When I started my homeschooling journey, I worried the entire time. I felt like I needed to replicate the school environment, and also the school’s schedule, at home. I followed a very scripted (albeit lovely) curriculum, that was much better suited for a small nursery school meeting twice a week than for my one child. It gave me comfort to follow the rules outlined, because I was lacking confidence in myself. I rang a school bell after breakfast, and proceeded to ‘teach’ for 2.5 hours.
Annie, then just turned three, did not like her new morning routine at all. I was constantly redirecting her to the subject at hand, and she just wanted to play. We were both exhausted and frustrated when the lessons were over, and I honestly can’t even remember what I was so intent upon making her learn. What I can’t forget was her face when she looked up at me and asked, “Are you playing teacher again?” It broke my heart. I had beautiful, rose colored dreams of homeschooling- but it didn’t match up to the reality I had put into practice.
For our pre-K year, I’ve taken a completely different approach. Rather than try to schedule our day, I’ve spent time finding our rhythm. That rhythm looks different with the seasons, and holidays, and visitors, and moods, and life in general… but there always seems to be the same beat to our day underneath it all. We have chores and schoolwork every day, but it fits in joyfully with playtime and happy little snuggles.
An ideal day in our house, with no interruptions or tantrums or broken washer machines, would look like this:
- Breakfast with read-aloud chapter book and narration by Annie
- Free Play (Translation: “Please don’t destroy the house while mama does the breakfast dishes”)
- Jack’s “School” (finger plays, songs, and a few books and blocks)
- Annie’s Lessons
- Outside free play and nature study, with Lunch
- Snuggled up storytime
- Naptime for baby Jack, a fun art or science project with Annie, and dinner prep
- Poetry Teatime
Sometimes, that’s really what our day looks like. I feel like a rock star on those days. If our day follows that pattern AND I have dinner ready on time, I pat myself on the back and pour a glass of wine.
But other times, our day gets a little jumbled. Sometimes we have errands to run and appointments to keep. That might mean deciding to cut lessons short, or outside time short. Depending on the mood of the day, I might decide a few hours outdoors should take precedence over a few pages of math. Also, when we come back inside, I might see that after soaking up some sunshine we’re able to sit down and focus on math work.
I’ve learned that I don’t need to keep formal lessons separate from the rest of our life. There is no rule that says you must be “schooling” between 9:30-12. Language arts and picture study can be done during lunch time. Formal math can be squeezed in before dinner if it needs to be. Reading and singing and games should be happening organically all day long, and don’t need to be forced. I try to keep our days saturated with language and learning, all while we play.
Recognizing the opportunities for education that are scattered throughout our day has been a tremendous blessing. The kitchen is a fantastic resource for hands on math, and since my family expects to be fed every day, we get plenty of chances to use it. Our backyard is perfect for observing nature and the changes that spring has brought. We can watch the birds, catch frogs, and notice the different kinds of flowers. We also get to experience the weather, feeling the hot sun or watching a storm cloud roll in.
Appreciating these little moments of informal learning has allowed me to relax, and approach homeschooling from a place of comfort and confidence. The rhythm of our day follows the beats of our hearts, as opposed to acting as a rigid schedule that causes us conform to it. I no longer measure our day’s successes by how much ‘school’ we accomplished, but by how much joy was created and how many connections we felt. In the end, that’s really what all of my rose colored dreams were about.