Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Schooling On Catch-Up Days/Times

I've been home-schooling now for about 8 years and the number one thing I've come to expect is INTERRUPTIONS!! Oh, I'm not joking folks. Homeschooling is riddled with interruptions big, small, and in between...and some you think you'll never recover from at all. I haven't had a school year since we started where there wasn't a hurricane to escape from, a baby born in our family, a broken leg (mine), a death in our extended family or friends, a move on the horizon or happening, or a renovation of some sort. Did I get all the major ones? And not a one happened at summer break!

At first this paralyzed me completely! My home-school schedule was blown--whaa. How would I cope? How would I finish by year's end? Could I cram a month into a week so we could break for Christmas? Ugh! It was beyond frustrating. It was immobilizing.

Then I grew into the secret. Here it is young home-schooling mom. Are you ready?

Imagine a food pyramid for a moment. You've got the things you eat most at the bottom and the fats and butters at top, right. Now, lets replace this with school stuff. Are you still imagining the pyramid? At the very bottom are the things they can do all by themselves. In the middle are things they need some help with but you can walk away and just check back regularly. Then the top little triangle holds the toughies.

You must have all three. And don't get your pyramid upside down where they need help on practically everything, either. Have just a few toughies, a good amount of mid-level, and an arsenal of low-need do-by-themselfers.

Now for working them:

When you're high-energy, high-motivation, and have lots of time on your hands, hit the top of that pyramid hard. Maybe the kids are on fire and very cooperative or maybe you know there's a new tub of Blue Bell ice cream in the freezer that would make a great reward. Or maybe the day's just swimming along and you have the time to really give the kiddoes some seriously focused teacher attention. Use it! Knock some of those difficult books/workbooks off your list.

The mid-level stuff should be done most days, but not for hours on end. A spelling test can't be done without you, but you could call out the list while doing dishes. That math worksheet can be done without much help, but he may have a question or two--so do some laundry and answer the questions when they come up. You should be available but not sitting right beside them the whole time for mid-level.

Then there are the low-need school things. These are different for every child--all of these are. For a pre-schooler it may just be picture books with neat pictures, educational toys and a coloring book. But, on the opposite end of this is the ten year old full-blown reader. I can seriously send Abigail off with any book I own (okay, maybe not Beowulf, lol) and she would be just fine without any help. For each child you should have a big-'ol stack of activities and/or books they can do with no help at all. Stock up and you'll have a back-up for almost any circumstance. You have to spend all day in the car--great, where's my school bag? You are sick but the kids are well, just set the timer and give 'em the stack. You're going to be on bed-rest how long?! That's okay. Those documentaries on Netflix might come in handy on those days, too.

So, I took some pictures of my bottom-of-the-pyramid arsenal. These are all my children's do-by-themselfers.

This is the bag they fit in and is handy for errands or trips away from home when we should still be doing school.

Want a peek in my bag? This is for a ten year old girl and a seven year old boy, plus a 14 month old.

I don't know why this picture turned out sideways, but this is handwriting for both kids.

These are Abby's reading. There's a storybook to read to Bubzy, a poetry book, a challenging book (Island of the Blue Dolphins), and an enjoyment book. They are required to do at minimum reading and math and whatever else can be accomplished on a 3 hr timer.

A little history and science that can be read with no worksheets, tests, or anything else to worry about. Just read and learn. Abby does LOTS of this variety of learning. We have "heavier" history and science, but on the weeks or months we don't get to them aren't a big whooptido when I know she's learning all the same.

Mostly for Abram, who is reading but not at the level of his sister, I have cds like these. I also have science dvds and depend on Netflix for a huge variety of documentaries.

Even through Abram's on a higher level reading than this, I have his older reading books tucked in the bag for days I can't get to a lesson. Reading practice is almost just as important as a lesson and helps with fluency.

I LOVE Dover coloring books. They have science and history, among others, that are great for learners who love to color when Mom's busy or under the weather.

These are pictured separately because when Abby reads these she reads them aloud to Abram. Even though they aren't low-level for Abram, they are still hands off for me. I can be doing intense cleaning in the bathroom or cooking a huge dinner and know they're learning history and science. As they finish one book, I just find another of the same kind of subject. The next history book will be another picture-heavy read that Abram will pay attention to over Abby's shoulder. And someday he'll be reading them as Bubzy looks over his shoulder.

My kiddoes do a TON of drill in math! I just print out hundreds of pages at their level, below their level, or a little above their level. I staple groups together and keep them in folders. I don't actually time them unless they want to be. We go from simple addition to simple division and who knows what they'll get from day to day.

Fred Math is awesome for my heavy reader! It's math, but it's a huge plot-driven story about a 5 year old who teaches at a college university and has a doll named Kingie who can draw as good as any artist. Tons of fun and a little math practice, I never have to force it on them. Abram has Fred math too, but it's in the top of the pyramid for him since I have to read it to him right now.

These are some of our favorite workbooks. They are typically lower than their current level. The on level workbooks belong in the mid-level and I have to work closer with them. For Abram, if he can't read the directions he comes to me or Abby, but he can read most of them.

And here's the bag they fit in. I've had this bag since Abby was in Kindergarten. It's easy to grab and shove things in here when we're on the move and need to keep doing school.

So, I hope you enjoyed this little bit about how we accomplish school on those days that are easily blown. That doesn't mean we don't just call it a day and watch a bunch of t.v. in our pjs sometimes, but if we did that too much, we would surely give up.

Even if you don't like the way I work it out on catch-up days, plan for them anyway in your own way. They will come. It's unavoidable. But if you have a plan, it can really bridge those gaps a little more smoothly.


  1. Hi, you just posted on my blog and you thought it was funny that I write romance & so do you. To my surprise I drop in to see your blog and the first post I read is about homeschool--funny...I homeschool too. I think we are kinder spirits! I think you have a very nice balance and a good plan with your homeschooling. I’ve learned when we have a day where not too much gets done we’ll make up for it somewhere down the line… ;o) It all works out in the end…

    1. Oh that is funny!! I think the same way about catching up--that somewhere down the line it will all work itself out as long as I'm diligent. I also "secretly" believe that a child's playtime and outside time is to be guarded as much as their math or history lessons. I think their imaginations and thought processes grow a lot more when they're outside running around with wooden swords and Cleopatra costumes than reading a text book about that period in history. -Tabitha


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