I have to preface this little diatribe with a quick disclaimer...
This is a list of things that could "make or break" MY homeschool day. Please remember that every homeschool is unique. While MY day might run smoother with the help of these 10 "little things", someone else might find them non-essential. I encourage you to use this list as a SUGGESTION not a DOCTRINE as you evaluate your homeschool day. And in the end, determine what works or does not work FOR YOU.
But I digress...
1. I start my day with God as my Guide.
Admittedly, with many little ones groping for my attention each day, it can be difficult to set aside time to spend in the Word. But I find that by devoting a few quiet moments with God each morning, I am able to face a harried homeschool schedule with a full tank...refreshed and focused with Christ's GRACE and TRUTH to guide me. In addition, I am setting a good example for my children as they develop a habit of personal devotions in their own lives.
2. I have a plan.
Typically, I make a skeletal plan of my entire school year by the time the first day arrives. I, personally, find FREEDOM in a plan. I don't need to waste brain cells each school day trying to "invent the wheel." I just merely have to refer to "the plan" and add or detract as needed.
3. I begin each day the night before.
I have no desire to begin my day in a frantic panic. I've always found it helpful to prepare for the homeschool day the night before. I can make a smooth transition into the school morning knowing I am thoroughly prepared for the first lesson on the schedule. Here's how I do that...
4. I stick to a morning routine.
A Good Morning Board has helped my children develop self-discipline. I have no desire to nag my way through the morning. By providing them with a list of morning routines that are age-appropriate, I only have to OVERSEE the morning happenings...I no longer have to dictate and micro-manage.
5. I prep for dinner right after lunch.
Our typical homeschool day does not end until 5 o'clock in the afternoon which doesn't leave me much time to think about dinner. By setting meat out to thaw or gathering and prepping certain dinner-time ingredients right after lunch, I am ensuring that I not only HAVE a dinner plan in place, but that I can quickly pull it all together right after school without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.
6. I encourage self-direction in my children.
It's physically impossible to teach four different subjects and grade levels at one time. The laws of physics and sanity just won't allow it! By providing my children with task cards, I am helping them to learn independence, self-motivation, and organization...three necessities of self-directed learning.
7. I schedule homekeeping pauses into our day.
Disorder and clutter turns my mind into mush. Although I recognize that there is going to be a certain level of MESS that is a natural part of a "lively" home, I also know that peace and tranquility can often ONLY be found in order. So, I weave three quick homekeeping/cleaning pauses into our school day. I place them at the natural STARTS and STOPS (right before school, right after lunch, and right after school) in order to provide a smoother, less-chaotic transition to "the NEXT."
8. I mark off "learning territory."
Because I believe learning and life should go together and that education should not be limited to ONLY one room, we do not have an actual homeschool classroom. That being said, I do purpose to set our learning area apart in order that learning can actually take place. Have you ever tried writing a research paper while someone is firing a sock missile at you? Trust me...it can't be done! The general rule of thumb in our house (excluding the baby, of course) is that if the learning is happening HERE (the dining room table, the kitchen floor, the couch, etc.) and you are not a part of the learning at this PRESENT moment, then you can not be HERE. In other words, if you are on a break/free play time and your sibling is not, then respect him/her enough to take your play elsewhere.
9. I schedule an extended afternoon break.
I'm often asked why I homeschool until 5 o'clock every evening when many homeschoolers keep to a traditional 3 o'clock quitting time. Although there is MUCH method to my madness, the short answer is that I schedule a two-hour break in the middle of the day and those two hours are redeemed later on in the afternoon. As I've mentioned before, the Hubs comes home for lunch every day. To the best of my ability, I have made it a priority to set his HOUR-LONG lunch break apart as family time. Since I have a larger-than-average sized household and because I prefer not to serve sandwiches every day, it takes me about 1/2 hour to make lunch. After the Hubs heads back to work, the kids and I spend about 1/2 hour completing some afternoon chores (loading/unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the dining room floor, starting a load of laundry, etc.)...completing our 2-hour break and pushing our quitting time to 5 o'clock. I'll admit that it's a bit unconventional, but then again...so is HOMESCHOOLING!
10. I maintain flexibility.
While everything on this list would be filed under "the perfect homeschool day", I recognize that the PERFECT homeschool day comes along about as often as the "perfect hair day." These "little things" make up my GOALS. And although I don't necessarily meet my goals each and every day, I find direction...and therefor benefit...in having a goal. The important thing is to maintain flexibility, so that when the day veers off the plotted course, learning can still take place and sanity can still be salvaged.
What "little thing" would you add to this list?