Monday, January 27, 2020

Goals and Routines: What Works for Dorcas

Dorcas shares about her homeschooling routines.

I never thought I would homeschool, but along with our move to southern Chile, came the need for me to school our children who were then in kindergarten, second, and third grade. My personality tends to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants, and yet, that does not produce an atmosphere to thrive.

I have tried schedules, but then feel like I fail them so soon. For me, schedules do not allow time for things that are most important in my life. Things like reading and pondering Scripture longer this morning than yesterday morning or a friend dropping by for coffee when math is scheduled.

I liked to make schedules that if I managed follow would give a temporary feeling of success. But, I didn’t know when I made the schedule if a child is going to be struggling or when something else would come up. When I failed the schedule, I would feel like I was failing homeschooling. I needed to learn, that in my life, timed schedules are great for a school, but they do not bring rest and the results I was wanting in our home.

When summer arrived, we were still not finished our school books. Thus began  year-round homeschooling, and I came up with rhythms instead of schedules. About every three to six months I have needed to change our rhythms, as seasons of life change, or we need a little change so our life is not just methodically ticking off math, history.

After reading Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson, I have worked very hard to shape the children’s attitudes about school books, writing, and reading to be as much a part of our daily living as breakfast and cooking and laundry. I want folding laundry neatly, cleaning the house well, and playing peaceably to be just as important as doing their best in math and spelling and language.

We are on our fourth year of homeschooling, and in this current season in life these are our rhythms. First things. (Make bed, get dressed, comb hair, feed the dog, brush teeth). Bible. (They are all going through the Bible. Our oldest daughter reads on her own. Our son listens to the audio Bible while following along in his Bible, and our nine-year-old daughter sits beside her brother and listens to the audio.) Then they read or play until breakfast. (This gives me time to keep reading my Bible, start a load of laundry, or mix up bread.)
After breakfast in which, after I have finished eating, I read something out of the Bible, a poem or two or five, we work on our current poem or Scripture we are memorizing and review several past ones, plus usually fit in something else we are working at learning. (That has been oceans and continents, reviewing parts of speech, skip counting, and currently teaching the children how to read music.)

Next is dishes. (For breakfast and supper dishes, I have a rotating schedule by weeks.) After dishes we spend about an hour and a half to two hours of study. Math always comes first.

Then they help with jobs and play until lunch time. After lunch is rest time for one or two hours. Most afternoons, we have a period where we do geography, history, or science, and they read the next chapter in the books they are reading aloud.

Throughout the times of work and play in the mornings and afternoons, I may work with one of the children individually on something they are struggling with in one of the subjects. 

If a friend stops for coffee, or we go to a friend’s house, the children know we take up with the next thing in our rhythm of First Things, Bible, Breakfast, Math, Lunch, Rest time, Afternoon study. If something comes up before we do Math and it is lunchtime, then Math comes between lunch and rest time. (When our children were younger, rest time would probably have needed to come before math.) Then we continue on through our rhythms of the day.

I try to keep the time after supper free from school work so we can spend time playing games as a family and just enjoying being with my husband.

By schooling year round, we are able to not do school books when traveling, sick, or on a day that a friend comes all day to learn to sew. Also there is no forgetting of math facts and fraction concepts in the summer months, and no dreading the getting back into school schedule. It allows for those harder when all we get done is math in the morning and read alouds with tea in the afternoon.

I have three mottos that I use to guide my days. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.” “Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean, and the pleasant land.” (I repeat this one to myself on the days when I just want to go back to bed. Each little step we take does begin to add up to math facts remembered and concepts learned.) “Don’t count each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

Among the day after day of teaching and training and guiding, I have learned to truly love to homeschool our children. I have learned to be open to God’s leading in my days, to take the time to listen to and instruct a struggling child instead of just getting a math lesson checked off the day’s list.

Jesus promised that He came so we can have abundant life. Today I am so grateful that in those early days of homeschooling when I was struggling, I clung to that promise of abundant life, and refused to settle for mediocre. I want to run this race of life well, and so I have learned that I need to set rhythms for my life that will help us to become more excellent in every area, even though they may look different from my friends. I also know that our lives will keep changing, and our rhythms may need to change too, but I choose to believe that God will lead me as I seek to live my life for His glory and to be faithful even in the little things.
-  Dorcas Showalter - Chili


  1. I like that you're truly doing HOMEschooling instead of trying to do classroom schooling in a home setting. I think this is a key to making homeschooling enjoyable and effective.

  2. Oh, I, who also tend to be more of a fly by the seat of my pants individual LOVE the concept of rythemns instead of set in stone schedule. I don't homeschool, but I think I can apply this to other areas in my life. This seems more doable. Thank-you!


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