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Homeschool Update: Term 1, 2021

We are in the last few weeks of our first term of schooling this year here in New Zealand. With our unschooling history, this may be one of our consistent terms in our four years of homeschooling! For where we are right now in our family, this feels really good and really right. (I explained here why we have moved away from unschooling.) I thought that I would share an update with you in how our term has gone, a few things we have changed, and other thoughts since I wrote about my hopes for our homeschool year.

Changes

After the first week of the year, I quickly relaxed. I don’t know why, but I often start quite intense – which, of course, never works for anyone! I had thought about doing more one-on-one reading with each child, and that didn’t work. Nor did Picture Study (it never does, as beautiful as it seems). That first weekend, I knew it was minimal, back-to-basics for us. I’m learning, again and again, if something is working – and working really well – don’t try and change anything!

Memory Work is still something we are working on, but not in an intense Classical style. I have one thing I want us to memorise (or at least have familiar in our minds) every season. For example, it is now Autumn here, and we are learning The Apostles’ Creed. We just read it together one or two times a week, but over three months, that’s a good-many times going over it. We also read aloud Charlotte Mason’s full “I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will” the same number of times a week, but we will have that all year.

Another change is that Tim is doing devotions several mornings a week with the children. For ten-fifteen minutes, they go through The Ology together. The children love finding their own passages to read, and I love hearing their young voices reading precious Scripture. We didn’t plan to do this, but during a week away on a family holiday, Tim and I decided that we wanted to make that a morning staple. I am so thankful we did. We can see fruit already in their hearts, and I think the children love having something with Daddy.

What Still is Awesome

Gather ‘Round Homeschool. Seriously, my children just love it – a year in. We’ve finished Oceans this term, and we’re a few weeks into Space. When there are days that we don’t do GR, they complain. When we return to it, they cheer. I am so, so thankful for Rebekah and Gather ‘Round Homeschool.

Links to more here:

Why We Love Gather ‘Round Homeschool

How I’m Planning the Oceans Unit (for Gather ‘Round Homeschool)

Our Daily Routine

It took a few weeks to figure out what would flow best. I have learned over the last year that if the children have too much free time on their hands, they tend to get scrappy, less inclined to be helpful, and can develop attitudes. This was a big issue at the latter part of last year and one of the reasons why I started burning out. Therefore, I saw the wisdom in making sure we are occupied for a good part of the day – in fact, almost as much as a typical public school day.

Before you think we are doing school that long – yeah, no way! Rather, it is me making sure that the children know how our day is going to go, have something planned in the next block of time, and spreading out particular subjects so that a good five hours of our day is intentionally filled up. So far, this has been a big blessing for us. I used to see other homeschool routines of families and wonder how they could do this – but now I see, and it is a game-changer!

7am: Usually, we are all up. The children are playing, Tim and I are doing our separate time with the Lord.

8am – 9am: Breakfast + Morning Chores (make bed, get dressed, feed pets, clear dishes).

9am: Devotions with Dad.

9.30am: Main Learning Session (Read Alouds, Gather ‘Round readings + workbooks).

11-11.30am: Finish formal lessons. I tidy up, the children have free play.

12pm: Lunch.

12.30-1.30pm: Rest Hour.

2-5pm: Free play/Outing/Household work

5-6pm: Dinner

Routine, But…

This is how our days typically flow. This year I have made a strong intention to keep our mornings free of commitments or outings. If we have friends over, or have an activity planned, it is in the afternoon (unless it is a planned one-off class for our homeschool group).

Being this intentional with our days has been so transformative for our days. The understanding that our days have a trusted rhythm and flow has really helped the children enjoy our learning times in the morning. Their free time in the afternoon becomes more precious. And that is such a good lesson for life in itself: rest is truly rest when we have worked well. This was something in our unschooling adventures that we were lacking, and the blessing of having structured days has been a surprising fruit this year.

But, before you think that everything is ‘perfect’ each day – which is something we seem to assume with social media these days – there is definitely no perfection here! Hyperactivity, bad sleep, over-silliness, grumpiness, bad attitudes, disobedience – everyday we homeschool with one (or all) of these issues. And, much of the time, I am the problem!

Sometimes, too, I decide that we are going to have a rest with our Gather ‘Round curriculum and do something different. This week, for example, I felt the need to focus on Math and English. So on Monday and Wednesday, for 20mins with each child, we are doing Math together; Tuesday and Thursday, English respectively. And, do you know what? We might continue this for the next few weeks! That, my friends, is the beauty of homeschooling – complete autonomy and flexibility over what works best right now in our family.

Learning From Love, Our Mainstay

Also, just because we don’t properly unschool anymore doesn’t mean that the principles that led me to it have been forgotten. If one or two hours of formal learning happens each day, the rest of the day is full of the children following their loves, their passions, their interests. I fully and completely believe in interest-led/delight-directed learning. It is the mainstay of our days and the heart of this homeschool mother for her children.

Growing up this way will direct them to where God leads them. I believe fully that the Holy Spirit is working in the children every day, leading them to books, mulling over ideas and problems, leading their limbs to jump and run, filling their hearts with passions… And, at the same time, I also believe the Holy Spirit leads them in our daily disciplines of ‘school’ – tools and skills they need to develop. I’ve learned not to throw the baby out with the interest-led-bathwater (that some unschoolers can do)!

So that is my update on our first Term of 2021. I am so thankful for how it is going so far, and I am fully convinced it is the grace of God and the intercessory prayers of those who love us and believe in us homeschooling our children. My heart is deeply thankful to God for His direction and guidance, His comfort when I wanted to give up, and the joy He has returned to my heart as this year steadily progresses. And I look forward to our next update!

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