Now that we are more than halfway through our fifth year I can say it's really turning out to be our best year yet.
A few major changes from last year, the biggest one was we opted out of the blended homeschool program that our school board offers. My oldest was a part of it for three years and my middle for one year. While it had many good aspects, I found it increasingly too much like public school, and we also never really found a good rhythm at home during the week.
In years past we gravitated to more of an unschooling approach, but as my children's learning styles developed I saw how more structure was better for them. I turned to Charlotte Mason's teachings on education; short lessons on many topics, living books, nature study, art/music study and narration. Her methods and philosophy speak to me a lot, however, I am nowhere near a purest. Never will be.
The contrast of this year to last is astounding. We have more structure with a steady routine that is extremely relaxed and flexible. My kids are happier and I see their true personalities reemerging, especially my oldest.
HOW I PLAN OUR YEAR
We homeschool year round, I find it creates a consistent flow in our routine and allows us to be more flexible. I have divided up our year into seven terms, Harvest, Autumn, Yule, Winter, Spring, Verdure & Summer.
Harvest, Autumn, Winter, Spring and Verdure terms are seven weeks long, with six weeks of lessons and then one week off.
Yule is scheduled for eight weeks, it still has about six weeks of lessons, but is spread out and more relaxed.
Our Summer term is roughly nine weeks long and will be structured a lot different. I have planned three weeks of lessons, and one one off. This term likely looks a lot more unschooly than all the rest, as who wants to be inside when it is nice outdoors.
To help break down our year I used Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education in 5 Easy Steps. While I didn't use her guide to the fullest, it helped with breaking everything down, and I am already using it to plan out our next year. I spent a month slowly planning, gathering resources and building book lists. Once I had our plan set I typed out a simple summary (year overview) of what we would be focusing on in each term. I have had to move a few things around, but overall I have stuck to this plan.
HOW I PLAN EACH TERM
Once I knew what we would be learning, I started with fully planning the upcoming term. I type everything out in point form so it is easy and simply to reference. I print it out and keep it in my lesson binder so I can use a highlighter to mark off what has been completed (this also acts as a way to keeping record).
Nearing the end of the seven weeks I start planning out our next term. Because of the highlighting, I can easily see what we haven't completed so I can make sure to keep it in the lesson plan.
Planning a term takes me just a few hours. I review what is coming up, ensuring we have all books and materials, and place holds on library books. The way I have it set up is that we just do what comes next, I don't worry about becoming behind. We sometimes take a bit longer on a subject if sparks interested, and quickly get through other areas that don't.
HOW I PLAN EACH DAY
I create a weekly schedule that is set for each term so I can work around different activities. Each day is divided into blocks, this makes it easy to see what we have to do each day. While our days seem very structured, most of their learning is done in loops which are actually really flexible
Loop scheduling has made such a difference in our homeschool. It allows us to take a day off and not feel like we are behind. Because sometimes we have company, or sickness arises, or I simply want to surprise them with a fun outing.
WHAT A DAY LOOKS LIKE (winter term)
Monday through Thursday our mornings start with happy music playing and Math. I like to think they balance each other out.
Then we move into our Morning Time which is scheduled from 9-11. It has some standing lessons and two loops of other subjects.
Mondays my oldest has a drama class all afternoon, so this is the day I usually pick up groceries and holds at the library. I usually have downtime while my little two play.
Fridays are our relaxed day. We start slowly with breakfast and an audiobook around the table. Then we transition in poetry teatime, although it looks much more like literature teatime these days. We do read poems, but I also tend to read a lot of our library books. We finish with a bit of review from the week, I ask a few questions on what we have learned about that week or play a Professor Noggins game. Then our afternoons we either run errands, go for a nature walk, field trip or simple have a flex afternoon.
This overall set up has been working really well for us this year, although each new term I tend to tweak things around because everything is always changing. Check back later this week to see what I have changed for our current Spring Term, I will explain more about each of our learning loops, and there just may be a free download!