5 Ways Our Homeschool is Changing for the Better

We’re at the pointy end of third grade now. Things are changing. Nikolai is changing. He’s growing up and our homeschool needs to grow with him.

Nine year olds are suddenly ready for more freedom. And more responsibility.

In my last post I talked about the need for our homeschools to evolve and that is just what we are doing here. This term we are changing up our schedule and finding out what works and what doesn’t before we move on to our more academic fourth grade work.

Home education is one of those things where you can tweak and tweak and it will never be quite perfect. But I feel like we are pretty close to perfect for us, for right now, with the changes we have made.

I’m sure things will continue to evolve, but for now, these are the 5 major changes which have improved our homeschool days. A LOT!

5 Ways To Improve Your Homeschool

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Start Your Homeschool Later in the Day

Conventional wisdom tells us to get started on our lesson time first thing in the morning. The thinking is that you are bright eyed and bushy tailed, so concentration , enthusiasm and energy levels are at their peak. Get in now and get it done, then enjoy a free afternoon. Which is exactly the way we have approached things for the last couple of years.

This term we decided to try something new. We now don’t start our lessons until 10 or 10:30. We get Together Time and Independent Work done, stop for a break (food and play), then continue on with Main Lesson. Yes, this means we often need to continue working after lunch to get the artistic portion of our Main Lesson work finished. But it works!

Starting later means we aren’t feeling behind if we need to go out to do the groceries, run an errand or hit the library. It means all of the chores are taken care of before we start so I don’t have to leave the room. Because we all know that that is when kids become distracted and end up off task. It also means the kids get plenty of time to play outside before the day becomes hot. When you live in Queensland, you need to factor the UV rating into your schedule 😉

I have found that there is less grumbling from the children when we start later because they have had plenty of time to choose their own fun before lesson time. I feel calmer too because I haven’t had to rush my morning cleaning routines. Our time together is now more peaceful and concentration levels are soaring!

Ditch Morning Circle for Together Time

Do you remember me saying we mamas often hold on to Morning Circle for a while after our kids are ready to move on? Well, that was me. It had come to the point where getting Nikolai to participate was like pulling teeth. Often I would skip circle time just to avoid the grumbles that came with it. And then I felt guilty because that meant we weren’t getting in our music practice, memory work and movement activities.

Not any more!

I have finally ditched Morning Circle for Nikolai. Instead I have replaced it with Together Time. This is similar to the Morning Basket idea I am sure most homeschoolers will be familiar with. I include artist study, composer study, poetry, literature and other read alouds here.

I’ve deliberately kept our Together Time short. It all happens within half an hour, often outside or on the couch. It’s a relaxed, cosy time and brings us together (hence the name) before we separate for the next portion of our morning.

The remaining activities that were in circle time (memory work, maths facts practice, recorder practice, singing, etc) have now been apportioned out to Independent Work time or to our Afternoon Hour.

Beginning Independent Work with My Third Grader

Now this is the part that is really different for us. After Together Time, Nikolai heads to the table with a list of tasks that he works through on his own, and I stay in the living room with Wynter and take her through her own mini Circle Time.

I’ll go into depth more on what Circle Time with a preschooler looks like in a future post, but for the sake of clarity I will say now that we spend no more than half an hour here and I keep it fun and informal.

Meanwhile, Nikolai works his way through language arts practice work (currently including copywork), maths facts practice, maths workbook, memory and recitation work, and other small tasks that he can manage on his own. He doesn’t do everything every day, and typically new work isn’t brought up in this time. If he needs my help with something he puts it aside until I am finished working with his sister.

Independent work takes 30-45 minutes here, depending on how focused Nikolai is and whether he needs to see me at the end for assistance. This is helping him learn to manage his own time, gives him a sense of independence and control over his own learning and he has commented that he appreciates having a portion of his school day where his sister isn’t in the same room 😉

Afternoon Hour in the Homeschool

After lunch and Main Lesson we break for Quiet Time. Wynter has a nap and Nikolai heads downstairs to spend some time with his head in a book or to take advantage of screen time (his sister is 3 and we don’t want her participating in daily screen time yet). If he has a project or work to finish from the morning, he will take that downstairs with him too.

When you live, work and play together every day, I find we really need this time of solitude and peace in our day. Once we are all feeling refreshed, I bring us back together for what we are calling Afternoon Hour. Although, so far it rarely takes the whole hour.

Afternoon Hour is the time of day when we come together as a family to enjoy art, music, keeping (journalling) or handicrafts. If we are working on art or handiwork I put on some music in the background, often a piece from whichever composer we are studying for the term, and we work side by side. I love the feeling of reconnection that this brings. And for some reason, the kids seem to put in more effort and find more enjoyment in afternoon music lessons than they do with the same lesson in the morning. The singing is more joyful. The recorder playing more tuneful. I wonder why this is…

But I’m not complaining 🙂

Make 'Keeping' a Priority: Nature Journals and More!

My favourite change of all is our new priority on Keeping.

I’ve always admired, and honestly been somewhat envious, of the gorgeous pictures on Instagram of children with their beautiful nature journals. Nikolai was never interested. But he showed a glimmer of interest late last term and I pounced!

We now schedule Keeping Time into every week, often in our Afternoon Hour. So far we are working on the habit of keeping nature journals but I plan to extend our keeping as time goes on. I am going to have Nikolai start keeping lists of his reading using the student pages from the new Mulberry Planner, and when we begin the move into formal history study next year we will also begin keeping a timeline.

Do you practice the habit and art of keeping in your homeschool? I would love to hear what you Keep!

*If you would like to share pictures of your keeping, head over to instagam and tag your pictures #wholehomekeeping Feel free to share your keeping too, not just your children’s*

These are the 5 big changes we have made in our homeschool that have brought so much peace and joy to our days. I hope you found some inspiration here to tweak your homeschool too.

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About Kirstee @ This Whole Home

Wife, mama, intentional homemaker.
I blog about suburban homesteading, homeschooling and homemaking at www.thiswholehome.com

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