It takes time—but you have more than enough of it!
Tea with Julie

Welcome to "Tea with Julie," a weekly missive by me, Julie Bogart. My wish is to give you food for thought over a cup of tea to enhance your life as an educator, parent, and awesome adult. Glad you're here. Pinkies up!
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Cincinnati, August 29, 2020

Hi Friend,

I'm hearing from lots of new homeschoolers right now. They want to know what to expect, how to proceed so that they have the least stressful homeschool. They want me to "fix" it for them in advance.

Here's the good news friends: you have oodles of time. You get to assemble a homeschool that works for your family one day at a time. Let's start with the new school year (or semester if you are down under).

Want to flip your kids’ expectations right out of the gate?

Surprise them!

That cozy-together lockdown feeling doesn’t need to fade. You might:

  • Spread a blanket in the backyard and have read aloud time.
  • Go on a field trip to the zoo.
  • Make the first day a party with streamers and cake!
  • Play a board game after pancakes.
  • Start on Wednesday so you begin with a short week.

Create a flexible routine.

Schedules appeal to us because they're predictable. There’s comfort in knowing what comes next in the day, every day. Structures, however, are not all time tables and bell schedules.

What we crave is routine—which is why meals are morning, noon, and evening, not just whenever you feel hungry.

The question becomes: what kind of structure is most nurturing to

  • your personality,
  • your kids’ needs,
  • and your learning lifestyle?

With homeschool, scheduling days so that each hour had a specific task didn’t work as well for our family. When I created a daily, hourly schedule, I mostly felt guilty for falling behind it. It seemed that if we were supposed to have our read-aloud time at 10:00, but we couldn’t find the book for fifteen minutes, we were now “off-schedule." An urgency to get back “on schedule” took over. If a dental appointment slowed our reading pace (so many pages, read by a certain date), we battled to squeeze in extra reading time to “catch up.”

The one time I successfully enforced a schedule for three months (when I really did have five kids under 9), Noah woke one morning and declared, “I hate my life.”

It was the wake-up call I needed. We had managed to get our work done, to follow that schedule, to keep up with the demands of reading, workbooks, writing, and math problems despite life’s natural intrusions. I felt great, but he was miserable. It was too pressure-filled and joyless. Our homeschool had become about getting through and getting done, not about learning.

That was a turning point for me. I realized that enforcing a program was less effective than enriching our lives. At about that time, I discovered Charlotte Mason. Her vision of a full, rich, day-with-free-time lifestyle caught my attention. What if we simply chose to include certain activities and areas of focus in our lives each week, in a flexible, yet predictable pattern? Could we, for instance, read poetry every week? We could pick a day for it but not worry so much about what time of day.

The idea would be: We’ll read poetry once a week on Tuesdays when everyone is calm enough to read together. I discovered early on that drinking tea at the same time brought that calmness to the table.

Could we look at art once a week? I started to bring art books home from the library, left them out, would page through them on my own in the evenings (drawing the attention of the kids). I hung prints and identified the artists over breakfast. I took everyone to an art museum. Then we took an hour a week to draw or read or flip through an art book.

What about math?

Intuitive math instruction is not natural to me. So we continued with math books, several pages each day. But I didn’t pick the time—and I tried to make sure the table was clear, that we kept the lessons short, and that there were snacks a-plenty. When my kids were younger, it worked to have them do it in staggered stages so I could help each child. 

When the daily pages became tedious, I'd surprise them with a deck of cards or we'd use a book of math games and play those. I purchased Tangrams and origami paper. We created our own board games which involved understanding the design of games we already owned (there's a lot of math in how the designers calculate distance between each important location whether Candyland or Monopoly or Clue). We took breaks when we needed to. But most days, we continued our math practice.

Reading aloud.

Read-aloud time became the centerpiece of every morning. It signaled that we had eaten breakfast, had all become clothed, had brushed our teeth. Once those tasks were completed, we gathered in a group in the family room. I would read, and often nurse someone (and sometimes a baby wouldn’t nurse if I read, so I would have to have read-aloud time during a nap period instead). Still, each day’s read-aloud time reassured us that we were making progress, that we had been together in a meaningful way, that education had happened. It didn’t matter if it happened at 9:00 a.m. every morning. It mattered that it usually happened, most days.

We took backyard breaks: on the trampoline, to kick a soccer ball, to run with the dog, to watch birds, to eat a snack.

We took indoor breaks (in winter): lighting a fire, knitting, assembling a puzzle, building with LEGO.

Afternoons alternated between history and science, or music and art. Some days, afternoons were only for play. Over time, we discovered a rhythm of life and learning that helped us all feel right side up in the world.

A flexible routine is slowly cultivated.

It doesn’t spring into existence in a book you keep. It can't be created for you by another home educator. It’s the patient adding of “what works,” “what needs to be done,” and “what interests” to your lifestyle over time.

One day, you wake up and realize: "Hey, I know what today will be like and I didn't have to plan it."

That's a good day. You can look forward to it. It's coming for you, too.





P.S. Catch up on all the “Tea with Julie” emails here!

Julie Bogart
© 2020 Brave Writer LLC™

Brave Writer


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