Saturday, February 20, 2016

Freedom in Order

 What most homeschoolers understand is that struggle we have between the need to have order to our home and school, but often one of the reasons we chose to homeschool is for the freedom and flexibility and ability to hone the school our children's interests even day to day.

How do you create order and structure while at the same time desiring to nurture creativity and freedom?  Not to mention the normal flow of a changing day with sicknesses, new babies, bad moods, and just household tasks that never end?  This post has a few ideas that we are trying, but we are always tweaking it as we go.

You can read this blog post called "Don't Trust the Schedule" - which talks about the nature between a "schedule" at home and how we can change how we think of school at home so that we make the most of our homeschooling and keep ourselves from going nuts!

My blog post today isn't about the theory and the thoughts about these things though, but just some ideas of how I've found order while still in the freedom and practical ways to teach from rest.

For more reading, the book "Teaching From Rest" has a lot of wisdom in it as well.

 I'm in a Facebook group for people who use the "Fun-school Journal" books and other books by The Thinking Tree and the Author/Illustrator of the books was telling us how she organized her kids school using baskets!  She even made some drawings of how she organizes (picture below) so cute!  It's very true that my kids respond well to the basket idea.  You can grab the themed basket and put it on the table and just walk away and eventually someone will dig into it and be all spontaneously learning or crafting.  I'm in a tiny apartment though so I don't have room for that many different baskets.
The 5 books below are all spelling type books that she has (I think there are one or two more than these) I love how right brain dominant they are!  I wasn't great at spelling at a young age and I know these would have been just right for me.  :)  Here's the other spelling one that I don't have yet (but will I'm sure get in the future!)
 So many great new books and I already have a bunch of games and resources.  I can feel a little overwhelmed with all the choices though!  If we go at our school too loosely and "what we feel like doing" it can be an amazing busy day of learning, BUT it also can be way too tiring for me (especially as an introvert!) I need some quiet and I need to not have everyone talking all at once all the time all day long.  I really do want to get to those awesome learning games and new books though!

Enter, the "Loop schedule system" --  The idea is that you pick up where you left off and eventually you will get to all those awesome books, but you won't do them ALL in ONE day or even in one week sometimes.  You will get to them though!  And you will still have your sanity when you get there.  :)
I've organized and re-organized so often over the years that it's getting easier each time to do this.  I chose to put the stuff more or less in themes so it's like a "basket" of things only it's the full shelf.  So the picture above has a "language" shelf and a "math" shelf.  To just sort of help me vary the sorts of things we are adding on for extra learning.
 Library books and a basket of coloring books and clay (great thing to have near while reading aloud!)
 The chalk board paper on my fireplace that I blogged about a while back now has some school decorations on it to go with the new arrangement of school things.  Doing a little change up like this helps to freshen our school up a bit and inspire us.  Especially in February which is the usual "burn out month" in school.  The girls ooooh about how pretty it is and I feel less "stuck in a rut" when I change something even in a small way like this.
 I raised the little table again by gluing another round of blocks to the legs, and each girl basically has her own "desk" though they sometimes share and we use the large table for school as well.
 My own basket of books! Which is sitting in my new chair (all my own!  I haven't had my own chair for years!) but my favorite place to do my Mom journal is at the park while the kids play.

With so many types of art supplies it can be hard to know how to keep them organized.  I have one child who likes to toss her colored pencils on the floor after she uses one.  I noticed however, that she observed how I organized my own art supplies and when she did the same with her little set of gel pens she was suddenly keeping the lids ON the gel pens when she was through with them and they didn't end up all over the floor!
 After the sets of art supplies are banded together they can go in a basket or tub and are easily grab-able when we take a trip to the park or other places to do our Journals.
My 10 year old's stack of books are below.  We use more than these as well, but I thought it was helpful to lay them all out to see what we were doing.  The "Kitty Doodle Journal" is already set up like a loop schedule and each day the prompts will be different.  Sometimes it's about finding spelling words, or sometimes it says to watch an educational video and write about it.  Sometimes it's copy work or write your own thing.  I love how each day is a little fresh because it's not always the same thing!
 My almost 8 year old chose the ones below.  Math, spelling, a bunny "fun-journal" and other books of interest.  We also read other books together so what is pictures is a fraction of what we have going.  Hence why I was stressed and needing to find order in the freedom.
 The four year old might have the most resources because she has things passed down from her older sisters!  She also has the shortest attention span.  Do we do all of this in one day?  No we don't, but with the loop idea we do get to it eventually and we still enjoy it as we go.  Her "Fun-school Journal" she mostly does with me still along with all her other things.  She can do some herself, but is young enough that she does much better if I am with her encouraging her and so on.
 The cat likes to organize herself into any basket that is left out.  ;)  The one below is actually FOR her, but we find her in all sorts of laundry baskets and boxes that get left out.  Notice the pile of clean clothes on the couch?  Yep.  That's homeschooling.. it's how it goes.  It's part of life and life is part of it all all the time.

 I've put each girls books on her own shelf with her own set of drawers, but each bookshelf has a shelf with sets of reading books that everyone can share or choose from as well to save space.
 And here we get down the the loop schedule!  It can be a list of books or activities on a sheet of paper that you keep track with a paper clip!  I got a wooden 99 cent door hanger for ours and drew on it with sharpies.  For our "first hour" of school (which can even be an hour and a half to two hours, but the one hour is minimum) they each have at least a page from their fun journals.  Then the loop happens with their binder and three drawers.  I chose this rather than subjects or writing whats in the drawers and binder because I wanted to be able to put different books in their drawers or pages in their binders as they finished their books.  The clothes pin marks the spot they left off on.
 The next day they would again do one page in their journal (at least) and then if there's more time in our "first hour" they can move on to where they left off in the "loop part" of their schedule.  The other two girls mostly can do this on their own though I'm there to give some direction when they aren't sure what to do with the directions in their Journals.
 My oldest two daughters schedules are the same except the colors are different to match their binders and drawers.
 Supplies used and all was in-expensive!  But again, you can just write a list on a piece of paper or write it on a white board or use magnets.  Really, it's about what you have and what you personally like.  I hate lists because they stress me out.  So this was a way to make a "list" for me that didn't feel like a list since it is so visual and loops.
 Hooks on the sides of the shelves!  The one on the right is my 4 year olds schedule which is slightly different.  Instead of a Binder she has a "Game or puzzle" there and one of the shelves in our dining room holds her options.
 I even made a loop schedule for house cleaning!  I've tried so many different ways to organize and schedule house cleaning and all it seems to do is make me hate scheduling and lists more and more and just stress me out.  I've finally learned what works for my personality!  It could be that I only get to one room a week or less.. or possibly more if I'm feeling up to it and the kids aren't sick or the usual distractions are adjusted in some way that allows for more time to clean things up well (The normal pick up is a daily thing, but the actually real cleaning doesn't happen enough!)

"Second hour" is spent at the dining room table doing "Life of Fred" sometimes after lunch or after breakfast, but I hate to put a clock on this because it's too stressful then.  And after Life of Fred I let them pick a game from the shelf.  My 10 year old is LOVING getting to do a game every day!

This is the far corner and has our Life of Fred books and a few other things.  I have "picturing the past" art study book from The Thinking Tree that I'm going to use along with our World History reading books through Sonlight but haven't started yet.  Still trying to figure out how to roll Sonlight into our current system, but I think it will work.

"Third Hour" is where I do some individual reading time with the girls so they can sit with me and practice.  Usually they will either listen in or play with the other sister while I rotate the kids around for this time.  A "Fourth Hour" will probably be the History and Geography stuff from Sonlight that I'm planning to start after we finish all the alphabet chalk board stuff.

It would be great if any of this has inspired you with some ideas to make your own school easier!  Like most posts this is more for me to organize my own thoughts on it all and to keep in case I need to look back at it.  We've been doing this routine for a week now and I'm happy with how much less stressed I feel doing it this way.  The loop idea and the specific "hours" (which can be longer) give a nice structure without being too confining or stressful.  I feel like we are getting more done, but also enjoying our time more when we are done AND I don't see them trying to rush or dragging their feet as much with school as they had been.  There's a set amount of time to do school and then we are done.

The rhythm of this sort of day with being somewhat predictable is easier for them to swallow (and me) but the loop and using the fun journals keeps the time fresh as well!

I've been reading organizing type scheduling sort of books since I was about 15... so OVER half my life (I'm 34) has been spent trying to get better at these things.  It's taken me a long time to realize what my own personality is and also how to work with what my personality needs instead of against it.

I need spontaneity, variety, beauty, peace, order, freedom, fun, and quiet in my days.  Not at all contradictory right?  You can see why this has taken a while to get to!

I made a video about how I set up our loop schedule for the Facebook group that I'm in, but I'll share it here too.  It's very off the cuff, but being real is okay right?  :)

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