We will be starting our very first school year in just two short weeks, and I'm still really struggling with trying to find a schedule that will work well for us. My biggest obstacle is realizing that no matter how perfectly I may plan our days, life is bound, at some point, to get in the way. However, I would like to establish at least a rhythm that is comfortable and easy to follow, so much so that it becomes second nature to all of us as we progress through the year. One thing that really struck me yesterday is that I've been so focused all this time on the thought that "school" needs to take place in the mornings...meaning, that all of our sit down work should be accomplished before noon. That was very overwhelming to think about, because all of my kids wake up so energized every morning and just don't stop. But I seem to have forgotten that one aspect of homeschooling that really appealed to me in the beginning was the fact that we can tailor our time frame to what works for us.
So yesterday, deviating from the schedule I've been battling for weeks, I decided to try something different. And guess what? It worked out beautifully. After completing our morning chores, I made the unprecedented decision to allow the kids free time playing outside, while I got some work done in the yard. Usually I like to keep them indoors until afternoon, because they get (as children are known to do), so filthy. But the morning was just so gorgeous, it seemed a real shame to waste a single second being cooped up inside. Oh, it was wonderful! Given free reign with the garden hose, they made a mud lake in which they delighted in rolling around, established routes and duties for their Tonka tractors, gave all of their ride-on toys a good "car wash", played on the swing set, adopted a family of earth worms... and I trimmed up the garden, pulled some weeds, took some photographs, and just really focused on enjoying my time with them out in the yard. After an hour or two, I rounded them up, stripped them down, and stuck them in the bathtub, restoring them to their lovely lavender scented, freshly scrubbed pink selves. By then it was time for lunch, which my usually picky eaters devoured in record time, and after which Meghan immediately fell asleep for a nice, long, afternoon nap. It all just felt so nice.
So here's the schedule I'm loosely devising in my mind. I think, ideally, it might look something like this:
5:00-6:30: Mommy/Daddy time (getting ready, having coffee and breakfast, starting morning chores, computer time).
6:30-8(ish): Breakfast with the kids, Bible story/morning prayers, getting ready, and finishing morning chores.
8(ish)-10:30: Outside playtime. I would really like to continue taking advantage of the cool, bright mornings that are so lovely this time of year. And there is so much exploring to be done outside, which was a component I relied heavily upon in planning our science lessons.
10:30-11:30: Bath time. (Yes. It takes me a really loooong time to bathe all three kids by myself. But that's okay. They love bath time. And actually, so do I.)
11:30-12:30: Lunch time, tidy-up time.
12:30-2:30: Meghan's nap time, and (finally!) lessons for the day. I'm thinking it might be easiest to use this quiet period for working with Dylan on more focused, one-on-one lessons, such as math, language arts, and science. (It would also be a good time for any planned art or craft projects!) Caitlyn has many quiet games and activities she can also enjoy during this time, such as workbooks, drawing, puzzles, lacing beads, alphabet cards, and blocks.
2:30-3:30: Tea time. My kids are always ready for a snack by this time, so I'd love to make it a habit to enjoy "tea" together with tasty treats and drinks and good read-alouds. I think it would be fun to enjoy seasonal books for this time, or perhaps it will be the time of day in which we enjoy our Little House on the Prairie books, or I may decide to make this our poetry time. Obviously, there are a number of lovely things we can enjoy here!
3:30-4:30: Free time for the kids, afternoon chores for me (laundry, tidying the house, simple dinner prep, and making myself pretty for Darren!)
Darren is usually home by 4:30, so after that it's free time! Dinner, playing with Daddy, bedtime routine, and evening chores (like Jennie, I take comfort in readying myself for the next day, as much as possible, on the night before.)
I may be deluding myself to think that things can actually flow as simply as this, but all the same, it makes me so happy to think about how potentially wonderful our days might be this fall. And, when I looked out through my back door this morning and saw this serene scene--small shoes left to dry on the picnic table after being hosed down yesterday, Darren's forgotten coffee cup resting beside them from this morning--framed by the branches of my beautiful roses, through which pure golden sunlight was streaming...my heart, like my garden, was warmed by the glow.