Back In The Saddle Again!

At this point, we are headed into Week Seven of our school year.  It has been a pretty decent year so far considering juggling three grades and three “levels” of school (elementary school, middle school, and high school!).  I felt like this week is a good time to see what is really working in our family and school rhythm.

Working Well:

  • The fact that I planned less weeks total for the entire school year, and added a week to almost every other block as a “catch-up” week (or a vacation coincides).  That has really helped (and really made it less stressful when we feel like we are “getting behind”). It also makes me wonder why I didn’t do this before (???)
  • Summer planning really helped.  Saves. me. every. year.  I can totally ditch the plan, but if I haven’t researched and know my subject beforehand, especially in these upper grades, I absolutely cannot apply it to the child in front of me.
  • Planning field trips for the semester/school year.  We are part of a 4,000 plus member homeschooling field trip group (Southeastern United States).  There are so many wonderful field trips to take!  This is especially important for the middle school and high school level – it is what makes all the subjects come alive to see them in action.  Experience at the hands and heart level before the head level is a golden rule.
  • Making the festivals a priority.  This is easy to lose as children grow older, and because we don’t really have a specific “Waldorf group.”  I am so glad we are still hanging on.  This is especially important to me for our little first grader, but really for all of us.  It nourishes the soul through the seasons of the year.
  • Keeping our outside the home schedule at the busy-ish, but not too full, level. My high schooler really needs things to do, and our first grader and I really need to be at home, so we have to choose a middle road. And I am always glad we do, because I like to have room for the last minute spontaneity , last minute camping trips, or just being home together.
  • Still prioritizing play.  Today my first and sixth grader were playing so nicely together and the weather was beautiful and the puppy was so happy….school could wait a few hours.

The Jury Is Still Out:

  • Having a class outside the home for our high schooler.  In one sense, the accountability to a really good  outside teacher has been super nice for our high schooler.  On the other hand, we are totally tied into a public school schedule due to activities (which totally could be canceled or moved for the most part) and this class (which can’t be moved or missed because it is a week’s worth of work condensed into one class).  It feels limiting in that sense.  Not sure if I will farm anything out next year or not.
  • The best way to organize/motivate our high schooler.  Still working on that one!  Organizing independent work has been the single most challenge of ninth grade, and I don’t think there is a good way to prepare for it really in seventh and eighth grade because we did a lot of the things I thought would help this transition.  The work just changes at the high school level, and that is that.  It is a learning curve.

Not Working and I Want To Change:

  • I wish we had more festival preparation and handwork time.    My children don’t really do these things naturally even though they love arts and crafts, so I have to plant the seeds.
  • Self-care is still hard to come by. I want to exercise, but I have been back to having a really hard time getting up early in the morning to do it….In this height of allergy season, sometimes I just feel worn out from a respiratory/asthma perspective.  And the heat, which I actually am sick of at this point. Where is autumn?!

How is homeschooling going for you?  What is working, not working, and where is the jury still out?



13 thoughts on “Back In The Saddle Again!

  1. I’m sad to say that we are barely homeschooling this year. My son is attending a part time school three days a week and loves it. (I am also working on those days.) It is not Waldorf and is academically focused but it is working for my sixth grader. He gets homework (spelling and math) but it doesn’t take longer than an hour. I have him two days and we are studying US History east of the Mississippi; the history I grew up on since I am from New England. (He already knows lots of history of New Mexico and Native Americans.) We are using lots of story, reading historical fiction and non-fiction, and including poetry about whatever we are studying. He is summarizing what we read and drawing his impressions. He is really enjoying it, which is great, and I sure miss those early elementary Waldorf years. It’s been much harder for me than it is for him! So, that’s working!

    What is Not Working: The rush to get out of the house and the organizing I have to do the night before to get healthy lunches and snacks baked and ready. The busyness with his music lessons and we are about to add ice hockey. The lack of real outside time for him (I am a landscaper, so I get plenty!) His school has much more outside time than a public school, but he is having a hard time settling down at night because he isn’t sleepy. He is used to being outside and in nature (right outside our door) every day for hours. Any suggestions?

    What’s Working: Our relationship!!!! There had been so much pushback from him about schoolwork that I was ready to give up. These days apart are working wonders. He is progressing academically much more quickly now…it could be timing or it could be a change of style. And Grandpa picks him up from school once a week, makes sure he gets homework done, and feeds him dinner. Hurray!

    The Jury is Out: Dyslexia. Because of his school days, we stopped working with his tutor. I am working with him on the days he doesn’t have school but there is that pushback again. We have a meeting with a dyslexia center this week; I am leery about it because they want a twice a week commitment for twelve weeks. And my husband is out of work so….

    • Oh, it is so nice to hear from you, Mary Lynn! I am excited to here about your changes, and they seem good. Trying to get food together is the most difficult challenge when we go out too. Do you make a menu plan for those kinds of meals? I am sure it is a time factor as well!
      I wish you luck at the dyslexia center. I wonder what kinds of things they want to do? I will be curious to hear back from you after the appointment.

  2. Do you a have a favortie go to book about festivals? I really want to do better at that but just can’t seem to find the time to research/look around online. I feel inundated and overwhelmed sometimes with the info online!

    • Hi Mickey!
      I like All Year Round, but that one does have a Christian feel to it, so I don’t know if it would suit your purposes? I also like Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions.
      I also advise starting slow. One small thing done well is worth a lot, and you can add every year over the years.

    • My libray actually has both so I’ll check them out and see which could work for us. Thank you Carrie! Blessing to you as well.

  3. What’s working: Medication for my 4th grade daughter’s adhd and anxiety. It was an excruciating decision that I’ve resisted for years, but the difference is astounding. She can focus long enough to finish a drawing. She’s asking for more work in math. She’s reading her first chapter book (at her request, not mine). She willing did three pages of handwriting and did her best work. Homeschooling is fun for both us–she actually *wants* to have lessons. It’s miraculous! This is how it should have been all along.

    Music! Both my 4th grader and kindergartener love to sing. There are never more songs than they can handle. They both look forward to this part of the day, and I can use singing time to smooth over a multitude of rough spots.

    What’s not working: Getting everything done in a day. As usual I’ve planned too much into our days, but there is nothing I can drop without feeling a huge sense of loss. We’ve been in school for a month, and today was the first day we managed to get a piano lesson into the mix.

    Kindergarten is not working as well as I’d like. My almost 6-year-old is not terribly interested in having circle or story time, and there is so much to do with the 4th grader, that it becomes easy to just not do any kindy activities… but I do want him to have a special year of his own.

    • Lisa,
      I am so HAPPY to hear about your daughter’s progress. Yes, and I so understand the kindy squish. It is so hard to divide our time at points. I console myself by saying it really all will work out in the wash and they will all get what they need. Perhaps that is too Pollyanna, hahahahaha.
      Love and hugs,

  4. Hi Carrie! We have just started homeschooling. My children are in grade 1 and 3 (as well as a preschooler and toddler). I am finding the hardest part is both of my children’s perfectionism! They are both very clever so when something doesn’t come easily to them they get very frustrated, almost angry! I’ve never taught them in this way before so it came as a surprise- at school they would internalize these emotions a bit more, but with me they feel free to tear up their drawing or get teary! Of course this doesn’t happen too often- we are also enjoying preparing for Michaelmas, loving our “circle” and our morning French together. Just an observation and something I need to meditate on- how to make them feel more secure in the learning journey and not so anxious about getting thing to look just right or sound just right the first time around!

    • Megan,
      I think one way to avoid that, at least for your first grader, is to do as much movement, oral work, and drawings in sand or outside in chalk, etc as possible (not permanent records). Really cut back on the “permanent record” kind of thing. Tell lots of stories about perfectionism – I don’t know if you have the Christopherus first grade syllabus but there is a great story in there about a rug weaver and perfectionism. For your third grader, third grade is often the year where they can’t draw, they draw a beautiful picture but it is upside in the main lesson book, etc. Often in the fall I try to require less of that permanent record when I know developmentally they are just upside down and work toward more drawing, and writing, etc, in the spring semester.
      Just food for thought! Also, in the rush of grade work, it is super important they are outside a lot riding bikes, playing games, in nature hopping over stuff – bodies tend to grow a lot in third grade and getting used to being inside this new body often comes out in the fine motor area where what really needs help and challenge is the physical body. Not sure if that makes sense.
      Lots of love!

  5. yes, back in the saddle! woo-hoo~
    what’s working: starting “early” August 20s with school. Allowed us to truly ease into the 2nd grade for my twins. Without heavy expectations those 2 weeks I could take a step back and see what was working, what wasn’t and where we might tweak things, etc. I decided to have a lot of time for circle an play more games, let them lead and HAVE FUN. I wanted to be sure to get FUN in with them straight away and during those 2 “early” weeks, we had long circles with lots of games. We’re doing main lessons M-W, hiking and nature on Thursday and Friday afternoon the girls are taking a circus class with homeschoolers, followed by a few hours together at the park. Totally great! Friday morning has turned into a time to finish projects, extra time reading chapter books and this last week, a time to work more on forms which has been really well. I made a game with the forms that the girls just love. After practicing certain forms for a few weeks I drew them on index cards, they draw a card and dance or just move, incorporating the form into actions. We then guess. There’s one “funny” card called funky dance and they do whatever when they draw that card. 🙂 Having Thursday and Friday a little looser and more flexible (I don’t think we’ve ever had a day JUST for hiking/nature, for example) has been great. It gives us all a little breathing room and the needed flexibility to make things happen. I thought long and hard on handwork because I felt it was slipping last year even though the girls love their projects, so I decided to try it out before circle in the AM. We sing songs and do anywhere from 20-45 minutes of handwork. It has been amazing! We have actually gotten a few projects done already– even knitted bunnies from last Easter 😉 It also means we start ON time in the AM which I notice is a bit issue for us. If we start passed 9:30 it can be very challenging to do it all. 2nd and 3rd breakfasts might interfere 😉 I noticed we need the nearly daily time of handwork to accomplish projects, not just one or two days a week. During this time, too I have seen the girls pick up their projects in the evening to work on independently!

    not working: I write and plan our curriculum and I think buying one next year might help out some. I’m enjoying the process of planning things on my own, but there’s a lot of “wheel-spinning time” that I could do without! A little more quiet time for me? While I do get up early and run and spend a little time journaling, I’m seeing I am best with more solitude. I use to walk some evenings and I’d like to get back to that– even if only once a week.
    balancing afternoon/evening/weekend activities. There are free music recitals at the university here in town and we were going weekly until last week. Hard to pull back from, but we just can’t commit to that and…choir, German…playtime…I was fried at the end of the week when we were doing all of those things.
    My husband teaches the girls piano and that has been slipping these last few weeks. Partly connected to managing the afternoon activities?

    So, so far so good! We had so much fun at a school playground this past weekend that we’ve decided to hunt around for “exceptionally fun” playgrounds during the week whenever we can. We got it in yesterday and it was a blast!
    thanks for the prompt – so nice to reflect.
    ps. having taught high school for many years I think 9th grade simply IS a big transition. I hope things settle in that department for you soon, carrie!

    • Sheila,
      I love hearing what you are doing! I think that sounds fabulous for second grade. I think the main thing in the early years is to set the stage for fun, for movement, for development of the body, for that appreciation of nature…all those things.
      And thank you for your words on high school. So true! What did you teach in high school?

  6. Thank you for this post, Carrie, and thanks to everyone who replied to share about the start of their year–all really helpful and inspiring. We are doing our second year of kindergarten with our six year old daughter, our only child.

    What’s working and what’s not? I feel that deciding how to homeschool and how to include all the lovely things that we want to do is a little bit like packing for a backpacking trip: You pack your backpack with only the things you need, only the things you can reasonably carry. Then you put it on your back and walk outside, around your house. You will come back in and unpack half of what you had packed. Then put it on and walk around the block. You will come back in and unpack another half. Then put it on and walk for a couple of miles. You will come back in and unpack another half. Then you’ll go on your trip and that pack will still be heavy, but hopefully manageable.

    What another mom said about not being able to cut out certain activities without a huge sense of loss really resonated for me. When I’m planning our school year, I have an attachment to all the things that I want to do, or feel that we must do. And it’s that attachment (my feelings) that I must sometimes let go of in order to reduce our load to a reasonable weight to carry each day.

    I try to hold onto this saying: There is enough time in the time I have to do what I need to do. The trick is to put aside all the things that are not truly necessary.

    I planned our year with a lot more open time, more time for transitions. And this is working really well. The start of the school year coincides with big seasonal and schedule changes for our family, such as grandparents, who’ve been here for much of the summer, returning home and my husband’s work schedule changing with the close of our summer/seasonal business. So she is missing her grandparents and her routines with them, but then her daddy suddenly has a lot more time to spend with her. We certainly had a few rough spots the first few weeks in adjusting to the change in routine, but thankfully, the rhythm and flow I had planned for our homeschool time, homecare time, and outdoor hiking and gardening time is all working really well, and so that support structure helped to ease the tensions of the big changes.

    Last year, I planned WAY too much for our days, and this year I really cut back. We have a three day rhythm with circle time, story, wax, and then alternating drawing/painting/craft project. We also go to a co-op (a short walk away) for a few hours on those three days, and that it working out really well. The rest of the week we focus on homecare, handwork, baking, and time outside (hiking, bike riding, and gardening).

    However, we’ve had five weeks of special/important things happening in our community about once a week, and these events have taken up our time in such a way that made me realize that I needed to “unpack” even more. It’s a challenge to accommodate these extra happenings, which all occur on different days, different times of day, and still hold a rhythm without things feeling off kilter. So I’ve dedicated one afternoon a week as “Flex time”, so that I can move the puzzle pieces, so to speak, around to accommodate special one-time activities. These events over the last month have included a wedding in our village; a special birthday party for a friend; a seasonal potluck and games; and two unexpected deaths of friends, resulting in our family’s need (and desire) to make food, drawings and cards and visit with friends.

    I’m so grateful that we are homeschooling, so that we can always find a balance between school, home life and community, and that we have the ability to create that flexibility within a structure of rhythm of seasonal flow.

    Happy homeschooling!

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