Our First Week: Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

19 Sep

By Renée Gotcher (with Audrey & Claire Gotcher contributing)

The Sunday before our first “scheduled” day of the new school year, our family spent about eight hours driving back home from Telluride, Colorado — pulling into our driveway as the sun was setting at about 7:30 p.m. After being gone for almost 10 days on a family road trip, staying up late and waking up early, cooking on the campfire and eating in restaurants, and sleeping on air mattresses and couches (in tents and rental condos), we were anything but ready for a structured school day.

So I decided to spend our first week reacclimating to the daily routine — and save my new Heart of Wisdom lesson plans for next week. I kept the agenda loose each day: focusing on one or two key lessons and hands-on applications, having the girls do some review work from last year’s workbooks when I wasn’t working with them directly, and making sure we got to all of our new weekly extracurricular activities (like AWANA and P.E. Plus) on time and with minimal stress.

I also started a new women’s bible study at my church that takes place every Tuesday morning for the next nine weeks, and the girls will accompany me most of the time. Audrey and Claire are helping with the preschool class that Elise is participating in, and we’ll be starting our school agenda after lunch on those days. On top of the schoolwork I had planned and the new weekly extras, we also had to prepare for the monthly elementary presentation day with our local homeschool group, which, of course, happened to be this week as well.

I did implement one new change for this school year: Adding personal bible devotions time to the morning routine. Last year we started out with prayer and a family bible study/discussion time before launching into our daily lesson plan, but because our bible work will be more integrated with other subjects this year due to our curriculum, I thought it would be nice for the girls to have personal devotion time to start their day instead. Right now we’re using Bible Study Planet’s Keys for Kids Daily Study as a starting point for devotion time.

Daily morning devotions is something that I am also working on changing about my day: The women’s bible study I’m doing (Beth Moore’s study of David) is broken up into five daily lessons each week, so I have even more motivation (and accountability) to stay on track with my personal devotion time as well.

I could tell you that I think my mission was accomplished: We got everywhere we needed to be — prepared and only somewhat sleepy (the early bed/wake-up time proved to be a hard transition). But rather than give you my take on how we got back into the swing of things, I decided to let my fifth grader Audrey and third grader Claire share, in their own words, what they thought of our first week back to school.

Here’s what they had to say…

Audrey Gotcher, fifth grade

“I like the new devotions that we are doing in the morning. I also like the P.E. Plus class that we are going to now, because the coach is really nice and I get to see my friends and play team sports with them.

Audrey presents her postcard collection to our homeschool group’s elementary students.

I really like the place where we are having our presentation days now, because it’s bigger and it’s not at a ranch building (like last year) — it’s at one of the family’s homes. It’s more cozy and there are areas to play and relax with my friends. This week I did a presentation on my postcard collection.

I am trying to finish a few of my workbooks from last year too. I really enjoy doing language arts, because it’s teaching me how to write better and choose my words better than I used to. I like doing essays. This week I did an essay about our summer, and I focused on our camping trips. I really like writing and telling people about what I did or what I know about the subject.

I liked going to AWANA because I am in a new book this year that is harder than last year’s book. The verses are really long, but it’s fun to challenge myself. I also get to see a lot of my friends at AWANA and play with them during game time.

The only thing I didn’t like about this week was waking up early. It’s kind of hard for me because I like to stay up reading my books in my own bedroom at night and I like to sleep in. I will try reading my books earlier in the day so I can go to sleep earlier next week.”

Claire Gotcher, third grade

“This week went well. I had fun doing devotions every morning and reading verses by myself. I also liked finishing up some pages in my workbooks from last year, because it is helping me get ready for the new year. I can’t wait until my new math book gets here, because I finished last year’s book and I really like math! I liked going back to AWANA this week, because we get to memorize verses and say them to our leaders.

Claire presents photos from her summer vacation to our homeschool group’s elementary students.

I liked our homeschool group’s presentation day because it was really, really fun, and I did better than last year. I feel like it’s easier to give a presentation than I thought it was. I used to be scared, but now I know that I don’t have to be afraid because no one is going to make fun of me. I did my presentation on my summer vacation, and I talked about my camping trip with my grandparents & cousins, other camping trips I took with my family, the summer camp I did with my friends the Phillips, and how I got to see my Auntie Carol (and her two little dogs, Beatrice and Samson) and our good friends from Durango, like my best friend Kate.

I liked doing P.E. Plus for the first time because our coach is really nice. He also told us a verse before we left. It was: “And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Coach said Jesus said he provided a home for all the animals but he didn’t have a home, he would just go where God led him and stay with people who invited him to stay, or sleep in caves like his cousin John the Baptist. I didn’t know this verse before.

I like that we don’t have to wake up really early like we did before when we had to drive to school. But even though I like sleeping in, I know I am supposed to start getting up earlier. I will try to wake up earlier next week.”

I’m sure Elise, my energetic four-year-old, probably has a lot to say about this week too. She did work on color and shape identification pages, a couple of cutting projects, and lots of free-form drawing and coloring — and tagged along for all of the week’s activities. But she was too busy dressing up her dolls in make-shift outfits (using a new pack of hair ties and scraps of fabric from my husband Kenny’s office) on Friday afternoon to be interviewed. Maybe next week!

— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She currently resides in Castle Rock, Colorado.

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One Response to “Our First Week: Getting Back Into the Swing of Things”

  1. The Unschooling Dad October 2, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Home schooling is really an amazing adventure and can certainly help bring you close with each of your children, thanks Renee Gotcher a whole lot for telling your situation, it may help to pass on the message so more parents could become closer!

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