Tag Archives: schedules

Ask a NextGen Homeschooler: How do you schedule your day?

10 Feb

Welcome to “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler…” It’s your turn to ask the authors of NextGen Homeschool — four formerly homeschooled moms who are now homeschooling our children — to weigh in on your homeschooling questions. From the practical to the personal, all questions are welcome — whether you’re a current homeschooler or just homeschooling curious!

This week’s question is one that we see posted almost daily to the many online homeschooling Web sites, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds:

How early do you start your homeschool day? How long do you spend on each subject, and how long does your homeschool day last?

The basic question here is scheduling: What does a day in the life of your homeschool look like, and what can I learn from your experience? Just like curriculum and lesson planning, we all have a unique answer to this question. But we hope that giving you a peek into our days — as varied as they might be — will provide a few tips, new ideas, insight and encouragement as you shape your own homeschooling agenda.

NextGen Author Rosanna Ward
Was homeschooled since 8th grade
Began homeschooling in 2005

How early do we start our homeschool day? Well, even though our family has owned a donut shop for more than 13 years (which means a very early start to our business day), I am still not a morning person. The children and I usually get up somewhere between 7:30-8:30 a.m., get dressed and eat breakfast, and try to start school at about 9:00 a.m. Sometimes it’s closer to 10:00 a.m.

I used to try to stick to a strict schedule, but invariably things come up that throw off this type of schedule. So it just works better for us to have a routine and be flexible. For instance, my husband usually gets home from our donut shop between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. He likes to spend time with the boys before he takes his nap, which means our school work gets pushed back for a little bit.

How long do we spend on any subject? This year I have a high school senior who only has four classes (and is very independent) and a first grader. Joel, my first grader, spends about 10 minutes on Bible (Alpha Omega workbook), then 30 minutes on math, which includes a lesson or two in Horizons and some Addition Facts Practice. After math, he takes a short break. Then we read out of his reader (currently Christian Liberty Press Nature Reader 1), I read a story to him, and he does some printing practice and a phonics work page (also Horizons).

We just started a journal with Joel, where he writes the day and date, copies a sentence about his day, and draws a picture. After English, which takes about 30 minutes, we break for lunch.  After lunch, we try to sit back down for a lesson in history and/or science (Alpha Omega workbooks). This might take another 15 to 30 minutes.

On Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays, we go to my sister Elizabeth’s house to have school with her family. When there, Joel does history, geography, sometimes a science experiment, and music theory with Elizabeth’s girls — besides his math and English work. On Mondays he goes golfing with his dad after lunch, and on Thursday he has P.E. after lunch.

How long do we homeschool each day? Actual school work time fluctuates. On a good school day, I’d estimate that it’s between one to two hours of focused work time. But I believe learning happens all the time. Joel has learned math while golfing with his dad, and his understanding of measurement and distance is way beyond his years. He also understands weather conditions better than many first graders.

One of the great things about being a homeschool parent is looking for those teachable moments in life, whether it is during official “school” hours or any other time. And when your child has a passion for learning, you can wrap his education around that passion—  and his chances of both learning and remembering what is learned will increase dramatically.

NextGen Editor Renée Gotcher
Was homeschooled in 11-12th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010

I recently wrote a “Day in the Life” post as part of “Q&A Friday: Your Day in the Life” at Simple Homeschool.net. But the day I shared wasn’t exactly typical, and I know that when I was a prospective homeschooler asking this same question, what I was really asking veteran homeschooling moms was what does this homeschooling life really look like on a day-to-day basis, and can I do it?

I quickly discovered that the short answer is: It depends! It depends on your family size, the ages of your children, the working schedules you and your spouse keep, your location and access to outside resources and enrichment programs, what curriculum you choose, what teaching approach you take, and so on and so forth. If you embrace this concept of “choose your own homeschooling adventure” and the fact that it is absolutely, completely up to you, it’s quite liberating — and even energizing! So here’s what our typical daily schedule/routine looks like these days…

How early do we start our homeschool day? I will admit in cyberspace print that we do not start our homeschool day in the early morning hours that are typical to traditional school days. Or typical to morning people. Because morning people we are not! Even when the girls were infants, they slept past nine most mornings. And nothing has changed.

When my daughters attended private school in Durango, we were fortunate that our school day started a full half-hour later than the public schools — 8:20 a.m. instead of 7:50 a.m. And even with that extra half-hour of sleep, it was a daily struggle to pull my then first-grade and third-grade daughters out of their deep sleep to quickly dress, eat breakfast, and hop in the car for a 10-15 minute drive down the mountain to school. They never enjoyed it, and frankly, neither did I!

So when we proposed the idea of homeschooling to our girls, their first questions were: Does that mean we won’t have to get up early? And can we stay in our pajamas? Ah, girls after my own heart! I decided the answer was yes — as much as possible.

Most days, we start family devotion time and school work around 10-10:30 a.m. By this point in the morning, everyone is fed and fully awake, and I’ve had enough coffee, done my personal devotions, and checked e-mail. PJs are sometimes still on if there are no afternoon activities on the schedule, otherwise the girls are also dressed by now. Occasionally we start earlier when there’s a field trip or other special outing on the morning agenda.

How long do we spend on any subject? Last year I used a curriculum that came with a lesson plan where we covered almost every subject every day, breaking up the day into lots of tiny segments. It sounded like a good idea to me, and I thought my girls would appreciate the variety throughout the day, but it turns out that when given the opportunity, the girls like to get very focused on the subjects they enjoy — and don’t want to be interrupted to move on to the next task until they are “done” with their work. And “done” means different things to all three of them.

So I no longer break up our days into subject-specific segments. Instead, I have divided up our day into group work and individual time. The morning section of the day (after breakfast) is carved out for group interaction: We sit around the couch for family devotions, then we do unit study work together around the dining room table in the front room (separate from our kitchen). Then in the afternoon, we shift into individual work mode, which includes math and grade-specific language arts, and I work with each of the girls one on one.

Unit studies include work that covers many basic “subjects” such as reading, vocabulary, memorization, art, history, science, geography — even some math at times. We do some lecture and discussion, followed by a video or some reading, some writing work, and creative projects known as “expand” work in our Heart of Wisdom lesson plan, where they get to choose from a menu of options to apply what they’ve just learned in a creative form that they can use to “explain” the information to someone else later. Unit study time can take from one to two hours, depending on how creative the girls get with their unit projects and how hard it becomes for them to put it down for a lunch break.

After lunch, I give the girls some free time to play in the backyard or do something fun indoors to work out some of their energy. Once a week, the girls also participate with a homeschool P.E. program for an hour immediately following lunch.

During our individual study time, all three girls (including my four-year-old) use Math-U-See — that involves watching a DVD lesson and practicing with manipulatives with me, then completing math worksheets on their own. While I’m doing math with one, the other is working on language arts and reading independently, and then we swap. Then I check back in with both older girls again after they’ve completed their written/independent work. We usually spend about two hours in this mode, then the girls have free time again or a late afternoon activity.

This is also when I get hands-on learning time with my 4-year-old Elise. For most of the day, I let our preschooler do what she is interested in doing alongside her 3rd- and 5th-grade sisters — and I’m surprised how much she is learning by osmosis. While we’re doing our unit studies, she may listen with focus and participate with any work that involves coloring and art. Or she’ll just play nearby and listen casually. Either way, she blows us away with the information she can recite later! I’m pretty sure she’s an auditory learner.

However, while the older girls are working independently, I look for opportunities to sit down with Elise for some “focused” lessons. Sometimes she’ll come up to me and say, “I want to do my math now!” Other times, I’ll have to make suggestions, like “Would you like to read with me right now?” Our lessons are a short 15-minutes and are always followed by a progress sticker on her subjects charts (posted in our homeschool area), because she is big on instant recognition. If she’s not excited about doing a formal lesson when I am free, then we read together, play educational games, make up new ways to use the math manipulatives, or do a craft that involves my support, or just role play with her Princess dolls.

How long do we homeschool each day? My elementary age girls easily spend at least 3-4 hours on school work of some kind each day. On days that we have enrichment activities, they spend less time doing table work with me, but will do independent work (such as reading, writing, or finishing a creative project) in the late afternoons. Even though we’re not “scheduling” time to specifically cover each subject everyday, I am finding that we’re doing more than enough with this approach — and most important, the girls are really engaged with their work!

I have also come to realize that schooling doesn’t have to be limited to traditional education activities. So our days are filled with just as much informal learning as structured time. Whether it’s helping with the cooking, reading to younger sister, spontaneous Web research on a topic of personal interest, or watching a Discovery channel show with dad when he’s done working, the girls continue to learn beyond our specified school time.

Learning is everywhere, and life is full of experiences that teach and grow our children just as much as books, worksheets, and notebooks full of finished assignments. Learning is a journey, and I’m very thankful that my girls are truly enjoying the journey — and that I’m along for the ride.

NextGen Author Cristina Eklund
Was homeschooled since the 6th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010

How early do we start our homeschool day, and how long do we spend on each subject? We start between 8:30-9:00 a.m. That half hour is spent mostly making beds, reading a devotion or finishing up breakfast — unless I know we have to be out of the house by 10 to get somewhere (a field trip, etc.). In that case, we will start a little earlier.

Since I follow the Charlotte Mason method and have a six-year-old boy, I have found that short lessons (10 to 15 minutes) and changing up the “type of learning” (i.e. workbook, manipulatives, reading, games) works best for us. So we do about 30 minutes on Language Arts (divided into 10 minutes of handwriting, 10 minutes of phonics/sight word lessons, and 10 minutes of reading or games). Then we spend 10 to 15 minutes on a math lesson, 10 to 15 minutes of math games/manipulative practice, 15 minutes of reading a science/history lesson, 15  minutes doing a science/history activity (sometimes this means exploring together outside), 15 minutes of reading good literature (fairy tales/fables/Five In A Row books/Beatrix Potter), 15 minutes memorizing poetry/songs/bible or drawing/art/listening to the composer of the month.

All of these lesson types are interchangeable and can take place in any order during our morning school time. After this period of the day, we have free time (outside) unless we go to the library or park, until lunch time. I also like to read to the kids during lunch (a short non-picture book to get them used to listening without needing pictures to entertain). Because I have both a preschooler (my daughter Arielle) and Kindergarten/1st grader (my son Elijah), I’m a lot more hands on than I know I would be with children who are in 3rd grade and beyond.

How long do we homeschool each day? We try to end our “sit down” lessons by 11 a.m. Of course, I also expect that more reading together, as well as piano practice and Spanish review time, may take place in 15-minute increments later in the day, after nap/quiet time (which ends around 3:00ish). But those activities are not very “schoolish.” They are activities that we can do together to entertain during the downtime, rather than turning to a TV or computer — we save those privileges for “diligence rewards.”

One day a week, we attend a local co-op class from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., then go to the park afterward. All classes within that co-op time are 30 minutes long, and include subjects such as art, science, Bible, Spanish, and tea time for learning manners. They are designed for K-6th grade level students.

NextGen Author Elizabeth Thomas
Was homeschooled from K-12
Began homeschooling in 2009

How early do we start our homeschool day? We start our homeschool time at about 8:00 a.m. on good days, but most of the time, it’s by about 9:00 a.m. We start with Bible and pray, then we dive into math — math is a subject we work on everyday.

How long do we spend on any subject? This year we have been spending about an hour on each subject. But because I have one daughter with special education needs in the areas of reading and math, most of the time we end up spending longer on these two subjects. Right now I seem to be spending about two hours just doing math (using Saxon Math) with all four girls every morning — I get a little sick of it, but I just try not to watch the clock, especially if the girls are really needing the extra time with something.

I really do try to cover each subject every day, but my focus will change from week to week. For example, I like to leave science for the summer time — because it’s just a lot easier that way and the girls seem to get a lot more out of it — but during the school year, we’ll still do something science-related once a week and read science-related books from time to time. I use Shurley English with all the girls, and we do the same history lesson — and the girls will do work that is appropriate to their grade levels. This year, we have focused on American history together using the History of US books, which makes teaching history easier for me, but they still have workbooks that are grade-specific to work on.

How long do we homeschool each day? We usually do not finish as early as I would like. I like to say we never finish… or at least I don’t! On days when I have too much to do and can’t teach as long as I normally would, I will give the girls some life skills work, workbooks, and reading to do. I also keep a bag in my car full of stuff the girls can work on — even for a fast trip to the doctor, the girls will still have something to do.

Balancing my time with all four girls and everything else we have to do is a lot like juggling to me! Sometimes it feels like a huge mess, but it works out somehow.

_________

What does your homeschooling day look like? How have your teaching approach, curriculum choice, age of your children, and family likes/dislikes influenced your daily homeschool routine or schedule?

We are also taking NEW questions for upcoming “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler” features. Send your questions to nextgenhomeschool@gmail.com or post them as comments to this article (and let us know if it’s OK to quote you if we use your question). We look forward to responding to your homeschooling questions!

The Gotcher Family’s Homeschool “Day in the Life”

4 Feb

By Renée Gotcher

This week I’m participating in Q&A Friday at Simple Homeschool, and this week’s topic is Your Homeschool “Day in the Life.” I had planned to write earlier this week but a little bout of illness went through the family, so I am literally writing about today. Funny thing is, I couldn’t have picked a better day: Although today didn’t exactly reflect a “typical” day in our homeschooling life, it did reflect many of the reasons we’ve come to LOVE our homeschooling life.

I’m the mother of three girls ages eleven, nine and four, and we’re halfway through our second year of homeschooling. Aside from homeschooling full time, I also run a part-time beauty consulting business and fledgling writing business (including writing and editing this blog with my sister and two sisters in law). My husband travels a lot for work, and those weeks are definitely my biggest challenge. But the trade-off is that he works from his home office upstairs the rest of the time. We enjoy eating lunch together, giving him mini-presentations of finished work throughout the day, and I occasionally pop-in on him for some adult conversation when I’m having “a moment” of my own. For that, I’m very grateful!

We’ve done a little bit of everything schedule-wise since we began homeschooling shortly after moving to Castle Rock, Colo., in 2010. Right now, I would say that we follow a daily “agenda” rather than a formal schedule, and days vary based on participation with our local homeschool group’s enrichment activities, my ladies bible study at church, field trips, and these days, sneaking away to ski when the freshly powdered slopes are beckoning. I realized that any day is just as good as the next to reflect a “day in the life” for us, because our homeschooling journey is very much a day-to-day adventure, with some weekly and daily routines sprinkled in.

So here’s a peek into our fabulous Friday.

Sometime early this morning… I woke to the glowing white light of a rising sun behind a thick Colorado snowstorm. We were due to have blizzard conditions today, and I couldn’t wait to peek through the sliver in the drapes beaming brightly to see how much snow had accumulated in our yard overnight. Not surprisingly, the answer was a lot!

I love a good snow day, but I’m not one to jump up and start shoveling at the crack of dawn. So I rolled over and blissfully returned to sleep for another hour or so. Snow days are usually sleep-in days in our family.

Sometime later this morning… I woke to the sounds of a neighbor’s snow blower buzzing and the scraping of the shovel as my husband cleared out our driveway. I knew he’d be hitting the shower soon, so I got up to take mine and rouse the girls out of their sound slumber. Snow days are also pajama days, so the girls bundled up in fluffy robes and came downstairs — frazzled morning hair and all — to eat before doing anything else.

Breakfast is a simple affair: Cereal, oatmeal, or a granola yogurt parfait, and coffee for mom and dad. We occasionally do pancake Fridays, but today it was a quick bowl of cereal so we could get on with our day — and the fun that was waiting outside in the pristine snow drifts.

For a brief moment, I contemplated calling a full-fledged snow day, which usually means movies and/or board game marathons by the fire and lots of snow play with the neighborhood kids. But since we’d already taken Monday off this week to ski, I told the girls we’d do one project and save the snow day fun for after lunch.

One “agenda” item that has become a regular part of our daily routine is family devotion time. This January, I started using Bruce Wilkinson’s “Family Walk” 52-Week Devotional. Each week is broken into five daily devotions based on a theme and Bible memory verse of the week. We gather around the couch, read the devotional story of the day, followed by a scripture reading (my 11-year-old Audrey and 9-year-old Claire take turns), discussion questions and prayer.

This week our topic has been “leisure” — who knew the Bible had something to say about leisure? It’s been really interesting, to say the least, and seemed especially fitting today because this was going to be a great opportunity to practice one of the principles we’ve learned: To embrace the gift of each day by simply enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.

After devotions… we start what I would call “table time” — simply because we gather around the large front room dining table (which also gets the best natural light) to do school work together. Right now we’re wrapping up a history unit on Ancient Mesopotamia using Heart of Wisdom’s Internet-linked Mesopotamia Unit Study. It’s taken us longer than I was planning, but I’m trying to go with the flow — something that I wanted to change from our experience last year — because my girls love history and want to savor it a bit with extra projects, movies, Internet research and reading.

While I work on unit studies with Audrey and Claire, my 4-year-old Elise (our little entertainer) usually hangs out and does whatever she is interested in. If there’s a coloring page or printout associated with the unit, I’ll give her the same sheet and let her do what she wants with it. Sometimes she hangs on every word of a group reading and neatly colors in the lines of the printout. Other times, she’ll bring down her dolls and role play with them under the table, or persistently ask if she can use my laptop to play with her Webkinz. Today, I gave in and let her play while I helped the other girls get started on their work.

My eldest two are creating lapbooks to showcase personally chosen highlights from the journey back in time to Ancient Mesopotamia. All of my girls love anything that involves scrapbook paper, stickers, coloring utensils and glue, so the decision to hold off on the snow day was immediately accepted. Even Elise wanted to get involved, helping the girls select coordinating paper patterns and choose templates for each feature in their lapbooks. They quickly dove into the cutting and pasting and crafting.

We just celebrated Audrey’s birthday this month, and one of her gifts from us (money well spent!) was a new desk for her bedroom. The new desk has become invaluable for the times when sibling rivalry arises during table time. Both Audrey and Claire are competitive and sometimes critical of each other — a habit that I’m praying for wisdom to break — but today proved no different than any given day. As soon as they began to argue over who was using which template and why they couldn’t just share, I packed up Audrey’s paper and sent her to her beautiful new desk to “spread out” her stuff and work privately.

She was happy, Claire was happy, peace was restored, and quickly, much progress was made on the lapbooks.

Before I knew it, the lunch hour had come and gone… again! It’s not uncommon for us to completely miss a typical noon-time lunch because the girls are so engrossed with their work. Today, they were being particularly meticulous with the lapbooks, so I finally called a “time out” for lunch.

One thing I’ve tried to do to make lunch time more simple is cook extra at dinnertime so we can warm up leftovers. My husband has never been a big fan of leftovers, but I love the concept — especially when it means we can have a filling, well-rounded meal the next day in just a few warm-up minutes. So whenever possible, we make a double batch and enjoy the leftovers at lunch.

We warmed up last night’s chili, but it turned out there wasn’t quite enough to fill everyone’s tummy. For those moments, I resort to a quick fix like Annie’s Mac & Cheese or — I’ll admit it — Ramen noodles. What can I say, the girls love it and it takes just three minutes to cook! Today, it was Ramen to the rescue.

After lunch… the girls surprisingly asked to resume working on their lapbooks — even after one of the neighborhood girls came to the door requesting their participation in the snow-cave building taking place on our corner. This is one of those moments when I know that I love homeschooling: The girls genuinely love to learn! To see them put off snow play because they are captivated by their school work is priceless.

On a “typical” day, we usually shift into individual work after lunch. I spend time with each of the girls working on math, language arts, and other grade-specific work, while they individually complete reading, writing or math assignments. I also do more hands-on work with my preschooler Elise, which includes reading and math lessons, games and projects. I’m currently using “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” and Math-U-See’s Primer — when she’s willing — along with letter/number coloring books, cutting projects, card games, etc.

About an hour later… the girls were done with the “first half” of lapbook-making and ready to call it a day. I was so glad, because I personally couldn’t wait to get outside and start having some snow day fun myself. So we bundled up and took a short hike around the corner to pick up another homeschooling friend.

Along the way, we spotted an unexpected gift: We were being watched by two cautious does standing in the greenbelt beyond our cul-de-sac, peeking around a fence. We paused to savor this quiet moment meant just for us, watching God’s graceful creatures watching us, then proceeded back home to join in the construction of snow caves and sled runs.

For me, being in the presence of the pure white, sparkling snow crystals, the blanket of quiet over serene streets, watching chunky flakes drift slowly, then quickly, then slowly again, over and over, is like heaven on earth. I am still not sure how this California girl turned into a Rocky Mountain snow lover, but I am really grateful to not only love it, but live in it!

Another reason why I love homeschooling: The freedom to shape our schedule around the things we love, the things that bring us joy and family togetherness. Whether it’s enjoying a productive snow day on our own terms, escaping to the mountains on a traffic-free weekday to hit the slopes or take a hike, spending more time on the subjects that capture my girls’ imaginations, or starting every day with God’s word, we homeschoolers have the freedom to make those choices for our families.

Yes, it’s a lot of work — I get that comment a lot from both my working mom and stay-at-home mom friends. And truth be told, I agree with them: It’s work! I’m not doing much else right now when it comes to my businesses, and I’m no Martha Stewart around the house. However, I am one of those people who would rather do one thing well than many things mediocre. That one thing for me right now is homeschooling.

I believe God has called me to make homeschooling my mission, and I’m willing to do the work — and make the necessary sacrifices — for the privilege of having days like today. It’s a responsibility like no other, but His blessings are new every morning. Days like today may not be typical, but they are full of blessings. Great is thy faithfulness, oh Lord!

— 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.

This post is part of a reader feedback link-up at Simple Homeschool’s “Day in the Life” series. See “Q&A Friday: YOUR Homeschool Day in the Life” for insight from other homeschooling moms across the country on this topic! We are also linked up with The Homeschool Chick’s Homeschool Mother’s Journal and “Day in the Life” Thursdays on So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler?

         

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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