A Day in the Life of Growing Independent Learners

Growing Independent Learners

We have five children ranging in age from 15 down to 7 and we have been homeschooling throughout their lives.  With each passing year and with the development of each child, our daily routines have considerably altered.  It’s not bad…it’s just different.  It has truly been a gradual, necessary transformation as our children have grown in their maturity, confidence, and independence.

I vividly remember that, just five short years ago, I used to spend a few hours each day in very hands on school work with our three  elementary aged children, an active preschooler, and an ‘into everything’ toddler.  They were enjoyable days, but bone-weary and challenging.  I loved that we were able to enjoy so many activities together and learn as a family, but I also distinctly  remember feeling very divided among each child since they all needed so much of my attention and direct teaching or assistance. 

from 5 years ago…

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to today…IMG_2210 (2)

Now, our school time gets spread  out longer over the course of the day and we are not able to study as many of our subjects together.  However,  those once elementary aged children are all now either middle school or high school aged,  are much more responsible for their own learning, and are developing interests which I see them taking time to pursue in their ‘non-school’ hours.

It has been rewarding to see our older children begin to ‘own’ their school work, take initiative, and be self sufficient.  We have seen them develop into independent learners!

 

 

So, what does a typical school day look like
for our homeschooling family at this new stage?
 

Well, you might be a bit surprised.

I will be the first to point out that, as the kids have developed and progressed in their autonomy, my own role has changed considerably – from direct teacher to more of a facilitator for most of the kids as they learn.  This has been a difficult process for me as I feel a lot of guilt for not being as engaged and directly involved as I once was in their education.  However, I am confident (as is my husband) that this is what our kids need in order to succeed.  So, I‘ve been gradually and intentionally giving our children more options, space, and time to learn and flourish.

 

Here’s a sample day!
(a full day at home, one without music lessons or other outside learning with friends)

Morning

  • Our 6th grader is habitually up around 6:00am to start his schoolwork.  He chooses this time of day because it is quieter and there are no distractions.

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  • I’m typically awake between 7 and 7:30am.  I check in with our 6th grader and then do my Bible reading/memory work, showering, eating, and a bit of computer work.  Characteristically, I am ready to dive full force into school with the kids by 9am (well, after I start a load of laundry =) ).  (This is so different from my former season with lots of little ones.  Then, it was critical for me to be awake before all of the children so that I would have ample time to get ready for the day and have a quiet time with the Lord.)
  • Our 4th, 8th, and 10th grade girls wake up and get moving around the same time as myself.  They can be found doing their own morning routines which includes Bible devotions and AWANA work.  Our oldest often begins schoolwork during breakfast at the kitchen  table. The other girls prefer to start working at their desks in the school room.
  • As for our second grader, lately, I have been having to wake up him up -no later than 9am.  (Can you say ’growth spurt’? LOL.)
  • I usually start the school time by listening to all of the kids’ AWANA verses and helping the youngest two to memorize their Scripture work.
  • I make sure to check school work that has been completed by our 6th grader and review/assist him with any errors or misconceptions that I may notice that he has.
  • Next, I devote a large chunk of the morning to focus on our 2nd grader.   As is to be expected, he still has lots of ‘work with mom’ subjects.  These include Bible, AWANA, All About Reading, book basket reading, read-alouds, English, and spelling. He does pretty well with math and just needs some assistance with it from time to time as well as direct teaching for brand new concepts. His Xtra math and piano are independent. He is then free to play until I call him for history and science later in the day. (Our 6th and 4th grader complete a Bible study together during this time as well as work on other subjects independently, coming to ask questions as needed.)

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  • Mid-morning, kids may get a snack.
  • After working intensely with our youngest,  I usually take a break to check in on our 8th and 10th graders to see how they are progressing and to see if they need help with anything.  (By the way, several of our 8th grader’s subjects, such as math, Spanish, and literature, are online. Our 10th grader takes an online math course, but she has chosen more book based subjects this year. )

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  • Reading and discussing literature as well as dictating spelling with my 4th grader is commonly next. 
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    to…FullSizeRender
  • After that, I’ll try to sneak in a few minutes to ask and discuss science with our 6th grader.
  • As lunch nears, if it works with what she is doing, I try to work on Literary Analysis with my 10th grader.
  • Right before lunch, I, once again, check more work and meet with kids as needed for corrections and assistance.

Afternoon

  • Then it is time for a much need lunch break all together, followed by the completion of kitchen chores.  I also check the menu plan and start the crockpot (if it is necessary) as well as  make sure to switch laundry (if I have forgotten it earlier in the day, which is quite typical ;-) ).
  • After lunch, it is usually history time.  I like to do history with our 2nd and 4th grader first.  Afterwards, I call our 6th and 8th grader to work on history together.

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  • At this point, many of our children are finished with their school day. Our 6th grader typically spends his afternoon free time on coding/ Khan Academy, constructing intricate paper modeling, building with Legos, trying out a cool science experiment that he has found, or either reading or listening to a book for his enjoyment.  The 4th and 2nd graders are usually off playing together.
  • I once again check in with the 8th and 10th graders to see how they are progressing and to see if they need help with anything.  (Our 8th grader is also normally finished with her school day by this point and enjoys reading for fun, checking out new recipes to try, sneaking in some additional piano practice, or hanging out with her siblings.)
  • I’ll meet with our 10th grader to go over her daily end of chapter history questions and, once a week, her weekly end of chapter health questions.  We’ll also discuss her writing assignments.
  • As for science with my 2nd and 4th grader, um, well, in all honesty, we still haven’t started it yet.  Sigh.  But, over the years, I’ve learned that  we will get there eventually and it will all work out by the end of the school year!
  • Laundry and dinner prep sneak up fast at this point of the day.

Evening

  • We then have dinner as a family, followed by chores.
  • After chores, we may have evening commitments outside the home or a time of free choice for what the children desire to do.
  • In the evenings, right before bedtime, my husband has been reading a YWAM Missionary Biography with all of the kids as well as leading a prayer time for missionaries and for our sponsored compassion child.  (He used to try to do this in the mornings, but as the kids grow, they tend to need more sleep.  So, our schedule has been adjusted accordingly.)

Throughout the Day

I delight in listening to the sounds of the piano, cello, and violins as the kids take turns practicing when the ‘music room’ becomes free.  I also get to witness gymnastics and crazy sibling antics, aid in resolving sibling squabbles, hear lots of ‘mommy, look at this’, answer tons of questions, refer them to God’s Word, and experience lots of hugs.  I truly do LOVE them and enjoy that I get to be home for them!

IMG_2613 IMG_1079 IMG_2798

 

When we first started on this homeschooling journey with lots of little ones,
I would never have been able to envision the relatively calm, productive days that we experience now.
 

Yes, our days are still full and busy, but it’s a different kind of full, a different kind of busy.  These days require much pre-planning to ensure our children’s independence and lots of intentionality to guarantee I am taking time to come alongside our kids and meeting them where they are each day.  It’s far from perfect and I admit that I’m not the greatest at juggling this new stage, but I’m thankful that God is challenging me and growing me, too.   It is a great privilege and season of joy as I get to spend time with my favorite people, guiding them as they develop into independent learners who love the Lord.

 

____________________________________________
Past posts on a typical homeschooling day for our family…
Homeschooling – Day in the Life (K, preK, toddler, and expecting our 4th)
A Day in My Life – as a 9th Grade Homeschooler

Our 2017-2018 Curriculum

Workboxes – a stepping stone to independence

Solar Eclipse Activities

 

Solar Eclipse Activities

 

Start by Learning about the Phases of the Moon

1. View an Informative Video about Moon Phases

2. Watch and then Participate in a Moon Phase Demonstration

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3. Review Moon Phases by sequencing the Phases of the Moon and matching the definitions. We used these free 3 Part Moon Phases Cards from  ETC Montessori. (You may need to type ‘moon’ into the search field.)

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4. Create an Edible Phases of the Moon Model
This was such a fun moon model idea shared by 4th Grade Frolics.

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Turn your focus onto the Solar Eclipse

Create a paper and brass fastener Solar Eclipse Model 

Learn all about a solar eclipse through Free Videos!

Watch and then conduct your own Solar Eclipse Demonstrations
Video Demonstration (from The Guardian)

Read Articles and Track the Eclipse

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Build a Pinhole Viewer and Discuss Eye Safety

 

Create Some Out of this World Art
 Chalk Pastel Solar Eclipse  (free tutorial from Hodgepodge)

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Don’t forget to enjoy some fun Solar Eclipse Food
Think Sun Chips, Capri Suns, Moon Pies, crescent shaped sandwiches, moon and sun shapes cut from fruit or cheese, cupcakes with yellowish orange frosting and an Oreo on top, etc.

Remember to reflect upon the greatness of our Lord, the Creator God!
Memorize Psalm 19:1 or begin working on learning the entire Psalm! (We have a free Psalm 19 memorization booklet and copywork for kids as well as a memorization and meditation booklet for moms and older kids on our Bible Memorization page.)

The heavens declare the glory of God.
The skies proclaim the work of his hands.

 

May you enjoy this special event with your children (and stay safe)!  
And, if you happen to miss it, there is another one coming across the United States on April 8, 2024!

Our 2017-2018 Curriculum

Our 2017-2018 Curriculum

Our 2nd Grader:

2nd Reading  Geography and Missions2nd Bible 2nd Spelling

 

  • Reading/Phonics: All About Reading: Level 2; beginning chapter books; Explode the Code books 5-6 ; Read Alouds – Fairy Tales and Fables (with reader’s theatres and art)
  • Spelling: Joyful Heart Spelling Skills
  • Writing/Grammar/Composition: BJU English 2
  • Math: Horizons 2, Xtra Math
  • Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Botany (with our nature notebook)
  • Social Studies: Geography and Missions
  • Bible: God’s Gospel, From the Lips of Little Ones (Catechism), AWANA Sparks
  • Music: piano practice, choir, Trail Life, Home Art Studio

Our 4th Grader:

4th Literature  4th Science  Bible 4th Math

 

  • Reading/Literature:  literature books of our choosing with corresponding comprehension guides; once a month book club; free reading
  • Writing/Grammar/Composition: BJU English 4; Spelling through Scripture; Word Roots Beginning
  • Math: Horizons 4
  • Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Botany
  • Social Studies: Geography and Missions
  • Bible: AWANA T&T, daily Bible Reading/How to Study Your Bible
  • Additions:  violin lessons, piano practice, choir, Home Art Studio 

Our 6th Grader:

6th Language Arts   
6th Science science&history6th History

 

  • Reading/Literature: Veritas Press Omnibus 1 Secondary (including Chosen by God, Till We Have Faces, all books in The Chronicles of Narnia series, The Best Things in Life, Unaborted Socrates, The Eagle of the Ninth, The Screwtape Letters, and The Holiness of God)
  • Writing/Grammar/Composition: BJU English 6
  • Vocabulary: Word Roots 2
  • Math: Horizons 6
  • Science: God’s Design for the Physical World – Heat, Inventions & Technology, and Machines
  • Social Studies: Beautiful Feet Books: History of Science
  • Bible: Student Leader in AWANA/Trek, daily Bible Reading/How to Study Your Bible
  • Additions: Trail Life, Student Worship Choir, Khan Academy – Coding!

Our 8th Grader:

8th Literature8th Physical Science) 8th Composition8th History

 

  • Reading/Literature: Veritas Press Omnibus 2 Secondary (including The Hobbit , The Fellowship of the Ring , The Nine Tailors, The Dragon and the Raven, Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Winning His Spurs, The Two Towers, Henry V, King Richard III, and The Return of the King)
  • Writing/Grammar/Composition:  Introductory Guide to High School Writing: Poetry, Short Stories, Research, and Essays; Easy Grammar Plus
  • Vocabulary: Word Roots 2; Homophones
  • Math: Shormann Algebra 1 with Integrated Geometry (0ver 1 ½ years)
  • Science: Apologia Physical Science
  • Social Studies: Beautiful Feet Books: History of Classical Music
  • Foreign Language: BJU Spanish 1
  • Additions: Student Leader in AWANA/Trek, Cello lessons, Piano Lessons

Our 10th Grader:

10th Chemistry 10th History10th Christian Literature 10th Literary Analysis10th Health

 

  • English 10 (Literary Analysis, Christian Literature, and Composition)  1 Credit
    Windows to the World: An Introduction to Literary Analysis by Lesha Myers
    (and Literature Analysis Notebook); Great Christian Writers – Full Length Christian Novels, Study Guides, and Composition; Time 4 Writing Online Courses – Essay & Research
  • Algebra 2 with Integrated Geometry  1.5 Credits
    Shormann Algebra 2 with Integrated Geometry
  • Chemistry  1 credit
    Discovering Design for Chemistry by Dr. Jay Wile (including labs)
  • World History  1 Credit
    Exploring World History by Ray Notgrass
  • Bible: Issues in World History  1 Credit
    Exploring World History by Ray Notgrass,  Bible, AWANA Journey – Bible Reading and Scripture Memorization
  • Spanish .5 Credit
    Homeschool Spanish Academy – online one on one tutoring
  • Physical Education and Health  1 Credit
    Total Health; Gymnastics
  • Instrumental Music 2   1 Credit
    Violin and Piano (lessons, practices, and performances)
  • Additions: Student Leader in AWANA/Journey, Student Worship Choir, Driving Practice, PSAT Practice, Recreational Blog and Script Writing

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Would you like to see our curriculum choices from previous years?
2016-2017 (9th, 7th, 5th, 3rd, 1st)
2015-2016 (8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, Kindergarten)
2014-2015 (7th, 5th, 3rd, 1st, PreK)
2013-2014 (6th, 4th, 2nd, K, preschool)
2012-2013 (5th, 3rd, 1st, PreK, 2 year old)
2011-2012 (4th, 2nd, K, 3’s preschool, toddler)
2010-2011 (3rd, 1st, PreK, 2 year old, 4 month old baby)
2009-2010 (2nd, K, 3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived end of year)
2008-2009 (1st, PreK, 2 year old, 6 month old baby)
2007-2008 (K, 3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived mid year)
2006-2007 (PreK, 2 year old, 7 month old baby)
                  – Joyful Heart Character
2005-2006 (3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived mid year)
                  – Joyful Heart Bible and Rhyme
2004-2005 (2 year old, 6 mo old baby) 
                  – Joyful Heart Learning

Recipe For a Sweet First Day

Recipe for a Sweet First Day

What do you get when you blend together the first day of school, 2 parents attempting to speak with a British accent, 3 yummy baking challenges, 4 traditional first day activities, and 5 excited homeschooled kids?  Well, you will get the recipe for an exciting Great British Bake-Off themed first day of homeschool, of course!

Tea

Ingredients for a Sweet First Day

1 Day of School
We typically start each homeschool year on a Friday and celebrate it as our ‘Fun Start Friday’.  The kids look forward to the first day and try, throughout the summer, to get me to tell them the top secret first day theme.  Why do we do this?  Well, because, let’s be honest, the rest of our homeschool days are fairly full and organized with academic pursuits that we usually attempt with a great deal of diligence.  Our first day is designed to build excitement and anticipation for a brand new school year.  It also creates lots of fun memories for our family.  This year’s theme was ‘We’re Baking Up One Sweet Year’ and was based off of the Great British Bake-Off television show.

Breakfast

2 Parents attempting to speak with a British accent
Please notice that I said, ‘attempting’.  The kids actually do much better at this than we do!  We ended up being so busy that we forgot to do this through much of the day.   However, we could be heard saying a lot of ‘On your mark, get set, bake,’ ‘No soggy bottoms,’ and ‘It’s a good bake.’  We also tossed around some baking idioms.  It was so much fun!

3 Yummy Baking Challenges
If you have watched the Great British Bake Off, then you know that each show consists of three challenges – The Signature Bake, the Technical Challenge, and the Show Stopper.  We were a bit zealous and did all three bakes on one day.  One or two bakes would have been sufficient.  The kids stuck with it though and we didn’t finish our Show Stopper until 7:30 at night.   It was a long first day, but we all had a blast!

What were our baking challenges?
1) The Signature Bake – Scones

Scones2 Scones1  Scones3

2) The Technical Challenge – Scripture Cookies

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3) The Show Stopper Bake – Decorative Cakes

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4 Traditional First Day Activities
There are a few activities that our family will commonly do on the first day of school , regardless of the theme – Growing in Grace Sheets, Encouraging Notes, a Scripture focus, and an art or craft project.

  1. Growing in Grace Sheets
    We have the kids think through some of their favorite things (colors, school subjects, books, Scripture, etc.), envision what they want to do this year as well as when they grow up, and consider their areas of strength and weakness.  We also have them draw a self portrait each year and record their new heights and weights.
    GrowinginGraceSheets
  2. Encouraging Notes
    The kids have to think and write a note of encouragement to each of their siblings.  (I write a note to each child as well and place it on the inside of their place card to read at breakfast on the first day.)
    EncouragingNotes1EncouragingNotes2
  3. A Scripture Focus
    We may have sword drills or pass out Scripture references for each child to read aloud.  After reading, we briefly discuss the verse(s) and how to apply it.  Often, the focus will be on love, the fruit of the Spirit, or how to grow in wisdom according to the Bible.  One particular verse will be our theme verse for the entire school year.  This year’s verse is from Psalm 119:103…
    How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.
    Bible2 Bible
  4. An Art or Craft Project
    To go along with our baking theme, we had each child complete a cake chalk pastel drawing! ChalkPastelCakes1ChalkPastelCakes2

5 Excited Homeschooled Kids

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I had to hold back tears of joy several times throughout the day.  Seeing the kids’ enthusiasm and eagerness to participate as well as realizing the privilege we have of being able to enjoy this sweet time with them was priceless.

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Thank you, Jesus, for such a sweet, memorable start to our homeschool year.

Including Teens: Planning for Their School Year

Including Teens in Planning

If you know me, then you understand how much I  love researching, planning, and organizing – especially in regards to school.  For me, it is more than just a requirement for preparing for another homeschool year.  I actually find it enjoyable! 

As our children have grown, I’ve begun to include them in some of the curriculum selection process.  No, they don’t seem to enjoy it as much as I do.  However, especially as they enter the teenage years, I think it is important for them to be able to have a say in what they will be learning as well as in how they will be learning.

What does this look like?

Starting in middle school, I’ll give them a few options for subjects like history and science as well as seek to somehow include something they are really interested in learning more about. 

For our 6th grade son this year, that involves lots of science – including learning about inventions, reading biographies of famous scientists, and making a science timeline for his history.  It also means making sure he has time during his school day to continue learning how to code with Khan academy.  He is beyond excited for these changes and additions this coming year! 

Our 8th grade daughter loves music.   After looking at curricula, we encouraged her to use her history time this coming school year to study classical composers through biographies and learn about the orchestra and each type of musical instrument.  She also has space in her day to continue practicing her cello and piano, as well as music appreciation.  This is a perfect fit for her this coming year and she is very much looking forward to these aspects in her daily school routine.

For high school students,  it is even more important for them to have a part in the decision making process for each of their subjects.  I explain the graduation requirements, suggest several options, show them online samples, and encourage them to read descriptions in the numerous homeschool catalogs that grace our mailbox. Then, we allow them to attend a homeschool conference with us and to share in the vendor hall experience.  We then talk about the possible positives and negatives of each curricula that they or I are interested in.  In the end, my husband and I are the ones with the final say, but our teens and preteens know that they have had a part in the decision.

It is so encouraging to see the different personalities, passions, and interests that God is developing in each of our children.  By allowing our teens and preteens to participate in  making decisions about THEIR education, we can more easily purchase and plan for curriculum that is tailored to their interests.  This, in turn, causes them to approach their schoolwork with a greater sense of ownership, determination, and satisfaction. 

All of this equals a greater joy in learning!

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