I wrote a post recently in which I inquired whether we too busy to connect with others and to make a commitment to community and family? I haven’t found the answers but I have discovered that I am not alone. I know balance is something we all struggle with … whether we choose to homeschool or not. Homeschool families, however, have the added burden or joy (depending upon your outlook) of also planning extracurricular activities around the needs to complete curriculum. As Angie commented,
“People say – you guys are always busy. I say we are always engaged, intentionally. When I ask these same families to join us, I don’t have to ask you to guess their response – we can’t, we’re too busy. We have stacked our days on purpose to have large amounts of free time.”
Like Angie and other homeschool families, we are engaged in intentional activities and varied learning opportunities. I take advantage of every available resource and seek out opportunities for learning, particularly areas that I can not teach myself. When we attend community lectures, get involved in fraternal activities or volunteer work, we do so with purpose. Even so, I constantly strive for balance and to achieve it, rely on the flexibility of our schedule. Today I would like to share with you our step-by-step guide for intentional planning.
Step 1 :: Create Your Master Schedule
Each trimester, sit down with a master schedule and note the days and times the kids have lessons – extracurricular activities, lessons with tutors, co-ops, etc. These will undoubtedly vary from family to family but essentially it is any activity you coordinate with another – whether it is attending church service, a private lesson, a sport, or regular volunteer obligation.
In our home, the kids have Mandarin lessons twice a week for an hour each, music lessons once a week for 30-45 minutes, bible study and science co-op are both once a week, and swim team is available five evenings a week (though we generally attend only three times). On a monthly basis, we have Roots & Shoots outings, Barnesklubb, and lodge business meetings. I also like to color code activities which also correspond to our family calendar.
Step 2 :: Plan Lessons & Outings in Blocks
With your master schedule in place, you can now begin to fill in the open time with formal lessons and chores. I like to do this in chunks and utilize a modified cleaning schedule from the Fly Lady. Though we do math and language arts daily, we focus on history on Monday and science on Wednesday. This creates uninterrupted time during which the kids can explore topics of personal interest – crochet, aerodynamics, reading, and of course Minecraft.
I also work with the kids one-on-one regularly. When Sweetie is working with her Mandarin tutor, I work with her brother in math and writing; when Buddy brother is engaged in his piano lesson, his sister is expected to write a letter (and vice versa). I thereby carry along a school bag wherever we go that contains the kids’ math books, writing paper, notecards and stamps, and a read aloud (a novel or poetry).
I also chunk together our errands around town. Once a month (lodge days), for example, we are away from home for the majority of the day. I thereby plan our visits to the library (and sometimes the bank or post office) on this day. Though it makes for a very long day (we depart at 8:30 a.m. and don’t return home until after 9 p.m.); it is easier than making several trips back to the house for only 30-60 minute windows. On the flip side, our hectic Thursday is always followed by a relaxing Friday with no obligation outside the home whatsoever.
Step 3 :: Allow For Change
When opportunities for play dates or field trips present themselves, forgo your formal lessons. There is no harm in taking a day off, especially when it is for an educational experience or activity rich in learning.
Peruse your local newspaper, community websites, and bulletin boards – you’ll be surprised at the variety of opportunities that surround you. Many of which are free! This week alone, in our local community there is a walking tour offered by the historical society, a hook and needlers club gathering, a vermicomposting class, two fun runs to kickstart the new year, a Roots & Shoots outing, a Mandarin story time at the library, and many more.
Highlight those of interest to you and discuss the possibilities with the kids. What captures their interest? Put them on the calendar and go! These opportunities are not only rich in themselves but provide for experiences the kids can write about and share with others later.
Step 4 :: Let Them Lead
Now that the kids are older and exploring personal interests, conflicts arise more often. When they do, we weigh the benefits and occasionally make adjustments. Generally, the conflicts are in the evening when we have swim team. Fortunately, we have the ability to go to swim practice five times a week (six if we go on Saturday morning), our goal is to swim at least three times a week and we generally able to do so regardless.
My daughter has always had an interest in fly fishing. When I learned of a fly tying class offered in the fall and spring each year (one night a week for six consecutive weeks), my daughter was ecstatic. It meant giving up swimming on that night but it was her decision. Fly tying has become a passion, however. She attended Fish Camp this past summer and received a fly rod and reel for Christmas. She is already learning to balance her own interests.
Next week, I will share a series of video posts describing How I Teach. Each day will focus upon a different curriculum area – Monday: Language Arts, Tuesday: Math, Wednesday: Science, Thursday: History, and Friday: Fine Arts. I am really excited for this series. See you then! 🙂
January 7, 2014 at 10:17 pm
Just want to say that I love reading your posts and look forward to them. Our eldest’s 3.5 yr old and we’re still sitting on the fence with regards to homeschooling (there is a wonderful dual-immersion Spanish/English program nearby that we’re interested in, but not sure if fluency in Spanish trumps homeschooling flexibility or not…). If you could go back in time, would you have homeschooled from the very beginning, or do you feel that public school has benefited your kids as well?
January 8, 2014 at 8:06 am
Hi Emily ~
Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I love hearing from those that read my ramblings. How exciting to be on the cusp of schooling … it is such a wonderful journey, regardless of what direction you choose to make.
We haven’t had a true public school experience, however. We have homeschooled from the beginning. We began homeschooling when my oldest turned 5. Because her birthday fell after the Sept 1st cut off, she wasn’t able to enroll in public kinder but she wanted to start school like her friends. At the same time, she had also expressed an interest in learning Chinese. There was a Mandarin immersion preschool in our area but it was only 2 half days a week. I thereby decided to enroll her and to also give homeschooling a try. We had a great time that year and by the following year, she was enjoying the Mandarin lessons so much that we continued on our homeschool journey and at that time started private tutoring for Mandarin.
I knew that if I enrolled her in public or private school, we wouldn’t have the flexibility to continue Mandarin as well as pursue other interests like Taekwondo (which she was also interested) or music. We’ve thereby continued homeschooling from the beginning. When we first moved to California 2.5 yrs ago, we partnered with a local charter school for a few months. Once a week, the kids went to “school” for what we were told would be enrichment experiences (music, art, hands-on math and science) but it was irregular at best and much of the time they were engaged in standardized testing. My son was becoming bitter, resentful, and angry; I knew it wasn’t the right fit for us.
Fluency in another language is very important to us and our homeschool centers around their Mandarin instruction (note: we went with Mandarin because it is what my daughter requested, but any language is awesome). I feel a second (or third) language is valuable in many ways; my kids are more confidant and better problem solvers because of their language experiences.
I wish you all the best on your decision … know that you can make adjustments or changes along the way as well. Just because you choose one option when your child is 5 doesn’t mean you have to continue that path when she is 8. Allow them to lead and learn together along the way.
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