Friday, August 12, 2016

University Model School - Tips for having a smooth homeschool day.

This is our fifth year at River's Edge Christian Academy. RECA is a university model school, which means that my kids go to school three days a week and I homeschool them two days a week.  Although teachers do all of the lesson planning and most of the grading for me on "in-school" days, I have struggled through the years to make my homeschool days be efficient and run smoothly.

Here are a list of tips I have found to be helpful:
  • Make the most of your space. Some families have the space to have a dedicated school room.  We don't really have the room, and since we only teach at home two days a week we don't feel the need to remodel, or drastically change any one living space into a school room.  
    • We do homeschool at the dining room table on Tuesdays and Fridays.  We eat breakfast and lunch on those days on a rug in our dining room, or outside if the weather is nice.
    • The only toys in the dining room are quiet toys that kids who are having a break can play with quietly.  Right now we have foam blocks, dry erase books and Zoobs available for kids who are having a break.

  • Wake up early. It is such a temptation for me to sleep in on homeschool days, but nothing will sabotage your day like getting started late!
  • Recess! We all need breaks.  Last year, no matter what we were doing the kids played outside from 10:30-11.  This year we have a recess after everyone has had their math and english lessons.  Unless it is pouring or below 40 degrees they must go outside. This break really helps us break up the day and the fresh air is so good for them.
  • A place for everything and everything in it's place.   This may sound weird, but before school starts I draw a map of the table and label where everyone will sit, where they will have their supplies and where I will be.  It helps me visualize how things will go and I even make name tag tents for the kids to mark their seat - the kids think these are so neat.
  • Have a master lesson plan just for Mom.  I print off individual lesson plans for the kids' binders, but then I also print off "all" the lesson plans for me.  I go through and highlight the things I have to do and put a box next to the things that need to be in the school folder before they go back to school on homeschool days.  I keep this on a clipboard and keep it with me throughout the day. As I am about to put the yellow folders back in backpacks I double check that I've got everything.
  • Papers, papers, papers!!  One of the most important things to decide when you have elementary kids is where will all the papers go? Make your system as simple as you can!  
    • When we get home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays the kids put their school folders on a stool in the kitchen.  That way I can look through them right away and we can do any homework they may have before moving on to afternoon activities.
    • On homeschool days I have each kid pull out their lesson plan and all the pages they will need for the day and they put these on their "board".  These are just the sides of binders that have been cut off.  You could also use clipboards.  The nice thing about these boards is that when they are empty we know their school day is done :)
    • During homeschool days I have three piles in the middle of the table.  One basket for completed work, one basket for graded (but needing corrections) work and the pile of yellow folders.  My kids "turn-in" their work to the first bucket and after I grade it I use a colored clip to put it in the second bucket if they need to do corrections.  If no corrections are needed the work goes straight into the third pile where it can be placed into the yellow folder at the end of the day.
  • One-on-one teaching time. 
    • In years past I would sit down one on one with the youngest child and we would try to finish as much work as we could until they needed a break.  During that time the oldest kid would work on independent work.  When the youngest needed a break I would take that time to teach the oldest a math or english lesson, or help them where they were stuck.  Inevitably the youngest would finish way earlier than the oldest and we could use the rest of the day to finish up anything else they needed help with.
    • This year I have three school aged kids and so I have invented the "Student One" chair.  Basically each child takes turns in the "Student One" chair and I just cycle through teaching the subjects.  First I teach math to the oldest while the younger two finish their Bible craft.  Then as the oldest works on finishing math I teach the middle child his math lesson, etc. I made a spreadsheet of our schedule so that I could keep track of what everyone should be doing.  If anyone finishes before their next turn in the "Student One" chair they can have a break.
  • Involve Dad. If you can, involve your spouse!  Kids love to read aloud to their dads, so you can save that portion of the lesson for after dinner.  I also find my spouse to be great at any big projects that are assigned.
  • Think outside of the box. If you are having trouble getting work done on Tuesdays and Fridays try doing some of the work on Monday and Thursday nights.  If you have younger kids it is really helpful to use those nap times to instruct the older kiddos.  It might make for slightly longer days on Mondays and Thursdays, but hopefully your Tuesdays and Fridays will go smoother.
I hope you are encouraged by this list and you have found some of the points to be helpful.  What are some things that you do to make your homeschool day run more smoothly?


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