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Monday, January 30, 2012

Getting a Grip on Things

It’s here, the final week of the 2012 Virtual Curriculum Fair!

It’s been fun, but even good things need to come to and end, eventually. I’m looking for feedback on this homeschool blogging event, so if you are interested in a 2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair (and if you have any ideas for making it even better), please leave me a comment. I’m always open to new ideas.

Previous weekly themes for the Fair:

January 2--- Playing with words: The Language Arts
January 9--- Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and some Science
January 16th---Exploring Our World: Social Studies and more Science
January 23rd---Seeking Beauty: the Arts and Everything that Brings Beauty to Our World

This week’s theme is:

The Nuts & Bolts: Pulling it all Together!

This theme can be really practical, and include any helps you use for organizing, making plans, keeping little ones occupied, remembering to do your laundry, etc., etc. Or you could take a spiritual approach to it. I encourage you to use this week to explore how you get it done,whether it’s due to scheduling and planning or putting your faith in a higher power or somewhere in between.

As other participants send me their links, I’ll be adding them to the bottom of this post. I encourage you to visit my fellow bloggers and find out how they chose to tackle this topic.

So, Let’s Get a Grip!

I’ve got a confession to make.

Ha, seems like I’ve always got an confession to make. Winking smile

The past few weeks on our learning journey have been kinda messy and not in a really good way.

Part of this comes from some personal challenges going on with the kids that I’ve talked a little about.

But part of it comes from me getting my head turned.

Every year, about mid-year, I evaluate how things are going and try to make some needed changes. That’s a good thing, sometimes changes are needed.

But I also tend to encounter some doubts.

My faith gets shaken. Blame it on my OCD tendencies, or even my ADD.

Or blame it on my broken human condition.

But there are so many lovely home educating families out there who are definitely not like mine. I’m attracted to what they have (the grass is always greener), and sometimes it clouds my vision of what I have.

Which is a lot.

A lot of challenges, yes. But a whole lot of good things.

So, I admit that I got a little off track (I want to post more on that at some point). Maybe the grass is greener (or not), but my wheels just don’t turn so well in that green grass, anyway.

Things tend to de-rail

…because that’s not who we are.

And then I snap out of it.

Get a grip.

And get back on track. This week I am getting back on track.

So, I just wanted to let you know that it’s ok to explore, question what you are doing and experiment to see if something else fits better, but remember that you and your kiddos are individuals. And that’s a big part of why our family believes in home education, because we know that a one-sizes-fits-all education doesn’t fit anybody very well.

So, how do we do things around here?

We are not unschoolers, though that life is attractive to me.

I’ve tried it, but my kiddos simply need more structure than that. They become aimless and don’t seem to remember much of anything.

We are not classical scholars, though that life is also attractive to me.

I feel it’s constraining in some ways and my children have other interests.

We are not Charlotte Mason-ites, though I love and respect Ms. Mason’s work.

Don’t always agree with her, but I think every parent could benefit from reading her work.

We don’t keep a strict schedule, because I don’t want to control every moment.

But we do need an outline of what we are doing each day to help keep us on track.

We do incorporate some elements of all of these approaches into our learning adventure.

Our way of doing things is uniquely ours and it changes from season to season as our family grows up and changes in its needs.

Let me talk about how we get things done in our current season.

We have 4 children:

  • David, age 11-3/4
  • Mary, age 8
  • Peter, age 6-1/3
  • Emma, age 2-3/4

I include the fractions, because I think you’ll agree that there’s a big difference between a child who just turned 2 and a child who will be 3 in a couple of months.

Our biggest challenges are:

  • keeping everyone on track while I am working one-on-one with someone
  • making sure that everyone gets the individual attention that they need
  • helping the oldest become a more independent worker (he has some learning differences which complicate this)
  • keeping the “baby” out of trouble, because somehow climbing the banister is always more fun than playing with play dough

The logistics

We have activities that we do together (mainly Bible, catechism, classical studies, art, history, and science---things like read alouds, experiments, craft activities, and so on).

We have activities that the children can do on their own.

We have activities that I do with each of them one-on-one.

The way I accomplish this is by giving the 2 older children each their own “assignment sheet” which lists for them what I want them to accomplish each day (this includes everything, whether it be independent work or group work). When we are not doing a group activity and I am working with another child, they know they can always go their assignment sheet to work on their independent work. When they have completed those things, they know they can do some independent reading or explore something, but they can’t “disappear” until everything is done (because once they disappear I waste energy getting them back).

009 I’m actually using a different sheet, now, but you get the idea.

The kids’ assignment sheets also keep me accountable. If Mary has on her list that she’s to do spelling with Mom, you better believe Mom is going to be doing spelling with Mary.

Each of the younger 2 children also have their own “school box” with little things in it to keep their hands occupied and happy, and Peter and Emma are always free to draw, play with play dough, build with blocks, and so on.


Actually, we each have our own box, so our stuff stays accessible. Because I hate wasting time looking for missing books.

I have a master list that shows me what each child is doing on any particular day. I also make notes of chores, things I personally need to accomplish, appointments, taking the meat out to thaw, and so on.


Check out my “FREE Stuff” tab for free downloadable planner and assignment pages.

Now in an ideal world, I would always have those assignment sheets filled out the night before, but the truth is sometimes I flub it. I put it off and don't get it done.

I always regret it. Having those little forms might seem constraining, but it's actually quite freeing.

Everyone knows what's expected of them. They can get started as soon as they come downstairs and eat their breakfasts, they don't need to wait for me to get my act together.

I do want to emphasize that the key to making this work (for us) is that the kiddos know that “school” is done when they have finished everything on their lists. I never add stuff if they finish early.

They have plenty of free time each and every day to explore their personal interests.

We typically start around 9-10 am and finish by 2 pm, and that includes a snack and lunch and maybe often recess. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but my goal is not to keep them glued to their seats all day every day.

We also make regular visits to the library (at least once a week) so they can access info and check out new books to read. And we do field trips, nature walks, and lunch at the park when the weather is fine just because we can.

This is not some revolutionary system or anything. It’s just what works for us. I encourage you to find what works for you, even if someone else is doing something completely different.

Now, have some fun getting more ideas by visiting the other participants in this week’s edition of the Virtual Curriculum Fair:

Weekly Homeschooling Schedule by Julie @ HighHill Homeschool

Virtual Curriculum Fair: Week 5: The Nuts & Bolts: Pulling it all Together by Leah @ The Courtney Six Homeschool

Our Schedule's Working! by Eunora @ All Things NoriLynn

Homeschooling: How do I do it all? by Debbie @ Debbie's Digest

Virtual Curriculum Fair--- Wrap-up Angie @ Petra School

Virtual Curriculum Fair: 5 Ways to Use an iPad in Your Homeschool by Pam @ Everyday Snapshots

A Peek Into Our School Day by Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

A Day in the Life... by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Homeschool and Life: How we get it done by Jen @ Forever, For Always, No Matter What

Homeschooling at My House by Jessica @ Modest Mama

Making Home School a part of LIFE by Cindy @ For One Another

Now Where's That Pencil Again? by Beth @ Ozark Ramblings

Something About Homeschooling I Really Didn't See Coming by Letha @ justpitchingmytent

Curriculum, Kids, and a Frazzled Homeschool Mama leads to Controlled Chaos! by Laura O from AK @ Day by Day in Our World

The Virtual Curriculum Fair – Nuts and Bolts by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Staying on Top of Everything by Brenda Emmett @ Garden of Learning

How Does This Homeschooling Thing Actually Work? Fitting it all Together by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Nuts & Bolts: Pulling it all together by Christa Darr @ Fairfield Corner Academy


  1. Thank you for hosting the Virtual Curriculum Fair. I love reading about your schedule. There are a bunch of great tips. For some reason I usually change our schedule up drastically in about the March-April time frame. I think I get spring fever.

  2. Around this time of year I always start planning/thinking about next year. After I saw your mention of the Intro to the Classics from Memoria Press I ordered it. We started it this week and I think we are really going to like it. Funny, there are many things I like about the unschooling life, yet my kids too need more structure - and I do too.

    Thanks for hosting and organizing the Virtual Curriculum Fair! I know it must have taken a great deal of time, I enjoyed participating. I would love to join in again next year too.

  3. Thank you, ladies, it's been a fun and edifying experience. I'll keep you posted, I'll be doing this again next year, barring unforeseeables. ;0)

  4. Congrats on being the #1 most clicked link on my Homeschooling on the Cheap! link up last week. You are being featured on my blog post today! Stop on over and link up more of your great post :)

    Hope you are having a great week! Kelli

  5. Thank you, Kelli! And thank you for providing a weekly linkup. ;0)


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