How Do the Pieces Fit Together?

Mr Potato Head oddly put together

I can’t say I’m sitting here in a snow storm, because we’ve only had one. There are only a few inches of snow on the ground. The pond is frozen, but not safe to walk on or go ice fishing. It’s going to snow/rain this weekend. Usually we have 0 and below temps. But, I know the big one is coming! It doesn’t fit in with our regular winter. It changes how we do things.

Home schooling changes how we do things too. Schedules, daily routines, teaching materials, and expectations all change. The best parts of these changes are no school meetings, less stress (unless you put it on yourself), choices in what to teach (curriculum, functional, college bound, technical, hands on…), when to teach and so on. You can adapt daily based on your needs and your student’s needs.

So, you’ve decided to take on the extra challenge of home school. Good for you! Where do you begin? How do you structure your time? How do you juggle it all? I can’t answer these questions for you. You can start on line by finding a local home school support group and Google your state’s laws and requirements regarding your rights and responsibilities, as well as forms you may need to fill out. You have to find the rhythm of how these pieces fit together for you. I can give you some insight into how my day/week/school year works.

I plan my year or next year in the spring. This is when I order my materials, review how the year went with our TVI, and order what we might need from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). In this way I am ready to start in September and hit the ground running. September is review for the first week or two. I want to start out the year with things that Vinnie can easily do and succeed. Then I work in the new skills after I’m sure he is solid on the previous year’s learning. Always build the foundation first.

I manage to get my morning chores done before and while I’m teaching. Part of this strategy is to increase independent learning. The other piece is to get my chores done so I can do other things, like taking a walk, working in the garden, or working on any number of projects I have started after school.

So our day looks about like this. Wake up at about 6 AM. Coffee and news with the hubby then start the round of medications, breakfast, and dressing. My husband starts the college student’s car to warm and goes to cabin (150 feet from the house by the pond) to get that woodstove going. He teaches B. at the cabin because of distractibility. Get the college kiddo out the door. Breakfast and we start at about 8 to 8:15 AM. Vinnie’s work requires a lot of auditory instruction and fairly close supervision. M. (13 in 8th grade curriculum) starts her work either at the kitchen table or up in the loft, her choice. She is in 8th grade and functions with assignments, followed up with corrections when she is finished. Vinnie sits at the breakfast bar and gets his math manipulatives out and we go to work. While he is working, I’m doing dishes, folding laundry, and giving instructions. When he reads or writes, I work on the computer and keep up with bills and family. Sometimes I research on the computer, read ahead in the curriculum, and make my cheat sheets for the braille lessons, while I sit next to Vinnie monitoring his reading. At 10 AM we all take a morning break for snack and bathroom. Lou plays a game with B. when they finish academics and I have Vinnie work a beading project. Finish on a positive note. We break for lunch at about 11:30 to 12:00 depending on how the morning is going. We always eat lunch together. Vinnie and B. are done academics for the day. M. is done when her assignment for the day is done. Vinnie likes to listen to books on tape in the afternoons when he has time. In this way we can plan shopping, appointments, and other things in the afternoons. Evenings are supper and family/individual time.

Vinnie works on math, reading, and writing skills, along with helping around the house with chores. Social studies and science are on hold for now. We use everyday activities, books, and trips for social studies and science. Gardening is science in action. Travel is learning about different areas and cultures. There are many differences from region to region within states. In Maine we have lakes, mountains, ocean, and Canada within a short day trip. There are only so many hours in the day. Choose your priorities!

Our weekly schedule looks like this. Monday through Friday mornings are academics, with Friday as our short day. We try to keep Friday afternoons open. Monday and Wednesday afternoons, the Teacher of the Visually Impaired comes for an hour and a half to work with Vinnie and consult with me. Wednesday afternoon is Physical Therapy day for B. while Vinnie works with his TVI. Thursday afternoon is orientation and mobility instruction. M. goes to the public school on Fridays and volunteers in the library for the afternoon, so she can keep up with social activities at the public school. Every day, except Friday which is a half day has 4 ½ hours of instruction time. We keep all our specialized instruction in the afternoon. That way, mornings flow without interruption. Friday is the day we save for the easiest subjects or for fun stuff, review, and no therapies. It ends school on a positive note to start our weekend.

Our yearly schedule looks like this. We start the day after Labor Day. We try to have down time on Labor Day Weekend with a BBQ on Sunday and NOTHING on Labor Day. We work through until Thanksgiving and take a two-day break. We take the same Christmas Break as the public school. We take Monday holidays in January and February and sometimes a week break in the spring. We don’t have snow days or teacher in-service days. Lou and I do on occasion attend workshops. In that case, the kids would be given modified assignments they could complete on their own. We work in field trips when something of interest comes along. Last fall we went to the Common Ground Fair (organic, agricultural, farming, with focus on sustainable resources). We end our school year Memorial Weekend. For M. who has a regular curriculum, she ends her school year (she can finish earlier if motivated) when she finishes all her subjects.

It all fits together, but not in the way you would expect. The key is consistency. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have flexibility. It means that your child knows what to expect. Our school looks much like the Mr. Potato Head Vinnie made in the picture, but it works for us. Find your own crazy Mr. Potato Head Schedule. It all fits together based on you and your child’s needs. If not, adjust as needed!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to good things ahead!