What Our Day Looks Like

I have never been, nor ever will be, a morning person.  There.  That said, we are slow to get started for the day, but I think we both enjoy a slower start.  Dad leaves for work at some silly hour, like 5:30 a.m.  Max and I begin to stir sometime around 8:30 to 9:00 a.m.  I sometimes wonder if I am teaching him bad habits, like how ‘not’ to fit into the corporate world.  If he continues keeping these hours, he’ll have a hard time adjusting when he is in college and in the work world.  These types of inane thoughts cross my mind – and then I push them aside and keep doing what we are doing.  He’ll find or create his niche in the world and will be fine.  Besides, I am anti-corporate at heart and think life can be lived differently, more creatively – or just differently.  And for the time being we are striving to be unstressed and to enjoy the learning that’s going on around here.

Mind you, within these walls does not exist a little Utopian homeschool.  Are you kidding?  I’ve got a 10-year-old who teeters on the edge of  teenage-dom already (the hormones in the milk?  What causes that?)  We’ve got umpteen animals to look after and a house to clean.  We have some really not-so-good moments.  We have arguments (wait – I’m the parent.  Arguing shouldn’t even be an option.)  Let’s call them debates, then, wherein he files formal complaints.  We have debates about how many spelling words to practice or whether he needs to write down the definitions.  “I’ll remember them, Mom”.  Which of course he doesn’t, so sometimes I make him write them down or draw pictures to describe them.  Or use his words out loud!  It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun.  But its normal parent-child interactions that I have to stop and think about so I can have a plan in place for the next time.  Usually when he whines and complains, I’ll give him more work to do or another chore.  Kind of hard for a ten-year old to swallow the words, “Always be grateful for the ability to learn, Max”.  Gratefulness is not an everyday word for most ten-year olds.

But I think we’ve carved out a nice rhythm for our days.  I said in another post that we are working with a ‘six week on, one week off’ schedule.  This allows me time to pull together materials for the next block, enough time to think ahead and plan.  We work hard 95% of the days when in ‘on’ mode.  Some days get interrupted by life outside the door, illness, what have you.  I look at the bigger picture and can see that he is making steady learning progress and I know when he is engaged, when he is not.  I need to respect him in this way and allow him breathing room.  Nothing worse than a smothering mother (wow – ‘mother’ fits right into ‘smother’.)  I am a perfectionist to the core, but try to hide it, deflect it, bury it.  So that my kid doesn’t suffer the wrath of an overachiever, a ……… firstborn!  Add to that that he’s an only child and I have my work cut out for me to raise him to be as mentally healthy as possible.  Yikes.  I might crumble under the responsibility :).

Back to the morning routine- up and at ’em.  Breakfast, then chores.  I must declare that my house is cleaner than it has ever been.  More picked up, more organized.  Probably has something to do with us doing a little each day to maintain it.  Novel concept in action.  Max has to clean up his room, make his bed, get dressed, brush teeth, clean out the cat box (which I always end up doing and I’m not sure why), tend to his hamster, feed the birds and pick up any stray legos or Bakugan that wandered out into the living room in the middle of the night (Max’s theory.)  I work on laundry, clean up the kitchen (Gary’s a messy coffee maker), feed the rabbit, give water to the dogs, pet everybody and talk nice to them.  We have two dogs, two parakeets, two cats, a hamster, and a Himalayan rabbit.  Our census is low – we’ve had many, many pets over the course of our marriage.  Gary would prefer to see some attrition, so I can’t go adopt another kitten.  It’s killing me.  At any rate, our animals need a fair amount of care and attention, so we try to do that first thing.

Often times we’ll grab a dog and go for a walk around the neighborhood in the morning before we get started on school work.  This has been a successful tactic because Max’s head seems to clear and his body seems to calm down a bit.  He’s less fidgety.  That’s definitely a bonus when homeschooling – the freedom for your child to run around and move at will instead of being asked to stay stationary in a circle or at a desk.  For some kids, anyway.  Probably the benefits are weighted toward boys.

We usually start school around 10-10:30, break for lunch around noon, and pick up again until 2 or 3 in the afternoon.  Sprinkled in there are several mini breaks to catch our breath and hit the refresh button.  We kind of lose track of time, though, once we get started.  Lately we’ve been starting with Daily Grams – a short and sweet little grammar program that is not in the least bit overwhelming.  Max does a couple of pages and then we go over it (which is helpful for me because I forget things like not to capitalize the seasons of the year, or what the heck a dependent clause is.)  Next we’ll move on to spelling.  At the beginning of the week he gets anywhere from 15-20 new words, usually particular to the unit we are working on.  For now it’s Ancient Egypt, so the words fit.  He writes them on a big white board, sometimes we spell them in the air, sometimes we play catch and each say a letter out loud.  Or I say them while making mistakes and he has to try and catch the mistake.  To make it fun I’ll throw zinger words in there on some days, stuff he isn’t expecting.  Today I threw a list of candy bars at him (since we just went trick or treating and scored 166 pieces of candy).  He laughed and took the bait and tried to spell as many as I could think of.  Then we went back to his regular words for the week.  Spelling gets practiced every day and I give him a review of the week’s work on Fridays, including spelling and definitions.  A couple of weeks later I’ll pull a few former words and use them as bonus words to see if he remembers how to spell them.  If he misses a word, it gets tossed into next week’s pile and he keeps working on it.  No pressure.  Just steady progress.

We might do a little work with blackline maps.  He’s learned the continents, oceans and major mountain ranges and major rivers.  Now we’re looking at the geography of Egypt, both present-day and Ancient.  It helps that we’ve been reading novels about Egypt so places have some meaning for him with respect to the story lines.  Associations like that are incredibly helpful.  Did you know that Egypt is upside down?  That the Nile flows north?  That the Nile is the longest river in the world?  That the Nile Delta is probably the most fertile soil on earth?  Some of the geographical words are part of his spelling words (like ‘tributaries’) – all of the interwoven stuff does wonders for memory retention.

Next we move to the couch and the fort building, lego construction, sword play or whatever commences.  This is reading time where I read aloud for quite a while.  We move from a novel that we’re working on to historical books from the library.  An interesting book like Cat Mummies by Kelly Trumble might be on the docket.  I stop periodically to check in with Max to make sure his ears are turned on and up – usually they are.  I think this is his favorite part of the day because he can move around as he likes.  My voice has become accustomed to reading for longer periods of time and we’ve been able to eat up some books!

Then onto math concepts, for which we are using a ‘Living Math’ approach right now.  No flashcards.  No worksheets.  No word problems.  For the time being.  Please see my post on how to take the whining out of math.  We’ll read about what Penrose has to say about fractals or Fibonacci numbers and then do the follow-up work in the book, if there is any.  Usually Max wants to move onto the next chapter to find out what’s next.

Insert a break in here and we might head into a science experiment.  Yesterday we tried to prove the Archimedean principle that an object will always displace its weight in water.  Yeah……right.  We tried it three times and never got the numbers to match up.  Max decided that playing in the big bowls of water was more productive, so he made boats out of tin foil and then figured out how many coins it took to sink them.  Not sure if that’s science, but I did throw in some nonsense about density of water versus density of wood (why boats float).  I think he bought it and learned something.  All of this makes a huge mess, so the next 30 minutes were consumed with cleaning up.

Today we did an art project and stumbled upon a really cool painting technique.  It started out trying to emulate Van Gogh’s technique of using really thick paint strokes and turned into something altogether different.  If you mix glue with acrylic paint you can get it to be nice and thick and can do some pretty cool stuff with a plastic fork once you’ve got the paint on paper.

I am not grading his work.  I do not point out every little mistake.  When he’s not looking I go over everything just to get a sense of what he is understanding, what he is not and then take it from there.  Here’s where the perfectionist roars like a lion in a cage and tries to escape – but I can’t let that happen.  Oh no!  He missed a punctuation mark.  Big deal.  He’s ten and has plenty of time to work out the kinks.

Sometimes in the evenings we’ll pick back up where we left off in a novel, but that depends on the day.  Too much is too much and we both can get burned out.  In the past I did three-week long unit studies.  For Ancient Egypt I’m stretching it out to six weeks to have more breathing room.  There’s plenty of information we can cover in that time and still have days that are more flexible.

In bed by 9:00 p.m. with time to read until 10:00 if he wants, which he usually does.  Then lights out and the cycle begins again!  I have noticed that Mondays are usually ‘off’ days, meaning it takes some doing to get back into the school routine after the weekend.  By Tuesday we’re back on track and humming along.

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