We’ve been in school for a couple of weeks now and creating good routines has been on my mind a lot. I think we all want to harness the energy and excitement we feel these first few weeks of school and keep that going all throughout the year, right?!
Coming up with a homeschool routine that works well for your family can be really challenging. Some homeschoolers have a fairly structured, regular schedule. Some families have a set order that they cover their subjects. Other families use workboxes and go through their subjects in order. Others (like us!) use checklists. Some use a white board to keep themselves on track. And still other families are more casual about how their work gets done! Some families start with morning baskets or a morning circle. Still others start with morning chores. As you can see, homeschool rhythms and routines vary widely and often change over time for families! Let’s face, life with tots and preschoolers is considerably different than it is when your kids are in upper elementary and middle school. And I’ve noticed quite a change this year as LD has moved into high school!
Before I talk about what we do now, let me talk about that for a moment. Are you familiar with the concept of workboxes? This was a system put together by Sue Patrick for her autistic son. She used plastic shoe-box sized bins and had his work laid out for him. As he finished his subject, he would take a velcro label off the bin and place it onto his daily schedule so he could see how much progress he had made. (That’s how I remember the story… it’s been a few years since I read her book, Sue Patrick’s Workbox System (affiliate link) it is currently free if you have Amazon unlimited or if you google workboxes, you’ll find tons of ways people have adapted her system to work for their families.)
Anyway, the workboxes are labeled with numbers (or many of us labeled them with the subject name). These are attached with velcro. As students finish their work, they remove the labels and place those on a schedule strip.
When my kids were little quite a number of homeschoolers read that book and we all got together in a group to share ideas. (It was actually an amazing, inspiring group at the time!) We shared some of the things we put in our workboxes… because we included not only math and reading activities but also some fun, creative activities that our kids would look forward to! Some moms made fancy labels and people shared the creative workbox tags they made. As kids finished their work, they would remove the label from their box and velcro it onto a sheet so they could see what they’d done and what they had left.
If you are interested this is a workbox tag and label set that I made at one point. It’s free to download and print out:
With this system you can cover the subjects in different orders each day. And since you might want to cover certain subjects only on certain days, Sue suggested that you fill out a curriculum grid. Then you could include something like math everyday, but spelling just twice a week.
In the early years, I used these colorful rolling bins that I pasted in above and used it to organize their work. Slowly as the kids got older, we moved away from those workboxes. We never used them in the way Sue Patrick had described. And now, only ED uses them to hold her math materials (I use the other drawer sets to keep papers organized.)
These days, I consider our family “checklist homeschoolers.” Haha – I just made that word up, but the kids have checklists of the things that I hope they get done most every day. This is what was on ED’s checklist last week (she’s 9):
- Oregon Trail (read book, work on lapbook and notebook pages) (I’ll be sharing this at some point soon!)
- reading (literature)
- writing (work on NaNoWriMo workbook and free-write**)
- science – plant cells, layers of the leaf, photosynthesis notebook pages (and on Friday we did the leaf experiment)
- practicing French horn
- math fractions (with Mom)
- math worksheet packet page (division/equivalent fraction page)
- math problems (from textbook)
- German (which we do together)
- do a chore for the family
**Off topic for a sec… NaNoWriMo stands for national novel writing month. They have several really wonderful FREE workbooks that help students create characters, build settings, and hatch plots. My girls both wanted to start with these when we started back to school. ED is doing the NaNoWriMo Elementary level and DD is doing the NaNoWriMo Middle school level. There is also a NaNoWriMo high school level. They have been using the workbooks to help them develop their characters and have been enjoying the exercises. Definitely check those out if you haven’t already!
I change this list up every two or three weeks as our units change and we are working on different skills. For example, sometimes I work with my youngest on spelling for four or five weeks or so… but then later we’ll make sure we are covering grammar (comma rules and all that).
I also have a school checklist that helps me keep track of what the kids are doing and what I need to help them with. LD, for example, is doing physics this year. At the beginning of the week he reads the chapter. Then there’s a (video) lecture that he and I watch together on Tuesday (and/or Wednesday). Wednesday & Thursday he works on physics problems, but I make sure I’m there to help trouble-shoot with him if he gets stuck. I could keep all this in my head mentally, but it helps if I have a checklist to keep things on track each day.
Our homeschool never goes “by the clock,” we just flow from one subject to another. The checklist method allows my youngest to start when she gets up (considerably earlier than her older brother!!). She feels a sense of pride telling me how much she’s managed to get done before I’ve even finished my first cup of coffee!!
Another way that I try to keep our school routine flowing and easy throughout the year is by having areas of our homeschool that are set up for a certain subject. We have enough space that I have an area for our writing materials. When I first started using a Writing Workshop model in our homeschool, I gave a lot of thought to our writing space. You might want to check out this post:
Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #2 (Creating a Space) It has worked so well, that is still how we have our writing space organized! This is a picture of that area from a few years back, but the post goes into more detail. (If you’re interested in how/why we got started with a writing workshop you can visit this first post in the series: Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing program.)
We also have a very predictable routine about how we start our writing workshop, how long we write (we use a timer!), and the fact that we share (or at least ask each other if we want to share) what we’ve written that day.
That predictability transformed our writing time into one of our absolute favorite times of the day, which is pretty amazing because my son was a very reluctant writer!!
We also have a specific area set up for our foreign language (the kids are learning German). There we have 4 chairs, a portable (multi-region) DVD player, space for the laptop (since we also watch German videos online), our books, flashcard rings, pencils, writing notebooks, and so forth. I guess it boils down to Grandma’s old adage: A place for everything and everything in its place, right?! But even more than that, the kids know what will happen as we start off that portion of our day. The kids know that I expect them to speak in German (as much a possible), that we will have a snack as we watch our German movie/video, that we will be working on grammar, and that we will read together (in German)… It’s predictable…
Those three things: having a place where we meet for a certain subject, having all the materials we need for that part of our day, and having a predictable routine for those parts of our day.
Knowing where our materials are, having pencils right there, and making sure we don’t have to go hunting high and low for certain materials makes the day flow much, much better. And having that predictable routine, makes it easy both for the kids and for myself to move into the next subject area.
It can take trial and error to figure out the routines that will work best for your family! Good luck as you find out what works best in your family!
So, as you think about your day are their little routines that you follow for certain subjects? What parts of your day are predictable for the kids?
That’s about it for today! Just wanted to share some of the things that were on my mind! If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I know this post was a bit rambling today!
P.S. If you are interested, I have a couple of free homeschool planners here on the blog. One is more of a homeschool vision planner… for planning out the semester or year.
And the other is a Homeschool Planner and Discovery Journal. Not only does this packet include daily and weekly planning pages, checklists and record keeping pages, but it also includes various homeschool journaling pages… think gratitude journal meets homeschool goal setting! This unique homeschool planning packet is also free to download! It is nearly 100 pages.
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