What a heavy year this has been. A pandemic with an ever-rising death toll; riots, violence, and hatred broiling in the streets, even in our nation’s Capitol; jobs threatened, businesses shuttered; routines and traditions turned upside down, and patterns of fellowship we hold dear completely dismantled. It’s hard, when reflecting on it all, not to despair, and to let the depravity of the world burden our hearts.
And yet, each day the sun rises. Each day, the kids whom God has given us to shepherd awaken, tug on clothes all by themselves, and pepper us with questions, dreams, and requests to mend the seam of a cherished bunny, or to make stir fry for dinner. The call to love neighbor endures. Christ’s love endures. The call to raise up our kids in the Word, so that they might love others as Jesus has loved us, tolls louder than ever.
Our days have looked different this year, and our hearts are heavier, but God’s grace remains apparent throughout. Here’s a glimpse. Pip is now almost 8 (!) and is in second grade; Bean, 5.5 yrs, is in kindergarten.
Morning Before School
One of the joys of homeschooling, I’ve found, is that it allows the kids ample time just to be kids. Everyone wakes up around 6:30 am, and before breakfast the kids each have their chores to do (usually involving helping with breakfast prep in some way), but when they’re done, they’re free to play on their own until breakfast at around 8:30. This week, that meant that they had time to play in the snow before we even hit the books. Other times, they act out elaborate scenarios with their toys, mashing together all sorts of mythology to make my head spin. While they play, I take care of housework (there’s always something), and then have my personal devotions and pray.
Breakfast and Books
We begin our learning over breakfast. I started doing this early in the homeschooling journey, when wiggly kids seemed to wiggle less when they were already sitting down eating. Every morning I sip a cup of coffee and read aloud, and we have discussions. We do our devotions during this time, and also cover history and geography. The specific resources vary throughout the year, but right now Breakfast & Books looks like this:
- Open in prayer
- We read an excerpt from the Bible every morning; we just finished the Psalms, and are now reading John.
- We read an entry from The Gospel Story Bible (which I’ve reviewed in an earlier post). While eventually I see ourselves transitioning entirely to God’s Word, I still like to read from a Bible storybook at this age, to give the kids a solid overview of the gospel narrative.
- We’ve recently partnered with a missionary, and daily read about and pray for one of the families she serves.
- History/ Geography:
- Story of the World: Ancient Times
- We work through a biography over the course of months. We recently finished Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (which we started months ago, during a study of World War II); right now we’re reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
- Map work happens daily (and seamlessly) with the help of placemats 🙂
- Professor Noggins Cards:
- These trivia cards span all sorts of subjects, and the kids pick a topic monthly. Last month, we learned about the U.S. Presidents; this month, they wanted to go to the rainforest!
- Breakfast Potpourri:
- I call our last reading of the morning “potpourri” because it’s a moving target, led by the kids’ interests or by my sense of how we need to round our curriculum. Last month, the kids wanted to work through the Sir Cumference math storybooks, and we read one daily; this month we’re doing picture studies, daily reading an entry from the Usborne Book of Famous Paintings
The kids and I cover the three R’s individually, as well as one “delight-driven” activity that they choose monthly. While one kid works with me (usually for an hour, sometimes 90 minutes), the other has free time to play. . . more independent discovery time! This is the most intensive part of our school day, for obvious reasons, and is when I’m careful to leave my phone in another room. Here’s how 1:1 time looks for each right now:
- Bean (would be kindergarten. . . but actual grade levels are all over the place):
- Math: Singapore Math, Math games (also see my post here), flashcards
- Reading: Reads a chapter (aloud) from The Magic Treehouse series daily (she LOVES these books)
- Writing: Handwriting without Tears
- Grammar: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind , Mad Libs, Silly Sentences game
- Delight-Driven: Painting projects, using Paintlab and Painting School
- Pip (would be second grade. . .but. . . see comment above):
After 1:1 time, the kids have snacks, and we curl up on the couch and read some good literature together. Without fail, this is the part of the school day the kids relish the most. When we can’t squeeze in everything on an atypical school day, they both still want to do this:
- D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths (an entry daily)
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (a chapter daily)
- The Black Star of Kingston (a chapter daily)
- A science or history book of their choosing. We read a lot from the Let’s Read and Find Out Science series.
Moving Around & Lunch
After Cozy-Up, the kids either head down to the makeshift gym in our basement (when the weather’s bad) to swing on the rings and ride their scooters, or we head out to a playground. Afterward is lunch (later than many other families), during which the learning continues! I read a children’s novel to them while they eat. Right now we’re reading Mary Poppins; other books we’ve loved this year have been The Lord of the Rings, and The Wingfeather Saga .
Afternoons have always been devoted to enrichment activities. Pre-COVID, these consisted of rock climbing lessons, a homeschooling program at our local wildlife sanctuary, and respite care or hospital visits for friends in need. Since March 2020, all of these have been off the table!
While nothing can really replace the above, we’ve been grateful over the past year for the availability of so many fantastic webinar and subscription programs. Here are those we’ve used regularly:
- No-Sweat Nature Study
- SQUILT Music Appreciation
- Groovy Lab in a Box science curriculum
- You ARE an Artist chalk pastel tutorials
Free Time, Quiet Time
The kids have about 45 minutes of free play time after we’re done with our enrichment activities, and then another 45 minutes of quiet time, during which they can do whatever they choose as long as is subdued and independent. Quiet time is essential for these high energy but introverted kids to decompress, and is also the sliver of time I have to get emails and writing assignments done (I’m writing this during quiet time right now! Book writing doesn’t happen until the hours of 9-11 pm, when the kids are unconscious.)
The kids have evening chores; we have dinner together as a family; then after dinner we have family worship, with Dad leading us in a Bible study, and then singing a hymn (badly) all together. Then the kids have some fun time with Dad reading or watching cartoons, and it’s off to bed (and Dad and I take a breath), with a prayer of thanks to the Lord for providing for us, and for leading us on this journey.