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What principles do you find most useful for limiting how much you plan or try to do with your kids?  With so many good books, curricula, and appealing homeschool approaches, it is way to easy for me to overload us.  Or for me to get stuck in this mom-spiral because I can’t decide what is the absolute best choice.

 

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I just chose one math, one science, one history, one lit (sequence - since in this case it uses multiple books that match our history progression) etc. per child.  Some things are shared but skill areas (like math and reading) are not.  I don't look at all the new shiny things once I've decided unless something really isn't working and we need a change.  What is best is what gets done. 

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I have found that focusing on certain programs for 12 weeks at a time allows me to focus deeply on certain subjects with the kids and then rotate to something new for 12 weeks.  For example we are rotating History-Science- and Health this year with twelve weeks each.  This isn't all of those subjects they do as we have a 2 hour quiettime built into our afternoon for reading and quiet crafts in their own rooms.  They do their Rod and Staff textbooks during that morning slot each morning.

We do 12 weeks Handwriting/Copywork-Creative Writing-then Essays.

We also alternate reading aloud from a Bible-missionary biography series-and Apologia What We Believe series.

This allows variety without burn out and a fresh start every twelve weeks!

We do Math and Spelling all year as we love those subjects here.

I hope this helps.

 

We began this last year and it worked so well.

Brenda

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1 hour ago, LauraBeth475 said:

What principles do you find most useful for limiting how much you plan or try to do with your kids?  With so many good books, curricula, and appealing homeschool approaches, it is way to easy for me to overload us.  Or for me to get stuck in this mom-spiral because I can’t decide what is the absolute best choice.

 

 

The best choice is the one that gets done. Pick one, try it, if it works, great If it's a total flop, try another one. 

If we are all exhausted at the end of everyday and it feels like we never have time to do anything but schoolwork, it's too much. If there are tears and moans and groans from the kids everyday, something is wrong. Either too much work or worng curriculum for their learning style Something needs to change. Some kids are just impossible to please but constant melt downs and bellyaching about school in a child who previously didn't do these things on a regular basis is a red flag that something isn't right.

Every family and sometimes every child within a family will have a different tolerance level for what is too much. My youngest daughter would happily do all her work, all her siblings work and ask for more. The other kids were not nearly so eager to do school. My oldest was an "I just want to get it done" type. He didn't want to be entertained or do fun projects, he just wanted to get done what he needed to get done so he could pursue his own interests.The other kids were somewhere between those two extremes. You just have to jump in and find where that balance is for you and your kids.

For us, we needed to embrace the freedom of being able to "do school" whenever, where ever. We often did school outside when my big kids were young because that was what worked. I had to adapt the written work for my dysgraphic child. I had to increase the intensity for my gifted child who could devour an entire grade level workbook in a single day. With my youngest, since my older kids are all grown so he is essentially an only, it works better to have a loose idea of what I want to cover and then write down what we did to cover it and anything else we covered that I had not planned on at the end of the day. That would not have worked when my older kids were little but scheduling everything out like I did for the older kids seemed so restrictive when I can go at exactly at his pace now without worrying about everyone getting their school work done...

All that to say, sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump in because it is only then that you will be able to see what does and doesn't work for you.

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1. Only plan one program or curriculum per subject, and no supplements (there are occasions where I do plan supplements but they are few).

2. Streamline and kill two birds with one stone wherever possible. For example, copywork counts as writing AND handwriting practice for me in the early grades. Doing spelling work in cursive counts as spelling AND cursive practice. Writing across the curriculum counts as writing AND whatever other subject we're writing about.

3. Don't do unnecessary extras. I don't do literature programs sooner than high school (just read good books), I don't do vocabulary programs at all (they learn words in context of reading good books), we don't do foreign languages unless kids are really interested in doing them, etc. (Those are things that work for me personally; I know a lot of other people consider those things essential and that's fine, too.)

4. Concentrate on doing the basics well (English, math, history and science) and use simple workbooks for the extras. I use workbooks for logic, geography, cursive, etc. and I only schedule one (maybe two) "extras" per child per year/semester. So in 4th, they do the basics + Canadian geography. In 5th, they do the basics + logic. Etc.

5. Make some of the extras light and informal, or unschooly. I teach my kids piano lessons. That counts for music. We do art once a week, usually projects I find on Pinterest or I have lots of how-to-draw books (no formal curriculum). If I had kids who really liked art, I might even just strew art supplies and let them do it however and whenever they want. Stuff like that.

Again, these things are how I keep *my* homeschool simplified. I know they won't work for everyone, but maybe there's some idea there that you can glean.

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Our routine looks like this-

Breakfast

Morning pickup

Morning walk or park trip for the "littles" and anyone with a clean room.

School begins at 9a.m. for fall, but 10:30 for summer as we do less lessons in the summer.

I do preschool- readalouds and activity workbooks with them.  Older children do required reading in either a living book or Rod and Staff textbook of that trimester.  This keeps them from needing me.  If they finish required text then they can read in their assigned literature book until Reading hour/Preschool is completed.

The next two hours is Language Arts and Math.  I pull each of my 3 middle school and under students for 40 minutes one-on-one and the rest of the time is them doing seatwork independently.  My littles are given options that rotate between blocks, special bag activities, puzzles at the table, or a daddy outing if he goes somewhere and wants to steal them.  They may watch alphablocks or leapfrog on my phone as well-now that I have one-lol.

The last half hour is our Writing rotation and I tutor my oldest in either Math or English/Writing as needed.  My oldest daughter will usually take the littles outside to play during this time as she likes to do her writing during quiettime.

Then is lunch hour and a half (this is our main meal of the day)- kids play outside and enjoy the benefit of working diligently and being homeschooled.

2p.m. I do a quick story with my littles (usually history, geography, or science related) and call quiettime- noone gets up during this time as I am introverted and despite the irony of having a houseful of children, I truly need my alone time. Children usually read or do art books on their beds during this time.  I have told them not to bother each other as everyone needs time to think alone.

Then is my power cleaning hour.

Supper- usually sandwiches, mac and cheese, or a soup with bread.  Simple.  Usual lunch type fare.

We chill as a family until 7.

7 is my get littles ready for bed followed by half an hour of "littles" readalouds.  Then we have family Bible time followed by a chapter from our new chapter book.  One could easily add History or Poetry or Composer Study here if they wanted.

Bedtime is 8p.m for littles as the stories will put them to sleep, they get Bible in their morning read aloud time.

9p.m. for all other kiddos.

I do 30 minute house cleanup or go clean a bank with my husband.  Either way I am in bed no later than 10:30.

 

I no longer do family school in my afternoons as I realized that I truly do need time alone every day and children really enjoy reading books to themselves (and my children retain more this way as well).

 

Brenda

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I have to write out a schedule. We can't have every day go until 4, and We need at least an hour of down time before evening activities kick in. The schedule helps me see ahead of time how many subjects we can realistically cover in a day. For instance, when I put it lb paper it was obvious that we couldn't spend an hour each I three different foreign languages and math, writing, history, science along with co-op Thursday afternoons. It also helps me see when a day is going off-schedule and how to adjust my expectations. Sometimes I cancel an academic class, sometimes I cancel a piano practice, sometimes we cut down the time spent on each remaining topic. Another thing that happens is I want to push through - "just finish these last three math problems!" but often we end me happily if we end by the click rather than my obsessive box-checking. 

"Write out a schedule" sounds so rigid, but it really just helps me stay realistic.

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20 minutes ago, sweet2ndchance said:

 

The best choice is the one that gets done. Pick one, try it, if it works, great If it's a total flop, try another one. 

If we are all exhausted at the end of everyday and it feels like we never have time to do anything but schoolwork, it's too much. If there are tears and moans and groans from the kids everyday, something is wrong. Either too much work or worng curriculum for their learning style Something needs to change. Some kids are just impossible to please but constant melt downs and bellyaching about school in a child who previously didn't do these things on a regular basis is a red flag that something isn't right.

Every family and sometimes every child within a family will have a different tolerance level for what is too much. My youngest daughter would happily do all her work, all her siblings work and ask for more. The other kids were not nearly so eager to do school. My oldest was an "I just want to get it done" type. He didn't want to be entertained or do fun projects, he just wanted to get done what he needed to get done so he could pursue his own interests.The other kids were somewhere between those two extremes. You just have to jump in and find where that balance is for you and your kids.

For us, we needed to embrace the freedom of being able to "do school" whenever, where ever. We often did school outside when my big kids were young because that was what worked. I had to adapt the written work for my dysgraphic child. I had to increase the intensity for my gifted child who could devour an entire grade level workbook in a single day. With my youngest, since my older kids are all grown so he is essentially an only, it works better to have a loose idea of what I want to cover and then write down what we did to cover it and anything else we covered that I had not planned on at the end of the day. That would not have worked when my older kids were little but scheduling everything out like I did for the older kids seemed so restrictive when I can go at exactly at his pace now without worrying about everyone getting their school work done...

All that to say, sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump in because it is only then that you will be able to see what does and doesn't work for you.

We love taking our books to the park when the weather is nice.  By simplifying curriculum each semester kids can carry their few books easily.  I will make a hearty lunch and put it in the cooler for those days- or we will have pizza delivered to the park once a month or so.  It is great memories.  I don't typically tutor on those days as I am playing with my littles.

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With my dd, I assigned time values to each task (30 min BJU math, 10 minutes CWP, 5 minutes drill, etc.) so I could add them up and know whether, on a reasonable day, the load was appropriate. And like the others, if it didn't fit in my target amount (typically grade + 1 including reading time), then I chopped.

With my ds, I don't do it exactly that way. He has a lot of pieces, and I go by quantities of material to get to a target time. It's just that he's always working with me and could have days where he doesn't push through and days where he does. So for him, I eyeball how much work I can get done in sessions total in a day and we work till we get it done. That's for working totally together, ASD + SLDs.

You want to do *enough* but you don't want to do so much that you preclude their creativity, their chance to be bored an innovate, and their time to read. Reading is super, super important. You want 1-2 hours a day of that if they're able to read, and you don't want them so fatigued that it gets minimized. Right now my ds doesn't read on his own at all, so the work we do together heavily involves reading, almost every page. 

I have another trick which is I don't add things after a certain point in the semester. I finally learned I needed to just take those good things I was finding and say ok NEXT semester. I can find things and not do them NOW, kwim? So personally, I usually only plan the semester, because we might freshen or change things up or readjust somehow. Don't be afraid to say you like it but that it's for your NEXT school year or NEXT child or whatever.

If you get too bored, take up a hobby. Seriously. I had WAY more brainpower than required to homeschool my one, relatively easy to teach, dd, all those years. I took up photography, smocking, quilting, all sorts of stuff. If you're drawn to too many things, maybe you're bored. I'm not bored anymore, but that's only because my ds has so many learning issues that I'm constantly researching for new ways to connect with him and work with him and help things go forward. So my two cents is if you're bored and understimulated, ADMIT it. Go get some TC courses or take up a hobby or work on a degree one class at a time or something. 

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One thing that helped me with regard to readers and read-alouds was estimating how quickly we'd move through them and creating two lists--one list of ones I didn't want to miss, and one list of "optional, if we have time" books. Then I was prepared but didn't feel badly if we didn't get to the optional books (some years we did, others not--more years not as I got better at estimating how long books would take us.) The "optional list" is also nice to have if you change your mind about a certain book mid-year--it's easy to swap something out when you have another book at the ready. 

Another thing that helped me was putting daily time limits on things that I required. (Kids are welcome to spend extra time on things they want to, but I mean as far as what I require). Seeing how long things took made it easy for me to say we were only going to do one math program (I didn't have kids who thrived on multiple methods, worked ahead, wanted to do extra math etc...) So, I would plan out how much time I was willing to spend on each subject daily, and that naturally made me have to choose what and how much to do.

Enjoy!

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9 hours ago, hollyhock2 said:

 

3. Don't do unnecessary extras. I don't do literature programs sooner than high school (just read good books), I don't do vocabulary programs at all (they learn words in context of reading good books), we don't do foreign languages unless kids are really interested in doing them, etc. (Those are things that work for me personally; I know a lot of other people consider those things essential and that's fine, too.)

 

 Out of curiousity, how do you not do foreign language at the high school level?  As far as I know, the vast majority of colleges require a minimum of 2 years of study of a foreign language for entrance. 

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After years of overdoing it, I’ve found it easy to cut back, because I’m so tired of overdoing it.  The bells and whistles no longer call to me because they only indicate miserable kids and long days.

I do as everyone else does—mainly having only one curric per subject without supplements.  The older they get and the harder the subjects get, the easier it is to implement this.  

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10 hours ago, SusanC said:

I have to write out a schedule. We can't have every day go until 4, and We need at least an hour of down time before evening activities kick in. The schedule helps me see ahead of time how many subjects we can realistically cover in a day. For instance, when I put it lb paper it was obvious that we couldn't spend an hour each I three different foreign languages and math, writing, history, science along with co-op Thursday afternoons. It also helps me see when a day is going off-schedule and how to adjust my expectations. Sometimes I cancel an academic class, sometimes I cancel a piano practice, sometimes we cut down the time spent on each remaining topic. Another thing that happens is I want to push through - "just finish these last three math problems!" but often we end me happily if we end by the click rather than my obsessive box-checking. 

"Write out a schedule" sounds so rigid, but it really just helps me stay realistic.

 

Yeah, it’s preparing a schedule for next year that makes me realize I have an over planning problem.  I love to add wonderful things, and it’s painful to remove stuff to clear up room.  

It’s like forcing yourself to budget really.

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I don't create a schedule, but I do write daily lesson plans.  Since I can estimate approx how much time it should take each one of them individually to complete an assignment, I modify individual daily subjects to stay within the time bounds that I want to achieve.

What my current 3rd grader will be doing in a day looks nothing like what her 7th grade sister did in 3rd grade.  My 7th grader is dyslexic and a slow reader. My 3rd grader doesn't struggle with anything and does things very quickly. Since I am creating the plans, my 7th grade Dd did not have long days in 3rd grade while my current 3rd grader will have short days. No, both will have had similar length days as 3rd graders. It is what they will have done during the day that is different. My current 3rd grader will cover more ground in far less time.

fwiw, I stick to the rule of thumb of approx 1hr per grade level. 3rd grade is typically 3- 3 1/2 academic hrs.

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11 hours ago, Garga said:

 Out of curiousity, how do you not do foreign language at the high school level?  As far as I know, the vast majority of colleges require a minimum of 2 years of study of a foreign language for entrance. 

I'm not in the US so our requirements are different. ? 

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14 hours ago, Garga said:

 The older they get and the harder the subjects get, the easier it is to implement this.  

YES.  I have found this to be very accurate as well.

----------------------------

I have the hardest time in the K-4th-ish range because there are unlimited options, and they all seem to be not good but BEST.  I struggle with that decision fatigue each year. 

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  • Prioritize subjects--For us, math, Latin, literature, and composition are daily requirements (phonics would be too if I had a beginning reader).  After that, we aim for 1-2 additional subjects (history, science, Bible, etc.).  If we complete all of that, we'll fit in an extra like art, logic, or composer study.  While I believe the arts are important, it won't hurt them if we don't get to all our art lessons.  One the other had, if we only complete 1/2 a math book each year, we'll eventually be in trouble. 
  • Don't add, substitute --it's so easy to keep adding, but you really need to take something out of your day each time you make an addition.  I like to start with a complete curriculum or plan.  It's easy for me to visualize the big picture if we start with a full curriculum (or WTM guidelines) and make changes from it as needed.  Otherwise, I want to add in way too much!  I've heard to use a "time budget" when planning...and allow for interruptions in this budget (diaper changes, phone calls, snacks, "recess", etc.).
  • Once your choices are make, stop looking at curriculum--nothing makes me more unhappy about my curriculum choices like seeing what else is out there.  It all looks so good from afar, but the reality is that we live in an imperfect world (with imperfect children) and no curriculum out there will work perfectly!  I'm getting better about this (total curriculum junkie here) and starting to realize how much this harms my kids.  They like the stability of knowing what to expect each day! 
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I have a tendency to hyper-focus on either doing a single fun hands-on activity or perfecting one writing assignment to the detriment of everything else.  The app Multitimer is the amazing.  It helps me to remember that I planned to cover more than just one topic in a day.

I use it to remind me to switch between students, or between topics.

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On 7/14/2018 at 10:21 AM, LauraBeth475 said:

What principles do you find most useful for limiting how much you plan or try to do with your kids?  With so many good books, curricula, and appealing homeschool approaches, it is way to easy for me to overload us.  Or for me to get stuck in this mom-spiral because I can’t decide what is the absolute best choice.

 

Before every school year i read Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace Book by Sarah Mackenzie.

This is my plan for our next school year.  I'll just pick one curriculum for each subject. Every year i find myself wanting add and mesh several curriculum i'd love to try, or i just cant choose one. This our year too complicated. This  year as  I planned, if find myself wanting to use more than one i realize i start  to feel stressed. I'm a box checker. I can't stand to not finish a curriculum. So this year I'm sticking with one LA, math, science, history, elective, and tech. No more supplementing anything. If i don't think it can stand on its own I'll use something else. I'm going for depth this year . Really digging deep in each subject.  Not dabbling in a bunch.  After trying something similar after last spring's burn out, I'm sold on simplifying. We had the best spring after we simplified last spring. Once we eliminated check boxes, my stress disappeared.  

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I believe it is so important to look at your goals each year for each child as it makes it so much easier to make choices as well.  If you are like me and heavily teaching a certain strand of LA the others can be done more gently, informally, and independently as you know the next year it will become the heavy focus once again.  

I use to supplement everything, but with adding more children I have found that I had to prioritize or I wouldn't accomplish as much with my children.

 

Brenda

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I pick "do the next thing" stuff.  No Monday-Friday block check off plans for us!  For example:  Math is daily, but if something happens on a Tuesday that interferes with that plan, the next lesson is waiting on Wednesday without worries to "catch up" for the sake of making a weekly check off sheet look pretty. 

This took years to smooth out, but next year's plan is: Mon, Wed, Fri at home.  Before lunch is a math lesson, English lesson, spelling lesson, history/narrations, and music practice.  After lunch is science, book basket reading time (includes some longer lit books and some shorter educational books, but they must read all books by end of the year), and  journal time (in cursive-I'm having them pick a topic out of a jar).  Tues is a math lesson and music classes, then a family read aloud in the evening. Thurs is math, spelling, a history or science video, and music practice before lunch; then a field trip or volunteer activity in the afternoon (the volunteer activity happens 24 weeks of the school year).  

Odds and ends get rounded out during the summer or on Saturdays.....things such as PE or sports camp, art camp or lessons, and community enrichment programs. Housecleaning is an assigned room  to clean before school starts on Mon,Wed, and Fri; daily basics such as helping with dishes, cooking, and laundry; and a big cleaning day every 6-9 weeks when we take time off from the regular school schedule.  

I have done CM style rotation of artist/picture study, poetry readings, composer study, and memory work previous years.  This next year I didn't schedule that in, but some book basket items contain poetry and artist books +  we listen to a composer bio+ music on CD to and from music classes (30 min commute each way).  I have tried to add in other stuff such as Spanish, Latin word roots, hymn/folk song rotation, and unit studies.  Those have only lasted 2-4 weeks each school year before not making the cut.  In fact, it was just last year that I was able to fit in history and science regularly without loosing my sanity (and I kept those subjects light..just reading from a spine and watching some complementary videos here and there). 

I am 99.9% certain something(s) will get dropped out of my  current ideal schedule as the school year moves along.  If so, we will prioritize math, English, music, and the book basket.   

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