Monday, June 17, 2013

Routine Days

I had someone who has a 3yo and a baby and is thinking about homeschooling in a couple of years ask me what my best advice was for her at this stage of her life.  The pre-school age.  Easiest question ever, for me.  Establish routines.  Here is what I told her, more or less:

I am not a mama who thrives when things are chaotic, cluttered, unplanned, or unstructured.  The best thing have done for my life as a stay-at-home (and now, homeschooling) mom is to create routines.  Around when my oldest turned 3 is when I really started firming up our days and creating predictable routines.  We still have the routines that I put in place around that time.  They have morphed to suit our lives as a mama with kindergarten-ish aged kids instead of 3ish year old kids, but the bones are the same.  

I started with connecting "helping" (chores), "learning", "reading", and "outings" to other things that were a given in our schedule--mostly meals and naps.  Having a routine, not a schedule--no times are tied to most of it--helps the kids to know what to expect, and allows me to handle the chaos that kids throw with (some) grace.  Here is what our days look like.  Every day.  Summer, winter, vacation, when sick, when we have company, literally EVERY day.  The bolded things are the things that are a given.  We'll eat three meals, nap/rest, bathe, and go to bed every day, without fail (OK, sometimes the bath gets skipped). The things between are things that are tied to those givens in the minds of my children.  When do we do chores? AFTER breakfast.  When is story time? BEFORE rest and BEFORE bed.  When is free play? AFTER school work in the morning or after chores in the afternoon.  This way, they know what to expect.

Breakfast (a given in our schedule)

  • Helping (dressing and brushing teeth, bringing breakfast dishes to the kitchen, sweeping up crumbs on the floor, wiping off the table)
  • Learning (at 3, that might have been reading a book or two, over time it has grown into our full school time) --this is Monday through Friday only
  • Outing (errands or play dates, if there are any on the schedule) or free play if not
Lunch (a given in our schedule)

  • Helping (cleaning up from lunch)
  • Reading 
Naps/Rest time I have never let my kids think that nap time was something that could be "given up"! Now they no longer sleep, but everyone gets an hour and a half in their rooms with books, toys, games, coloring, or whatever they want to do that can be done at a reasonable volume.  It's how an introverted mom survives the day. ;) 
  • Helping (tidying up our toys and rooms)
  • free play (board games, outside, crafts, screen time, etc)
  • Outing (some days we have classes or errands to run in the afternoon)
  • free play
  • Reading
Notice that there are no times on my schedule.  It's all "what comes next".  And it really does work in all seasons and in all circumstances.  Sure, when company is in town, we skip the school part in the mid morning, just like we do on Saturdays, but we still do our chores after breakfast before we have an outing with Grandma!   On vacation, we still read books and have some intentional down time in the afternoon.  We rarely rest on vacation for the full hour and a half that we rest at home, and if we don't have the space for everyone to rest on their own, we compromise with being still in front of a movie, but it helps attitudes SO much to have that break in the middle of the day!   

Having routine like this in place has been a LIFESAVER.  We were able to  transition smoothly from toddlerhood to homeschooling without any problems at all as a result.  I know not all of my blog readers are homeschoolers, but I think the general principles of routined days apply.  Many of you moms probably don't need the same sort of structure that I do to thrive, either.  More power to you if you can handle the chaos with less imposed order!   Sometimes I wish I could, but I cannot.  This is what works for us.  I hope that helps someone else out there who is feeling like their days are a little chaotic.  Try to tie some routines to the set parts of your day and see if it helps! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Picture Study: art appreciation for your homeschool

I was first introduced to Charlotte Mason at 22 years old, when I applied to teach 3rd grade at Regents School of Austin.  Teaching applicants for the grammar school were required to read two books, one on classical education and one on Charlotte Mason.  The curriculum in Regents' grammar school was a combination of the two methods, and a CM/classical mix remains my personal model for my homeschool.  The Charlotte Mason book I had to read was For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  It remains one of the most lovely and inspiring books on education I've ever read.  I taught at Regents for 4 years and all of my favorite parts about the grammar school were the Charlotte Mason-y things that we did.  One of those was picture study.

I mentioned to a friend that we had just done our first picture study in our homeschool, and she said I should blog about it.  I was hesitant, since after all, I'm a rookie homeschooler.  My oldest child turns 6 this week.  We're just getting started! I didn't feel like I had enough experience to really give a how-to on the subject of picture study.  She insisted that my writing about what we did would encourage other homeschoolers who had never done art appreciation to try it as well.  If it wasn't too scary for me, it might not be too scary for others.  Fair enough.

Picture study is a really easy way to do art appreciation in your homeschool.   This little YouTube video from Simply Charlotte Mason is precisely the method I used.

The method is simply:

  • Tell your children the name of the artist and the painting.
  • Display the picture and have them study it quietly for a few moments, encouraging them to close their eyes occasionally and see if they can "see" the picture in their mind's eye.
  • Turn the picture over and ask, "What did you see?" Let them take turns telling you as much detail as they can remember.  Participate and share observations of your own!   Ask leading questions if needed to jog their memories ("Yes! I saw flowers, too.  What color were they?")
  • Turn the picture back over where everyone can see it and see if there's anything else they notice that they didn't remember the first time.  
  • Hang the picture in a visible place for a week or two until you do another study. 
It's EASY.  It's FAST.  We did ours at the breakfast table this morning between bites of cereal and toast.  And my children completely loved it.  They dragged Daddy over to where I had hung the picture as soon as he got home and told him every single detail they could remember.  They were so proud.  

I am planning to do three artists a year--one in the fall, one in the spring, and one in the summer.  I plan to study approximately six works from each artist, doing a new one every other week or so.  For our first artist, we are doing George Rodrigue, who is local to us, has sculpture in our city park's sculpture garden and a gallery in the French Quarter.  There are adorable children's books about Blue Dog, his most famous subject.  I bought a Blue Dog calendar to cut up for our study of his art.

This fall, we plan to study Monet, and in the spring, Beatrix Potter.  I will probably try this pack of Monet pictures from Dover Publishing for Monet, and maybe just use our Beatrix Potter story book compilation for her, or try another calendar.  We'll see.

There are artist lists on Simply Charlotte Mason's website.  I also reference the curriculum lists from Regents (the school I taught at) for ideas on which artists, composers, etc to study which years.  Their two artists for kindergarten are Mary Cassat and Norman Rockwell, both of which would be so fun to study with young children!  Maybe we'll do them next year!  Their lists are available to the public, by clicking on a grade level under "What to Expect" on the right hand side of the page here.  They try to associate artists with the time periods they study in history, so we studied Greek pottery, Greek and Roman sculpture, etc in third grade along with our study of Ancient Civilizations.  Fourth grade has the Middle Ages, and on up from there.

I don't think you need to associate your art appreciation with your other curriculum, though.  Not necessarily.  It's perfectly fine to choose any artist that you're interested in, source some pictures of their work (or use Google Images to do a picture study on your computer), and go for it!  Ten minutes, twice a month is my goal, and I think that's completely doable!

Anyone inspired to join me?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Jack's summer wardrobe

The kids have been telling me that Jack didn't have enough clothes.  He needed some shorts and shirts and some pajamas, specifically.  I added a bunch to his wardrobe today, and thought I'd post some pics.

Robot pajamas, form a smidge of purchased robot flannel and a recycled tshirt.

Robot long sleeved shirt and gray shorts.  Shirt was made from an outgrown shirt of the boys' and the gray fabric was leftover from Hazel's Easter dress.  

Camouflage shorts and gray tshirt with fire truck appliqué.  Camo shorts and gray tshirt fabric were recycled from some outgrown clothes, plus one of those nifty iron-on appliqués from Joanns.  I threw his sweatshirt on over this because the length of the tshirt sleeves are funny.  Ha! 
Seer sucker shorts and orange tshirt.  Orange tshirt was another outgrown clothes upcycle.  I bought a smidge of seer sucker fabric for the shorts.  He's wearing Jess's flip flops here, which I'm not sure is a good look.  Poor Jack needs some non-soccer cleat shoes.  I'll have to look into that for him. 

I enjoy using outgrown clothes in my dolly sewing!  They're cheap, readily available, and the kids are always happy to see their old stuff made into something new!