Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On New Routines or the Refinement of Old Ones...

You know how it is, right? With very good intentions you establish a "schedule" and you vow to stick to it. Then as time goes on, the things begin to slide and after a time you need to make some changes. We've been there for some time now. We have passed the time of the resident toddler and it was past time to reassess how we spend our time. Being careful not to fall into the "older kid trap" (the one where a more relaxed person like me suddenly feels the need to turn on the hose and import much more schooling than necessary in the name of "I have a middle schooler!") Having an older student can wreak all kinds of havoc on the minds of homeschooling parents. It messes with you. As if the dabbling of homeschooling in elementary school is over and you've hit the big time...where futures are made or broken.

Avoiding this common and dangerous pitfall is a constant process, one that requires focus and resolve. However, it is a fair thing to take a look at what you are doing and to make sure there is consistency and growth in your day.

Given my relaxed homeschooling nature, any routine I came up with would need margin. Steve Lambert, publisher of the Five in a Row curriculum, describes margin this way:

I talked in a recent article about margin. As a book publisher we think about margin whenever we publish a new product. Margin is the white space that surrounds each printed page. It’s largely margin that makes a page readable. A page that utilizes every square inch of paper to contain printed text is very cost-effective. Paper costs money. Why not use every last square millimeter of paper to help carry the printed words? Because a page with no margin gives the eye no room to “breathe” as you look at the page. It’s too busy. It makes you anxious. It appears overwhelming. It often means you don’t even attempt to read the page because it just looks like “too much” before you even begin...

I'd like to share a few more snippets from Steve's blog post on margin that specifically apply to where I am right now in needing margin.

Our homes need margin. We need room to breathe. A room packed to the ceiling with belongings and treasures may be efficient use of square footage, but if there are only narrow paths to walk through the mountains of possessions there is absolutely no place to rest or relax. The room makes us anxious.

Our schedule needs margin. An activity packed day with every minute accounted for, every calendar block filled in leaves us cranky and frustrated. Unexpected interruptions inevitably occur which leave us “behind” our own self-inflicted schedule with no time to relax or recuperate.

And our homeschool needs margin. We need unscheduled time in our teaching day for unplanned “bunny trails” that are often the very best part of the teaching day. We need time to pause and ask the Lord what HE wants to do with the next 20 minutes of our day- which are often the most important part of our children’s education.

Margin is essential in every area of our life. Talk with your children about new ways to plan margin into your daily schedule, your monthly calendar and your home’s space. Children need space in their room to spread out on the floor and play with toys, read a book or just sprawl out and daydream.

So, now that I've referred to having margin and leaving times in our day unscheduled, I'm about to share a "schedule" with you. We've been at this all week. This has really been working well. This pattern for our day leaves margin! We have a road map, a target to hit, but the way the pattern is designed we can take more than one way to get there. If we follow a "bunny trail" of learning, there is always the map to get back on the road to our target. What's our target? To consistently hit the items in our day that provide us with the most discovery. That's it. A pattern in our day means we have less wandering on the path so we get to that awesome view at the end of the hike. Some days the hike itself is more fun and the view can wait until another day. But having a trail map is always helpful to keep us on track. And of course having a Trail Guide to confer with helps a lot too.

Daily School Routine

*Wake up/breakfast/chores
*Read Aloud Time (book of choice)
*Morning Gathering Time (at school table)
*Math- family adventure/Five-A-Days
*SOTW/Geography/Nature Study
*Language Arts
*Read Aloud Time (unit study related)
*Unit Study
*Passion Pursuit (approved activities)
*Silent Reading Time (book of their choice)
*Free Time/Screen Time
*Chore Time
*Dinner Time
*Family Time
*Read Aloud Time (second book of choice)
*Bed Time (olders read in bed for a bit)

In addition to this daily pattern, I have a weekly one as well which accounts for the regular times we are out and which days we do what if there is more than one item in that time slot.

I think my favorite part of the new pattern is that we are more purposeful about our reading aloud. We are blasting through
The Last Battle by CS Lewis. The other thing is that we have been more finished each day which is nice. Yet, we still have unschooling moments like yesterday when I7 came in and said he had done an experiment to see when J4 could jump farther from the slide in our basement- when he's holding the ball and when he isn't. He determined that he jumps farther without the ball and he made a graph. Being the homeschooling mom that I am, I told him to go measure the distances. Voila! Awesome math lesson. We can't be owned by the routine so much that we lose those moments.


Shonda said...

Love it! You have inspired me to share my schedule/routine. I'll have to think of one first! LOL

Kisha said...

I love the schedule and Steve's words. What is Morning Gathering Time?

Heather said...

Hi Kisha,

Morning Gathering Time is what I call circle time. At first I was adding in a bunch of stuff like the pledge and things like that. Here's an original post on it.

But right now we are going with the more casual geography drill (which the kids consider fun), the daily quest is given (right now a geography quest to match the topic in the drill), and our devotional (nothing's the 365 kids' devotional book and we begin with that).

Oh and that is when we do calendar math for the younger kids.

it's just a way after read aloud to begin our time together at the table.

On Monday we did a sketch for Sketch Tuesday which I forgot to turn in, but I will post the pictures from this week here.

Upon further reflection, perhaps margin should be a word of the year for me. Currently it is steadfast.

Melanie said...

Hi Heather,
Coming to this post a bit late, I had a question for you. Do you fit the workboxes into this new "rhythm" for your day, and if so, how does that work? The reason I ask is, my day resembles yours more or less, and I've been working with the workboxes for a bit over a year and am still refining the system to fit with us. But something still is not quite right... LOL just wondering how other people are doing it. :)