Start Slow and Loop
The very first question I get asked when I tell someone I am homeschooling is what curriculum am I using. I know they are trying to engage and ask questions to better understand our decision, but I've often wondered why this is such a huge thing in the homeschooling world.
With my background in teaching, I feel I have a good grasp on what academics are taught in each grade, and where my own two children are academically. I taught kindergarten, second grade, and fifth grade. I also have some curriculum from all of these years that I can lean into, if needed. Luckily my two children are going into kindergarten and second grade, so I know what is expected in a public school setting for academics. I can understand why families depend on specific curriculum if they do not have a background in education. There are so many things we feel we "have" to cover in the school year. We don't want our children to be behind. Yes, even homeschooling moms feel this struggle. But isn't that the beauty of homeschooling? We get the freedom and flexibility to decide what to teach and when.
When I began brainstorming my desires for our school year and what I wanted to focus on, I was overwhelmed. There is curriculum, schedules, play dates, field trips, and more to figure out. I second guessed myself and thought, "should I purchase a curriculum?". I wanted to start putting a schedule together, and deciding what days we'll go to the library, coffee shops, etc. It took me over a month to even begin to write down ideas because I could not organize my thoughts.
Things started to come into focus when I began reading. Reading is the vessel that inspires me, gives me ideas, and allows my brain to dream. I began reading Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. This book came to me from a few different avenues, so I knew it was a must read. The main reason we began homeschooling was because I felt like every day was a race to the finish. Race out of the house to work and school. Race to pick up the kids. Then off to sports or dinner and baths, then to bed. Every day felt so rushed and unintentional. I wanted to slow down, rest, and intentionally pour into my children and family.
When I began reading Teaching from Rest, that is when my ideas and schedules began to flow. I knew I didn't want to be set to a specific schedule each day because things happen, we get sick, attitudes come and go, mom is tired or needs to run errands, we need/want to travel, etc. The idea of Looping Schedules was shared in this book. The idea of looping is when you a list of tasks and then tackle them in order, regardless of what day it is. It's not about squeezing it all into your day. You simply go down that list of 3-5 tasks/subjects/lessons and do 1 that day or when you're able that week. Then onto the next task the next day/week.
I started by making a list of must do's or a non-negotiable. I did this while I taught in public school, knowing the research and best teaching practices. There are things that must be taught, like phonemic awareness skills to build a strong foundation for reading and writing. I wrote out tasks for a phonics looping schedule (I have an eager reader and one who needs some refreshing), reading looping schedule, a writing looping schedule, and one for math. Then I wrote out a list for each of my children. This specific looping schedule is for their interests such as video making, art, outdoors, drawing, etc. Once these were written out I felt a sense of relief. These looping schedules have my must do's, but I am not tied to them every day. If I were, we would be doing school for 5-7 hours and I can already tell you the attitudes and exhaustion would eat us alive.
We are also starting slow. Once I made these looping schedules, I started adding 1 task from a specific looping schedule into our day. For example, I want to do 2 read aloud's a day, so one day this week, each child picked out a book and we read it together. Simply 1 task a day. This way I could try it out and see if it worked and if my children were interested in it. By starting slow, this will allow me to see what works and what doesn't, and not feel overwhelmed by trying to do it all. Everything I am doing, I am taking back to my initial desire to find and practice rest, to slow down and be intentional.
So, back to my original thought... is your curriculum putting you into a box? Is it allowing flexibility and room to follow your child's interests? Can you take something off your plate to make things less stressful? How can you add in more flexibility and rest into your day?
Moms and dads, or whoever may homeschool, I'm in this with you. Start slow, and think about looping, if you want. Schedule in rest. Be intentional, and give yourself grace. I'm here earning right alongside you.
If you would like my sample Looping Schedule, please send me an email and I will send it over.