I spend more time than I want to fretting over how atypical our school routine feels. Most of the people I talk to and blog posts I read imply a nice, structured homeschool experience, not unlike what a kid might find in a brick-and-mortar school. Our school is a lot more… well, loosey-goosey is the only phrase coming to mind. There’s very little structure and normal educational stuff takes up the smallest fraction of our day. There’s no circle time or lighting a candle or set order to anything. We just squeeze it in after lunch plus a little at breakfast if we can while everyone’s contained at the table. So I thought I’d add my voice to the long list of homeschool moms, just because I want to share what’s actually working for us in our not-so-schooly life.
I took a minute to read over the last two Octobers’ homeschool posts to get an idea how things have changed.
Year one: “I’m so excited! This is working, despite the fact that I have a newborn and one-year-old!” Eventual reality: I dropped it entirely. The curriculum I used was way too intense for me to keep up with prep and the lessons were too long to keep my 4- and 5-year-olds’ attention.
Year two: “I’m so excited! Last year didn’t actually work, but I switched curriculum and I have the highest of hopes!” Eventual reality: we did better. We did actual school several times each… month. Jenna learned to read anyway, and when we did school, they blew through the lessons, so we did a year and a half’s worth of math, almost catching up from the prior year’s slacking.
This brings us to year three: “I’m not sure I’d call myself excited, but I put washi tape on my freezer, and I think we’re actually doing this thing!”
I’m not even kidding. This Friday marks the end of the first quarter—nine weeks of school—and I think we’re gonna make it. This is the most legit I have ever felt as a homeschool mom.
Wanna see the magic?
(Even filters can’t make this Pinterest-worthy.)
That’s the extent of my awesome new system.
Washi tape, a label maker, and a dry-erase marker. (And this is the version 2.0. Version 1 was just a dry-erase marker listing off what subjects we did each day.)
The numbers above each subject indicate how many times I’d like to hit that subject in a week. The magnet clip below is unrelated, but it holds seventeen pieces of random art I don’t want to throw away yet, but don’t have space to fully display. (I could use a few more of these.) (The clips, I mean. I have plenty of art.) Monday through Thursday are our regular days, Friday is just for catching up on things we may have missed. (You might think we would have done handwriting an extra time last Friday since we only hit it once last week. You would be mistaken.) A check indicates we did something. It might be a little, or it might be twelve math lessons because they want jelly beans, which they get at a rate of one per page… my only requirement is that we try.
Our homeschool district requires each student to set a goal for the year. When our teacher asked Katherine what her goal was, she responded with her trademark mischievous glint: “I want MORE SCREENS!”
Thanks for that, kid. Mom of the year right here. Screens are the highlight of this child’s life.
After about half an hour of trying to get a legit education goal out of her, we settled on a somewhat complicated rewards system wherein if she got the a certain amount of school done M-Th, she’d get a show before lunch on Friday. (This is big stuff, because usually weekday screens are limited to afternoons.) If she got twice that done, she could have a whole movie.
So the checklist above is technically just Katherine’s work, but because they do it together, Jenna is pulled along, and we’re using Katherine’s drive to earn screens to keep my type-B self on track. School gets done during the babies’ nap time now, and they earn a movie at about 10 every Friday. I think they are actually getting less screen time overall, though, because school ends up eating a lot of the time I might otherwise throw screens at them. Whatever.
So there you have it. My super-official, very schooly innovations for this year. Washi tape and screen bribery.