Please welcome my friend Carol (another member of the TOS review crew) to my blog today. She's a rather neat lady with a good heart and she has delightedly joined me on my blog today for the start of I hope a cool series of people walking you through a day in their life as a person educating their children at home.
My dear friend Annette asked me to share about a day in our home educating life. What is a typical day like for us? Are there non-negotiables, what methods do we use?
Well, there are actually NO typical days in our educational life anymore, but there are some routines that happen frequently. First, I'll share a little about our routines, then I'll tell you about today, why it was unique, and why I don't stress out about having a typical/ normal day anymore.
Our girls are 15 & 17. They have always been educated at home . . . and on the road, in a car, on a bicycle, at a field trip, rarely at a desk ~ get my point? We have followed a Charlotte Mason style of education as our main focus for their growing up years. If I had to be specific, I would say we are Eclectic in our style with a Charlotte Mason bent. Our girls learned to narrate at young age, we used living books, and we stuck with short lessons and lots of nature study in the Elementary years. As they grew up, the lessons got a little longer, we still chose living books whenever we could, and nature study morphed into an even bigger part of their lessons. Life became one big series of Field Trips!
What are/ were our non-negotiables? Learning to read, doing math, studying something for history each year, reading your Bible, and finding something interesting to learn about for Science. Until the oldest reached Middle School, the only curriculum we used were an old set of math books my Mom had from the 1960's, and the God's Design science series from Answers in Genesis. We used our library ~ a LOT! When the girls were little, we would go to the library every single week. In fact, if we missed a week, the librarians would ask the girls what they had been up to that it kept them away. It was not uncommon for us to get several books a year through Inter-Library loan. We frequently had 20-30 books checked out from our local library. We watched educational DVD's and played games. I truly think it is more important to be tying heart-strings with your young children than doing a grammar lesson every day. We simply followed the rule of 'do what comes next' in your math book each day we were at home.
Seriously, we went on a lot of field trips. Lunch in the park, visiting the history or art museum, visiting elderly relatives.
I also worked outside of the home. Sometimes people forget that not everyone's life is like theirs. It was often difficult for other homeschooling Moms to understand that I was working because we needed the money to pay bills, not because I wasn't satisfied being at home. I love my home. I love my children. Kurt and I have made a lot of sacrifices over the years so that our girls could have the opportunity to be educated at home, including a lot of years where one of us worked days and the other worked nights. The weekends were non-negotiable times because that was the only time we had together as a family. It hasn't always been easy, but it has ALWAYS been worth it!
Now that the girls are older, we still follow a practice I set up when they were entering the Middle School years. Several times each school year, I sit down and evaluate how far they are in their assigned curriculum for each subject. I figure out how much they need to be doing each day that we are home (on average 4 days/ week,) and set up a general schedule. Then the girls' schedules go through the laminator. That way they can mark off assignments each day with a dry erase marker. It keeps them accountable for finishing their assignments, and allows me the freedom to not have to write things out each day. Each day, wipe off the assignment sheet and begin again. Some of you may be wondering, what about snags? Oh yes, they happen. Sometime a girl gets stuck on a math concept and needs extra help, or they're missing an ingredient for their science experiment. When that happens, they've learned to work ahead on tomorrow's assignment in a different subject, and make sure to tell me that day what they need, or need help with. Both girls have been mostly independent learners for quite a few years. It took a few years of stop-and-go trials to find their grooves, but it works so well now that I can't imagine going back to me teaching them everything. I am mostly just the facilitator and coach now, a good place to be.
So . . . why was today unique in our train of non-typical days? Today we really did not try to "do school" except for math. It was a planned "not the list" day. Today started later than usual, since the girls stayed up to watch all of the SuperBowl with Kurt. Our morning began with the funeral of a dear lady from our church. After coming home for a snack, we changed to our outdoor clothes and went to the local State Park for a hike and some photography. Our friend Kevin, a local botanist, had told us that the skunk cabbage was blooming. Since this typically only lasts about a week ~ and happens so early in February, we wanted to take advantage of the weather being above freezing to see if we could spot the blooms ourselves. The blooms are quite unusual, they almost resemble a dark red tulip leaf with spots growing out of marshy wetlands. Look at the top left picture above to see them.
After getting our photographs of the blossoms, we continued our hike along the river, and as I was backing away from one of our favorite oak trees so I could fit the trunk girth into my photo, Arlene commented "It's too bad you can't tap oak trees for sap like you do maples... think how much syrup that would make!" She volunteered to hug the tree so you could get an idea of its size. Arlene is 5'9" tall with long arms, and the massive tree trunk still dwarfs her!
By this time, the slightly-above freezing temperature was feeling quite chilly, so Emily suggested we finish our hike with a trip to the Nature Center and warm up in the bird-viewing room. This gave Arlene and I both ample opportunity to photograph the cardinals, finches, and woodpeckers that were at the feeders.
When we got home, Arlene and I collected the sap from our maple tree taps and put it in the refrigerator to store until later in the week when we should have enough to start boiling it down. Next came lunch. It was a typical fend-for-yourself type of day. During the years that Kurt worked days and I worked nights, the girls learned how to make their own lunches. We've expanded their skills to where they now usually make our dinners as well. After lunch came chores (dishes and laundry,) and then math. Both girls are working their way through Geometry this year, and since we're currently reviewing the Digital Pack for Math-U-See's Geometry course, Arlene pulled up her lesson video on the iPad.
Having High Schoolers can either be really stressful, or really wonderful. We choose to make it wonderful! I know our day would not fit most people's idea of a school day, and I'm ok with that. Our girls are learning what God really wants them to learn ~ compassion for others, care and stewardship for His creation, homemaking skills . . .even a little math. Mostly, they're learning that their parents love them, that Jesus loves them and cares for them, and that being themselves is always enough.
I hope this peek into our day has helped you realize that a quality education does not need to look like school, or even like anyone else's day to be a good day. Life is Field Trip ~ Go live it!
Carol is a wife of more than 20 years, Mama to two teenaged daughters, and avid gardener. She blogs at Home Sweet Life where her family shares its unique experience-based educational life, Road Trip ideas, book reviews, and encouragement for healthy families. You can often find Carol outdoors with her family, and her camera. One of their favorite family pastimes includes long hikes in the woods and she photographs the wildlife they see.