Friday, March 7, 2014

Schooling with Littles :: Independent Work

I've been writing a series on Schooling with Littles.  I shared our Daily Schedule, and now I'm working through how I manage our three learning blocks:  Morning Basket, Naptime School, and Independent Learning.

I'm going to touch briefly today on the final block of our learning day: Independent Work.  This includes the daily subjects not in our Morning Basket and not handled during Naptime School, so it's basically a catch-all for everything else.

:: Math Work
:: Independent Reading Assignments (coming to me for narrations afterward)
:: Piano Practice

This work does have a home in our daily schedule: after lunch, while the little kids play.  I'm making dinner during this time, so I'm free to hear narrations, and the littles are all playing together, so the big kids can step away to finish up their math worksheet or get some piano practice in.  Really, though, since these don't involve me, we fit them in whenever we prefer.  So if the kids have a little free time before breakfast, one might work on a math drill page while the other practices piano.  I do restrict when I can hear narrations, but if the kids don't mind waiting to narrate, they're free to get a head start on their reading too.

For math, I go over their work for the day during naptime so they know which problems they're required to do on their own.  For piano, they know they need to fit in 15 minutes daily.  For reading: on Monday morning, I make a stack of their books for that week, and the children choose which books to do on which days.  At this age, they're able to finish them on just Monday and Tuesday--as they get older and have a heavier load, this will comprise a larger chunk of our school day.  And scheduling weekly makes their reading time variable.  So if we have a day at home on Monday, they might get through a big stack of readings.  That frees up Wednesday for meeting a friend at the park and Thursday for house-cleaning.  Or if they're sick on Monday, they can rest and do their reading another day without our falling behind the schedule.

My long-term plan is for their list of Independent Work to get longer at about the same time I start needing more one-on-one schooling time with my next few children.  So their independent reading time will increase and their time spent self-teaching math will increase over the next couple years.  (By the way, have you been following along with Brandy's tips for moving children toward independence?  I'm taking notes!)

So that's our school day!  In the next couple months, I'm going to try to tackle some of the questions I hear regularly: How do you keep the little ones busy?  What do you do with your preschooler? How do you keep your learning materials organized?  Let me know if there's anything in particular you're wondering about and I'll be happy to share.


  1. Thank you for sharing this series. I have been trying to figure out how to move toward more independent work in some areas. We just got some math wrap ups (which are a big hit!) and piano and copywork are independent as well. I love your idea of having a stack of books at the beginning of the week and having them read when it fits. I think I'm going to try that.

    (Btw, as I was reading your daily routine post I was noticing how much your girls look like mine, and then my oldest dd came and looked over my shoulder and said, "Who is that? She looks just like me!" :)

    1. Hi Lisa, thanks so much for stopping by! :) Brandy's posts that I linked at the bottom of this post have been great for thinking about moving toward independence--I'm looking forward to reading more from her on this topic, because I'd like the children to be even more independent than they already are by the time my next daughter starts Year 1 (she'll be kindergarten-aged this fall). And I actually just ordered a full set of Math Wrap-ups, so I'm glad to hear you guys enjoy them.

      (My husband is Filipino and I'm Italian, so the children are half and half...sometimes we get comments that they look Asian, sometimes Hispanic. Except for my youngest son, who definitely looks fully Asian--not like me at all! LOL)

  2. Hi Celeste! There is a lot of talk right now about doing things on a strict timetable and varying the lessons. However, I really like the way you are doing it. My question is, is it really OK if my year 3 daughter does most of the readings in a couple days to leave the other days were free for outside activities or more free time? For some reason I had this idea that we should not do more than a couple readings per day . Thank you so much for this blog!

    1. Hi Samara,

      I'm going to respond cautiously here because I think what matters most is that we're all really thoughtful about how we arrange our days. So I don't want to give a one-size-fits-all answer. ;)

      First, yes, I do think there is definitely room for homeschooling without a strict timetable while still holding to CM's principles. In fact, I think a strict timetable can be *counter* to CM's principles in certain situations -- like, if in doing so, it causes your home atmosphere to be very stressed and anxious. I actually have a whole post I would like to write about this, so I won't go into that too much here. But ultimately, the timetable is a tool to meet the principles; it isn't a principle itself.

      That said, the timetable is a great way to make sure you ARE holding to the principles. Some of the principles I think we can pull from CM's words in general would be: short lessons, alternating subjects to keep attention fresh, plenty of free time, and the child knowing what to expect for her day's routine. These principles are probably most easily accomplished by using a timetable, but obviously they could be met through a less specific routine as well.

      When I wrote this post, I was speaking of my two oldest kids, who were fast, eager readers and excellent narrators (they still are). And I was speaking of Year 2, which has a lighter load than Year 3, which you're asking about. My current Form I students would not be able to handle Year 3 (which I'm doing now) in 2-3 days. We could not keep short lessons or short-ish days if we were trying to do that, or the reading would crowd out the other important tasks that keep our minds fresh, like picture study, songs, etc. However, we DO keep a 4-day week, and if we really needed an extra weekday free, we could also move some school to the weekend without trouble. So there is room there for some re-ordering.

      I'll also say that although we don't necessarily spread the reading out evenly over all the days, we still do make sure to alternate kinds of work. It really does help the habit of attention. My kids can and often do do two readings back to back, but we never do more than that, and I really prefer to stick something like a quick chore in between at the very least. :)

      So my overall advice would be: in my opinion, all your days do not have to look all the same and you do not have to keep a strict timetable to be doing a CM education. BUT you do still want to keep the principles in mind that make this education efficient and joyful.

      I hope that helps a little! Please let me know if anything I said was unclear and I'm happy to expand more.