Happy new year!!
I’m the kind of person who likes routines. Lists checked off in an orderly fashion, charts made up of neat lines and clear fonts, new planners with all the possibilities of the fresh, clean year spread among their pages – these are the things that make me excited. I’m not generally a huge fan of change.
Of course, my husband is a huge fan of change. In his personal life, he is spontaneous, not much of a planner, and completely unimpressed at the sight of a year’s calendar precisely filled in and color coded. Marriage to him for almost ten years has certainly taught me to enjoy the unexpected.
We also have four small children. The oldest three are triplets- there’s a curve ball I didn’t see coming! We’ve homeschooled from the beginning, and our daughters are now halfway through second grade, with a little brother following along in preschool. I still appreciate routines and having a flow to our days, but I’ve learned that different seasons of our homeschool will require different kinds of routines. And the last few weeks of our fall semester convinced me that it was time to make some adjustments.
In spite of having a “classroom” of kids with three children all the same age, our school days don’t ever look like that of a typical class. Homeschooling multiples deserves a post (or series of posts!) all on its own, but to keep to the point, I’ll just say that there are some subjects we do together and some that they do with me individually. I needed to figure out a way to ensure that each of my four children had focused time alone with me each day, and also that my son, who will be four in a few days, wasn’t left to his own (often destructive) devices when the girls and I were busy doing some of our joint work. I also don’t like telling him to be quiet or sit still for long periods of time. He’s still a little guy. He needs lots of loud, jumping, running, crashing free play every day.
(I should note that my second graders don’t do a lot of independent work. I don’t have stacks of papers they can fill out on their own while I work with someone else. They have independent reading every day, followed by a short narration, but that’s about it.)
After a lot of thought, this is what I settled on:
We kept our early morning routine of waking up and taking care of our chores, feeding pets, and practicing instruments before breakfast. After cleaning up, we head into the living room for morning time together, as usual. But that’s where the new routine comes in.
After morning time, the girls each grab their current independent reading book and disappear to various quiet corners of the house to read while Benjamin and I color, count blocks as we build, sing the alphabet song, and rhyme with our school puppet Petey the Puppy. Spending this one-on-one time with him first thing fills up his love tank and is the exact opposite of telling him to “be quiet,” “sit still,” or “take that (loud toy) somewhere else.”
After he and I reach the end of our time together, I call the girls to the table so we can do our Bible lesson and critical thinking puzzle together. We’re able to reconnect, and Benjamin is in and out those few minutes, as involved as he wants to be.
Next follows an hour and a half where the girls cycle through a half hour each of time doing individual work with me. This includes math, spelling, and reading aloud. The other two hang out with their brother, free to play games, read books to him, build puzzles, ride bikes- whatever they want to do together. The girls each end up with a break from thinking about schoolwork, and Benjamin has playmates focused on spending time with him.
By the time the last child has had alone time with me, little man has been pretty well satisfied and is content to play by himself, often right there in the school room with us. The girls and I cover copywork, discuss grammar, and practice cursive, then enjoy one of our weekly enrichment studies (artist, composer, or poet) before lunch.
We’re all together at lunch and alternate science and history, ending the meal with either an experiment or an addition to our timeline. Benjamin is very involved and loves being a part of this time!!
After lunch, we end our day with another of our weekly studies: either Spanish (two days a week), ASL, or nature study. Benjamin does these with us as well.
We’re left with a short while to tidy up and play before it’s time to tuck little brother into bed for his nap. And while he’s asleep, the girls enjoy an hour of sewing or reading or playing quietly. If it’s a pretty day, they play outside. And I get an hour to breathe deeply, hear myself think, and recharge for the rest of the day.
There are several things I love about this new routine. First, I noticed that neither I nor any of my children was getting burned out by the end of our school day. Everyone was still eager and attentive, and there was plenty of energy to make it through all we had planned to do. I also noticed that because Benjamin was getting plenty of time with me and his sisters, during the short periods of time when we needed him to be quiet, he had no trouble complying. It’s good for him to learn to be respectful of others’ needs and to practice some quiet play on his own, but I think it’s important that his free time far exceeds the amount of time he’s required to be more contained. An unexpected bonus to this new routine is how much of my own daily work I am able to accomplish during the day. I have an hour and a half when I’m right there available to one child at a time, but the girls don’t need me hovering over their shoulders at every moment. For example, during their math practice, except for explaining new concepts or helping with an occasional tough spot, they can complete their fifteen minutes of problems on their own. And with the utility room opening off the school room, I can keep laundry going, sweep the floors, tidy bookshelves, confirm appointments on my calendar, and correct the previous day’s work while the girls work nearby, always available to them but able to keep the household running at the same time.
We’re still early in the final semester of this school year, but I feel pretty confident that this new routine will remain a good fit for us until the wild freedom of summer arrives. After that, who knows?
Do you have a daily routine? How do you handle juggling homeschooling and homemaking?