New Year, New Term, Some Tweaks

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I like a clean slate.  A break – to think, to assess, to make tweaks.  I do this multiple times per year and one of those times is the week following the new year.  We don’t start up with schooling until the weekend after Epiphany, which falls on January 6th, and so that week between the first of January and the beginning of school is for relaxing, spending time together, and thinking about what needs to be adjusted going forward in our school, our schedules, our home, etc.

I like to take an inventory of what went well and what didn’t go so well in the previous term. Do we have good habits that have slipped or what habits should we focus on?  What has changed since we last started a term?  Is everyone still waking up at the same time or napping consistently?  Is someone now old enough to take on an additional or different daily responsibility?  How is the chore schedule – did anyone age enough to be added in and taught how to do a new-to-them chore?

In our home, the last couple of years have meant a lot of moving around, but now we have been in our current home for four months and have settled in a bit.  I am realizing that our schedule will (God willing!) have the opportunity to be consistent as we plan on being in our current home for at least a year, if not longer.  With no moves, no newborns, no packing and unpacking, I want to be sure that our schedule has all the things that we would like to include in our days.  We aren’t in survival mode right now, and our days should reflect that.  I’ve ordered and used these schedule cards and they helped tremendously in making sure my i’s are dotted and my t’s crossed.

We also have a little boy who is freshly four.  While Charlotte doesn’t recommend starting school until the age of six, he is eagerly asking for the opportunity to “do school”.  I need to find the time in the day for more reading with mom (or older siblings) and time to play number games and learn letter sounds.  He can take on a bit of household responsibility and needs to improve in some areas of behavior.  I need to give him some dedicated attention and time.

In addition to our school time being scheduled well, I want to make sure we are making time for the chores that need to get done.  While everyone pitches in as needed, I’d like to get a system of morning, afternoon, and meal time chores on paper so everyone knows what is expected ahead of time and can do the jobs more independently.

On the other hand, what has worked extremely well is merging history time frames across all students. Learning about the same period of history has meant that my younger student doesn’t feel like the timeline is already filled in before she gets to add items to the wall. It means that we can have conversations as a family about what it would be like to travel with Lewis and Clark or along the Oregon trail.  We are making connections together and encouraging one another.  It is a huge win for us!

Another item that is working really well for us is a weekly hike.  We’ve been going on Fridays to our local nature center and hiking on the trails.  Everyone benefits from being outdoors and I like going to the same location over and over to see the seasonal changes.  We are beginning a new nature study club this term, so this will have to change to every other friday, but I want to make sure it stays in our schedule.

Next week, I’ll share a bit of our schedule and our book selections for the term.  I always like to see what people are using in their homeschools and I think it would be fun to share what we’ll be up to this term.

 

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5 Steps to Begin Again After a Holiday

Happy New Year! It’s time to begin again in the Snell household after a full holiday season.

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Our Holy Family of Nazareth remains as a reminder of Christmas lessons

“Ordinary Time” sounds like a good idea after feasts, travels, a new puppy, family-time, a teething baby, gift-giving, and more. My 5 year old keeps saying, “I’m so tired and I don’t know why!”

But starting again is often easier said than done. I love Mason’s metaphor of “Laying Down the Rails,” because it rings true. When our whole system is up and running, it just keeps running. When the train falls off the track, it’s so hard to get it moving again…

So here are 5 steps I take to get back-on-track, after holidays, travel, extended illness, or at the beginning of a new term.

  1. Order and refresh your home.

  • Toys: Often on a break, I’ve let out more toys from our toy library or we’ve been given gifts so I take the time to go through play areas and bedrooms and return items to our toy library in the basement.

  • Food: I make sure we’ve restocked our pantry and have a solid meal plan. Over a break, it’s much easier to wing it, but since starting back is hard to do, having all of my meals planned (even breakfast and lunch), means I have one less thing to think about. Also, I try to purge all of the sweets and extra sugar that has made its way into our house and be sure we have lots of healthy snacks around instead.

 

  • Clothes: I try to do a quick purge of items that the children have outgrown or seasonal items no longer needed (Holiday dresses put away, for example). And then we catch up on laundry.

  • De-clutter Hot Spots: It’s easy for piles to start when everyone is in holiday mode–the stairs, the kitchen table, the mantle, a coffee table. We spend time to put things back in their places. After Christmas gift giving, there are usually a few items that need to find a new home.

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  1. Order and Refresh the school room.

 

  • Schedule/Timetable: I look over our time-table to be sure it is still will work for this new season. Has a new activity or sport started? Will the upcoming few weeks entail more travel or any disruptions I need to plan around?
  • Refresh Supplies: It sure is nice to begin with freshly sharpened pencils and to be sure all of our notebooks are ready to go.
  • Organize Bookshelves: I purge any books no longer needed and any books that have found their way to the school shelf that don’t belong. Books have a life of their own, don’t they?
  • Weekly School Prep Page: I walk through “my weekly school prep page” in my bullet journal
  • Pre-reading: I make sure any books I need to pre-read are up in my bedroom so I can skim them at night before bed.

 

  1. Choose one new habit.

Though we have turned the page of our calendar to a new year, for the Charlotte Mason mamma, not much changes…We think in terms of habits, not resolutions. The New Year is a natural time to pause and reflect, but we know that refinement is a slow, steady effort. Not a wild goal. Resolutions tend to be easily broken, frustratingly out-of-reach, quickly discarded. Big goals may help motivate us for a time, but we are in it for the long haul.

  • Habits are part of our regular, every day life.
  • Habits are consistent and reliable.
  • Habits become involuntary. Like eating, breathing, and making our beds
  • Habits are something we do because it is part of who we are.

“Learning How to Live” means we are in the Habit of Building Habits.

What new habit do you need most?

  1. Bullet Journal! (Yes, it’s a verb)

The bullet journal has truly revolutionized my life—I’m better organized and much more at peace. Here’s what I do:

  • Brain Dump: I just list out all of the things that have been swirling in my head—thank you notes, items to be returned, a check to send, a worry about a child, a goal I have. There is no rhyme or reason to the list.

 

  • Monthly Calendar and Project list: I migrate items from the brain dump that belong here and add anything that might be missing.

 

  • Weekly Calendar: I create the new weekly page.

 

  • Planning Routine: I look over my planning routine page just to be sure I’m not forgetting to do what I’ve planned to do to plan.

 

  1. Start with a modified schedule.

 

I plan to start at least a half hour later, if we’ve been sleeping in, so I cut back on a few blocks on our time-table for that day to account for the later start. I also know brains will be a bit sluggish so I lower my expectations. This might mean I read smaller sections than usual before asking them to narrate or I might allow a child who has difficulty writing, draw their narration. I might re-arrange the week to put the books and subjects that bring us the most delight on the first day.

I know the temptation to just jump back in and not take additional time off, but time and time again, I’ve seen this backfire. If education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, it make sense that we need to think on these things for our days to go well. Putting things in place will mean that the train will chug smoothly down the rails and in the end much more will be accomplished.

Often, I am disappointed that I didn’t “accomplish more” when a break comes to an end. But it’s important for us as parents and teachers to take real breaks too. So now I just tack on a few more days at the end of each break and try to fully embrace each holiday. “Work while you work, play while you play, this is the way to be happy each day.
Remember school teachers have in-service days to plan and organize–homeschooling moms need them too!

So take that extra day or two or three, after you’ve gotten off the tracks, and you will find delight again in your home, your children, and your day!