Summer School: Scheduling Fun

School has ended; the books are put away, the paperwork is filed, and the heat has begun to hit. With twelve weeks of summer ahead of us; what do we plan to do with our free time? … Summer School!

Learning about sea creatures in Monterey Bay

(Gasp) Summer School? I can hear the groans of children all over America and imagine the questioning looks from parents. Why on earth would I want to do summer school voluntarily? My kids must really be behind, right? (Come on, I know that’s what you are thinking. Be honest.) In all seriousness though, there are several great reasons why we do summer school and none of them have to do with my kids’ lack of education. In fact, just the opposite!

 

Learning about Germany

There are three basic reasons why we do summer school. 

  • My kids and I get to have some great fun together! We enjoy each other’s company and learning becomes a family event that everyone enjoys!
  • My kids don’t lose any of their skills. Studies show that children will lose about twenty-five percent of their skills over a summer vacation. The beginning of a school year can be challenging enough without the kids getting frustrated at their lack of memory. We make sure we work in a small amount of workbook time everyweek. Nothing stressful and nothing too complicated. Just something to keep them “up to par” and prep them for their next grade level.
  • My kids never have an opportunity to get bored. I make sure that I keep our summer activities very hands on and fun! The kids look forward to each new learning day, knowing that Mommy has something fun for them to do. Once we are done with the activities, they know they have the remainder of the day to play and do whatever else they might have planned.

Like all other activities I plan, I try to be very organized about our summers. In order to do this, I create a routine for myself. This helps me to know on which days we are doing things and which events I am going to prep for. Here is our basic routine for summer:

  • Monday-Summer Vacation Workbooks/Hands on Geography
  • Tuesday-Science Experiments
  • Wednesday-Summer Vacation Workbooks/Fair Projects
  • Thursday-Field Trip (if available)/Library Journals for Summer Reading Program
  • Friday-Library/Park Day or Friend Visit

Now that I have our routine in place, I will start plugging in the details. Interested? Come back tomorrow for our list of summer workbook suggestions!

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:

Monday:

  • 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

Tuesday:

  • 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

Wednesday:

  • 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

Thursday:

  • 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

Friday:

  • 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
Break
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.

 

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Three

Fail-to-planThis week is full of activities; yesterday we had a field trip, today I had a doctor appointment, tomorrow is grocery shopping and dental appointments, and don’t even get me started on this weekend. Not every week is this busy, but when it is, there are some key things that I can do to ensure events are as stress-free as possible.

Before planning out an event, there are some questions I should ask myself:        

•Did I pray about this? (Perhaps the Lord has other plans?)                                            •Did my husband say it was okay? (As a Christian wife, I respectfully keep my husband   aware of all that I plan to do.)                                                                                            •Will it take away from my first responsibility? (My first job is to be the Keeper of my home.  If this event will prevent me from doing that, I need to rethink going.)                               •Will my family benefit from the event? (Not all good ideas are good for us.)                  •Will I stress out trying to make the event possible? (Do I already have too many events planned on the same day?)

If my event has passed “inspection”; off to the calendar I go. I prefer to do my scheduling on my computer, there I can schedule email reminders and sinc with my iPod. It will also allow me to add notes regarding the event, such as “pack swimsuits”.

Prep for the event by getting any necessary materials ahead of time. Certain events, such as potlucks, often require me to bring along some food. When putting the event on my calendar, I will make sure to add these items onto my grocery list. If I have a birthday present to purchase, that will be added to my errand list. (See Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One) The day before the event, I usually try to make sure my car has enough fuel; it is always a pain to get in the car and realize I now have to stop for gas… talk about stress!

On the day of the event, I map it out. Knowing what time your event starts is helpful, IMG_8050but (especially having kids) that information isn’t always enough. How long will it take me to get to the event? How long will it take me to get out the door? How long does it take to straighten up my house and kids before heading out the door? Do I have anything else going that morning that also needs to be done? See what I mean; lots of factors will determine how the day goes. I don’t like leaving things to chance; therefore I like to “work backwards”. It looks something like this:

Event Time:          3:00pm (With a drive time of 1hr.)

Leave Time:         1:45pm ( I like to have extra time.)

Kids shoes on:     1:30pm (Plenty of time to brush teeth, hair, shoes on, and get in car.)

Straighten House:1:00pm(If not decent, I don’t leave.I can’t tell you how often that pays off.)

Lunch:                  12:00 (Plenty of time to eat in peace, wash up, and grab food/presents.)

This schedule works very well for morning events too. I simply plug in my start time and “work backwards”. This will help me determine what time I need to wake up, what time my kids need to be up, and everything else that needs to get done before heading out the door.

Because my event was organized to the best of my ability, I am not rushing around trying to do things last minute. Everything I need is set in place and ready to go.  Barring any last minute changes, I am free to enjoy my day and anticipate a wonderful afternoon.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One

Fail-to-planRecently a friend who is fairly new to homeschooling gave me a call. She had a lot of questions regarding homeschooling, but mainly her problem seemed to be this, “How do I do it all? How do I clean my house, do my laundry, school my kids, do a million other things, and still remain sane?” My one resounding answer was this: organization! As the old adage goes, “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Now, let me be very clear. I am not perfect, nor do I always plan perfectly. There are many times that I have had to restructure my plan. Things change and so do my family’s needs, but the saying still stands true; I will not accomplish anything if I don’t at least have the building blocks set in place.

That being said, how do we go about setting up our schedules? First things first, know what your priorities are! Being a Christian wife and mom, my priorities are thus: Being a Godly woman, being a Godly wife, and then being a Godly mother. Taking this into account, the first thing I want to do is sit down with a calendar (daily and monthly) and start putting things in place.

The first thing I want to schedule in is my time with God. Some women prefer to do this at the beginning of their day. Great! Some of us prefer lunchtime or when the kiddos are finally in bed. No matter when you decide to do it, make a point of putting it down. Your relationship with God must be firmly in place; from Him will you gain the wisdom and peace to proceed with the rest.

The next thing I might want to schedule in, is chores. The first ministry that I have been given is to be a Keeper of the Home. The Lord has shown me this must come first. If my home is not in order, I have no business being outside of my home doing other things. My chore schedule is as follows (I use this as an example, by all means do what fits your lifestyle, not mine!):

Monday: adult laundry/bathrooms                                                                           Tuesday: children’s laundry/floors and dusting                                                      Wednesday: linens/bathrooms                                                                                  Thursday: grocery list finalized/menu                                                                            Friday: library/errands

Being that it is currently summer time, now is my opportunity to put this schedule to the Fail to Plan: Part Onetest. Is this working for me? Perhaps I need to change some days around to make things work better. I also want to start taking notice of when is the best time to do my chores. I don’t necessarily set a specific time, but setting up blocks of time gives me a general idea of where I might have “free time”.

Chores being designated and set in place, I now want to start having the kiddos get in on the game. Even my youngest who is only five helps out the family. Each of my kiddos is given a task and we all work until the job is done. Our kids need to learn the value of a job well done, working together, and being responsible. Mommy handles the washing of the laundry, but the kiddos help fold and put their own laundry away. Mommy cleans the basins, but the kiddos do the mirrors, floors, and counters in the bathrooms. We have the joy of working side by side and encouraging each other in doing a good job. They will often hear me saying, “Good job, Joseph! Keep it up honey, you are going to be a pro at keeping your home when you are a mommy, Trinity!” The kids will learn to enjoy their chores, have fun working together, and take pride in their work.

Two things I should point out though. One; while the kids are young, they are going to make mistakes. Try not to clean up their messes in front of them. Wait until they are out of sight and preoccupied, then straighten things up. This will prevent them from getting discouraged, but still keep your house to the level of clean you might like. The second is this, be prepared that the kids will complain from time to time. Let’s be honest; work is work! Don’t give in and do the chores yourself! You are only making your job harder in the long run and robbing them of the joy of responsibility.

Once I have my chores pretty much down, then I will be free to start adding other events onto my calendar; slowly and with much prayer.