One of the best things about homeschooling is the flexibility that it provides! Homeschooling gifts families with the ability to create routines that revolve around family life rather than attempting to fit family life in around their routines. With careful planning and a little creativity, this can result in some amazing learning opportunities for everyone involved!
We have been homeschooling for a handful of years now, and every once in awhile, I like to take some time to think through what is working well for us as well as what areas need a little tweaking in order for our day-to-day to flow more smoothly. One of things that has consistently been great for our family is that sometimes we do school in the evenings…In addition to that, sometimes we even do school on the weekends…Oh, and I might also mention that we even “do school” throughout the summer months!
Think all of this sounds crazy? Well, let me explain what I mean~
Why We Homeschool at Night
One of the goals that we have for our children is that they will develop a love of learning that lasts a lifetime, and as we foster this in them, we want them to understand how to see learning opportunities in just about any and all situations.
I think sometimes we’re guilty of thinking that children are only learning when they’re tracing letters…or reading a chapter book…or creating a historical timeline…or solving an algebraic equation…and yes, all of these things are important…very, very important….but what about other learning opportunities? What about placing them in situations where they can explore all that lies beyond traditional learning experiences?
What about the math skills a child can practice when taking a 1-on-1 trip to the grocery store with mom? What about the scientific facts a child can interact with while visiting a farm? What about the life skills a child can learn while assisting with dropping off donations at a local charity or joining a group that visits with the patients at a nursing home?
These are just a few of the thousands and thousands of examples that come to mind when I consider this mindset, and what we have done is attempt to naturally weave these kinds of learning opportunities in to our day-to-day family life.
When my oldest was an only child, this was fairly easy – We could take little nature walks…and spend extended times playing in the water and blowing bubbles out on the back porch, but once baby brother came along, this was a smidge more difficult, but we made it work. While baby brother was taking a nap, we could practice singing our letters and counting aloud. After baby brother went to bed in the evenings, we could practice how to hold a gluestick and spend time exploring with Play-doh…but little brother didn’t stay a baby…He eventually became mobile…and then later on, a baby sister was added to the mix.
Now as a mom of three little ones, it is not always as easy for me to implement these kinds of things on weekdays when I’m at home with my kiddos, and additional outings? Those can sometimes seem impossible! In fact, we’ve gone through stages where the only outings I’ve been able to take with them are ones that involve everyone staying strapped down in their car seats…the entire time. (Can anyone else to relate to this?) So what I like to do is plan certain experiences/outings for the evenings (or the weekends) when daddy is home to offer an extra set of hands.
In this season of life, this has been just the ticket! In the morning hours, it’s easy for me to do lots of reading aloud with my little ones…we do lots of coloring (I sometimes get extra adventurous and let them use markers! ha!)…we practice tracing letters and numbers…we work together on dot-to-dots and color-by-numbers…we practice sight words…we watch interactive YouTube videos…we recite our Scripture passages that we’re working to memorize…we play, play, play…we venture to the park (Fenced in play areas are currently the way to go!)…and these things are completely doable for me to tackle alone right now….
…but there are some things that are a little more challenging these days…
For example, helping my middle kiddo learn how to appropriately use scissors (when he would prefer to cut his own hair rather than paper)…assisting my oldest with a “big boy puzzle” (while his younger brother tries to grab all of the pieces and throw them across the room)….teaching my boys how you can mix paint colors to create new colors (when one of them likes to experiment with tasting the paint)…doing science experiments that include all manner of vinegar…baking soda…food coloring…water….ice….you get the idea (I don’t even have to tell you what this can be like when I’m the only supervising adult.)…Well, let’s just say, these kinds of activities can result in a struggle…
I used to try to do them on my own, but I would end up getting completely frustrated, and I realized that I needed to start being more realistic. My kids were little…really little…and while my oldest might have been ready for new experiences…and while my middle kiddo was starting to learn to do some of the things his brother already knew how to do…maybe I needed to rethink HOW we did all of this.
Soooooo, I considered the school activities that I was fully capable of handling on my own – without blowing a gasket – like the reading, tracing, coloring, memorization, etc. and I continued to incorporate those in to our daily routines at home, but the scissors…and big-boy puzzles…and painting…the science experiments…all of those things are now saved for when daddy is around – They make the perfect after-dinner activities…and when it comes to the weekends, we usually take our fields trips then.
It is also in the summer when we will take lots of field trips – sometimes week-long field trips if you know what I’m sayin’ – using family vacations as a time to work in educational experiences that we aren’t necessarily able to have right here close to home.
This round-the-clock/year-round approach to homeschooling has not only helped me keep my cool with my little ones, but it has also given daddy the opportunity to be involved in all of the things we are learning and doing. The key for our family has been maintaining an open schedule that provides us the freedom to approach teaching/learning this way.
Instead of allowing other people to dictate our commitments (Have you ever found yourself in a situation(s) like that? I know I sure have!)…Instead of allowing the ever constant flow of birthday party invitations to overwhelm our weekends…Instead of saying “Yes!” to the many things that aren’t exactly in the “What’s Best for Our Family Right Now” category, we work to leave open evenings and available weekends so we can focus on having the family life that we so desire in this current season of life.
Different stages/seasons of parenting seem to call for different things, and this is where we are right now, and it is working beautifully!
My encouragement to all homeschooling moms is to not be afraid to take advantage of the flexibility that comes along with homeschooling. Instead of trying to fit your family in to a certain mold of expectation, spend some time considering the ages [and of course learning styles] of your children, the season of life you are in, the ebb and flow of your current family life and then get creative about how you can begin to approach teaching/learning as a round-the-clock thing in your home.
While routines and schedules are beneficial for everyone (I’m definitely not saying to throw all of that out the window!), I think everyone benefits when we are willing to relax and possibly reconsider how we’ve been doing things and how we might want to change things up a bit! As a classroom teacher, I was constantly adjusting my m.o. based on what my students needed at the time. As a homeschooling mom, I have to remind myself to do the same thing for my own kiddos!
You know what you need as a mom…you know best what your kiddos need…you’ve got this!
Psst…throughout the summer months, I love doing science/social studies units with my kids, a!
I am currently considering what this might look like in years to come. Could it work for us to tackle our science/social studies curriculum throughout the summer months – spending September through May heavily focused on Language Arts and Math? At the pre-school level and transitioning in to lower elementary, this has been an awesome approach, and I love the idea of considering it for future years.
Have any of you tried this with your kids?
What has worked well? What has been difficult about it? I would love to hear your thoughts!