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A Day in the Life of an Eclectic Homeschooler: Jessica

I’m so excited to share with you our upcoming “Day in the Life of a Homeschooler” series! I reached out to our homeschooling community and received several volunteers who were happy to share what their learning experience looks like. Over the course of the next month, you will get to peek inside the lives of some of our very own Whatcom County homeschoolers and see the many different forms that homeschooling can take!

These families come from different beliefs, circumstances and age ranges. They use a variety of styles, materials, and approaches, and deal with extreme ranges in child personality and ability. Yet, they unify in the common goal of giving their children an education and life experience beyond what public schools can offer, taking upon themselves the heavy, but beautiful, responsibility of shaping and preparing the rising generation. For that, I honor each and every one of my fellow homeschooling parents.

Here we go! It’s only fair I start with myself…

Story 1: Jessica

Kids ages: 11, 9, 8, 4, 2
Style: Eclectic

Our Approach-

Since our first lessons on ABC’s and 123’s eight years ago, I have tried bits of nearly every style: classical, traditional, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, online schooling, unit studies. I identify with parts of each of them and couldn’t ever settle with only one. So, I pull what I love from many different practices and create a unique style that works for us. (This is aptly referred to as eclectic homeschooling.)

Because our lives and needs are always changing, our schooling changes, too. This story is simply what we are doing right now. It was different 6 months ago and will not look the same in another 6 months. We reevaluate often and throw out what’s not working or not important and exchange it for things that will help us reach our goals. I don’t like “fluff”, so we never do “busy work” just for the sake of doing school work. No, everything I choose as part of my children’s education has intention, and I monitor whether or not it is working to its purposed end.

A common day:

Its 8:30 and the children are still emerging from their beds. They often stay up late and mornings are pretty slow—each child getting up at leisure and feeding themselves a bowl of cereal. We are not morning people, so we don’t push getting started at any certain time. We have all day together, so what’s the rush? Once everyone has eaten, dressed, cleaned up, etc, we typically kick off school with “morning time”.

Morning time- at its best- consists of: prayer and a scripture or quote (studied and discussed, memorized, or copied in journals), a ‘This day in History’ discussion (sometimes leading to further research), and reading aloud a couple of chapters from our current book. Other times, we just simply sit down and read. We also might throw in a few mad-libs or bedtime math questions. The youngest kids half listen and half play on the floor during this time.

This year, we are pulling our books from Bravewriter’s Arrow booklist. The subscription comes with simple writing and grammar work and discussion questions that we implement as they arise. We have loved using the Arrow, because it brings us to books we probably would have never otherwise read. We just finished “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” and everyone loved it.

Next, we transition to writing. Our goal is to write every day. For one child who, in his words, is “not a fan of writing” this can be a lofty goal, but, we persevere! This past year we have adopted “the Bravewriter lifestyle”, which is basically to incorporate a love for writing and literature in a low-key, no-pressure sort of way through daily activities. We are using their Partnership Writing program for my older two (9 &11) and adopting some of the practices to include my developmentally delayed 8-year-old. In a nutshell, each day we either do copy work, dictation, poetry, free writing, or we work on our one big writing project for the month (right now, a “how-to” paper).

Depending on the assignment, I pull misspelled words from the kid’s writing and have them practice those on paper. I also add them to their Spelling City word list. This is something they can work on independently during their computer time (along with typing practice, math games, and sometimes coding practice on Scratch).

By now, it’s lunch time. We all eat, and then the big kids move to their independent time. They do an exercise out of their Singapore Math books and work on any extra assignments and whatever else they want for an hour or two.  Sometimes this includes piano and guitar practice, math facts practice, reading, drawing or crafts, playing outside, playing games, work on the computer, etc. Basically, the only rule is ‘no screen unless it’s an approved-by-me educational resource’.

The little kids have exhausted their patience by now and are ready for some attention. Time for some fun! My 8-year-old is on her own timeline and struggles with workbooks and structured curriculum. With much trial and error, we have finally found she learns most effectively through play. So, play it is! We have a box full of Language Arts activities and a box full of Math activities.  These include games I’ve made or bought, books, flashcards, manipulatives, and whatever else we can think of to teach the principle we’re working on. We pull a couple things out from each box and start playing (learning). Almost always, the 4-year-old and 2-year-old are there beside us, enjoying and learning right along with big sister.

After that, we gather back together for a quick unit study lesson. We keep these pretty simple and only do it 2 or 3 times a week. It usually includes a quick discussion, a book or demonstration, and maybe some notebooking. We stick to a topic as long as it is still interesting (about a month or two) and start a new one whenever we please. Right now it’s metamorphosis and our caterpillars are about to emerge from their chrysalides! (The tadpoles, on the other hand, are taking their time morphing…)

That concludes our dedicated “school” time for the day and we move on to chores and preparing dinner. We usually fit in a family game or two then the kids grudgingly go to bed. This is when I can finally work on my own projects (I’m a web designer), then, if I’m really on top of life (I’m usually not), I spend 20 minutes or so before I go to bed to plan and prepare for the next day.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays look a little different. The kids take classes in the mornings at our local school’s partnership program, BFPP. The classes they are taking this semester include Baking, PE, Guitar, Mathletics, and Creative Dance. They absolutely love their school and the friends they’ve made there and the wonderful teachers. We just do a couple of things at home on the days they have class. Wednesday is also always homeschool park day. We’ve been going for almost 7 years now and it has become an important part of our week for the great friends we’ve made, a chance for exercise, and a strong homeschool support group. There are also many additional activities we do from time to time (field trips, nature studies, arts, baking, etc) and we really just strive to make our lives full of natural learning.

Again, this is our “ideal” schedule. Homeschool life… is rarely “ideal”.  Every now and then, we need to take a break from our traditional learning. We might spend an entire day reading, or crafting, or playing games, or baking, or building a fort at the beach or finding mushrooms in the woods.  Or take a whole week off for a road trip. Or honestly, sometimes doing absolutely nothing. We’ve learned that learning happens in many, many places and forms and don’t stress when things don’t go as planned. It’s always an adventure!

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