This post is not meant to be instructive or descriptive. But I’ve been thinking and journaling about what our next year of learning at home will look like and thought I’d start sketching out some ideas as I’m thinking about it. Today I was starting with the very basics of how I want our home learning will look like overall. I came up with two overarching concepts: seamless and expansion/contraction.
Seamless: My first inclination when thinking about home learning was for there to be divisions between “school” time and all the other things we do. We would plan for the “school day” and hopefully it doesn’t take too long so we go about our non-school business. Our days may indeed end up looking like that when the kids are older, but for now in these early years, my goal is to integrate our learning throughout the day so that the children are not even fully aware of what is “school” and what isn’t. I plan out our rhythm for the whole day, waking to evening. Now, this does not mean I schedule the whole day with activities – certainly not. Instead I sketch out what our natural rhythm of the day is, when we eat and play and work and go outside and rest, and then I see where certain learning activities fit most naturally. For now, and I suspect much of this will remain during this next year, this means that we read aloud in our PJs first thing in the morning while I’m drinking my coffee, and again after lunch and before quiet time. It means “circle time” happens about 10:30 am, when Sophia goes down for a nap and the kids are getting squirrelly with too much self-direction.
For next year, my hope is to continue to look very intentionally at our natural daily rhythm, and continue to provide learning activities when the children are most likely to embrace them. I think our morning read aloud and prayer time will expand to incorporate the beginnings of our homeschool “Morning Time” (I’m sure I will post more about morning time soon, but if you’re curious about the concept, start here). I’ll probably keep read aloud and morning prayer first thing, before we even get dressed and have breakfast (the kids eat a snack and we have coffee first thing, and I make breakfast a little later) and add things like learning church hymns together, short passages from the “real” Bible (and keep the children’s Bible reading later also), and short memory work (prayers, verses). We’ll keep a long read aloud after lunch and before quiet time. We’ll probably keep a form of circle time in the late morning. Mostly what I think we’ll be adding (mostly for James) is a time of focused lesson time right after breakfast – some reading practice, math skills and games, and some main lesson blocks that will rotate. That’s actually a lot for one space, so we might do a short morning lesson and a short afternoon lesson just for James. I think the time of focused attention can be relatively short precisely because so much of our learning will be happening in natural spaces throughout the day.
Which brings me to the next concept of expansion and contraction. This is a concept that Waldorf teachers use when planning their classroom rhythms, and I find it very useful. The idea is to keep in mind the balance of “contracting” activity and “expanding” activity. For instance, is helpful to alternate times of focused attention with periods of time of relaxation or physical activity. We already take that into account in our days – a relaxing morning is followed by chores. Circle time is followed by outside time or free play. Outside time is followed by quiet reading and/or naps. So I’m thinking about how to continue this concept when adding in a few more planned activities and making sure I’m not stacking too many contracting activities together without the expansion.
Sketching out a loose daily rhythm in my journal looks like this:
First thing – Morning Time (prayers, Bible, read aloud, short memory work, all still in PJs)
Breakfast, cleanup, and morning work (dressed, beds made, chores for both kids and me)
More focused work (math games, main lessons, maybe reading or writing practice)
Free play or outside
Circle time (more brief than currently, since we’ll be adding to Morning Time)
Outside with mama present – play or help with gardening
Individual quiet time
Art or handwork
Dinner prep with the kids’ help
Clean up, get ready for bed