This is our eighth year of homeschooling. I have said this every year, but I think this is our best year yet. The children are in the seventh, fifth, third, and first grades. This year, we implemented two new ideas. The first change involved our daily schedule. In previous years, I would let the children choose the order in which they completed their various subjects. This usually meant, that they eagerly dove into their favorites first; and the ones they really did not care for were left for last. The usual result was that the subject took much longer to complete than necessary; and in the process, there was much frustration exhibited from a tired student. Mom’s mind and patience were stretched thin; and there was whining, crying, or anger. I thought longingly that it would be nice if I could school everyone together, but I did not think it would work with the age spread of the children.
During the summer, as I prepared for the new school year, I decided we would have a new plan. Everyone would do the same subject at the same time. We would start with arithmetic and language which tend to be the least enjoyed and take the most concentration. There would be a half-hour allotted for each subject. If the subject was not completed, it would be finished at a later time. This schedule has made a huge difference in the atmosphere this year. The children thrive on a routine. Their minds are fresh first thing in the morning when we tackle arithmetic and language. They are motivated to complete their assignments in the time allotted. Everyone is quieter at the same times. Of course, we still have moments here and there of frustration, and we are flexible and adjust when the need arises; but over all, having a routine and sticking to it has enhanced the learning atmosphere.
So here is our daily schedule:
Bible and prayer time
Spelling, Poetry, and Handwriting
Break- snack, exercise, lunch preparation
Read Aloud- Mom
Any uncompleted work
Activity (varies by the day): Riding lessons, Library, Kids Time- includes music and art with homeschool friends, or free time
The other new idea involves are yearly schedule. My husband and I have been intrigued by the various Sabbaths that God laid out for the Israelites in the Old Testament. The one we are most familiar with is the idea of working for six days and having a seventh day of rest. I am so grateful for the gift of this Sabbath. I treasure a day to meet with fellow believers to worship, learn, and fellowship; to have a day to cease from our regular routine; a day to rest and relax. God also ordained several other Sabbaths. On the seventh year the land would rest from growing crops; and in the year of Jubilee, land was to return to the original family that owned it. I am not sure how all this could be incorporated in our modern society, but it is interesting to think about. So last year when I came across the idea of Sabbath schooling on a blog, I was interested. Here is how the idea works for us. We school for six weeks followed by a seventh week where we do not. There are a few exceptions. We started our year the last week of August and schooled for three weeks. We then had a week of family vacation, because that is when it suits my husband to be away from work. We schooled for six weeks and had our first Sabbath week the first week of November. We will school for six more weeks; then take two weeks over Christmas and New Year’s. We will school for six weeks, then have a week off in February; school for six weeks, have a week off in April; then school for seven weeks to finish the year. That will put us to the end of May.
For us a Sabbath week does not necessarily mean we will have a week of vacation and cease from all labor; but it will be a week to rest our minds from the work of book learning and regular routine. The week will allow me to do some tasks that I do not normally have time for, to schedule appointments, and to have some extra family time.
I really enjoyed our first Sabbath week. As usual, I was overly ambitious in my list of things I hoped to accomplish, but I did manage to cross most items off my list. Some activities included pulling up dead plants from the gardens around the house, sorting and trying on the children’s winter clothes, haircuts, “spring” cleaning the classroom and dining room, decluttering the downstairs, cooking off pumpkins for the freezer, and attending a staff meeting with my husband. The children were involved with some of these activities, but they also spent a lot of time playing. One day, our oldest went to work with Dad, and with other volunteers, painted a horse fence. My husband spent some extra hours at home. We watched The Secret Garden and attended a holiday party. When Monday arrived, we were refreshed and ready to dive back into our books, some of us more so than others!
Whether it be homeschooling, parenting, or life in general, it is a journey; and there are always new things to learn and different ideas to explore.