The Perfect Homeschool Day

You know what we had this morning? We had the perfect homeschooling day.

Well…

…perfect *for us.*

Probably not anything close to what you’re imagining in your head right now.

The Perfect Homeschool Day // jessconnell.com

You DO know that the “perfect homeschool” doesn’t exist, right?

But here’s what our perfect homeschooling day looks like:
We make forward progress in areas I deem valuable.

Seriously, that’s pretty much it.
Forward progress makes for a good day.

So, here’s what it looked like in the life of each of my kiddos, today (the level of work and progress of each can vary, day-to-day, season-to-season):

(Note: I wrote this before we added Luke– baby #7– to the mix.)

  • We all woke up by 8am.
  • Had breakfast together as a family.
  • Reminded the 6 year old and 4 year old (who have been at each other’s throats lately) that they need to be serving each other, looking to make the other happy… that THAT’s the way to have peace while they play. I did notice a reduction in their quarreling, and they made a real effort.
  • Theo, the 23-month-old: Took a bath. Played with Duplo blocks. Ran around looking cute, peeking in on what everyone else was doing. Repeated the word “zeppelin” while the 12-year-old read him a few pages from a book about World Wars. Sat on a bench saying “WHOA” while he looked at Timeline of War.
  • Moses, the 4.5 year old (PreK): Did 3 or 4 worksheets in a preschool book I bought for a dollar– no joke– 10 years ago and never did with my now-12-year-old. Colored those worksheets. Kept saying the weird-looking “Little People” girls he was coloring were “mommy.” He wrote his name at the top of the sheet and still can’t really make his Ss, even though there are 2 of them in his name. It’s OK. He’ll get it eventually. Found his favorite owl coloring book that he’d lost for a week or so, and colored for a while. Emptied the dishwasher with Silas. Built a fortress with Duplos.
  • Silas, the 6.5 year old (1st grade): did a worksheet on addition. At one point, I stepped out of the room and came back to the 10.5 year old helping him, but “helping” like I do… waiting for Silas to come up with a confident answer before confirming that he got it right. Yay! He copied some words. Took a bath. He fed the dog, listened to his sister read aloud, and emptied the dishwasher with Moses. Then he came to me and re-read his new word list from yesterday, and we practiced using them in sentences. Today he read some of the longest words he’s ever read (hooray!).
  • Maranatha, the 8.5 year old (3rd grade): Cleared the breakfast table. Took a bath with the baby. Read a chapter aloud about Columbus’s voyages of exploration. Copied her Bible verse of the day for her copy work. Completed her worksheets for vocabulary, grammar, and math. We discussed the difference between a and an. “Success” today for her was jumping into her work without asking me, “what should I do?” and instead reading her instructions and getting going on her own. Hooray! We worked together on a project involving measuring lengths (longest step you can take?, how wide is your driveway? etc.).
  • Baxter, the 10.5 year old (5th grade): took a shower. Completed his work super-quick, which made me realize he’d reached a place where I needed to fold in a bit more challenging work for him. We chose three new books from our shelves, on grammar, science, and math drills, that will bulk up his workload and move him to the next level in some areas of skill and interest. (I let him choose between government and science, which made the increased workload a little more palatable to him.) Loaded the dishwasher from breakfast. He used map pencils to color in a Dover coloring book page about the old Greek method of making olive oil. (We love Dover coloring books!) He showed me all the pictures he’d colored thus far and we talked about Greek culture (weaving on a loom, idolatry, building techniques, the fact that they wrestled naked, how students learned in Greece).
  • Ethan, the 12.5 year old (7th grade): Folded laundry. Took a shower. While reading from an old college textbook we got from a 90-year-old man in our church on the Medieval Era (yes, it’s a lovely, clothbound book), asked, “Mom, what does Bacchanalian mean?” He spelled it aloud twice for me, before finally bringing it to me because I couldn’t bring the word or its meaning to mind. The sentence was about Greco-Roman culture’s Bacchanalian orgies. So. We talked about the Greco-Roman god Bacchus, Roman festivals, and yes, what orgies means. Not every 12-year-old needs to know what that word means (although they’ll encounter it in Scripture too), but our 12-year-old is a history buff, particularly in the areas of the ancient world and WWII, and so it’s something he *does* need to understand, because he’s regularly reading history and historic novels set in that era. So we spent a few minutes discussing Roman tendencies toward excess, how that was the culture that Jesus and Paul lived in, and why it’s wicked. He read for a good while from an Usborne Book about World Wars (scooping up his nearly-2-year-old brother to show him pictures and snuggle for a bit). Did his Saxon math and Sequential Spelling.

As you can see, there’s absolutely nothing formulaic or “picture-perfect” about this day, except this:

  • Each child made forward progress in some way(s).

PROGRESS IN SKILL AREAS (and MY 90/10 RULE)

Academically, I strive to have them working at their individual level in each subject, with a 90% success rate as my goal. What I mean by that is, I try to give them work that is 90% within their grasp/at their level, and about 10% that they have to stretch/struggle to meet. This enables them to feel successful while learning to work, and have to “reach,” for parts of their academic endeavors.

So each child is purposefully making forward progress in academic skills, although not in every area at the same rate. (If they’re better at math than reading, they advance at their level and pace in each subject.)

PROGRESS ACCORDING TO THEIR BENT

The progress we aim for, particularly as they grow older, goes stronger and deeper in pre-selected areas according to the bent Doug & I see that God has put in them. So our oldest son is reading college-level history textbooks in 7th grade, whereas I don’t anticipate our second son may *ever* read those same books. His interests and “bent” are different. He’s geared more toward the “hows” and “whys” of the way the world works (engineering/science type subjects).

I don’t believe every child needs to read the same “data” in order to be well-educated. Each child needs a broad understanding of the same over-arching ideas, but the areas where they go deep and invest their educational “sweat” may look significantly different as they mature.

PROGRESS IN CHARACTER

Each child, at his/her level is growing in character:

  • Some in interactions with sibling.
  • Some in ethical understanding.
  • Some in patience while they wait for me to finish with a different sibling for their lesson.
  • Some in diligence as they work harder than they’d prefer to on a particular skill/challenge.

 

That, in a 1200-word nutshell, was our “perfect homeschooling day.” There’s nothing perfect about it, and yet, that’s what makes it perfect. I don’t want to present a picture of some “system” or formula that everyone else can do, to yield “perfect” well-educated children.

The truth is:

 anyone who says there is such a formula is lying.

Watch your kids. Know your kids. Keep them moving in a direction that you and your husband have soberly considered. Work within the constraints of your personality and home and family dynamics.

Don’t let what looks “picture-perfect” in anyone else convince you that you are a failure. Do the next thing, and keep seeking faithfulness. And I will too.

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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8 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    This was so encouraging! Oh and I have a four and six year old in the mix with a two year old and the four and six year old are bugging each other on a very regular basis but everything you shared here helped me see that our days are ok after all! Our days look very unlike the school “system” day but that is good probably!

  2. Kondwani says:

    I’ve had a fairly awful day, so opened this post with trepidation. It was lovely to read – sometimes I feel I am the only one who has children fighting with one another (it is not always, but today was quite bad). I also sometimes fear that anybody else could be doing a better job – that they would be better off in a classroom with more discipline etc. But I know that in fact the small progress is to be celebrated (like my second son trying to write independently, but making many mistakes). You are honest and encouraging, and I appreciate that a lot.

    • Jess Connell says:

      I’m glad it encouraged you. :)

      The truth is that “fairly awful” days come to us all, but I think that’s true in *ANY* school setting. I remember school teachers who cried. I remember teachers zoning out while we watched “educational” movies. I remember days where we played spades while they caught up on grading. I remember busy work and “group projects” that were high on fluff and low on education. That’s not to say we didn’t learn things, and that there wasn’t forward motion; there was. But it is to say that I think it’s OK and normal for home educators to have crummy days too.

      The main thing is that we keep re-focusing on forward progress. I want to be a mom & teacher that soberly assesses where we ARE and remembers where we’re HEADED and KEEPS! GOING!

      A friend reminded me of this verse yesterday, and I think it applies to homeschooling too: Proverbs 24:16— “though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.”

      The goal is that, however many times we fall, we continue to “rise again.”

  3. shannon bradbury says:

    Thanks for your honest and encouraging post! It helps to know we are all doing a lot of the same things as homeschooling families! Thanks for being real and not perfect!

  4. Laura says:

    I’ve been struggling hard with homeschooling this winter. We’re into our second year of it and I’m not totally sure why I feel so off the rails. I don’t want to quit AT ALL but sometimes it’s hard. It was nice to hear that your days are not ‘perfect’ either. I need to focus on the fact that my five year old is learning her letters, and pointing out words she sees and recognizes while we’re out shopping, rather than the fact that sometimes she’d rather play than do school and gives me fits.

    Another thing, I am a very laid-back homeschooler compared to a lot of other moms I know and sometimes it makes me feel a wee bit like I’m failing at something essential when I see how much WORK they do. Your day sounds a lot like mine though. We take it all as it comes and as long as we’re accomplishing what we need to accomplish I try not to stress about what *didn’t* get done that day.

  5. Carrie says:

    Those are the best kinds of days! Getting to enjoy your time together and choosing to find those things that made the day a joyful one! Thanks for sharing!

    Blessings,
    Carrie
    http://unspeakablejoymovement.blogspot.com

  1. August 3, 2015

    […] been mostly surviving in our home education. Getting through. Doing what needed doing… keeping them all making forward progress. We’ve read aloud some. But mostly, we just put one foot in front of the other, […]

  2. February 4, 2017

    […] The Perfect Homeschool Day […]

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