Our Homeschool Rhythms

I'm currently in my fifth year of homeschool (Willms Grove Elementary). Looking back it's been so interesting to see how much my teaching style has evolved. Though I know that our homeschooling days will continue to change and grow as my kids do, I feel like we're at a place where the flow works well for us all.

When I first started homeschooling I was SO zealous. I had been teaching junior high for the past 6 years and I set up our home like my classroom. Right down to laminated subject cards on the wall that showed my wee little 5 year old what we were doing all day. In my teaching career I always preferred to be extremely prepared. Over the summer I would have all of my units developed 100% and have photocopying of handouts done for the first 2-3 months of school all stacked and ready to go the first day of school. In that preparedness though I had a lot of freedom to roll with rabbit trails when I or my students felt inspired.

Still, I carried that expectation into my homeschooling and I the middle years teacher who shuddered at the very thought of subbing in a kindergarten class planned out a bunch of units for kindergarten for my own child.

I was SO prepared. Had set up so many organizational systems in our home. That style of homeschooling lasted me about a week. Ha!

Slowly as we moved through out our days I learned that though I could set up a home like a public school classroom the question begged to be asked, "Should I? Is that the best use of home educating?" My answer was no. I actually didn't want to just do school at home. I wanted to explore how specific and freeing that home educating could be.

My style of teaching has always been very thematic and that started to naturally come through as well. If I could summarize my eclectic pedagogy (method and style of teaching) it would be something like this...

Our days consist of daily rhythms of foundational practices that provide stability and progression but then are built on by an overarching theme or "one thing" that is explored multi dimensionally and ties in all other subject areas. 

Sounds so fancy when I use my big teacher words! I'd love to share what that looks like for us.


Our daily rhythms are the practices that happen most days and give us a base start to our day or things to go back to when we're not engaged in pursuing our "one thing". 

Math | Though I vary how we work on math (often with manipulatives, etc for my kinesthetic learner) we do math every day. I used to create my own assignments and handouts or compile various things to work through and found that it got to be tedious and that math was something that I was OK with using a developed curriculum for. It's sequential and progressional and requires it to be worked through in somewhat of a certain order. 

I researched a lot of homeschool math curriculums and saw so many things I liked. For my kids though, I settled on Bob Jones University. It most closely matched where my kids were at and I really like what I would describe as the spiralling nature to it. It's constantly coming back to previous skills learned and building on those and and every chapter has a full summative review that includes skills learned in all previous chapters so information is kept fresh in their mind. 

Copy Work | To be honest when I started homeschooling I thought copy work was a waste of time. lol. But I've since come around. Both of my kids are learning/mastering cursive and so their copy work is all done in cursive right now. Often I will also give them a scripture verse to write out. It's a really calm and chill part of our day. We listen to music and write. For cursive we use the Handwriting Without Tears workbooks and love them. 

In addition, sporadically throughout our week Typing practice is added to these times. I think it's really important for kids to have the skills and mechanics to get their thoughts on paper/screen quickly and efficiently. Correct typing form is so important for that. We've used Keyboarding Without Tears and liked it. We are currently using Typing.com.

Read Aloud | I read to my kids every day. It is not uncommon for us to have 30-100 library books out at a time. We stock up on everything from picture books to reference books to chapter books. In the morning our day typically starts with each child choosing a picture book for us to read together. In the afternoon we read from a novel or listen to an audio book. 

So many of our "rabbit trails" come from these times. I love when inspiration comes naturally and it often does during these read alouds. For me it often comes through the illustrations. So much of our art time is influenced by the books we've read and the styles of the illustrators. 

I also find that our read alouds also spark inquiry  with my kids. Reading ignites questions and we fully utilize the freedom we have to explore those questions and find answers. Though we don't fully unschool, it's often these inquiry based explorations that most resemble unschooling for us. The kids are engaged because they had a genuine question and care to know the answer. 

One Thing

This is the fun part for me! 

Here's how it typically works for us. We read something that sparks an interest in myself or the kids. I then look for ways that we can incorporate it multi-disciplinary ways. 

Examples work best to show our flow. 

One of our read aloud books (can't remember which one now) started an intense interest in all things Viking. Vikings are no where in the grade level outcomes for SK at my kids ages but we don't limit ourselves to the provincial curriculum. 

What I typically do first when I see this kind of interest is compile books and resources. I utilize the SK interlibrary and request books from all over the province. We use getepic.com and the Epic app to put together ebook collections that we can access right away. I also love Hoopla Digital and eLibrary (both through our local library) for accessing digital content from our home. 

I'll also put together a playlist of educational videos on Youtube for the kids to watch. They IMMERSE themselves in the theme, reading and watching allllllll the Viking things. 

Not Viking immersion but from our Arctic Study - artist Ted Harrison

For our afternoon read alouds I will then find a historical fiction to do with Vikings. A large portion of our Social Studies is based around historical fiction. So much can be learned about way of life of people groups and times in history through these. It's an engaging and humanizing way to learn. What I mean by that is that kids can relate to characters in the story and therefore understand how history affects people. 

Also within the discipline of Social Studies we will explore the geography of the area we are immersing ourselves in. So for Vikings we started a study of the Scandinavian countries, analyzing and recreating maps of the area, of trade routes, of influencing factors and power shifts. Viking culture also lent itself well to discuss exploration and colonization and the foundations of Canada. Religion was also a topic of conversation as it played such a major role in their conflict and the eventual end of the Viking age. 

Our writing projects also tend to fall under our "one thing" studies. While studying Vikings we also read a lot of Norse Mythology and the kids were introduced to the elements of myth and wrote their own myths to explain natural phenomena. 

We also look for other ways to write or represent knowledge gained and one way we enjoyed is using the Comic Strip Creator app to develop comic stories showcasing the Vikings. They had to draw their own backgrounds for their pictures and then build Lego characters (Vikings) and props (like Viking ships) to use in their pictures. Rather than drawing they used these pictures as the base of their comic strip and added speech bubbles and narration in the app. 

Notice Spiderman was the original inhabitant of the island these Vikings raided ;)

For Science we looked at how the Vikings navigated the sea using the stars. We also explored the various biomes of geography they explored and what made them choose to settle in some areas and not in others taking into account weather, food supply, etc. 

Art is so easy to incorporate within different cultures. We did everything from simple drawings of Vikings on artforkidshub.com to studying depictions of Norse gods and Scandinavian architecture. So many great channels to engage in! 

Random tidbit: Viking helmets didn't have horns but because of a popular opera depicting helmets with horns the visual has stuck! Totally historically inaccurate though (except for maybe the odd ceremonial headgear?). 

That's a synopsis of how we flow with daily rhythms and a "one thing" theme. Our themes can last anywhere from a day or two to months. Vikings and the Solar System have likely been our longest lasting themes. Other themes we've immersed in this current school year have been the Arctic and the Inuit, Gary Paulsen and outdoor survival, women in science, narwhals, rocks and minerals and Gerald and Piggy :). 

Winter Survival obsession sparked by reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
*extra children are homeschool friends the Krupkas ;)

"Making" is another over arching theme that has been integral to our school days but I'd like to spend a whole post on how that is evolving to look in our home. It's such a brilliant mix of life skills and spending time creating rather than just always consuming. I love it!

Sorry that was long - I hope I did it justice. I feel like there's so much to say! You win a medal if you made it this far! lol. 

Another daily rhythm... charcuterie boards for lunch! lol. 

What do your days look like? Are you fully curriculum based? Unschool? A mix? Do you follow a certain theory like Charlotte Mason? I'd love to hear in the comments or on FB!

~ Monique


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