Friday Flashback: (Sort of) Getting in the Groove

13 Jan

By Renée Gotcher

This week I’m participating with a homeschool blog link-up called “The Homeschool Mother’s Journal” hosted by The Homeschool Chick. This week I was all prepared to get back into the groove of our weekly homeschool flow. We almost got there… but as usual, I’m discovering that there’s no such thing as a “well-planned day” in our house (see my Quote of the Week from last week). Here’s what we did accomplish:

In our homeschool this week… speaking of a “well-planned day,” one of the things I did to prepare for this week was pass along my Well-Planned Day Organizer (with seven blank months left to use) to another homeschooling mom and create a new weekly planning page from scratch. Although I loved the beautifully organized pages and planning tools included in my Well-Planned Day Organizer — and found it very helpful last year — I realized quickly into the new school year that it didn’t really fit my new curriculum plan and other changes I have made in the daily flow of teaching my 5th, 3rd and preschool-age daughters.

One reason is that we’re not covering all subjects everyday and doing more in the form of unit studies — which include a lot of core skills work like spelling, vocabulary, reading and writing within the unit study. Another reason is that I wanted to try a new “daily agenda” approach that my sister-in-law Rosanna suggested in her post about time management a few months ago. The idea is that rather than schedule all the bits and parts of each day, I would establish a school day routine — like a daily agenda — that was predictable but still flexible.

I took a quick scan of the Web to see if anyone had already created my perfect planner page, but soon decided it would be easier to just design something on my own to visually capture the new daily structure I saw in my head. Here’s what I came up with:

The plan is that each day, our routine will start with family devotion time right after breakfast (I do my personal devotions first thing in the morning). Then we spend the morning flowing between group work and individual work as it makes sense based on the current unit studies. I’ve been keeping the unit studies to two at a time: Currently, they are Bible history & ancient history, with each child having assignments on their individual lists as well as group activities that relate to our unit.

Then it’s lunch time, followed by lunch clean-up (the girls have assigned tasks) and activity time (which can be outdoor play, a scheduled PE class, or another special activity). The last hour of our school day is when my eldest two complete their individual work and my four-year-old pulls out some educational fun (a craft kit, coloring book, cut-out project, etc.) while I do about an hour of work for my business and/or on our blog.

Then the evening is available for dinner, free time, one home task to accomplish before bed (rotating assigned chores), and some family fun at home or an outside evening activity — like a Mom’s Night Out for me or event for the kids such as Awana.

That’s the plan. So far, it’s a good start. This week, we only had three days that flowed this way. Tuesday was challenging because the Tuesday morning women’s bible study at my church is back in session, and it’s a topic I don’t want to miss (Revelations). That day, we only had time for a math lesson and some language arts after lunch. On Thursday we took an early “holiday” day off and went skiing, since my husband will be out of town all of next week for work and we won’t be taking Monday off.

One thing I am enjoying about this approach is that I don’t feel like I have a huge to-do list in front of me each day just waiting for those empty check boxes to be crossed out. I also feel like I’m getting more accomplished: Instead of staring at a bunch of empty rows of subjects that aren’t being covered every day, I see a list of components that can be easily moved around from day to day when necessary. (If this seems like a planner page you might want to use, here’s a generic PDF version of it: WeeklyAgendaGeneric.)

I’m hopeful that soon the girls will start to feel a familiar rhythm, but right now, they still give me that “I’m done, now what?” stare after completing each assignment. However one routine that has become a daily habit is family devotion time right after breakfast: Since our 25 days of (almost) daily Jesse Tree devotions completed in December (see my post about new Christmas traditions), the girls have come to expect that 15 minutes or so of devotional and prayer time together.

My favorite thing this week was… realizing how much my four-year-old Elise has been absorbing through being around her older sisters while I am teaching them. Earlier this year, she watched me teach our nine-year-old Claire about “Decimal Street” from Math-U-See to fully grasp place value for triple-digit math problems. At the time, Elise picked up the blocks when we were done and proceeded to imitate Claire’s actions in matching the hundreds, tens, and units blocks into their “places” based on the numbered flash cards. I was impressed, but I figured she had just remembered what she saw Claire do and didn’t really understand.

This week, I was surprised to find our next lesson in Elise’s Math-U-See Primer book was about Decimal Street. She had only recently mastered her 0-9 number identification & counting, so I didn’t think tens and hundreds would come so soon. However Elise immediately demonstrated to me that she understood the concept of place values as we started filling our “houses” with the right number of hundreds, tens and unit blocks to create the three-digit numbers. And she had no trouble calling the completed number by the right name (ie. 863 is “eight-hundred-sixty-three”).

There’s something so awe-inspiring about being able to witness an “a-ha” learning moment with your child. It’s like watching them take that first step or say their first word all over again. Those moments are such a treasure, and I look forward to having many more of them with all my girls as we continue our homeschooling journey together.

Photos of the week… come from our family day off on the slopes of Breckenridge. Wednesday’s four fresh inches of snow were a’ callin’ — and we had to answer the call. And for added fun, we got to be part of the world’s largest “Tebow-ing” flash mob to show our support for the inspiring Tim Tebow (a homeschool graduate!) and the playoff success of our Broncos football team. I feel so blessed and grateful that we got a chance to sneak away and enjoy God’s glorious creation together on such a beautiful day while getting some exercise and making some special memories.

My girls and I with the Breckenridge Mascot Ripperoo

Tebow-ing in support of our favorite quarterback Tim Tebow and Saturday’s big game: (We’re in the far right corner next to the Breck sign and the guy with the sunglasses)

We didn’t quite get into a groove, but we did make some headway in getting back on track this week — as well as having some good family fun. I also feel confident about the direction I am taking with our daily agenda, so we’ll see how it holds up in the weeks to come. What about you: Are you back in the groove with your school routine? Are you still taking a vacation — or still trying to recover from it? Let us know what’s going on in your homeschool this week, we’d love to hear about it!

— 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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2 Responses to “Friday Flashback: (Sort of) Getting in the Groove”

  1. Lisa January 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Sounds like a great week! I like your agenda idea. I found a schedule a bit too rigid. I was being hard on myself, too. I found myself saying, “Oh no, it’s 9:37, we must be on math,” etc. I want to be able to have the flexibility of going with their interests and abilities, but also having an agenda of sorts as a guideline. So hard to find a fine line in between, but it looks like you found it. 🙂

    The skiing looks like much fun. We love Tim Tebow here, too, even though we’re Eagles fans. But since they are out of the playoffs, we’re routing for Tim and the Broncos. :-)))

    Hope you have a great weekend!
    Many blessings,
    Lisa

    • Renee Gotcher January 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

      Hi Lisa! Thanks for sharing — I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one! Like you, I was starting to feel discouraged last year when day after day I wasn’t keeping up with our curriculum’s rigid daily schedule. The agenda allows me to make sure I know the general plan for the week, but also leaves room for the unexpected and more organic learning opportunities. Plus I don’t see all these blank spaces in my week, which was making me feel unaccomplished before.

      We feel very blessed to live in Colorado and these amazing mountains! Now that we homeschool (and my husband can take a day off here & there because he works from home), we have more opportunity to run up to the mountains for the day when it’s less crowded. Luckily all my girls love to ski too, so it’s a complete family affair.

      Glad to hear you’ll be rooting for Tim & the Broncos too! What a guy and what a story this season has been, it’s been so fun to watch things unfold. My girls have really gotten into football because of Tim!

      If you have a chance, let me know if you have any questions for us to tackle in next week’s “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler.” Have a great week!

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