Category Archives: Homeschool Routine

Dad’s Role in Our Homeschool

dad's role in homeschooling

Just as there are thousands of ways to homeschool, so there are a multitude of roles fathers can play in happy homeschooling households.

Dad’s role will vary depending on many factors, including how often he works away from the home, the ages of the children, and of course the personalities and interests of all concerned.

For this week’s Homeschool Help series, here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at C(9) and J(8)’s dad’s role in our homeschool.

For most of the time we’ve been homeschooling, James has worked at least twelve hours a day outside the house, Monday to Friday. He leaves the house at 7am and returns at 7pm or later.

This means that almost all day-to-day childcare and homeschooling falls to me. But that’s not to say that my husband doesn’t play a very important role in our homeschooling family.

Moral support

Perhaps the most important role my husband plays as far as I’m concerned is that of sounding-board. No-one else knows our children like he does, so whenever I’m considering any changes in the way we homeschool, I talk them through with him.

James wasn’t sure about homeschooling in the early days (he hadn’t read the seven zillion books and websites that I had), but to my eternal appreciation he’s always kept an open mind, and he’s now fully on board.

I relish sharing with him our children’s successes – usually in the children’s presence – and I discuss with him privately any challenges we’re facing.

The kids appreciate their dad’s moral support too.  Like most homeschooling families, C(9), J(8) and I spend so much time together we mostly get on great. Even so, having another person around can provide a welcome change of mood!

Dad’s special skills

James is a technical whizz  who, bless him, happily spends hours posing Lego minifigs and creating green screen special effects making movies with the kids.

I’m sure he enjoys using his technical skills to make movies more than he enjoys his role as family IT support guy – but I don’t know what we’d do without that aspect of his expertise in our teck-heavy homeschool!

If a dad is going to take on any homeschool teaching or mentoring on top of paid full-time work, it helps if he’s passionate about the subject.  I know one homeschooing dad who loves taking his son to museums and history clubs at weekends. Another friend, who plays in a band part-time, shares with his daughter his passion for electric guitar.

dad's role in our homeschool

Role modelling

As the non-homeschooling parent, James has more time to make a contribution to the world outside our home. Much of what he does in his role as a banking IT manager goes right over the kids’ heads (and mine!), but he makes a point of sharing with C(9) and J(8) those parts of what he does that they can understand.

Earlier this year, for example, James wrote an Android smartphone app in his spare time. The kids and I excitedly followed along as his app was listed on the Google Play store, then got noticed by a few of the technology news websites, and ended up with over 18,000 active installs.

As a consequence of his app’s success, this summer James was invited to attend a three-day, all-expenses paid, developers’ retreat in Paolo Alto, California. We all thought that very cool indeed, and it was fantastic for C(9) and J(8) to see where hobbies can lead!

Practical support

Of course, when only one parent is doing paid work, their income pays for every book, activity, car journey and computer in a homeschool – not to mention the very roof over the family’s heads!

But as well as financial support, I love that James takes on other practical tasks when he can. From Monday to Friday I do a lot of cooking and chauffeuring, so I love it when James rolls up his sleeves and gets cooking and driving at weekends. (Cooking is not one of my passions!)

I love that on Sundays, he not only takes C(9) to her rugby practice but even walks the dogs at the same time, then comes home and cooks a roast – my hero!

Active and outdoors

Left to our own devices, we’re a family of geeky couch potatoes, so making the time to exercise and get some fresh air is important.

When our kids were babies, James made a conscious commitment that he was going to get active alongside them as they grew up.

In the summer they surf, kayak, sail and swim together, and all year round he kicks and throws balls and goes on cycling trips with the children. {I join in when the weather’s good 🙂 }

My lovely husband even agreed – much against his own personal wishes – to get a dog (now two dogs), which gives us a reason to go walking together, whatever the weather.

When the kids are asked to describe their dad, one of the first words they use is “fun” – which tells me how much of a success he’s made of the commitment he made ten years ago.

Dad's Role in Homeschooling

I hope I’ve managed to strike a balance here between sharing the contribution my husband makes to our homeschool and not embarrassing him.

But I can’t sign off without recognising the fine job my single mum friends do of homeschooling.

I began this post by acknowledging how many ways there are to successfully home-educate. That includes homeschooling with no dad around. For many reasons, some women find themselves homeschooling without a partner by their side. And some of the most amazing kids I know have at least equally amazing single mums.

I myself was brought up by a single mum who did a stupendous job of meeting the needs of my brother, sister and me. Thanks to her example, I’m not the slightest bit fazed by the amount of time I spend alone with my kids.

But I do know that C(9) and J(8)’s dad makes a huge contribution to our family and our homeschool, and for that I am truly thankful.

How does your partner contribute to your homeschool?

Homeschool help - dad's role in homeschooling

 For the other Homeschool Help ladies’ posts, see:

Highhill Education – How My Husband Helps us Homeschool

Every Bed of Roses – Dad’s Helping Hand in our Homeschool

Barefoot Hippie Girl – He’s on my Team

One Magnificent Obsession – Dad’s Role in our Homeschool: the Silent Philanthropist

Hammock Tracks – Dad – The Homeschool Bouncer

Best Not Back to School Week Ever

Here’s what we were doing while the other children in our town were shuffling, uniform-clad, back to school this week …

not back to school photos

Not Back To School Photos
What better way to celebrate life and freedom when it’s a pleasant 26 C (79 F) and you live near the river?
Not Back To School Photos
Plenty of time to watch the pond skaters
Not  Back To School Photos
Lots of swinging, nature, and water fun (yes, me too!)
Rugby girl
My little girl started back at rugby 😀
Not back to school collage
Art journalling, minecrafting with friends, and settling in the new puppy

Homeschooling just gets better and better.


I’m appreciatively linking up here:

Collage Friday – Homegrown Learners

Friendship Friday – Living & Learning with our New Normal

Weekly Wrap-Up – Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Homeschool Mother’s Journal – So You Call Yourself A Homeschooler

Country Kids at Coombe Mill

Hip Homeschool Hop – 13/09/10

No More School Time

unschooling and school time

This year I’m planning a small change to our daily routine which I’m hoping will have big consequences: I’m not going to declare our “school day” started.

Until now, everyone has done their own thing in the morning until about 9AM when I round them up to “start schoolwork”.  C(9) might be watching TV, reading or playing Minecraft while Skyping her best friend. J(8) is usually at his computer.

“Schoolwork” in our house is a very relaxed affair, but it has often required the children to put aside what they’re doing in favour of what I have planned.

I wonder if, by calling an end to the children’s early morning pastimes, I’ve inadvertently created a scarcity situation.

Imagine you’re reading a book. You come across an idea that inspires you to write a blog post. But you know that in 45 minutes someone’s going to shout “Stop! Reading time’s over!” After that time you’ll be allowed to write the blog post, but there’ll be no more reading for several hours. Would you stop reading at the moment inspiration strikes and begin writing the blog post? Or would you push the inspiration to one side, deciding instead to the most of your limited reading time?

While my children are relying on me to formally begin the school day, where’s their incentive to take responsibility for planning their own time? If I was relying on an external call to action, I’d probably turn off my internal motivation, too.

I want C(9) and J(8) to become more responsible for their own learning, so I have to trust them with the freedom to make their own choices. Blurring the line between “school time” and non-school time is one step in this direction.

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Photo by CeresB

Of course I’ll still be offering plenty of learning ideas. I might try having a fun science or art activity ready to go in the mornings. But I want the children to be free to choose whether or not they take up my offers. I want to be open to putting aside my own plans in favour of their suggestions.

I’ve been chatting with C(9) and J(8) about these changes – I don’t want them to feel I’m suddenly casting them adrift in an uncharted sea of learning. Both have responded positively to my suggestions. I’ve made it clear that there’ll be as much routine as they’d like  – copywork, freewriting, maths, science, history, poetry teas, etc – but that they’re free to take charge of their own learning schedule.

Of all of us, I think it’s me that’s going to find the lack of defined “school time” most challenging. I like to know what I’m doing when, so that I can plan my own time. But if I want my children to learn to plan their own time too, I’m going to have to compromise. I’m up for the challenge. Watch this space to see how I get on!

I’m linking with the Day In The Life blog hop at the iHomeschool Network.

5 Steps to an Organised Homeschool Space


We moved into a fairly large house six years ago. The great thing about having lots of space is we can spread ourselves out as we learn. The bad thing about having lots of space is that we spread ourselves out – everywhere!

Every now and then I need to pull open the cupboards, clear the surfaces and figure out how to make the most of our space.

5 Steps to an Organised Homeschool Space

1. Make a plan

Needs change as the children get older and our homeschooling style evolves. So I start out brainstorming what we want from our homeschool learning space this year. (This is partly a delaying tactic to postpone the actual tidying, but the five minutes it takes serve me well.)

organised homeschool space
I use the Simple Note app to make a quick mind map

2. Sort supplies by how often you use them

organised learning space
Supplies we use less often in an upstairs cupboard

Homeschool supplies fall into broad categories – books, art supplies, science supplies etc.  In the past I’ve stored everything according to these categories.

But in the face of our overflowing supplies, I realised I don’t need to store a volt meter and a kilo of rock salt in our schoolroom just because we use them for science. Nor do we need a hundred polystyrene plates permanently in our art area.

So I took out the items we use less often, put smaller items into boxes, and moved them to an upstairs cupboard.

I used my phone to dictate a note of the contents of each area into Evernote.

The result – more space for the things we use frequently, but if someone has an urgent need for the Bug Barn, they can get their hands on it within seconds. (And how thrilled my husband will be next time he opens the landing cupboard and finds a flower press nestled next to the towels. Does that count as strewing?)

3. Sort books by who uses them

Next I sub-categorised our books according to who reads them (or who I’d like to read them). Do they all need to be at child-level?

When I looked closely at our bulging bookshelves I realised that a whole shelf was being taken up with workbooks and English curriculum books that I sometimes refer to but the children never do.

Once I’d weeded out the ones my kids have outgrown, I relocated the lot. Voilà – a whole empty shelf! (And what do we do with empty shelves? I’ve been on Amazon already…)

3. Designate learning zones

The physical space we use for learning changes as the children become more independent.  Here are some of our learning zones.

*Project Desks with pinboards for artwork and project-related items

Organised homeschool space
J(8)’s project space and computer area

* Low play table – to keep Lego, Geomag and Hamma beads out of doggie mouths

5 steps to an organised homeschool space
Our main homeschool room

* Quiet area – for the easily distracted, or those who want some peace to help them focus.

organised homeschool space
My favourite space

* Messy zone – we usually do short messy activities like science experiments at our kitchen table

* Craft desk – for longer projects like papier mache that I don’t want cluttering up the table

organised homeschool space
Craft desk and open shelves for strewing

* Computer desk

* Comfortable read-aloud area

* Sewing area

organised homeschool learning space

* “Gallery” – We display our most recent artwork on the window sill by our table, in the centre of our open-plan space

Our “gallery” – small but perfectly positioned

4. Designate storage areas

Once I’ve been through our supplies and had a fresh look at our learning zones, it’s time to decide what goes where.

Here are some examples of what made the cut in my most recent reorganisation. All the trays, tubs and clear plastic containers are from IKEA.

Books – on shelves categorised by subject, e.g. art, science, maths, English, chapter books, picture books

Science supplies – in a tub in a cupboard

Art supplies – as far as possible, in clear containers on display and within the children’s reach. Bigger things in a box in  a cupboard.

organised homeschool space
Art supplies on display and within easy reach

Maths manipulatives –  in their own tray

Paper, pastels, charcoal etc – in trays

organised homeschool space
Crate for everyday supplies

Art journalling supplies – everything together in a deep tray

C(9)’s current work – in her own tray

Books we use every week – in a big floor crate. Includes J(8)’s current work, our read-aloud, The Story of the World, an Atlas and the children’s French folders.

We keep a stack of individual whiteboards alongside, ready to grab and go.

Board games – Adult games relocated to an upstairs cupboard. The rest in cupboards.

Educational toys – Lego, Geomag, wooden blocks and Play Doh in trays

Organised homeschool space
Storage trays and C(9)’s project desk (all Ikea)

5. Create simple systems to make the most of your organised homeschool space

There’s no point storing everything in the “perfect” place if – out of sight, out of mind – you don’t end up using any of it. (Guess how I know?)

So I’ve set up calendar alerts on my phone to remind me to browse our various storage areas regularly for strewing inspiration, and to get the kids to do so too.

Finally,  in the interests of being real…

organised Homeschool space
Homeschool space in action

…here are some of the “before” shots!

How are you organising your learning space this year?

organised homeschool space

More from the Homeschool Help team:

Highhill Education – Our Schoolroom

One Magnificent Obsession – Our Home, A Training Ground

Every Bed of Roses – It’s New in Our School

Barefoot Hippie Girl – A Room of My Own

Hammock Tracks – Learning Nook

Next week the Homeschool Help topic “What’s new in your teaching style for the new year?”  and I’ll be talking about our step closer to unschooling.


I’m joining these great link-ups:

iHomeschool Network 2013 Not Back to School Blog Hop – School Room Hop

Hip Homeschool Hop

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Weekly Wrap Up at Weird Unsocialised Homeschoolers

Homeschool Mother’s Journal – So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler

Share it Saturday – Teach Beside Me

Lessons Learned – What’s Going Well This Term

homeschool planning

We’re not using any curriculum in our homeschool at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I don’t set goals for what I want us to achieve. In fact without a textbook telling us what we need to cover each week, it’s even more important for me to be clear about where we’re going.

The joy of routine

Detailed plans don’t work well for me, but I thrive on routines. A good routine offers a perfect balance of flexibility and structure. Routines allow us to spontaneously take a sunny springtime day off to play outside with friends, and then to jump back in the next day without worrying about “catching-up”. Routines can be adjusted to accommodate extra practice time for upcoming music exams, and we can make the most of the perks of homeschooling by taking term-time vacations without having to work double-time on our return to cover “missed” material.

The whiteboard in the picture above shows my big-picture planning for this term. Some subjects, like history, science and art, aren’t listed because we were already in a comfortable groove with them.  On the whiteboard I wrote new ideas and things we’d been letting slide, but which I knew I wanted to reintroduce into our regular routine.

Read aloud time

We listen to a lot of audiobooks together and individually, but there’s something special about family read-aloud time. This term I’ve prioritised getting together every day to read from a novel or non-fiction living book.  We’re finishing The Return of the Twelves at the moment (it’s good as everyone says). Sharing a novel in this way helps get us into the swing of reading aloud, so we’ve read more of all kinds of living books together this term.

Fun maths

I’ve written a lot recently about the fun we’ve been having with our new living maths routine. Definitely a success!


I’m a big fan of copywork for teaching kids the elements of good writing. J(8) turned eight at Easter so I thought he might be ready to join C(9) doing copywork. Despite his slight dysgraphia and dyslexia, he seems to be quite enjoying it. He chooses his own book, props it up on a cookbook stand, and writes a sentence using his handiwriter pencil grip. Most of what he’s written comes from a Benny and Penny graphic novel, but that doesn’t worry me. As long as he’s practising writing, punctuation and spelling I know he’ll get there in the end (wherever “there” is).

J(8)'s copywork
J(8)’s copywork

C(9) has also been selecting her own copywork passages. She picks a book off the shelves depending on her mood. This term she’s written quotes from Magic School Bus books, Usborne science books, Homer, poems and even the back of an acrylic paint pot. Variety is a bonus!

C(9)'s copywork
C(9)’s copywork

This term I’ve been doing copywork alongside the children – an inspiring quote, a favourite poem or a great line from a novel. I enjoy it, and it reinforces the value of what the children are doing.

Project time

I love the idea of the children spending large amounts of time driving their own projects, with me as their learning mentor. After we rearranged our space to make materials more accessible, C(9) spontaneously creates much more often. I’ve been managing to have project time with each child individually a few times a week, but ideally I’d like us to spend more time doing project work.  I’m still working on where to find that time!


Like copywork, freewriting is something we all do together.  We set a timer for five minutes and, sometimes using Bravewriter Friday Freewrite prompts, keep writing until the beeper sounds. J(8) doesn’t follow the “rules” exactly – he prefers to tell stories using a mixture of pictures and writing (complete with his own “phonetic” spelling) – but he’s been really enthusiastic about freewriting so I’m not going to interfere in his creative process! Sometimes, in an unusual reversal of roles, C(9) gets cross because J(8) carries on writing well past the beep.


Schedule for J(8)

My final goal for this term was to provide J(8) with a daily schedule.  Whereas C(9) and I are fairly free-wheeling types, J(8) seems to work best when he knows what’s coming up, and when he’s done for the day. So for his benefit I’ve been making a daily whiteboard list of subjects which we cross off as we go along. This seems to have been working well.

Lesson-planning inspiration

Julie at Highhill Homeschool has launched a new link-up series to help homeschoolers inspire each other in lesson-planning. For the next month, the link-up theme is successes in your classroom, then beginning 4 July there’s a schedule for sharing planning different subjects across the curriculum. I hope you’ll join me there for more inspiration.

Homeschooling And Extra-Curricular Activities – How Much Is Too Much?

Homeschool help  1

“Do you make your daughter do so many extra-curricular activities because you feel guilty about taking her out of school?” asked a rather blunt acquaintance a few weeks after I began homeschooling my seven year old.

The question took me aback. For a moment I fell into anxious self-examination.

Was the woman right? Was I enrolling C(7) to every club going out of some paranoid fear that she was missing out, now that she was home-educated?

Then I remembered why C chose to be homeschooled.

Here was a child who enthusiastically threw herself at every opportunity (the more physical the better). Who at age six, looked up local judo clubs when I (concerned about our already busy schedule) dragged my heels following her request to learn it. A child so busy trying to fit in school, homework, her many sports, her artistic activities and playdates, that I barely saw her.

And when I did see her, it was as chauffeur and personal assistant to a tired and all too often grumpy little girl. Clearly, something had to go.

After some discussion, we realised that the obvious thing to let go of was school.

Without school and homework taking up the bulk of each day, C(7) was free to throw herself into her passions, see friends, enjoy plenty of downtime,  have a relationship with her family and learn everything she would have at school in much less time.

“No. My daughter left school so that she would have time do all these ‘extra-curricular’ activities.” I told the blunt woman.

Looking back, I wonder if the woman (who was planning to homeschool her two pre-schoolers) was feeling insecure about how few activities her own children did.

But comparing ourselves with others is a sure path to an unfulfilling and unsuccessful homeschooling experience. Only we know the needs of our own family.

In our home, my challenge is to balance the needs of the introverts (my son and me), with those of my extremely extroverted daughter. While J(8) and I crave quiet time immersed in our interests at home, C(9) wants to be out trying new things and meeting new friends.

I would love to be one of those homeschoolers who manage to limit their outside activities to one per child. But to C(9), sharing a house with a couple of introverts, that would be torture.

homeschooling and extra-curricular activities
C(9) in her element at a St George’s Day parade on Sunday

Our Activities

Here’s what our extra-curricular schedule looks like this term:

C(9)’s activities

Monday – karate

Tuesday – group guitar lesson, home-ed centre, gymnastics *

Wednesday – Cub Scouts, free swimming

Thursday – climbing

Friday – Stagecoach (3 hours of singing, drama and dance)

Sunday – rugby (September – April)

*Tuesdays also involve 2 hours driving – just don’t ask me to string a sentence together after 6pm

J(8)’s activities

Tuesday – home-ed centre

Wednesday – Occupational Therapy (1-1), swimming lesson

Thursday – climbing

Balancing everyone’s needs

So how do we introverts cope?

Some of C(9)’s activities are close to home, others involve J(8) and me waiting around for her.  We use waiting time to listen to audiobooks, walk in nature with our dog, read,  write and meditate (me), and play iPad games (J). We have our own headphones and, frankly, while C(9) – we love her very much! – is off talking to other people, we enjoy a bit of peace!

Looking ahead

As C(9) gets older I know her social needs are going to continue to challenge me – but I love that I get to spend so much time with my young bundle of energy.

If homeschooling her through the years to come means organising teen clubs and writing groups, art workshops and science co-ops, I’m up for it. She won’t be at home forever, and I want to make the most of every moment.

homeschooling extra-curricular activities - horse-riding
Horse-riding at her cousins’ house

How much is too much?

How many activities should your child do? Only you and your family can answer that. If two activities a week leaves you with no energy to do what’s important to you, then two is too much, no matter how outgoing your child is.

And if someone asks why you’re “making” your child do so much, just smile and know that you’re doing what’s right for your family.

The Homeschool Help team on extra-curricular activities

This post is part of the Homeschool Help series written by six different home-educating mothers from all over the planet.  I’ve been enjoying reading the series immensely, so I’m delighted to have joined the team.

The Tiger Chronicle – Any Room For Extras? A few ways to look at extra-curricular activities.

Barefoot Hippie Girl – Just A Homebody.  Picking and choosing what’s best for your family and life season.

Every Bed of Roses – It’s All About A Science Of Relations.  It’s not about how busy, it’s about building a memory.

Highhill Homeschool – Benefits Of Extracurricular Activities. Extracurricular activities are good for kids – mostly.

Hammock Tracks – Extra Curricular Activities And Family Goals. How do you choose when and where your children (or even you) participate in extra curricular activities?



How a Homeschool Schedule Works for Us (Sometimes)

how a homeschool schedule works for us (sometimes) at navigating by joy homeschool blog

We started puppy training classes this week with Harvey, our four month old cavalier spaniel/bischon frise cross. The classes are on a Wednesday morning and take out (for the next few weeks) one of the six half-days we actually spend at home.  Of course all of us, not just Harvey, are learning at the classes, but it is putting a bit of a squeeze on our week!

The solution, it occurred to me, was a schedule! (Colour-coded, naturally.) Don’t you just love the beautiful dance between structure and free-wheeling that is homeschooling?!  At the start of September (all those many – er, weeks – ago) I happily shared with a good homeschooling friend that we were taking a fairly autonomous approach this term.  She said that her family were doing the opposite, and had begun the new school year with a very structured timetable.  At the time we laughed, and said we’d each probably be doing the opposite before too long.  And so here I am, colour-coded schedule proudly in hand. 😀

I wrote a few weeks ago about how we’ve been using the big rocks time management system to prioritise project-based learning around the good maths and English habits we already have in place, and that’s still working well as a guiding principle. But recently my left-brain had begun to get a bit antsy about how weeks were slipping by without Cordie doing any copywork or dictation, and then she decided to try a new approach to learning maths, which was great but required a bit more planning …  and my free-wheeling right-brain decided it was time to take a back seat for a while.

And guess what? Just like when I move around the furniture to the exact same position it was in 6 months earlier and declare joyfully that it looks “So Much Better!” – we’re getting so much done!

On Thursdays we only have until 1130am at home, but by the time we left the house this morning we had done a stack of English and  maths, Cordie had had her project time, the children had enjoyed plenty of time playing in the garden, and we’d even done some history notebooking and had the paints out making Anglo-Saxon coins!


Here’s how a schedule works best for us:

In short bursts. Once it’s helped us find our groove, I’ll happily let the schedule itself  fall by the wayside.  It’s served its purpose.  “Tools, not rules” as my friend Sarah and I say. I can always create a new schedule when the need arises again. (And that colour-coding is so much fun :-D)

A schedule saves time spent arguing about “who goes first” with mummy in the morning. Even though both Cordie and Jasper enjoy their one on one time with me, tearing themselves away from their book/lego/trampoline and  getting around to actually starting is a different matter.

I see a schedule as a set of goals rather than a strict timetable. Although there are times written on our schedule, I rarely look at the clock. The timetable just serves as a rough guide to who does what next.  There’s plenty of leeway for following rabbit-trails and spending a whole afternoon doing  projects or partnership writing a long story if the mood takes us (right brain satisfied), but the timetable helps me remember what else I’d like us to cover in a week (happy left brain).  Win win. 🙂

Where are you at right now in the scheduling/free-wheeling dance?

you can have what you want at navigating by joy homeschooling blog

Big Rocks Homeschooling – How to Prioritize What’s Important

project based homeschooling at navigating by joy

One of the many things I love about project-based learning is that it can fit into any homeschool style. This term I have a much more relaxed approach to curriculum – I’m using it as the tool I always intended it to be, instead of being a slave to it – leaving a bigger space for more natural, child-led learning.

The Call of the Familiar (it’s Easiest to Do What You’ve Always Done)

But starting something new – no, sticking with something new – takes commitment. Now that our intense start-of-term enthusiasm has subsided, cold viruses are doing the rounds, and wet weather has kept us indoors for days at a time, there have been mornings when it’s felt so tempting just to snuggle up with the children for quiet English, maths and read alouds. It’s not that I don’t love seeing the children caught up in a wave of passionate creativity; it’s just that the lure of the familiar, the comfortable path of doing what we know, is sometimes hard to resist.

“Big Rocks” Time Management

you can have what you want at navigating by joy homeschooling blogIn his book You Can Have What You Want, supercoach Michael Neill  tells this story about a seminar leader who placed a large jar on the table.

By the side of the jar he placed a bucket of gravel, a bucket of sand, a bucket of water, and three big rocks. He then challenged his participants to  find a way to fit everything on the table into the jar.

After numerous attempts, it became clear that the only way to fit everything in was to start with the big rocks first.  The gravel filled the space between the big rocks, the sand filled the gaps in the gravel,  and the water filled the gaps between the sand.

When it comes to what we choose to make important, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the daily gravel, ground down by the sand, and swept away by the water. What can be tricky is finding ways to prioritize the ‘big rocks’ – those things in your life that matter most. 

Over the summer (using a fantastic process I’ll share in another post) I identified what are the biggest “rocks” that I want to fit into my life. One “rock” was doing more natural (interest and child-led) learning with my children, and project-based homeschooling has been the perfect way to do this. Of course maths and English are important, but (I’m happy to say) doing them has become a comfortable habit – they get done easily without needing to be prioritized.

How to Prioritize Something

Michael Neill suggests that there are three ways of prioritizing something: (1) Do it first (2) Do it now (3) Do it often. Common sense, but a good reminder nonetheless.

And that is how, as well as practising multi-digit subtraction and discussing the beautiful metaphors in Where the Moon Meets the Mountain, last week Cordie experimented with home made light bulbs, and made kites and tepees from wood and hot glue, and Jasper began to learn computer programming with Scratch in between practising his spelling, handwriting, and learning about the differences between rhombuses and trapeziums. 🙂

What are your big rocks?

phantom tollbooth - navigating by joy homeschoolers

A Day In The Life of a British Homeschooling Family

a day in the life of a british homeschooling family - navigating by joy

Like many homeschoolers, there is no “typical” day in our household.  Our week is loosely structured around external activities like sports classes and our weekly homeschool group, and there are certain subjects that I aim to cover in a week, but other than that,  I like the flexibility of a routine rather than a fixed schedule.

Having said that, here’s an example of a typical, non-typical day!

530am I get up.  I’m not normally this early!  But it’s such a beautiful morning already  I decide I’ll enjoy some quiet time to myself.

645am I go back to bed and meditate/play Words with Friends until 730. I love how my iPhone lets me have a permanent scrabble game going with my mum who lives in Wales!

830am We’re having poetry tea with friends later, so I bake some gluten free/sugar free cookies with the children.  J has been so much calmer since we reduced his dietary sugar, gluten and dairy five months ago (on the advice of a complementary health professional) .  Since most bought products are either sugar or gluten free, I find myself baking a lot.  I’m not an experienced cook, so the recipe substitutions I make can be a bit random, as can the end products. Luckily the children are very forgiving.

850am As we put the eggs away, J asks if we can make pancakes.  I promise him that if he gets on with his maths and English without any fuss, there’ll be time to make some before we set out for our friends’ house.

855am Incentivized by pancakes, J physically drags me into my office, where C and J do most of their individual schoolwork. He does copywork from “Fox In Socks” and we practice phonics and spelling using The Wand.  For today’s maths we look at negative numbers in Primary Grade Challenge Math.

915am  J makes pancake batter. He and C got very good at making pancakes shortly after we changed his diet – gluten and sugar free English pancakes, made with goats’ milk, work really well!

10am We arrive at our friends’ house.  C and J run off to play with the other children (aged 12, 10 and 9)  while I catch up with my friend.  Later we sit at a beautiful table and eat cookies, drink tea from fine cups and saucers, and take turns reading poems aloud. These are the friends who introduced us to the Brave Writer lifestyle, and I love sharing Poetry Tea with them; it’s such a pleasure hearing the poem each person has chosen.

I read “A Summer Morning” by Rachel Field, because even though it’s only May, temperatures have been in the 80’s today.  After the weather we’ve had in England recently, it definitely feels like summer!

1130am On the way home we stop off at the park to enjoy the sunshine.

12pm We make another stop, this time at the garden centre, to pick up some compost: it’s finally safe to put the tomato and pepper plants outside!

1230pm Lunch.  J learned how to make cheese and ham tortilla flatbreads at our homeschool centre yesterday; he decides to make them again today. It requires a brick, apparently.  C obligingly finds one in her den at the end of the garden.  J teaches C how to make his new dish.  I do the bit at the hob, involving flattening the tortilla between the griddle pan, a saucepan and a tea towel-wrapped house brick!

homeschool gardening - navigating by joy

1pm C waters her vegetable patch while I plant out the tomatoes. J bounces on the trampoline then retreats from the heat inside.

phantom tollbooth - navigating by joy homeschoolers145pm C and I go to my office for her English and maths. We continue our discussion of literal versus metaphorical meaning using The Arrow and our novel, The Phantom Tollbooth. We discuss what clichés are and pick out a few from a list I had printed out; then we start an exercise from The Arrow, creating a story taking metaphoric meanings literally. It’s about a king standing on the tip of an iceberg.  C enjoys this so much that when I suggest finishing, she begs to do a bit more! Always a good sign 🙂  We finish by reading aloud a chapter of The Phantom Tollbooth.

We use Primary Grade Math Challenge for maths and C answers the level 2 questions on negative numbers.

245 pm Science: we continue our space travel project. The children make edible space shuttles following directions in this NASA Educators’ Guide.

We watch a You Tube video of the shuttle taking off and look at a printables of the parts of the space shuttle and the sequence of take-off, orbit, and landing.  C and J then assemble their own shuttles using bread, carrot, celery and hummus.  I video them “narrating” their own take-off to landing sequences on my iPhone.  C leads the narration but J contributes a piece of information he remembered from our recent visit to the Kennedy Space Centre – something I hadn’t even realised he’d taken in at the time – I love it when that happens!

edible space shuttle - navigating by joy homeschoolers

J follows his space shuttle snack with a plum from the fruit bowl, and then asks me to point out to him the plum tree in our garden. We look at the hard, grape-sized plums on the tree and I tell J how I ate the sweetest, juiciest plum from it on the day we moved into our house on 31 July 2007.  He said he is going to keep an eye on the plums’ progress. Sometimes I wish I made more time for formal nature study in our homeschool; then I realise that thanks to the huge amount of free time they have to spend outdoors, C and J are actually quite in tune with nature and the seasons.

boudicca - navigating by joy homeschoolers4pm History: I decide to squeeze in a bit of The Story of the World before swimming classes. J groans (he never likes the idea of history) but he soon joins C pleading for more when I stop after half a chapter on the Celts.  Half a chapter is all the Celts get in The Story of the World, but as they are our bit of ancient history, we’re spending a bit longer on them than our curriculum suggests. I read from our living book on Boudicca while C spontaneiously makes a Boudicca “doll” from a feather the cats brought it.

5pm C and J go to their swimming classes while I squeeze in half an hour in the gym. When the children were at school, exercising often felt like a chore.  Now I cherish my gym time!  We eat dinner at the sports centre cafe, and C and J have some time jumping around in the soft play area.

7pm We go straight from the sports centre to take C to Cub Scouts (where she is one of only two girls). Normally this signals the end of my day’s “work”, but Big J’s commuter train is delayed tonight so J and I go back out to collect C from cubs at 830.

930pm I’m relaxing with an alcohol free beer and watching The Vampire Diaries.

A good day!

End Of Our First Week

“Ahhhh”.  That’s the sound of me basking in the wonderfully satisfying feeling of everything working out perfectly. 🙂

After months of dreaming up how I wanted our homeschool to look this year, and slightly trepidatious wondering what the children would make of my plans, anxiety is giving way to excitement at the prospect of the great year we’re going to have.

As I made lunch earlier I casually (?!) asked C and J separately what they’d thought of the week – what they’d especially liked and if there was anything they’d like to change.  In the understated way children have they both gave the thumbs up.  J’s verdict: “fine” (in the tone of voice I can just imagine him using when he’s keen to leave the house and his future wife asks “how do I look?”).  He particularly liked the maths and art apparently (we had just done those two subjects so that may have had something to do with it!).  One thing I know is that J does not hold back from letting his feelings known when he doesn’t like something!   C said she’d liked it all apart from one specific book (“and that was just because I was feeling tired”), especially maths, and asked for more art.  Next week our history curriculum gets very art & crafty (yikes!) so she should like that.

We each celebrated the wrap up of a successful week in our own ways:  C and J went crazy in the paddling pool (lucky neighbours!), while I reorganised a cupboard in our open-plan area to create a new shelf for our colour-coded notebook ring binders, which gave me enormous satisfaction.  I know how to live!! 😀

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