Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Getting It All Done

I knew this year was going to be the toughest yet.  With Madelynn demanding to do school with real curricula of her own, I have the schooling of four kids to manage.  Mikaela began high school this year, and Sam is working right along with her using the same curricula.  This is the first year that I feel the need to buckle down, get it all done, and actually maintain grades and real records.  There's a certain amount of stress that comes with beginning high school: it counts now.

I knew that I don't have as much flexibility to just go with the flow; that leads to not getting things done.  I knew I needed to figure out how to get it all to fit into the day.  I knew I needed to follow a schedule even though that is so very hard for me to do.  My first attempt at creating a schedule was too complicated and didn't work.  I spent time this weekend revising, and came up with a simpler schedule that seems to be working.

First, I created my very own school bell.  I found out a few years ago that having bells to denote the various times of the day really helped to keep us, and me especially, on track.  Without them, I get distracted or hyper-focus on one thing, and we end up having either very long days trying to catch up or not getting things done.  We don't like either consequence, so some sort of school bell is good for us. I went with the simplest option: a bunch of alarms on my cell phone. I even downloaded a school bell sound, just for fun.

Here's how our day looks:


Everyone in the family must wake up and be ready to go before 8:00am.  For me, that includes waking up, showing, getting dressed, making my bed, starting a load of laundry, feeding the cats and dogs (or asking someone else to), and putting together breakfast. Until I get all of my planning odds and ends wrapped up, breakfast consists of easy things like cereal, bagels, english muffins, fried eggs and toast, and scrambled eggs with mix ins.


At 8:00am, we all eat breakfast.  After eating, we brush our teeth and get ready to start our morning.


The littles get to start their day watching a TV show.  If I have one, I'll tell them to watch something that goes with what we are learning about.  This morning they watched The Magic School Bus Shows and Tells, which is about archaeology, our history topic for the week.   Meanwhile, the bigs and I do what I'm calling the Morning Meeting.  We discuss their Bible assignment, watch and discuss the CNN Student News for the day, go over any little bits of trivia that I want to share with them, and discuss the schedule for the day if there are changes.


Once we are done with the Morning Meeting, the littles join us in the school room for their work.  I read them a story out of Egermeier's Bible Story Book and then work with them on their individual subjects.  I get Maddie started on handwriting and then do phonics with Josh.  Then I get Josh working on handwriting while I do phonics with Maddie.  Then they both work on math.  If Josh finishes before Maddie, he works on a page of spelling and a page of language arts.  These are both Spectrum workbooks, which are a quick and simple way of introducing both subjects without a lot of stress. Then we work on history and science together.  I'm finding that I have to keep both of these very short because Josh just doesn't have the attention span for content subjects.  Meanwhile, Mikaela and Samuel work independently.  I'm available for questions, but it is generally understood that questions should wait until later so I can get done with the littles.


At this point, I am done with the littles and make lunch.


Everyone takes a break to eat lunch.


Maddie takes her nap immediately after lunch.  Josh is free to do what he wishes.  His only limit is that he cannot play on the computer if someone is using it for school, and if he does play on the computer, he can't have the sound on. That is because the computer is in the school room where we are trying to work.  Meanwhile, I teach Health to Mikaela and Samuel.


The big kids and I move on to Spanish.  If it is the beginning of the chapter, we move to the living room to watch an episode of Destinos.  If we are working in the textbook, we stay in the school room to do the activities as a class.  Some activities require the use of sound files online, so we use my laptop for those.  If we are working in the workbook, we move to the living room so we can use the stereo to hear the audio CDs.  Obviously, if Josh is using the TV, he gets kicked off as school takes priority.


At this time, I continue working with Samuel and Mikaela if needed.  This is the time for those activities that don't come up every day, like science labs or vocabulary discussions or tests.  If I'm not needed, I use this time to grade the day's work.


Maddie is awake by this time, so I have determined that once a week, this time will be designated for art.  Otherwise, I work on grading and chores during this time.


It is my goal that I start cooking dinner at this time.  It hasn't happened yet, but it is the goal.  On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I have to have dinner ready earlier so I'll likely force myself to stick to this goal those days, while other days it is less important.

The rest of the evening is devoted to eating, cleaning up after dinner, grading, chores, taking the big kids to their social activities, and free time.

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