Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School Days- And What I've Learned In the First Two Weeks

We are officially into our second week of school.
Of course, I like to think that we have been homeschooling since the birth of our first child six years ago. Last year we had a very laid back kindergarten and occasionally we did some school work this summer. Reading "clicked" for our oldest in August and now she is often found with her nose in a book. Learning is something that happens all the time in our house with books, nature, endless questions and discussions.

But I was hoping to be more consistent with our formal learning times. The last months have been spent planning, plotting, acquiring books, and scribbling out plans. Teaching my children has been a dream since I was a home-schooled student myself. With such high expectations, I was worried that I'd "crash and burn" these first few weeks.

But I never expected to have this much fun! We are probably still in the honeymoon stage but, so far, the children are eager to start "school" each morning. I love curling up on the couch reading and my heart just melts when I hear them eagerly telling dad all they learned. Can I do this all day and forget the housecleaning?

I am a newbie still wet behind the ears. But I'm hoping if I share a few things that I've learned these first few weeks, that you experienced home-school moms will share your tips!

  1. Value of Habit. I knew my children thrive on routines but we had fallen completely out of any sort of routine this summer. I worked hard to get a good routine going last week. It isn't finely tuned yet, but already there is world of difference. 
  2. Wisdom - I need It. LOTS of it. I don't want to paint a rosy picture of our days. Some days seem to bring out the worse in both mom and students. I wish that all I needed to teach was academics, not the deep down nitty gritty stuff that is the difference of a spoiled selfish uncontrolled brat and a (hopefully) Spirit-controlled wise follower of Christ. And if "more is caught then taught", as the saying goes, then I need HELP! Lord, give me wisdom!
  3. Organization Saves the Day. I had spent time in August organizing life in general, and school in particular. I'm so grateful for every minute spent putting some extra meals in the freezer, school books all on one shelf, photo copies in folder, schedule sheets printed. At this point, with a kindergartner and first grader, scheduling and preparation is minimal. Mostly we just use a daily checklist. Hopefully, I can learn a few things this year that will make planning future years simpler.
  4. Flexibility Save my Sanity. The best laid plans can be adjusted. It became obvious on the first day that school was going to go better if we waited until the one year old's nap time. What we will do when she quits her morning nap is not something that I'm contemplating right now! 
A few other SIMPLE organization tips that have helped me.
Book Bag. We have four or five read aloud books going at one time - and that was in the summer! Yes, we are  slightly obsessed about books here. Add a few school books and we have quite the stack. Keeping them all corralled in a bag along with a folder containing our memory work, has made our read aloud couch time easier. Sticky tabs work well for markers and I write on the tab if I want to read the book a specific day of the week or number of pages.
Memory Verse Review Box. Simply Charlotte Mason has a great idea for memory verse review. I adapted their system a little but the idea is that each day there are verses reviewed. The current verse goes in front, our review verses are filed under the days of the week or date of the month. Each day we say our new verse and review the verse under the day of the week and the date. Hopefully we won't get so rusty on our memory work. I wish I would have done this as a child.

Pencil Basket. I've used this for years, a silverware basket is great for pencils, markers, scissors and all other creative tools. It goes easily to the table, then back to the shelf at clean up time.

If I've learned anything at all in the past six years, it is that mothering isn't easy. I don't think anyone can prepare you for how emotionally and physically draining parenthood can be.

We had told our daughter we would purchase a Bible for her when she learned to read. Yesterday, we gave it to her and since then she has hardly had her Bible out of her sight. All the frustrations of mothering have been rewarded many times over by seeing my daughter's delight in God's Word and her joy in learning to read it.

Are the struggles over? No, way. Are the rewards worth the effort? Absolutely!

Now it's your turn. Any hints and tips you can share with us? They don't have to be earth shattering, anything that makes your day go smoother.


  1. Gina,
    I posted a Homeschool tips and encouragement series last week that you or your readers may find very helpful. I started with the decision, then expectations, the crurriculum, organization, and finally guarding our time as a homeschooling mom.
    This is only my second year and I am STILL loving it and feeling like it's a honeymoon. Not perfect. But wonderful for me.
    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is our first year doing "real" schooling as well!

    My daughter is six and we're working on phonics and handwriting and basic addition concepts right now.

    I've been busily downloading phonics readers, handwriting worksheets, and theme units and I found using a file box and file folders helps me organize daily plans and books.

  3. Oh the JOY of the 'click' in reading! =) That is why every mom should teach her own children to read. (Not intending a guilt trip, but those other moms miss out big time!)

    I like the memory verse box, but what I really like is the *disposable* pencil cups in the silverware basket. I have a few designated mugs/jars for pencils/pens, but I like the thought of throwing out the messy cup and starting fresh ~ along with fresh pencils of course ;-)

    Praying that your good moments continue to outweigh the not-so-good ~ ♥ ~

  4. I'm so excited for you! I loved homeschooling my littlies too...they are SO eager and fun at that stage!

    I need to find that excitement again now I have teenangels :-)

  5. Organization and routine make the day much better! I also have a kindergartener this year, and like you last year was very relaxed. I hope to improve that this year. We had our first day of school on this past Tuesday. For the most part this week, is just a week of getting back in routine, and have set activities. For example yesterday we brought out a small sensory table, play-doh and playdoh tools and that ended up being an hour of structured play time. ( I have an hour to two hours scheduled each day for lessons) In the end, I am hoping that this loose schedule and routine this week will help when I want to dive into more next week :) But for organization tip, I use a file cabinet and have a large green file folder for each week of our school year, and then several manilla folders for subjects I cover during a week filled with the books, worksheets, color sheets etc. It seems to work so far (alot of folders but it's worth it-for me to feel organized and not overwelmed :) Happy Homeschooling!

  6. I love the idea of that pencil basket. I might have to watch for one at thrift stores. We wouldn't always be hunting pencils and things making homework time take longer.

  7. Looks like you are doing a wonderful job! I am wishing I had spent a little more time organizing our school year this year. I spent a lot of time last year, but this summer just seemed to slip through my fingers. We are well on our way now, but the first week was a little tricky. I have also been thinking about making some freezer meals and a few other things. Great tips! We also reward new readers with their own bible, so fun!

  8. Love your tips, we also use Simply Charlotte Mason and the scripture memory system. We are so excited about school this year too, and our first couple of weeks went well.
    I always make sure someone is playing with the toddler here at our home, while working with someone on school. That way she is busy and I can do some good one on one with an older child.
    We use Simply Charlotte Mason for all our curriculum and I use managers of their homes and chores for other things.
    I have also found that when I include my toddler who is 3, we have smoothier easier days, she loves to pretend school too!!
    Love your tips and ideas!


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