school in our day. My main principle is to have a basic family routine with a couple daily learning blocks, and we do what we have time for day by day. This kind of flexibility has allowed us to stay on schedule with no trouble at all for the past couple years. And as my children get older and their schoolwork encompasses more of their time, I hope to move them toward a high degree of independence.
Tomorrow, I'll be back to share a bit more about our Morning Basket work! (Update: Here it is!)