Homeschool Dad : Wednesday

Homeschooling while maintaining a work life outside the home presents unique challenges. Ministry, thankfully, is remarkably flexible and often operates during hours outside of school (especially when the focus of my particular vocational calling involves children, youth, and families).

Wednesday is a day of such challenges. Mentoring over breakfast, an afternoon staff meeting, and an evening study group are all specific challenges to the homeschooling day. However, this is why we’ve been given imaginations, is it not?

07:45am – wake kiddos
08:20am – stretch
08:25am – catechism & prayer
08:35am – family walk
09:00am – history
09:30am – reading aloud #2 (#1 v. #3 chess)
10:00am – literature
10:30am – language arts
11:20am – lunch
12:15pm – (take #4 to preschool)
01:00pm – (Dad’s staff meeting)
01:00pm – math worksheets
01:30pm – copywork
02:00pm – independent study
03:00pm – (pick up #4 from preschool)

Wednesday afternoons are interesting because my attention is required in two places at one time. The weekly staff meeting is necessary and often quite fruitful, and I’ve resolved to make that time fruitful for the kiddos as well.

With the kiddos being younger, a great deal of our math curriculum is oral (tables, problem-solving, etc.). I’ve chosen Wednesday afternoons to present them with the worksheets which adorn our state-mandated portfolio – evidence of growth in the craft. These also allow me to see that their developing mental acuity functions just as well on paper as it does when guided by the soothing sound of Dad’s voice…

We also use Wednesday afternoons for a bit of copywork, which most often is a reinforcement of our previous week’s Hymn study (see the Thursday schedule). I like having them write out the songs for a couple reasons. One, I appreciate their value theologically. But I also appreciate their value as poetry. The language of the past is often vivid and varied. I believe exposure to the words and ways of the past has benefits that far outweigh the difficulties.

Finally, I’m working out in practice what independent study looks like for younger children. The kiddos have selected a topic (all animals) that they are researching for a presentation at the end of the year. This concept is a work in progress, for sure.

Wednesdays are perhaps my greatest challenge because of the level of independence, but the first eight weeks have proven quite nice.

 

 

 

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Homeschool Dad : Tuesday

I’m still new enough in the realm of homeschooling that, even as I share the current patterns of our days, I am evaluating and asking myself if there aren’t immediate improvements that could be made.

One thing I have noticed to this point in the year is that the schedule is a work in progress. While I have made changes, I have tried not to make constant changes. I know I will have time to fine tune adjustments. Here stands our current Tuesday:

07:45am – wake kiddos
08:20am – stretch
08:25am – catechism & prayer
08:35am – family walk
09:00am – geography
09:30am – art
10:00am – literature
10:30am – language arts
11:00am – reading aloud #1 (#2 v. #3 chess)
11:30am – lunch
12:45pm – science
01:15pm – math #1 (#2/#3 silent reading)
01:35pm – math #2 (#1/#3 silent reading)
02:00pm – math #3 (#1/#2 silent reading)

At a glance, it would seem that we read a lot. And we do. Two principles are fixed in my brain which may or may not be entirely true, but which we pursue nonetheless.

First is that a great deal of learning is both taught and caught. I wake up Monday through Friday intending to fill my children with what little knowledge and wisdom I have to impart through a teacher-student paradigm. But I also recognize that their repeated exposure to varied forms of literature will leave varied and valuable imprints.

I can and will teach them spelling, capitalization, when to use quotation marks, when to break a paragraph. But I can also immerse them in books which will teach these rules without ever speaking an intentional word on the matter. And if I’m being honest, I recognize that a great many books do so in a far more engaging and interesting fashion.

(Obviously, literature leaves other imprints that can be positive and negative to their impressionable minds, which is why we are also trying to cultivate a family culture of discussing what we read!)

The second principle I keep in mind is that a life of learning is inextricably tied to the ability to read. Much wisdom comes from simply living, but exponentially more is also available on printed pages. I want reading to be comfortable and normal. I want to instill and train them for a life of learning that extends well beyond my ability to teach. I want their knowledge, and their thirst for understanding, to far exceed my own.

And so we read. I read aloud to them. They read aloud to me. They read silently. We talk about what we read. Tuesdays certainly highlight that. And, to this point in the year, I believe we are all growing as a result.

 

 

Homeschool Dad : A Day in the Life

Among the wealth of questions that ran through my brain as we considered the shift toward schooling at home was, of course, the selfish one: What will this do to my life? 

Ministry knows few personal boundaries (except those that are intentionally established, but that’s another post), and my wife has a very caring approach to her work as well, which means our lives are deeply intertwined at times with our vocational callings.

How can I work and teach? When will I find time to read? To exercise? To date my wife? These are all fair questions and worthy of consideration.

Seven weeks into the process, I’ve established something of a rhythm. That rhythm is currently being obliterated by a four-day-old, but at least there is a “normal” which I can now strive to regain before adjusting again.

What does a “normal” weekday look like? I will comment on the specific areas below:

04:55am – wake up
05:03am – out the door for a run
05:22am – return & shower
05:40am – sitting down for my time
07:45am – wake the kiddos
08:20am – begin the school routine
11:20am – lunch
02:30pm – finish school routine
06:00pm – dinner
07:15pm – family time
08:00pm – kiddos are in bed

The beginning of my day sounds ridiculously regimented. I didn’t schedule it with such particularity. I’ve just come to notice the clock, and these are pretty steady times if I move at the right pace.

In reality, I consider the snooze button daily.
In reality, I hate running.

I run 15 minutes each morning, which at this point is around 2 miles. I spend this time in prayer, and I find that it helps me to stay awake for my personal time. I am not aiming to break records, just to wake up and get a few endorphins flowing.

I spend my personal time in the Bible, and in personal reading, with the occasional work task. When the weather is above 50 degrees, I am on the porch with a yogurt and cup of coffee under the lights. It’s a peaceful time of the day. My focus is high, and I am generally ready when 7:45 rolls around.

I’ll share more on our school schedule later, but I’ll say that I decided early on to be 100% at school when we’re schooling. No distractions. No lingering work. No trying to finish early in order to get to another project. I am in those hours for the kiddos, and I’ve found peace in that decision. We take breaks, we move at a leisurely pace that fits our family.

Every day, there is a four hour window in the afternoon. We don’t run ragged with the kiddos. We try to say no frequently enough that we are not stressed and frustrated at the schedule. That is a family decision.

A portion of the afternoon belongs to work.  A portion belongs to the family. A portion belongs to the house. I work there as the day allows, and as my responsibilities demand. With five kids under 10, we do not lack variety.

We’ve managed to maintain a pattern that involves family meals most days of the week. Ministry gets in the way periodically, but we’re pretty consistent.

Family worship is the subject of another post, but building in the time that all six (now seven) of us are together daily is also something we value. We know these times are limited, and so we cherish them. The nights sometimes run later, but we aim for the same bedtime.

Post-kiddo-bedtime evenings belong to my wife and rest. I may read if there’s time and energy. I may watch an episode of Cheers. We may just enjoy each other. But I’ve found ending the day in peace to be just as important as launching in peace.

Because 4:55 comes quickly…

Homeschool Dad

As my wife and I considered the plunge into homeschooling, we spent time researching the options and the process. Knowing that nearly the entire formal teaching aspect would rest on my shoulders, I began searching to find out just how many homeschooling dads were out there. I sought high and low for thoughts, reflections, encouragement, ideas, and more. I am thankful to have found some that were particularly helpful in our decision-making process.

I wondered if, along this journey of ours, there might be value in sharing our experience… my experience… as a means of encouragement or entertainment.

And so, as I once again consider dusting off my blogging cap, I’m adding a page/category to the website… the homeschool dad.

I shan’t promise profundity.

I dare not promise wisdom.

I can only promise a story, with more than a hint of honesty. I am seven weeks into this journey. I am not a wily veteran. I am a dad who loves his kids and who is in a position to walk with them for this season of life, and maybe share a thought or two along the way.

For the last nine and one-half years, my office has been my dining room table, and I’ve been surrounded by my children. One of the greatest kindnesses of a life of ministry is flexibility. My vocational responsibilities allow me space to read and write from home, which means I’m also able to watch children.

I’ve spent the last decade dividing my daytime between family, ministry, and graphic design. We started with twins, then added another, then another. Two went to school, then three. And this was going to be the year… you know, the year. All four kids in school. Consecutive hours of quiet work. Coffee breaks with friends.

Glorious!

In January, we found out we were to receive another gift in our family. In the spring, we started kicking around the idea of homeschool. My prospective workday went from four children in school to five children at home in a matter of weeks! And, if this remains our reality, it will be so until I am fifty-six years old. That’s almost sixty. (Obviously I’m primed to teach math)

My surprise and my delight is the ease with which my heart welcomed the idea. My mind has entertained reservations all along the way, but only as speed bumps, never roadblocks. My heart has been leading the way.

Some of these days have been difficult. Today, I’m encouraged. I’m also exhausted, but that’s because we have a 3-day-old at home.

If it’s OK, I’ll post a few more thoughts as I find the time.