Loosing the Reins

Loosing_the_ReinsWhen our children were little, they required a lot more guidance in their learning. They needed me to walk them through a daily and weekly routine. They thrived on knowing what to expect next, what each day brought to them. As my littles have grown, however, I’ve come to realize they are wanting a little more control over their learning routine.

I like routine. With all of life’s responsibilities, good planning removes a lot of the stress and headache of trying to get everything done. The danger in too much control is that our children can sometimes feel boxed in, forced to follow a pattern which they had no say in making. As our children get older, it helps to include their input and loosen the reigns.

We started out our learning year just as we have the previous few. We had our routine in place and our electives chosen. Our ‘rotation’ spots were all picked out and mommy had the perfect plan in mind. Somewhere around the beginning of second quarter, my kids started to voice new-found opinions. Would it really be that life altering if they got to choose when they did electives?

It seems instead of doing electives at an appointed time they wanted the freedom to work on these learning areas at will. If they chose to rise earlier than everyone else, they could practice their Spanish then. Free time between learning subjects might be the perfect opportunity to sit at the piano. It wasn’t a matter of avoiding these topics, they simply wanted the freedom to choose the appropriate time themselves. In other words, they wanted a little control.

This didn’t seem like such a far-fetched request. They are getting older and have solid reasons for wanting the bulk of their afternoons free; it’s not like they are pushing off electives only to sit around doing nothing. They still plan to get things done, but in their own time. Afternoons could now be free to bake, sew, play together, and even just rest.

Part of me had doubts, but I wanted to give them a chance. So, we compromised. I would allow them the freedom to choose when they did their electives. If they couldn’t stick with it, and I was having to remind them too often, we would return to our normal routine.

Thus far the plan has worked well. My girls are cruising through their lessons with me and finishing their electives in good time. While my son needs my input and assistance a little more than his sisters do, he too is doing very well. Unless the kids are learning a new piano piece or my son needs a reading partner, they are handling electives entirely on their own. Loosing the reigns and allowing them monitored freedom was a great decision for all of us. The kids are learning to structure their own time wisely and mommy has less to worry about. It’s been a win-win change.

Now, if only I could convince them that 25 minutes if not a half an hour. Cutting corners doesn’t count!

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time,…”
~ Ephesians 5:15-17

Your Turn!: How closely do you monitor your children’s electives? Is this something you work on together or allow them to manage on their own? Share your ideas with us!

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How Elected Are Electives?

How Elected are Electives?When our children were little, we had the freedom to flit between interests at will. One month might find us learning ballet, another we would be watercoloring. As our children have advanced into higher levels of learning, we’ve needed to buckle down and choose classes which last an entire year. Mom thinks Latin might be an essential life skill; Pop wants the children to take piano. During all this decision-making, one has to wonder, how elected are electives for our big kids?

I remember back to when I was in high school. Electives were not chosen by the parents, we students chose our classes. You could select from a range of skills: foreign language, drama, music, art, sports, mechanics, woodshop and more. A councilor was assigned to  guide you into which choice might be best, but the decision was up to us. Should homeschooled children be given the same responsibility?

On one hand, I think it is fair to say we know a little more than our children. We have more work experience, life experience, and learning experience. We should be guiding them into which electives they might take. Part of our job, both as parents and home educators, is to lay a strong foundation and teach them to make wise choices.

On the other hand, forced electives quite possibly might kill my children’s desire to learn. Yes, foreign language is an asset. Every university in the US is telling them they need it and benefit from it. But what if they would rather take Russian instead of that Spanish class mom thinks would be more beneficial? What if they want to take coding instead of a spoken language? Hey, it counts!

Instead of forcing electives on my big kids, perhaps I need a new perspective. Together we should be praying over which classes the Lord desires them to take. As a team, we weigh the benefits of each course and the commitment needed. Then, my children need to take responsibility and make a decision.

An important life skill our big kids need to learn is decision-making. This extends beyond which type of ice cream they will eat. They need to be taking part in tough, consequential life choices which affect their future.

As my children continue to grow, I pray they would respect my opinion and hear my advice. I want what is best for them, and desire to help them succeed in life. However, as my littles grow, my responsibility needs to decrease as theirs becomes greater. When they are given a portion of that responsibility, they gain independence, confidence, and wisdom. They are learning to be adults.

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,”
~ Proverbs 1:5

Your Turn!: Do your children choose their electives?

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Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Five

Fail-to-planI love it when a plan comes together. That is how I feel when I set about planning my routines. Once we put them into place and they start working for us, it is a beautiful thing.

Now that I have my chores, events, and schooling organized; I need to put them all together and get moving. Once the school year starts, I will need to put all of my organizing together and make these separate schedules work together smoothly. This will help me, once again, see where I might need to do some last-minute rearranging and restructuring. It will also help to see where I have some flexible hours, in case anything should come up.

The first things I want to combine are my chores and my schooling. As I mentioned in Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One; my first ministry is to be a keeper of my home. If the house and my kids’ education cannot be merged smoothly, events need to wait. My weekly schedule with both chores and schooling combined usually looks like this:


  • Start load of my laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free


  • Start load of kids’ laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free


  • Start load of linens right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free


  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time
  • Mommy does grocery list and menus
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids
  • Grocery Shopping for Mom


  • Testing on all core subjects (All of our testing is done Fri.)
  • Collect Library Books and Straighten up House
  • Library
  • Errands
  • Lunch
  • Homeschool Co-op or other Homeschooling Event
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids

Normally we are finished with school anywhere from 2-3pm each day, with the exception of Friday. Friday is quite a bit shorter, but I plan it that way on purpose; counting our library time and our homeschooling events as part of their education.

Once this list of chores and schooling as been combined onto one master schedule; I can now add my events. Knowing that I am pretty busy Monday through Thursday, I usually avoid planning events on those days. Should the need arise though, I am free after 3pm and know I am available. Fridays are usually the days that I try to plan anything special or extra.

With life more organized, we are free to have fun events like this one… Renaissance Night with the homeschool group!

As with most things in life, this schedule isn’t perfect. There are days when we take longer to school or there is an unexpected event which causes us to rearrange our schedule; field trips during the week can cause a temporary change for example. This schedule isn’t meant to be concrete and final, simply a structure that I put into place; one that I am free to move around and fit to my family’s needs.

1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” I pray that the Lord would find me faithful in having obeyed His Word; that my family would be a living example of what He has commanded us to do; that He would be glorified and honored through the keeping of my home, the education of my children, and the ministry we accomplish in our free time. It is not for our own name that we do these things, but His.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Four

Fail-to-plan“Mommy, can you explain this?” “Mommy, I don’t get this one!” “Mommy, is this supposed to look like this?”  “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

There are moments when I wish I could figure out how to be five places at once. This way when I am homeschooling my kids, I could stand by each one of them and help them with their needs. (Why five places when you only have four kids, you say? I would be sitting on my husband’s lap, having a fun conversation about his latest piece of artwork.)

While it may be summer time and school won’t “officially” start until August, this might be a good time for me to sit down and figure out an easier way to balance my kids’ schoolwork; since being in five places isn’t logically possible and being in one place can be stressful enough without trying to be in five!

The first thing I want to do is list all of the core curriculum that needs to be covered. 
Each of the kids have a certain amount of schoolwork per day. It helps to list each person’s work separately and then compare. For example:

Trinity – Bible, Spelling, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

Noel  – Bible, Spelling, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

‘Lina  – Bible, Spelling, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

Joseph – Bible, Spelling, Handwriting, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

Just looking at the list above, I can see that most of the subjects are the same, it is only the level of work that will change.

The second thing I want to do is figure out which subjects can be taught as a IMG_8068group. Having the kids come together on a subject cuts down on my teaching time and on my stress level. I usually make a point of doing Bible, History, and Science together. We do the initial lessons together and then work is handed out to each child based on their skill level. The other subjects I will need to balance.

The third thing I want to do is put my curriculum in order of how it will be taught. It always helps to know what direction I am heading in and to set up a routine; it is good for me and the kids. This will also help me figure out the pace at which each of my children will progress. For example, I know that Noel, Trinity, and ‘Lina will be working on Spelling at the same time, but JAG will start with Handwriting. This will make him slower at getting to Language Arts than his sisters, which will buy me some time. Between Trinity and Noel, Noel’s Spelling list is shorter, so I know she will progress to Language Arts faster. Knowing how fast they progress will help me to determine the order of the subjects and how much “bouncing around” I am going to have to do.

The forth thing I want to do is add in my electives. On top of my core curriculum I often have electives that either I or my children would like to cover. Our family has chosen to add Typing, Spanish, Piano, and Coding. Our electives are done in what I call “rotations”. Each of my children will be at a “station”; any one of our three computers or the piano. They are given a certain amount of time at that station and when they hear Mom call out “Switch!”; they know it is time to change.

The last thing I want to do is make sure I schedule in breaks and lunches. Once I know what needs to be covered and the general order of how it will progress, I need to make sure that I start figuring out where to give my kids some breathing room. Schooling is necessary, but having scheduled breaks gives them something to look forward to and a chance to reset their minds for more learning. Our schedule usually goes something like this:

Breakfast and Short Free Time                                                                                        Bible, PE, Spelling, Language, Arithmetic, Geography
History & Science
Lunch Time and Short Free Time
Chores, “Rotations”

Notice that I don’t put down a time for each of these. Our family works on a routine, not a schedule. If we start at 8am, great! If we don’t start till 9am, no sweat! My kids don’t have a certain amount of time per subject, they are only told how much needs to be done. How quickly they work through it is entirely up to them. The faster they work, the sooner they get done, and get to have free time.

While our routine isn’t perfect; it certainly works for us. With much prayer (and much trial and error), we have finally come to a place where the kids are learning at a wonderful rate and Mommy isn’t feeling like a rubber ball.