January 22, 2009

Day to Day

I've gotten a few questions about the nitty-gritty day-to-day routine around here. That's a hard one because not following a structured school routine makes for, well, little routine! But here's an overview:

In the preschool years it was just a continuation of the baby days--make sure everyone's fed and clean, and do fun things when possible. To give mom a break, the kids watched PBS and videos. Peter and Meg must have watched Mary Poppins 50 times when we moved in 1993. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. My husband was great about taking the kids to the park or to the city pool several times a week to give me a quiet house. Sometimes he'd even take the kids for a whole day. I'm an introverted person, so constant noise and continual conversation can drive me crazy. To compensate, I'd find things that were good for the kids but still allowed me time to write in my journal (pre-blog days!) or just take a nap. A little bit more about my husband--he's done most of the grocery shopping since Peter was born, and he even cooks, does laundry, and vacuums. He knows how hard it is to be a full time parent and teacher. I am very blessed to have him.

As the kids got into the early elementary days, I had periods of more structure, but those lasted about a month at a time. I like checklists, so often the kids had charts on the wall of things I wanted them to accomplish each day. They would love it for about a week, and then I'd start loosening up on things. It was good to set a course and define a goal, and when we needed that structure, it was there. But we were very flexible and open to invitations to do other things on the spur of the moment.

We never had a "rise and shine" time because we had no schedule to keep and the longer they slept, the more time I had to do other things. Besides, young children don't linger in bed--that's a teenager thing. I figured they'd get up when they were rested. We had morning devotions for years. That would be after breakfast and before I sent them off to do something "educational." They could do things on their checklist or from a stack of books I usually gathered at the beginning of the school year. But like I said, I was never very structured, so if something more interesting came along, we'd do that instead. And if one of the kids just didn't like that grammar book I bought, I wouldn't make them do it. If I really wanted them to learn a concept, I'd present it in a quick, lively way, and move on, sort of like a hit and run. They'd learn something before they had a chance to object. :) Songs are great for that. We had grammar songs, geography songs, science songs, history songs, Bible songs, foreign language songs. The younger they are, the better, because they don't mind the cheesy lyrics and campy melodies. We usually listened to songs every car ride. And they can still sing some of those songs today.

Bed times? Well, since we didn't have to be anywhere in the morning, we didn't feel the need. There are a lot of opinions out there about bedtimes, but for us, it just flowed with life. We co-slept for YEARS because I wanted the kids to feel safe and it was just more convenient. It started with breastfeeding. I could not see any sense in getting up in the middle of the night to get a crying baby out of a crib down the hall. It was much easier to have that child right next to me and to respond before waking anyone else up. After you get used to that, it's hard to force a child into their own bedroom. BUT if that child WANTED his/her own bedroom, that's a different story. I found that falling asleep in the same room as my children gave me insight into their thinking. They would tell me how they really felt and I'd have the opportunity to talk about deep, important things without the distractions of the day. And we giggled a lot. My husband, on the other hand, liked his own space. Over the years, it has all worked out. Now everyone has their own room and I miss those late night talks with my kids.

When Peter got to 8th grade, I decided it was time to give him a real school experience because high school was coming up and I was thinking of enrolling him in a private school. And the girls were really bugging me about wanting to go to a "real" school. I also wanted to put more hours in at the ministry where my husband worked, so we did something really different. I put the girls in a school that did School of Tomorrow Paces, and Peter stayed home, but also did Paces. The girls' school career lasted all of six weeks. I could not believe how...well...let's just say I do not recommend this curriculum. So they came home, everyone was happy, and we resumed our unstructured learning. But Peter faithfully finished all his Paces by the end of the school year because he wanted to.

Because Peter went to a private school in 9th grade, he and I had to get up early and he was gone most of the day, but for Meg and Missa, unstructured school just rolled along. They'd have a pile of books and some expectations to complete before they could say they "got their school done," but most days I didn't ask and they just played happily. Sometimes I wouldn't let them go to a friend's house until they got this or that finished, and that system worked pretty well. But in all honesty, their school work would only take an hour if I actually insisted they do it.

Peter went one year to that private school because we moved away. His last three years of high school were at home. There's more on that in my post Should I Homeschool High School?

Today, this is what happened:

8 am Everyone is up and getting ready for the day. Missa goes to the high school, my husband teaches a couple classes at the local college, and Meg sits in on my husband's aural training class. They all leave together because my husband drops Melissa off on his way.

9am Everyone is gone so I get a shower, some breakfast, and check my email.

9:30 I pick up Meg at the college and take her to the high school for choir. I popped into the guidance counselor's office to hand in Melissa's request for classes next year. Yes, it looks like we're doing this again. On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store.

10:30 Meg returns from choir (another home schooled girl drives her home). She's very excited because she just got a text from a friend saying she got a great part in the musical she auditioned for last weekend. She's going to be the narrator/candyman in Willy Wonka Jr.

She's also in a play that opens tomorrow, and her director encouraged the cast to do something special for themselves, so she has decided to get a massage. After an Internet search, she found a spa in town, called and made an appointment. She also made an appointment to get her hair done. After that, we talked about her desire to study directing in college, so we got online and researched some possible schools. Then I walked away to do dishes, and she came into the kitchen asking for some math problems. I pulled out a math book and we did a 15 minute review of basic math and algebra. Then she sat down by the fireplace and read a science book.

11:45 Meg decides she needs some chocolate, so she goes to Walmart and picks Missa up for lunch on the way home. While she's gone, I clean some vegetables and think through what we could have for lunch.

12:15 Missa and my hubby are both home for lunch. Meg tells her that she also got a great part in Willy Wonka. They'll be going to rehearsals together every Saturday and Sunday afternoons until mid April.

12:45 Meg takes Melissa back to school.

1:00 I get serious about cleaning and doing laundry because Peter is coming home tomorrow for the weekend, and he's bringing his girlfriend with him. But because I don't like to do housework very much, I get distracted with my email, and then Peter calls and we talk through his arrival time. I also learn that his girlfriend has gone vegetarian, so we talk about what food we should have. Peter, on the other hand, is a self-described "meatasaurus." When I hang up with Peter, Meg wants to talk about her Life Cycle Development reading (she's auditing another college class). This chapter is about childbirth and a baby's first year, so she had lots of questions about details. You know how moms like to tell birth stories!

3:15 I go to the high school to pick up Melissa and take her straight to her piano lesson. Meg has a voice lesson at 4:00, but she gets there on her own. I do some kitchen clean up before returning to get Melissa.

4:15 Melissa is back home and frantically eating some supper and gathering her basketball stuff because the bus leaves at 4:45 for an out-of-town game.

5:00 I'm home alone because Meg went straight to her play practice after her voice lesson, my husband is working on something at his office, and Melissa is at basketball (we usually go to her games, but because she has a cold, she is going to sit on the bench). I resign myself to the fact that I have to get the laundry room in shape, so I start a load and take a bunch of clothes upstairs. After about an hour of earnest housework, I heat up a bowl of spaghetti and sit down to watch some Reba on Fancast.com (we don't have regular TV).

6:30 A friend calls. His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer yesterday. They are going for a second opinion soon. They have four small children and live so far away; I wish I could be there to help with the kids.

7:00 I give up on housework and start this post.

8:30 My husband calls and wants me to come get him at the college. When I get there, he wants to show me the computer lab, so here we are. He's working on something while I finish my post!
I'm waiting for Melissa to call for me to pick her up at the high school after the basketball game. Meg will be home when her play practice ends. Then we'll all watch another episode of Reba and go to bed.

This has been a rather typical day.


G.Dowell said...

So hubby cooks and does grocery shopping...I knew he was a good guy. If you are like me, you find that your typical day gets less typical the longer you homeschool and relax the "schedule". Don't you just love it?!

My hubby and Kayla are having a grand time in Mexico - doing a lot of painting.

Letitia said...

Your day makes me tired! My husband has done most of our grocery shopping for years, too...and will vaccuum if I ask. Somehow he doesn't seem to notice trash all over the floor. : ) I believe in letting my children sleep until they wake up, too. The younger 2 are usually up before I am anyway. But, who wants to deal with a grumpy child who had needed more rest? Thanks for the insight on your days. Oh, we did the same in the preschool years...play, read, talk, sing, and play.

Traci said...

Sounds like a good day. Ours consisted of Emma taking a spelling test and us going to the zoo after she was done. Came home and crashed for a while. My hubby will grocery shop but he is allergic to cooking!

Karen said...

Thanks for sharing the bird's-eye view of your day; we're still in the younger stages so it's nice to have some idea of what unschooling might be like in a few years.
My thoughts are with your friend with breast cancer, last week I needed a diagnostic mammogram for what turned out to be just cysts, but the days of wondering were scary. I hope all goes well with her treatment and recovery.
Thanks again for this post -

My Journey so Far... said...

How nice to get a glimpse into a day of unschooling in your family. It sounds so much like us, very much like us actually! :) How many nights I have woken up in sweat because I fear we're not doing enough, especially with my oldest in h.s. and my youngest approaching 9th grade next fall. Right now I feel like I'm pulling teeth (or all my hair out!LOL) trying to get my oldest ds to just read thru a history and science book...no writing or tests. I just want him to be exposed to the information, but I wonder if I should just let him stop. He wants to take the ACT in June so perhaps we should just concentrate on studying for that. Any thoughts?
Love reading your thoughts and experiences. Helps me feel okay in all that we do or don't do! :)

Jena said...

Thanks, everyone for your comments!

My journey...I know what you mean about wanting to expose your kids to science info, etc. Nova at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/programs/ has turned out to be really helpful. I ask Meg to watch one or two a week (sometimes she chooses to do more), and I usually sit down with her. They are really well done, interesting and informative. I let her pick whatever she wants to watch.

And about the ACT--preparing for that covers about all the subjects you'd want to cover anyway.

Lilly said...

Jena, how was the weekend with Peter and friend?

Hope to talk to you soon

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