A Typical Day, or Some Nitty Gritty

Here I attempt to go through a very typical homeschool day, and also point out where a couple educational principles come into play. I write this with the intent to share some basic, yet vital principles and how I practice them in my home. Two caveats:

  1. I have been studying and applying Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy in my home for a little more than two years now. I am no expert, only a fellow pilgrim on this homeschooling journey. I still have many things to learn, and many habits to implement in my home. But, I truly believe this is the best way to learn. And so I keep at it, despite all of my failures. Really, the principles I am pointing out are short lessons and narration.
  2. I am going to pick a typical day from the last two weeks. Last week we had a very serious and traumatic health scare. The kind that involved calling an ambulance at five o’clock in the morning. Thankfully, we are all in a good state of health now, but it was very traumatic and took time to recover from. We are also still in mourning mode. Life is hard, folks. We all have hard things. My aim is not to look pretty on the Internet. I really have seen the damage it does to so many people, so I am going to be real here.

For my own personal ease, I am going to write this in the present tense, as though it were happening right now even though this was yesterday. I am also choosing a day that we were blessed to stay home for the whole day—nothing until piano lessons which are in the evening.

Here is today’s schedule pretty and perfect. I see value in having an ideal. It helps keep me on track if I get derailed. And sometimes—sometimes—I have fantastic, amazing homeschool days that just knock it out of the park. And yet, we also have very average, ordinary days where things get done, but not according to plan. Below is one of those days.

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And here is what really happened. This is pretty ordinary, at least for this stage of my life.

First, I sleep in. I haven’t had a lot of great nights of sleep for all sorts of reasons. I get up around 8. This pushes our day back by at least an hour, and I didn’t get any quiet time or exercise.

The school-age kids are up before me. They have said their personal prayers (at least they tell me they have), have made their beds (you might not be able to tell the difference, but I can), and are dressed (they wear uniforms, and we lay them out the night before. Ask me about this crazy uniform idea. I will tell you more than you want to know.) But they are playing quietly. They know all too well if they wake me I will make them do things! Like Binder Work! The 3yo is either asleep or blissfully thinking in silence in his crib, which he still sleeps in happily.

I wake up. I make my husband a lunch before he goes to work. We are in the process of transforming our play room into a school room. For now, school is still at the kitchen table. It is usually messy. If I had been on top of things, their Binder Work would be ready to go on the table. It isn’t, so I have to set it out. Also, we are in the middle of a printing crisis. I cannot get the printer to work; this mainly affects the 5yo, because his Binder Work entails fun things, like dot-to-dots, mazes, some basic letter formation, and the like.

Also, my pretty schedule that I posted above? Usually I have a copy of that on my fridge, but I have been going without this week, and so I have been doing things on the fly. This means doing things out of order! So again, things are not going according to plan, and yet, they are happening.

So for this first chunk of time called Binder Work, I give an illustrated Book of Mormon Stories to my 5yo to look at at the table while I work with my 7yo. Normally, they would both have some more independent work at this time. But it didn’t happen this week, so I just started checking off our boxes. I make some ghetto pumpkin muffins, but the kids are hungry and will be grumpy if they don’t have something to munch on while the muffins bake. So they have handfuls of Honey Nut Cheerios at their disposal. By this time the 3yo is awake as well, my sweet darling, and is also at the table, eating Cheerios. I have no idea what time it is, because it doesn’t really matter. It’s still morning, and we don’t have to be anywhere.

We start with a prayer. We ask Heavenly Father to help us learn, and to have open hearts and minds for the Holy Spirit—who is the real, and only teacher—to teach us.

7yo then has to read 1-2 verses of the Book of Mormon to me out loud. I help with the words he needs help with. I read aloud to him one of his scheduled Ambleside Online books from Year 2. Today we read from Robin Hood. After reading, the student narrates back to me in his own words the part of the story read to him (while he was lying on his back on the kitchen floor). Narration is the bread and butter of a Charlotte Mason education. It is crucial, and should be a daily habit. Back in his chair, we do a short math drill on Xtra Math (sometimes he likes this; today he hated it). We do a fluency drill: he has to read a list of words from his new, awesome Phonics program, to see how many words he can read per minute. He reads the Phonics story in cursive that we are on. He then has to orally spell a handful of words. He will be writing them down soon as well, but I need to buy some more notebooks. Normally he would do copywork as well, but I want to go over our cursive strokes again. (More on that some other time). We go over and recite some memory work: a poem, and few scriptures on baptism, since he is preparing for his baptism. For reading practice he reads a Norse myth story that is hilarious, and he also reads a few pages from a book on animals. Today it was gorillas. Next we find the math lesson he is on. I had explained all of the sections on his math page the day before. He works on his own to finish the page. While he does that, I have the 5yo do his fluency drill, read the Phonics story in cursive, and orally spell a handful of words. (During all of this, the children are eating ghetto pumpkin muffins. You know the kind, cake mix and a can of pumpkin? Not great, but they ate the whole dozen. No one helped me make breakfast today. Partly because the kitchen was a mess from the day before since I had run out of energy, and it’s stressful adding small children to a dirty kitchen. This is where I lose serious points in atmosphere, although perhaps there is a lesson in there somewhere.)

Then I move back to the 7yo. We do a French lesson using the ULAT program. We are learning some new French verbs. Then I go with the 7yo over to the piano, set the awesome Time Timer for ten minutes, and direct his practice.

Not one, and I mean, NOT ONE single subject done here surpassed 15 minutes. The habit of attention is often spoken of in Charlotte Mason circles. If lessons are not short, the student loses focus and interest, and will get in the habit of NOT paying attention. This is so important! With short, focused lessons, and alternating subjects, the habit of attention is formed!

After this is done, I read a stack of picture books to the 3yo, and the others as well, since they usually show up or lurk around to experience picture books. Then I put in a load of dishes, and the children play outside for a bit, ride bikes, etc.

Next I get Morning Time ready. It is the most important part of our day. Mostly for me. It is our liturgy, our worship, and our ritual. If we miss Morning Time two or three days in a row, I feel it. And I get worn down.

Here is a crappy Morning Time (and Luncheon Basket) sheet. Printer problems, so I have an old sheet from last month. I change the Psalm and the hymns monthly.

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I light our candles, and I inform the children that I will be singing my hymn. This gives them time to prepare themselves to stop playing and come to the table, usually with a handful of Playmobil knights to join us at the round table. I pick my gathering hymn for myself. It is usually a hymn that lifts me up or teaches me or reminds me of something I need help with. I chose this one because I love singing it. “Come Ye Thankful People Come.” Then the boys are all at the table. If spirits seem on the grouchy side, I might make a big bowl of popcorn, especially if Morning Time hits the Elevenses. Popcorn makes everyone happy.

We read a Psalm to give praise to our God. I alternate reading even and odd verses with my 7yo. We read the same Psalm all month. This will change when I have more able readers at the table.

Then we sing a new hymn, and review a hymn we already have learned. Sometimes I am singing solo, and they listen in stolid silence. But I don’t mind this, because generally they sing these same hymns at the top of their lungs when they sit on the toilet or something. These hymns are getting locked in their hearts. Prayer, everyone has to express gratitude for one thing or person, we pray for others (we have a list), and then we ask for help and blessings. Next, confession and an opportunity to ask forgiveness (something only Mom has offered up thus far), and we recite our current repentance scripture, Moroni 8:10. Next we read a section from the Book of Mormon; 7yo has to narrate. 5yo will be required to narrate when he turns 6 in January. Math Loop, today was a Life of Fred chapter. Calendar in French and English: we say the date, and what the weather is like. We read from the Constitution, an illustrated one, and try to figure out what the heck it is talking about. Poetry, we read several poems. Recite our CM motto:

I am a child of God.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I ought to do my duty to God and others.

I will choose the right.

I am. I can. I ought. I will! (3yo often shouts this part.)

Phonics lesson. I DUMPED our old Phonics program. I have no nice words. It is very popular, highly recommended, and pricey. I won’t even try to sell it to anyone, because I cannot recommend it. If you want it, I will give it to you for free. We are now doing something that I love, and is supposed to bring a student to a third grade reading level in four months. I am really waiting to see where we are in four months though before I try to tell everyone they should do it. My 7yo is an okay reader right now, but he has gotten in the habit of guessing and memorizing. After using that other program for nearly two years, he was still mostly reading from memory and guessing. These bad habits make Phonics virtually useless. Not to mention, after a year and a half with that other program, we had learned hardly anything. This was after like 80 some lessons! This new program covers all the Phonics he learned in a year and a half, in one month. I can’t tell you how angry this makes me. And it is infinitely cheaper, good gravy! Can even access the most important content for free! Maybe $30 or less if you want the books. Anyway, I am starting the 7yo at the beginning with the 5yo with this new program in Morning Time. More on that later.

Move to the couch. Read from one or two read alouds. Then when we are done I say, “The Lord be with you.” And they reply, “And also with you.”

Morning Time done! Then we all break for a moment.

Next chunk: more readings following the Year 2 schedule from Ambleside Online. We are on Week 26 if you want to see what we are reading. The 7yo must narrate after every reading of every scheduled book. We read a history chapter from Our Island Story. I usually read two pages, stop for a narration, then two pages, stop for a narration, etc. Some people have a problem with AO’s history cycle beginning with British history. After learning about Britain’s history for the first time in my life, it has truly made American history all the more precious to me, knowing what came before. Also, I heard on a podcast recently someone mentioned that British history is simply more fascinating. And it’s true! Think of it, you have people that dethrone each other, lock each other in towers, go on crusades, battle with the pope and the archbishops, millions die of the plague, some people learn how to read, most don’t, there are some epic battles that mostly involve true skill with a sword or longbow—there is no easy trigger on a gun that easily kills, it is true combat. History is hands down one of the most beloved school subjects here at Gooch House. Here is some of my best evidence of this:

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We read a chapter of Seabird. Finished a chapter from Parables From Nature. And then, the highlight of my 7yo’s day: MACBETH. Yes, Shakespeare. We get out the Lamb retelling which he narrates quite well from after having done so for two years, and we act it out with puppets. I also have a cartoon of the full play that we are slowly watching each day. MacBeth is a great one for Halloween time, so what great timing!

Then Luncheon Basket. You can see on the crappy sheet above. We missed most of Luncheon Basket yesterday. Room for improvement here. It’s supposed to happen during lunch. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I try to always get a Proverb in. I still have to decide on a folksong to sing for October, and what French songs and rhymes we will be learning. Yesterday we read our Proverb, did a Geography reading, then read from our amazing Weapons book, then a read aloud. Our read alouds right now are typically free reads from the Ambleside Online list.

Then we rejoice! Done! I check off a school day! I make dinner in the Instant Pot. We clean up some, and I fret about what we didn’t get done (mostly housework gets a D- grade this week.) But it is time to be done, and to be done with this post!

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