Homeschooling Multiple Children: Our 4th Grade Plan for 2014-2015

A few days ago I shared my plan for my preschooler, and I’ve decided to go ahead and share my plan for the rest of us as well. I do this with some hesitation because I am certainly not holding us up as The Family That You Should Imitate. We’re not. But I have found it helpful to see how others with families similar to mine are managing things. I share this so you can see how I have solved some of the challenges associated with educating multiple children at different developmental levels and scheduling when things aren’t always the same.

Our Homeschool Up ‘Till Now

I am a very relaxed educator in the early grades. My oldest was very much unschooled from birth through 2nd grade. Periodically I would pull out some sort of reading or math program and give it a go, but if he didn’t take to it (and he never did) we put it away and just went on with our lives. At some point between 2nd and 3rd grade I began requiring him to do 10 minutes of reading and 10 minutes of math a day. He was allowed to choose anything he wanted to read and anything he wanted to do for math – computer games, card games, Life of Fred, etc. Through this process he went from reading the same Henry and Mudge book every day to reading Harry Potter in a very short period of time.

Reading Time

The rest of our time was spent playing with friends, reading books, listening to audio books, field trips, outside time, and yes, a good amount of computer time and television.

Last year, his 3rd grade year, I tried a more formal approach. What began as a day involving math and handwriting and spelling and reading devolved into just trying to get through a lesson in our Saxon math book without killing each other. We limped toward the end of the year, me stubbornly clinging to the idea that we must get through a lesson a day in math if nothing else. I ignored his atrocious handwriting and poor spelling. I felt science and history and language arts were more than adequately covered by all of our exploration and the great books we were reading.

Our Big Picture Plan for 4th Grade

At the end of last year, I was ready to give up on homeschooling. We started talking about school. We toured our local Catholic school. And I prayed a lot. And a few seemingly random opportunities for this year just fell in my lap. And these opportunities and resources made me believe that we can do this – that we can find a balanced approach to homeschooling that works for us.

First, we got an email telling us that our enrichment program will begin carrying the Book Shark curriculum. One of the perks of our enrichment program is access to free curriculum. The Book Shark program is a literature based approach to language arts, history, and science. And it is amazing.

We have always learned so much through the great books and stories we enjoy together. My kids love to listen to me read aloud or to audio books in the car. The Book Shark program pulls it all together for you. We’ll be studying American History this year through reading a series of engaging, often award winning, novels. No dry textbooks. No tests. Just good stories and conversation. The approach is very much in line with a Charlotte Mason living books and narration approach. And I don’t have to do the legwork myself.

The opportunity that came our way was the chance to participate in a Catholic co-op based on the Classical Conversations curriculum. This was such an answer to prayer. We have tried to find a Catholic homeschool group that fits our family, and we just haven’t been successful. Many of the groups were simply farther than I wanted to drive. This one is less than 10 minutes from my house.

Classical Conversations is something that has always intrigued and repelled me. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s essentially rote memorization of facts. They memorize parts of speech, math formulas, a history timeline, science facts, geography facts, poetry – all kinds of stuff.

This year the group will be studying American History and Anatomy. Which goes perfectly with what we’re covering in Book Shark. The co-op also offers an amazing writing program for my oldest son. They’ll also be learning Latin.

I am so, so, excited about all of the great things my kids will be learning this year.

How It Will All Work in Practice

So I had to figure out how all of this was going to fit together in real life. I knew that between the Classical Conversations co-op on Thursdays and our enrichment program on Fridays and our weekly trip to my parents’ house on Wednesdays, I had to be very realistic about how much we could do at home. My challenge was to figure out what I really needed to teach the kids this year, and how to fit that into the time we have without making everyone crazy.

Managers of Their Homes strongly encourages you to have the same schedule for every day. That was my first challenge. We’re only home two days a week this year. How in the world was I to make every day the same?

I solved the problem by creating a schedule that keeps our mornings, late afternoons, and evenings the same and only changes the “school time” in the main part of the day. When we’re home we follow our homeschool schedule. When we visit Grandmother on Wednesdays, we follow a modified version which has our “group school” time happening in the car on the drive down and the drive back plugs into  our afternoon rest/outside time.

Here. I’ll show you. This is what my 4th grader’s day looks like.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing this year and how you handle the  variability of a homeschooler’s week. Do you have more or less the same routine every day? Every week? Or do you start from scratch every day? What works for you?

 

 

 

7:15 – 8:15

Wake and Morning Chores

Henry’s morning chores are dressing, making his bed, personal grooming, eating breakfast, and unloading the dishwasher.

8:15-9:15

Group School

This is when we do our Book Shark reading, a chapter from Life of Fred and our Classical Conversations memory work. We’re all together in the living room. The work is primarily read alouds. On Wednesdays we will listen to audio books and our Classical Conversations memory CD in the car as we drive out to my parents’ house.

9:15-9:45

Outside

The kids all go outside at this time and I do my FlyLady chores.

9:45-10:15

Morning Ticket

My kids each get three 30-minute blocks of screen time per day. This is Henry’s first “ticket.” He earns his ticket by finishing his morning chores on time. If he doesn’t, he uses this time to finish up anything he needs to from the morning chore block before he can “spend his ticket.”

10:15-10:45

Morning School Time

We finish up anything we didn’t get to at Group School Time and spend some time learning a hymn, reading about a Saint, or doing a Picture Study or Composer Study.

10:45-11:15

Science Box Time with Thomas

I need to do a whole post on Science Boxes. This is time for Henry and Thomas to do open ended science exploration. They may do anything they want, really, so long as Henry keeps Thomas busy while I do school with Helen. The science box gives them a place to start.

11:15-12:15

School with Mom

This is when we work on writing, math, spelling, and anything else he needs help with.

12:15-1:00

Lunch

1:00-1:30

Spanish with Helen

We’re using Power Glide Spanish. I’m not super concerned with mastery or anything. So as long as they’re not bothering my prayer time, I’m not too concerned about what they do at this time. I wanted to make sure that each of the kids had one-on-one time with each of the other kids and I provided some structure to help keep it sane. Thomas will be having his Kindle time in bed with me so the kids just need to leave us alone at this point.

1:30-2:30

Independent School Time

This is going to be tricky. We will definitely be slowly working up to a whole hour of working independently. Very slowly. But that is the goal. I will give him a daily assignment sheet so he knows what to do.

2:30-3:00

Ticket Time

His second ticket. He earns this by being cooperative with schoolwork.

3:00-3:30

Rest/Outside Time

This is free time for him. If he wants to rest or read or play Lego in his room this will be a quiet time for him. The rest of us are outside and he’s welcome to join us. On Wednesdays, this time is spent driving home from my parents’ house.

3:30-4:00

Read Alone Time

This will be assigned reading from the Book Shark program. On Wednesdays, this is still car time.

4:00-4:30

Mom Time

This is his chance to do whatever he’d like with me. Right now he’s working on learning to make Minecraft “Let’s Play” videos.

4:30-5:00

Afternoon Chores

For Henry this is taking out the trash, tidying up his room, and putting away anything of his laying around the house.

5:00-6:30

Outside/Free Time

Whatever he wants to do so long as it’s not screens. When the weather is nice this is usually playing outside with the neighbor kids.

6:30-7:00

Dinner and Cleanup

7:00-7:30

Nighttime Chores

Shower, jammies, brush teeth, bring family laundry down to basement.

7:30-8:00

Nighttime Ticket

He can hit the screens as soon as he finishes his nighttime chores.

8:00-8:30

Reading with Mom or Dad

Bed time stories.

8:30

Lights Out

Comments

  1. Anna

    I think your solution is really good. We have pretty much the same schedule, but our enrichment is on Friday. The “duh” thing that I added to our schedule last year was being intentional about errands, keeping them to the afternoon. Previously, I would run errands whenever I could, and expected the kids to make up for it. We don’t have that luxury with the specialist appointments in Denver, but the grocery shopping and library, etc, those are all in the afternoon. You’d think that by the time I’ve got a 6th grader, I’d have figured that out.

    Reply
    1. razzbe5 Post author

      I don’t think we’ll ever figure it all out. :) But I figure if we get a little better each year, we’re doing great, right?

      I’m doing all of my errands and most of my house cleaning on Fridays while the big kids are at Options. My little one is easy to shop and clean with. He likes to help. I will also use Saturday for chores and errands if I need to. This is all, of course, until I’m too pregnant or too tired from a newborn to do anything. :)

      Reply
      1. Anna

        I felt SO guilty last year, because I thought that we could use the enrichment day as time to do one-on-one preschool stuff, but I needed the time for errands.
        This year, they’ll all be there, and I’ve got my morning free, but I’ve got a class of my own at their school in the afternoon.

        Reply
        1. razzbe5 Post author

          Anna, I realized pretty quickly that Fridays are not good days for one-on-one with my preschooler. I got over the guilt fairly quickly. After all, don’t we homeschoolers like to talk about how living life is educational? Grocery shopping with mom is one-on-one time and educational for the little one. We usually pick up a treat at the grocery store to make it “special.”

          Reply
  2. Caroline Fuerte

    loved reading your schedule. of course ours isn’t organized yet (I’m waiting for MOTH to help organize me :) but this is our basic structure:

    – Me in the shower by 7am, dressed, eaten breakfast, and wake the kids by 7:30 if they’re not up
    – Them: get dressed, sometimes help with breakfast, be at the table by 8am
    – 8-8:45 Morning Time: this has a rotation of: American History, Shakespeare/Poetry, Art Appreciation and a Literature/Saint Story. The idea is that they’ll be at the table, I’ll mostly be reading, and it can be a little chaotic with the twins
    – the next block is: finish morning things for kids, do small amount of copywork while I put the twins to sleep
    – MATH :) My great hope this year is that math is very consistent
    – snack time, then memory work for Classically Catholic Memory and Latin
    – Lunch
    – Afternoon independent reading/quiet time
    – 40 min. screen time
    – family walk/bike ride

    – free time, make dinner, chores…

    we have our co-op on Tuesdays, I’m seriously considering Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Wednesday morning, and a nature study walk every other Friday…we’ll see! doesn’t it sound so good written out though?

    Reply
    1. razzbe5 Post author

      This looks great, Caroline! The book really will help you work out the kinks. I like the rotation at Morning Time. With the Book Shark program all laid out for me I’ve already had to let go of some anxiety about getting everything “done.” We may not get through all of it, and that’s okay. I still like the basic outline. But I also like that I can decide what to add and take away.

      Reply
  3. Caroline Fuerte

    Jess, when you get a chance can you post the list of living books you have for American History? thanks!

    Reply

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