Thursday, February 27, 2014

Schooling with Littles :: Naptime School

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.

The second prong of our current school routine is Naptime School.  

I know that Quiet Time is a non-negotiable for most homeschooling mothers.  It's a time for everyone to get a breather, for little ones to nap, for big kids to rest and recharge, and for moms to decompress and refocus.  When my oldest children were young, naptime was my sanity.  As an introvert who is overwhelmed with the noise level here on a daily hourly basis, those pauses in my day were essential.  As much as I absolutely love the toddler stage, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only mother who has counted down the minutes until those toddlers head up to nap. ;)

But when my two oldest started Year 1, I thought about how to fit in even the small amount of schooling first grade entailed.  An hour a day sounds like so very little when it comes to schoolwork, yet it can seem like so much when you feel like every minute of the day is filled with just keeping small people fed, clean, and happy.  But my first-graders were definitely eager for a bit of formal schooling, and I wanted for them a full feast of learning daily.

I had two options:
:: Try to school when the littles were awake, then spend naptime enjoying a quiet break as usual.
:: Save school for when the littles were napping.

And despite my initial reluctance to let go of naptime as Quiet Time, the first option sounded like adding more chaos to my day, not preserving what little calm I had.  I imagined myself barking at the toddlers to Be Quiet! while I tried to read history or teach a math lesson.  My big kids would feel that stress and might resent the little ones for interrupting our school work.  The little kids would see that Mommy was constantly trying to keep them busy so I could handle the big kids.

So back to that second option: what if, instead, I gave that "Quiet Time" to my children and to our homeschooling relationship?

So that's what we have done, and I can't imagine doing it any other way now.  When the little kids are awake, we do our Morning Basket together, we do chores together, and I have time to get a few things done while they play with their older siblings.  (Another benefit of saving school for naptime--the big kids are free to play with their baby siblings when they're awake.  That time is precious.)

And then when my youngest three are settled in their beds and my preschooler takes a book and lies down for her rest time, it's my chance to sit down with just my two oldest.  I can read without raising my voice over a toddler tantrum.  I can use both hands (very rare around here!) to draw in my nature journal or pull down the atlas for some mapping.  We can have Grand Conversations without being interrupted.  We can spread our books or art supplies all over the table without little hands grabbing.  We can think.  It's still a calm time in our day.  It's not quiet, and I don't have it to myself, but I can really enjoy the children's learning in a more leisurely way than I could otherwise.

So contrary to what I thought a couple years ago, there are ways to forego Mommy's Quiet Time without losing my sanity. ;)

(Let me just add: I do get quiet at other times of the day.  We have worked at sleep routines, so my children all predictably go to bed by 8 and wake at around 6:45.  That leaves me two hours of time in the evening to work on projects and rest, which I might normally do during naptime.  I also have the early morning hours if I don't choose sleep or run instead, so I could always push up my wake-up time to get an early start.  If I were running on completely empty, I'd have to reassess and might choose otherwise.  Still, when school has to happen, I'd rather do it and enjoy it during the calm moments of the day and make that time up in another way.  But that's just how I operate.)

That's enough of the why--now on to what and how...

What Naptime School looks like for us, with two second graders and a preschooler who tags along at the end:

:: Scheduled Readings - these include the readings from our weekly assignment sheet that we do aloud together, along with accompanying narrations (daily)

:: Math Lesson - my sit-down time with each of the children to go over the day's assignment so they can work their problems on their own later on (daily)

:: Binder Work - includes copywork in both cursive and printing (daily), mapwork, timeline, map memory work (weekly)

:: Hands-on Activities - art projects, handcrafts, nature journal, drawing lesson (all weekly)

:: Italian - teaching new topics, conversation, playing games (daily)

:: Read-aloud or audiobook - from our free reading list (daily)
:: Finish Morning Basket work from the morning (as needed)

I have written these in order of priority--I try to have the readings and math done before my preschooler joins us, as she's very happy to sit in on the rest.  As I noted in the schedule, this block ends up being about two hours long, which is how long my babies nap for.  I usually get those first two tasks done in about an hour.  When we have a lighter day of assigned reading than usual, I pick one of our longer activities (an art project, for example) to follow or we listen to an extra chapter in our read-aloud.

Next time, I'll hit on our last learning block: Independent Work.

(Looking for the rest of the series?  Here it is!)


  1. This has been such a great series! I've loved getting to see details about all the great things you guys are doing and exactly how you make it work.
    I've also been searching in your archives and getting lots of good help with foreign language, art, and nature study, as I'm getting ready to start AO year 1 with my ds soon! So thanks so much :)

  2. Hello Celeste,
    I found your blog through the Handbook of Nature Study newsletter, and I decided to add you to my Feedly. You seem to have a lot of good ideas on how to manage children of different ages while homeschooling - an issue which I really need help with! I "only" have 4 children, and the oldest attends highschool now, but even with only 1 very active preschooler (who no longer naps) I am often at a loss as to how to achieve any kind of learning without putting her in front of the tv all the time.

    Thank you for sharing all this with us. I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. :)

    Laura in Canada

    1. Hi Laura--thanks you reading along! I just want to say that in some ways, having more children is *easier* in this case because they can play together. ;) So hang in there!

  3. We ended up inadvertently having naptime school today and I was pleased with how it worked. I say inadvertently, because we're recovering from a stomach bug in my house, and between everyone sleeping in and my decision to prioritize my toddler's walk over morning school time for the kids, that school time got pushed until the early afternoon. The main downside was that my sixth grade daughter opted to stay home because she needs more time for her schoolwork than her second grade brother, and the morning walk is often a nice time for us to chat.

    There's something about doing this sort of schoolwork a little later in the day that is so counter-intuitive to me - like I should be starting early and pounding through it all before lunchtime. But if that leads to discord and a grumpy toddler (and mommy!) and frustration... is it worth it? At all? And if instead I consider the needs of the littlest members of my family first, might that lead to a much more well ordered and joyful family?

    Celeste, your writing is a treasure - and God has placed it right in my path at such a perfect time!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Amber. :) I know what you mean about things feeling counter-intuitive. I am a morning person, and I too would really like to knock things out in the morning and leave afternoons a bit freer. But I have to admit that this does work better, and I'm all about what works here and now! LOL I am actually very resistant to change by nature, but my husband has been a great encouragement to me to think differently, consider the big picture, not get too wedded to schedules that aren't working, etc. (Of course, he often misses the things that I, as the detail-oriented one, pick up on--so we both have our strengths and weaknesses! It's a huge help to me to have his perspective.) And I think with an ever-growing family, it's good (necessary, really) to assess periodically whether the systems I have had in place for ages are still right for us. I'm sure I'll be revisiting time and time again. ;)

  4. It sounds like you have been schooling this way from the beginning, right? I am considering switching to this, but I'm anticipating having some resistance in the switch from "masterly inactivity" to school time after lunch, from my Y3... and Charlotte's ideas of doing school work in the morning and having afternoons free really have gotten stuck in my brain, but I guess she was mostly working with classrooms rather than a home situation, right? Thanks for your inspiration!

    1. Yes, we have been doing it this way from the beginning and are still doing it now. We actually spread out our school throughout the day (into the blocks I mentioned: independent work, morning basket, etc.), so we do take advantage of first-thing-in-the-morning concentration to do math and binder work (mostly independent subjects for my Y3 students). Also, naps are early here (11:30-1:30), so the big kids still do have a few hours of free time in the afternoons/evenings. And CM did leave for the afternoons some subjects like drawing, dry brush, free read-alouds, etc., which I schedule into "school time," so the afternoons at CM's schools weren't completely free.

      Obviously, part of the reason I don't encounter resistance is that we've always done it this way, yes. That helps! :) And part is that the kids actually like the calmness of our studies without the little ones around. It is a trial (for all of us!) to try to read with toddlers bouncing off the walls! We all genuinely look forward to sitting down with our books and hands-on stuff together when the house is *quiet*--because it is so rare! :)

      Just some of the thought process of why this works for us. Honestly, I don't think I have much of a choice anyway--with this many little ones, even *thinking* about trying to do the bulk of our school in the mornings freaks me out! LOL

  5. Hi Celeste, I've been all over your blog, trying to get my bearings on how to make CM work for our family. I appreciate the effort you've put into documenting how your family does things. I've gotten so many good ideas!

    This is my favorite post so far... I love your idea of having school time scattered through 3 separate points in the day. I have been so, SO resistant to giving up my quiet time. I'm also an introvert and I feel like I need that time to recharge to get through the rest of the day, but I'm going to try to give it up this year (at least most of it ;).

    1. Hi Autumn! I'm so glad to be helpful. :) Scattering our schoolwork started as a necessity because to do it all in one chunk presumes that you don't have the interruptions (fair but consistent!) that life with littles looks like. :) I just don't like to spend all my little kids' time "keeping them busy" while I try to get school done, and that is basically was how things were going to go if I didn't school during naps. And I do really think it's easier for me as well. I'm an introvert too, and I'm also sensitive to too much noise or chaos, so I definitely relate with your quandary! I do try to get quiet snippets of time at other points in the day. But the main benefit is that our school time is genuinely stress-free since my babies are sleeping, and that is important to me because I can then enjoy our school time rather than dreading the logistics of fitting it in!

      I'd love to hear how it goes! Best wishes as you transition to a CM style of learning. :)

    2. Hi Autumn, I've found that nap time school has been a wonderful addition to our daily rhythm and is a far less stressful way to work with my 7 and 9 year olds. I am an introvert too, and I try and take the first 30 min to get a little quiet time for myself (take a short walk by myself, read a bit, something along those lines) and then I work with the boys for about 2 hours. Thankfully my 1 and 3 year olds take long naps! I would like to figure out how to get some more one on one time with my 13 year old... sometimes I find myself wishing the little ones would nap just another 30 or 45 min! :-)

  6. So helpful! We tried during naptime, but that was not the best fit for our crew, but just knowing what your blocks consist of helps me manage our blocks! 😊 Thank you!

    (Ours looks more like Morning Basket, Independent Work, Naptime School (short morning nap or rest for baby & preschooler), midday outside play, late lunch, late naps, free play, late dinner (my husband works late), family reading time, bed.)

    Thank you for all the details you share. They are tremendously helpful!

    1. It is so interesting to see what you guys do! I love getting a peek at others' schedules ("blocks") because I am always fine-tuning ours and/or squirreling ideas away for the future, when needs and dynamics have shifted and I'm looking to rearrange. It is so nice when you find that perfect fit for your family! :)

  7. Hi Celeste! I'm revisiting this post as we are trying to get a better schedule going with all the Little ones. I was curious, what do you feed your kids for breakfast? I'm just asking because I'd love to space our meals out like you do, but my kids are always hungry shortly after breakfast! We generally do oatmeal.

    1. Sorry! I see I left this on the wrong post! LOL. I meant to leave it on your daily schedule post!

    2. Sorry! I see I left this on the wrong post! LOL. I meant to leave it on your daily schedule post!

    3. Sorry -- I replied below, Hollie!

  8. No problem! My kids actually don't need a huge breakfast to last through until lunch -- partly because they're so used to this schedule, I'm sure. These days, they eat at abot 8:30am, then have lunch at about 2pm (so probably the same as what I have listed on that schedule -- we have had a pretty consistent schedule for the past few years). My littles (my 2yo and the baby, of course!) get a cup of milk before they head to nap.

    Their breakfast is one of the following:
    peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
    lunchmeat and cheese sandwiches
    tortilla wraps with lunchmeat and cream cheese
    oatmeal with fruit and maple syrup or brown sugar
    yogurt and granola
    french toast casserole (with leftover stale bread)
    oatmeal bars (pumpkin spice, or cranberry-coconut, or apple-cinnamon)

    Nothing special, but they get the job done. ;) Hope that helps, Hollie!