Seven Habits that Keep Our Homeschool Going

 The Habit of Daily Math: Math isn’t something that is learned in one big lump. It takes a little daily study over a long period of time with much explanation and play with the concepts. I’ve learned a few things about teaching math over these years of home educating. First of all, starting too soon just makes it take longer. Secondly, lessons longer than twenty minutes for younger kids or forty minutes for high school students are long enough as long as the student isn’t dawdling. If there is work left to do after that point, it works well to take a break from math and do another completely different subject before returning to finish up the assignment. Giving the brain a break has prevented many tears around here. I’m not looking for leaps and bounds, but just steady progress.

The Habit of Daily Writing: We all write something almost every day. For me, it is usually a list or a post, notes in my Bible or lines in my commonplace book. For them, right now, they are working in CursiveLogic’s The Art of Cursive book for about fifteen minutes a day and doing copywork, and they typically type something too – if not a typing lesson, then a story or part of an IEW paper or part of a program or an email to a friend or relative. Micah has been known to leave comments on YouTube videos, too. He spends more time writing than his brothers because he has more writing to do for school. He also writes stories in his free time.

The Habit of Daily Reading: Years ago, when I read Teaching the Trivium, my largest take away was to read to and with my children for two hours a day, every day. Between what the boys read to themselves and what I read aloud, we are still at about two hours a day of reading time, plus whatever they do on their own. We probably read a total of an hour together, and they each have at least one hour of school reading spread over the day. I have about thirty minutes of slow reading in the morning and about thirty more of fun reading at night, and other studying in-between. Watching these boys grow in their love of books is one of my favorite things about homeschooling.

 The Habit of Practice: Music isn’t made by magic. It takes dedication and discipline to develop the skill of making beautiful music. Micah is in his fifth year with his violin and first year with a viola, and he practices about an hour and a half a day between the two instruments, plus he tinkers around with this piano and the guitar in his free time. Josiah is a beginning cellist, and he needs to practice about twenty minutes every day. He is working to develop that habit. As for me, I continue as the temporary church pianist for our tiny church, and I do my best to sneak in ten minutes of technique work and ten minutes of song practice… more if there is time or if I get sucked in to helping a boy with his practice.

The Habit of Beauty and Goodness: It seems like the practice of seeking out the lovely in this weird would be easy. In reality, I skipped over poetry and picture study this morning for want of time. We had to get to orchestra practice, and so we hurried through memory work and let the beautiful plans go.  But, I missed it. Tomorrow, I will slip that in and see if we can get the composer listened to also.This habit gives me permission to just enjoy a piece of music, poetry, or art just for its own sake in the middle of a busy morning. My soul needs that breath. I’m not sure that my man-cubs need it like I do, but I know that they absorb more of it than it seems when they are jostling each other for a better look or talking when they are supposed to be listening.

The Habit of Planning Ahead for Beauty: If I didn’t plan ahead for the Beautiful and True, we’d never get to it. I can no longer expect that we will look at art until we can recognize a world like an old friend or listen to a composer until his melodies are familiar if I don’t have a plan to make it happen. We see beauty because I made a plan in the summer, I ordered the books we needed to achieve the plan, and I keep all of the supplies that we need for our artist, composer, poet, and Shakespeare right next to where we do our Council Meeting. The music is on my phone or computer. Painting are chosen and catalogued on the Resource page on the blog for the month. All of the things are at my fingertips. That is how we manage to get some beauty in most days (except for today, when we substituted a hunt for a missing left shoe for looking at Remington’s illustrations.)

The Habit of Planning Ahead for Other Schoolwork: I also plan ahead for copywork and reading assignments and read alouds. That way I can make sure that the books we need for those things are in house and available when we need them. I figure if it is worth assigning, it is probably worth buying. I tend to buy as many of the books for the Ambleside Online year the boys are working on as I can. Since most of them are older books, I often happen on to them at used books fairs or stores. And I decide how much I expect to be read in a week (usually according to Charlotte’s page counts per term, and sometimes adjusting up to allow my bookworms to devour a story I know they will love). I usually do this planning in the summer so that I can start school in August with a good idea of our trajectory for the year. I usually schedule a little more than we can do and wind up dropping a book or two along the way.

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