First of all, let me explain our family's approach to how our children "do school". We do what we have called, PACING.
Usually, because of watching their older siblings "do" school at the table (seatwork), the younger children around 2-3 years old want to do the same. Great! So, I start them off either with crayons and a paper (if very young) or with a simple and inexpensive workbook, along with a dry-erase handwriting board - both from Wal-Mart. With those simple tools, they're learning to love "doing school" and they're learning foundational academic skills. It's a win-win!
Now, at some point between 4-6 years old (every child is different) they will begin to find this school work "boring", will lose interest and I will introduce some K5 workbooks. Because of previously having discovered how much fun learning is, they are so excited to know when I've ordered the next level of workbooks. Then, they watch every day, waiting to have the books show up on the doorstep. In fact, they have had this excitement so built up that they FLY into completing this workbook from the moment it's opened.
Since the beginnings of all workbooks go over previously learned knowledge from the grade before (in this case, Pre-K), they usually complete a TON of work at one sitting because these are "easy" concepts that they have already mastered. Before you know it, they've gained confidence in how "easy" the work is and they fly into learning new concepts. With that head start and confidence being built, they usually fly through and end up a year or more ahead of those in the typical school setting of doing 1 lesson per day.
Now, if a child demonstrates frustration with a new concept, we STOP the workbook. Done. No pressure. No guilt. In a week or sometimes much longer, I'll see if they are ready to pick it back up again and we go from there. So basically PACING is when we start them early and let them progress through as much seatwork, no matter the grade level, AT THEIR OWN PACE. No pressure. No holding back.
In addition to that seatwork, from the age of 2 1/2 on up, an older sibling who is learning to TEACH (a valuable skill!) will go over oral memory work (alphabet, counting, skip counting, address, number, birthday, days of week, months of the year, etc.) and phonics work (ABeka flash cards of letter sounds and blends). Now, the younger ones will not connect the heard with the visuals on the flash cards, BUT they are hearing the sounds and will quickly make the association from 4-6 years old. Again, there's no pressure to KNOW these things, but we do require them to participate in parts of this 10-15 minutes daily session. Mommy is always listening in to quell "uprisings" and to further instruct the older sibling on how to better teach a concept.
With the above concepts of PACING and ORAL REPEITION in mind, the children are already at least a year or more ahead by the time they are 8 years old. It really helps, too (for MANY reasons), we school year-round, 4 days a week (reserving one for family ministry/community outreach), taking occasional mini-breaks as we need to and a long break from Thanksgiving to right after New Years. This sets us up for a more relaxed schedule and times of formal learning that usually are completed by noon each day. [Keep in mind that I say usually, as it doesn't always go as planned]
MAPPING IT OUT
We use The Homeschool Tracker to map out our school schedule and to record what we have completed. It makes for a good checklist to remember what is needed to be done. Each child is also able to clearly see what is required of them on any given day. Plus, Mommy can switch things around if need be with a click of the mouse!
Each entry will be repeated for any given time period - from a day-long study to a full year of study on a certain topic/curriculum.
I do a 2 week rotating schedule for our older children (ages 8 and up...though that age range might vary, depending on each child's abilities). That schedule includes one English week and one Math week. We have NOT always done it this way, but since we use a computer-based math program, it was taking too long to complete the lessons when we had a line of kids waiting to use a computer. So, in order to bring order back to that subject (and because we love Teaching Textbooks so much that we were unwilling to change that up!), I had two of the Teaching Textbooks kiddos double up on math lessons one week and then double/triple up on English lessons the next week.
So, Ethan's schedule might look like this for his math/English weeks:
Week 1: Monday - 2 TT Lessons, Tuesday - 2 TT Lessons, Wednesday - 2 TT Lessons, Thursday - 2 TT Lessons, Friday - Family Ministry/Community Service
Week 2: Monday - 2-3 Lessons of English, 3 Vocabulary Cartoons, 2 Handwriting/Copywork Lessons (usually included already in English lessons), and 4 online geography games. The same goes for Tuesday - Thursday, Friday - Family Ministry/Community Service
High schoolers would add in Literature, SAT prep, writing programs, and the like on English week.
So far, we have really enjoyed this schedule. Again, if 2 lessons per day became taxing on a child, because he/she was not ready for that concept, we stop and reassess in a week or more.
Geography is done online each day during English week. We really like the program (free) that we use for this. We have also done other unit studies and mail-order programs in the past that were fun and actually done in our reading time (every day at 4:00, after chores).
We combine science and history in our home. Two lessons of Mystery of History and timeline work is done on Wednesdays. And science is done a little differently.
Kaitlyn and Ethan are doing Biology 101 from the 101 Series, but the lessons are so interesting to everyone that the DVD parts of the course are done altogether during Eva's afternoon nap. So, ages 4 on up watch this and love it. It's creation-based, too, which is GREAT!
We read other science books, two chapters at a time on Mondays and Tuesdays as read-alouds (seen above). In addition to that we do that once-a-month experiment from The Young Scientists Club and, of course, allow kids to experience nature through plenty of outdoor play!
READING & MEDIA
Phonics and school-required-reading is completed in the morning, during school hours. But recreational and additional educational reading and/or educational DVD watching and games are done after the afternoon chores are completed at 4:00. Everything educational can be recorded, if desired, in The Homeschool Tracker. My mother was an expert at making EVERYTHING in life school-related. Hey, it is! Don't be afraid to officially record it as educational!
Games are a great way to being excitement to learning and break up the monotony of a "normal" day! We have plenty of great educational games (some listed in OUR HOMESCHOOL TOOLS) that the children enjoy playing in the afternoon and on rainy days.
YouTube is a great resource for finding out about pretty much anything under the sun. We especially utilize YouTube for learning how to do certain things! I highly advise moms to preview not only the video they plan on watching, but also the video thumbnails that are viewable on the sidebar, as often these are inappropriate for young and old alike!
Netflix is a also a great way to add in visuals to your home education. Even though our family doesn't have cable or even rabbit ears, we do arrange it so that Netflix instant play can stream right to our television set so that each child can see the video clearly and so that no one is arguing or yelling, "Down in front!" These selections might include things pertaining to world geography, science, nature, world travel, how things are made, etc. It's great to pause the movie and talk about key points such as evolution and how those theories can be refuted with fact or to expound or emphasize something learned earlier in the day. Again, all these videos are pre-screened by Mom and/or Dad.
Bible memory work is done daily on the computer with MemLok, which is a great computer-based program that walks a child through meditating and memorizing passages of Scripture, which are divided into topical sections! Personal devotions, along with MemLok are completed in the morning, before school, or in the afternoon. In the evening Mark will lead Family worship and devotional quiz (based on the assigned devotional reading done earlier in the day).
Evangelism and apologetics training is done in a variety of ways - with curriculum or YouTube videos, on Friday afternoons, following family ministry.
ELECTIVES & EXTRAS
An elective or an "extra" is ANYTHING additional to what I mentioned above. They are usually added on days that I know will be low in work load. In fact, I will often add something in on the same day it's to be completed, if that child seems to be completing work far before lunchtime. Not only does this mix things up a bit, but it forces each child to be responsible enough to look over the schedule on The Homeschool Tracker to make sure that they have completed everything required of them that day.
Typing lessons and computer science work is usually done during math and English weeks, depending on work load as to which week is better for which child and how many people need to access a computer for their lessons. Often I will send one child to do a computer-based lesson while another does seatwork or another project.
In addition to all of that, logic and reasoning, perceptual puzzles, life skills, as well as foreign language and much more are scheduled when I know it will fit into the schedule.
To see what curricula and living books and such that we use in our homeschool, please see the page OUR HOMESCHOOL TOOLS. Things listed may be being used currently or we have used them in the past.
Now, I am NOT saying that this is a turn-key solution for every homeschool. It is NOT. Every homeschool IS different and should look and operate differently. That's what homeschooling is all about. But hopefully this has given you some ideas and food for thought.
Feel free to check out the Metzger homeschool schedule/routine HERE!