The Perfect Homeschool Day
You know what we had this morning? We had the perfect homeschooling day.
…perfect *for us.*
Probably not anything close to what you’re imagining in your head right now.
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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