Sunday, September 12, 2010


We are starting school tomorrow. The kids are eager, happy to begin. That will last until they encounter something they don't want to do. There is always a week or two of bumpiness at the start of the year until we re-establish that disliking a topic does not exempt you from learning it.

For me, the hardest thing about homeschooling is keeping the warmth of momness while enforcing the structure of teacherness. You can't take discipline issues personally when you're a teacher. And that's hard when you're dealing with your own kids. They kinda (yeah, just kinda) know where your buttons are. And you definitely react to your own kids' misbehavior differently than you'd react to someone else's kids'.

I am usually pretty laid back about school. My overall approach is what I call If-Then Unschooling. If you do two hours of things that I want you to do, then you can have the rest of the day to yourself.

What I want from them:
  • competency in math
  • basic grammar, and the ability to write decent sentences and coherent paragraphs
  • broad knowledge of history (world as well as U.S.), art, and to some extent music
  • the ability to follow directions, stay on task, and be resourceful in seeking answers to their questions
  • integration of what we believe with what we say and do

This boils down to 5-6 assignments a day, more for the older ones, less for the youngers. Because I need to work furiously on the book in Sept and Oct I'm trying to be far, far, far more organized about school this year. I know that if I don't have things in order, and assignments already figured out, it's just not going to happen on the fly.

Here is what our day more-or-less will look like:
  • Because we are people of faith, we start with prayer, reading a bit from the Bible, and a hymn. We generally choose a hymn that we don't know, and add a verse each week. That way the kids have a repertoire of songs to which they know the words.
  • We then split up. One child does a lesson on the computer (either math or French). One child does some work independently (grammar, handwriting, or reading). One child gets Mommy-time (spelling, one-on-one instruction in note-taking, lit discussion for Dancer)
  • We rotate.
  • We have a read-aloud, usually something related to our theme for the year. This puts everyone back on the same page, and gives the kids common ground for plays and games.
  • We have some sort of activity: a craft or science project
  • Everyone finishes whatever they need to finish on their school list.

Dancer is self-running: I give her a list of assignments, and she gets them done. Snuggler is pretty good if she's had her ADHD meds, impossible if she hasn't. Little Guy needs more structure (but less time) than the others. Hopefully we'll head up to the library once a week, and go on a field trip twice a month.

When the kids are done with school -- usually before noon -- they are free to do whatever they like. They can read, write, play, or do more science experiments; I don't care, as long as I'm not involved. Late afternoon will find us heading out to after-school activities: play rehearsal, yoga, soccer, ballet four times a week for Dancer. The advantage of having down-time in the early afternoon is that the kids aren't already worn out by the time we head to enrichment/social activities. And while they are occupied, I can work.


  1. This sounds brilliant. I'm going to tell a friend of mine (who homeschools her two children) about your blog.

    [friend of Maggie's]

  2. Julia,

    This is very similar to how it works in our house. We are usually finished with formal school before lunch, they have quiet time in their rooms until 2:30, then we start getting ready for activities. It is amazing how much you can accomplish in those few morning hours. It is funny, though, it doesn't feel to me like unschooling, because in just those three hours in the morning they knock out most of the traditional school work. I think of it more as a charlotte mason day. It is funny that so many homeschoolers do the same thing under different labels...

    May God bless your new year!

    Mary Alice (from