The thing that as helped me the most in these early years has been establishing learning routines. There are things that everyone does every day, no matter what. Eating meals comes to mind. I began by pegging my learning routines to things that were already established routines in our home. The After-Breakfast routine of scripture, singing, and prayer was the first routine, and happened every day after breakfast starting when our children were tiny. The Bedtime Reading routine was added when our oldest was about two or three. Then a couple of years later came the Poetry Teatime routine. Later still, we added our Lesson Time routine to the end of Poetry Teatime. Having these routines in place as I've been using Ambleside Online has given me a place to plug in what seemed an enormous feast of learning, and it has not been as overwhelming as it might have been if I had had to set it all in place at once.
Sometimes we homeschool moms have a tendency to read blogs and check Pinterest out. When we do, we find so many wonderful ideas! We want to do them ALL. We want to do them NOW. We start today with several of them, and are discouraged when some of the good ideas don't stick, or when we find we've dropped two or three of them after a few weeks. We compare ourselves to people who seem to be doing it all, and we forget that nobody does it all, especially not all at once!
I want to encourage you to slow down. Yes, you can implement all the wonderful ideas. But take some time to build them into your life. Lay a foundation of the most important things. Set them into your day as a "this is what we do every day no matter what." When that routine is solid as a rock, choose some other important things to add. Once you have some foundational learning routines in place, you will have a place to add the wonderful ideas you come across on Pinterest, and they will stick for as long as you want them to.
The After-Breakfast Routine
This routine has always been in place in our home. My boys call it “Read-and-sing-and-pray.” We read a passage from the Bible, we sing a hymn, we pray together. When SA(7) was about five or six, I began to add to this, and it became a “Circle Time” of sorts. First I added a Bible passage to memorize, then later (in Year 1) I added his Bible narration. This year (his Year 2) I added a reading from Pilgrim’s Progress as well.
The Poetry Tea Time Routine
This routine began sometime when SA was five and JJ was three. In the beginning, I set the table with tea and snacks every day, and we read poetry. The end. They loved it. Over time, I’ve grown more lax with the tablecloth and tea every day…I discovered that they don’t really love tea so much now that the novelty has worn off, and that tablecloth got spilled on Every. Single. Day. However, we do still always sit down at the table with our snacks and drinks and poetry books at about 10:00 or 10:30. It’s our signal for the school day to begin. (I am hoping to do better with the tablecloth and hot drinks again this year... So far so good.) Starting last year we have done poetry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with art appreciation on Tuesdays and music appreciation on Thursdays. I have added other things to this time as well at different times --instruction in sol-fa, French, drawing --in short, any learning I’d like to do together as a family.
If you've been reading around the internet about "Circle Time" and "Morning Time" or even "Morning Basket" you will notice that the two routines I just mentioned are our "Circle Time." We have found that dividing it in two like this is a very practical option when children are young and have a hard time sitting still.
This routine began when SA was five with a short reading lesson and a short math lesson or game immediately after our Poetry Teatime. In Year One, it expanded to include math, two readings with narration, copywork, and piano practice. Now in Year Two, the readings with narration have become slightly longer (20 minutes each), and we've added an independent reading and narration (this one is still short at 10 minutes). I have also added some time this year with JJ(5) for reading instruction and math, and for reading aloud to him.
With little children in the house, sometimes it's hard to do lessons at the same time every day. I have found that it helps to have a lesson time routine in which you do your lessons in a certain order, no matter what time you manage to start. That way, the children can at least develop an expectation of how much work there is to do daily.
The Bedtime Reading Routine
The bedtime routine is very simple. The boys get ready for bed, and my husband or I read to them for about twenty minutes. There is no narration, no expectation of anything from them. This routine is completely for the enjoyment of books together as a family. In the beginning, I always did the reading, but lately my husband has begun to read as well when he's home on time. I often choose from the Ambleside Online "Free Reads" for this purpose, while my husband tends to choose more widely.
These are the routines we've built in our family so far. I know our routines will continue to change as the children grow older. I expect that your routines will look different than mine. I truly believe that the important thing (if you want them to last!) is to build them one at a time, not all at once.
P.S. I'm still hopeful that someday I will manage to find a cleaning routine that works for me... (Just a little reminder that I don't have it all together, despite these routines that are working well!!!)
P.P.S. I apologize that I've been so quiet lately...my internet is still not working consistently. Now that I have Word on my computer I'm hoping I'll be able to write there and just copy, paste, and post in moments the internet is working. Still, it's a challenge, so I'll just do the best I can under the circumstances.