Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Day in the Life of Homeschooling

In anticipation of Simple Homeschool's Day in the Life Community Link Up next week, I figured that it would be a good exercise for me to record what happens on a "typical" day of school with the sprouts. I took notes throughout our day yesterday, and this is what we did...

The day began with me getting up (before the kids!) to get dressed, make some coffee, feed the cat, and pack my husband's lunch before he left for work. By the time that was done, the kids were coming downstairs for the morning.

I put on "Here Comes the Science" radio from my Google Music account for everyone to listen to while I re-heated leftover biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast.

After we ate and cleared the breakfast dishes off of the table, I brought out our Morning Basket that we formed at the start of the year. The sprouts pulled out their new sticker books that they'd gotten as gifts from Nana over the weekend. As they played with their books (engaging in lots of fine-motor practice), I paused the music and continued reading Hans Christian Andersen's version of "The Mermaid" that we had started last Friday as part of an ongoing exploration of traditional tales.

We made it through about 15 pages of the tale before the sprouts started getting restless, so I switched gears to helping First Sprout with practice on telling time as Second Sprout finished a design in her sticker book. Then, we piled up on the couch to read a chapter from Life of Fred-- we're just on the first book of the elementary math series, but we all love it! The two older sprouts each have a dry-erase board to doodle on while I read, and then they use the board to "play along" with Fred at the end of the chapter. During this time, Third Sprout is entertaining herself with her own dry-erase book on the floor nearby.

After Life of Fred, I helped Second Sprout with a math practice page on counting numbers to 10. I've found that the sprouts seem to prefer doing their practice pages in dry-erase books (like The Priddy Books) more than conventional worksheets. I'm not sure why it makes a difference, but I'll take it if it works!

Our Morning Basket routine is still pretty short and sweet, so at this point we switched gears into Project Time. The older sprouts have shown a renewed interest in Pokemon as a part of their project work, so they asked to play their Pokemon games on the 3DS. They began busily comparing their Pokemon rosters, so I took the opportunity to start a load of laundry and wash the breakfast dishes.

I had some overly ripe bananas, so I invited Third Sprout to join me in baking some yummy banana oatmeal muffins. She helped me count scoops, pour ingredients, and mix everything together in the bowl. She also helped portion the batter out into the muffin tins, and it was super nice to have that time working quietly alone with her.

Once the muffins were in the oven, the bigger sprouts asked to turn on a series of Disney animated short films on Netflix that include several wonderful folk tales, plus some original stories (most importantly, Frozen Fever). It includes a stunning versions of "John Henry" and Hans Christian Andersen's "Little Match Seller," so I felt like that was a good fit with our study of traditional tales.

With the sprouts absorbed in their movie, I decided to sneak in my own project work by listening to Podcast #2 on Read-Aloud Revival with Sarah Mackenzie while I cleaned up the dishes from baking. By then it was time for lunch, so the sprouts paused their movie to eat some freshly-baked muffins with yogurt and sliced apples.

Meals are generally a great time for generating discussion, and this particular lunch was no exception! As we were making plans for the afternoon, the topic of weather came up. Second Sprout wanted to know what would happen if the temperature reached 199 million degrees, and we discovered that would be much hotter than even the temperature of the sun. We also talked about the temperature where we live compared to places like Florida or the desert. The older sprouts then launched into a metaphysical discussion of whether people could actually live in the desert or whether they would simply die and "live" as spirits instead. We linked the talk about spirits back into our discussion of "The Mermaid" from that morning since one of her motivations in the story is to gain an immortal soul. That led to questions about sea foam, a Google images search, and speculation as to whether you could stack enough seafoam to reach outer space. First Sprout was adamant that stacking seafoam was unrealistic, and wanted to know more about rockets that actually go into space. We ended up watching this compilation video of rocket launches for the remainder of lunch.

Let me just stop here and say that I don't know how we'd manage this eclectic, delight-led learning without my smart phone or Google. So, thank you Google (and my tech-oriented husband who helps me make sure all of this stuff is working!).

After cleaning up lunch, the sprouts all got dressed while I threw some things into the Crock-Pot for dinner. We decided to take some of our banana oatmeal muffins to a friend with a 3-week-old baby (don't worry, she knew we were coming). Thankfully the weather was lovely, and we were able to make the 20-minute walk without too much trouble. We enjoyed the sunshine while the older sprouts filled me in on the ballet version of Rapunzel they had seen over the weekend with their Nana. First Sprout talked through a really detailed analysis of the similarities and differences between the ballet, the Tangled movie, and the folktale.

Most of the afternoon was spent visiting our friend, snuggling the new baby, and playing with her bigger kids when they returned home from school. We didn't make back it home until nearly 5 o'clock, which gave me just enough time to put the finishing touches on dinner while the sprouts finished watching their Disney animated shorts from earlier. By 6 o'clock, my husband was home and we had family dinner.

It wouldn't necessarily be true to call this a "typical" day of homeschooling because all of our days end up looking so differently. We do lean toward project-based homeschooling and even to unschooling, so the only really structured time is first thing after breakfast when we go through our Morning Basket. Otherwise, we practice research and discussion habits that we carry with us through everything we do during the day. I hope you've enjoyed taking a little peek into what "A Day in the Life of Homeschooling" looks like for us.

Until next time,

Happy Learning!

Monday, January 4, 2016

A New-ish Year

'Tis the season for setting goals and making resolutions. Personally, I prefer a more year-round approach to personal growth and learning through change, but sometimes that return from a nice, long holiday break provides a great opportunity to experiment.

This year, I am planning to try some new things in our homeschooling life and in my mama life (as if those two things could ever really be separate) and continuing other things that we started to experiment with last year. Here are a few highlights:

Morning Basket

I have been mulling over the idea of a Morning Basket for awhile after listening to some of these amazing podcasts from Ed Snapshots; however, our actual Morning Basket will be brand new to our homeschool routine in 2016. Previously, I did a more traditional, school-like morning meeting with calendar time, counting days of school, graphing the weather, and so on. As it turns outs, that really was not working for the sprouts, and they were tuning me out before the day even started. I like the idea of the Morning Basket as gentler and more connected way to start the day. A lot of ideas for the basket include religious texts, but as secular homeschoolers, I prefer some of the ideas presented in this blog post from Choosing Our Own Adventures. Our basket is not nearly so extensive-- at least not yet. Right now, we are using Mother Goose rhymes for memory work and the Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang as the source for our read-alouds. I plan on mostly ambushing the sprouts with the read-aloud at breakfast time (a captive audience!) but I also plan to include a fine-motor activity during read-aloud time for the days when things don't go according to plan.

I have also decided to include a math manipulative in our basket each week as a way to reconnect with hands-on mathematics and to bring some playfulness back into our math routine. This week, I included pattern blocks on our basket, which are always a hit. That brings us to a grand total for four things in the basket (memory work, read aloud, fine-motor manipulative, and math manipulative). It's not much at the moment, as I'm a big believer in starting small and working our way up from there. The basket was well-received this morning-- knock on wood!-- but we shall see how the sprouts respond in a day, a month, or even next year.

Project-Based Homeschool

We started Project-Based Homeschooling last year, and we loved it so much that we will definitely be continuing in 2016. I already wrote about getting started and setting goals for PBH. I'm looking forward to writing more about our experience this year, as it will likely be the majority of our schooling for the time being. The sprouts really enjoyed the experiment in December when Project Time was their only school work. They were focused, motivated, and fairly productive. I do want to keep introducing some skills that I think are important, so that's why I feel like the Morning Basket will make a nice complement to the PBH approach.

Bullet Journal

This is a new practice for me, but so far I am completely in love. If you haven't heard of it before, it's basically a list-based journal that is indexed--and later, archived-- for quick reference. Personally, it appeals to me as a homeschooling mom because I finally feel like I have something to show for all of my work. Rather than wadding up my Post-It note  at the end of each day, I can preserve my list as a record of what I accomplished. I have also decided to include a one-sentence summary of the day in each entry so that I can preserve my memories efficiently. I have done long-form journaling off-and-on throughout the years, but this feels like something I can stick with in spite of-- or rather, because of-- my busy schedule.

Capsule Wardrobe

I actually started building my capsule wardrobe in November after reading this post on mom uniforms from Quill and Camera and this post on capsule wardrobes over at Dallas Moms Blog. As a homeschooling mom, it's easy to fall into the pattern of wearing a sweatpants and a t-shirt most days or spending the whole day in a nightgown during hot summers. Even when we left the house, I was never super motivated to dress up since I would be toting kids around. However, I started to feel like maybe that was having a detrimental impact on my psyche. I wasn't taking myself seriously, and I wasn't taking care of myself as a result. Now, I haven't turned to a style maven by any stretch of the imagination, but I am dressing more like a grown up. Paring down my wardrobe and making sure I only kept (or bought) mix-and-match neutrals that I loved, has made getting dressed much more enjoyable for me. It helps me feel more put-together, more confident, and happier as a result; I'll definitely be keeping up the capsule wardrobe for 2016.

These are kind of the highlights right now. I feel like we're in a messy exciting transitional stage with homeschooling, so I am looking forward to posting more updates on how things are going as the year continues. I sincerely hope that everyone reading this is off to a good start for the New Year, but if not, please remember that change can start any time of the year. Until next time,

Happy Learning!