Friday, July 8, 2011

Classical Conversations at Home, Re-Visited

Oftentimes others wonder how I manage my school days at home with three young boys, AND with my husband away from home (out of the country!) half the time, AND without any other relatives that can drop by to help every now and then.  Because I get this question often from non-homeschoolers, other homeschoolers, and Classical Conversations parents, I thought I'd re-visit this topic once again, since we're slightly adjusting our schedule from last year.  For those wondering how we used Classical Conversations last year in our home, see our previous post on Classical Conversations at Home.

A little background:
God called us to homeschool our children in 2009 after Stephen completed his Kindergarten year in public school.  I had no plans to homeschool until then (read our story here).  But God has proven faithful and has taught ME more in the past two years than I ever learned in the first thirty-something years of my life.  One thing I have found is that when/whom God calls, He equips.  It's been a fun & exciting journey, even if it's not always the easiest road to travel!  I wouldn't trade these precious moments for anything in this world!

Again, I say:  Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Our schedule on a Utopian Day Re-visited:

We split up our days into 1-hour increments.  We do this simply for organization.  As soon as the boys finish their work for that time period, they take a break for the remainder of that time period.  Even though it says, "8AM-9AM," we take at least a 10-minute break before going to the next hour.  Anything they don't finish during that time period is assigned as "homework" at the end of the day.  Over the course of our day, our two-year-old will be completing coloring pages, cut-and-paste sheets, or other activities out of his special "school's in session" box.

To be honest, this is not usually how our homeschool days look.
8AM-9AM:  Morning Routine
  • "Time for your Morning Routine."  The boys know this means to get dressed, brush their teeth, comb their hair, make their beds, and sit at the table for breakfast. 
  • Bible Devotion & Prayer:  While we eat breakfast, we read a Bible devotion.  This year, we will read out of the Book of Virtues and the Bible. 
  • Bible Activity:  Boys clear table after breakfast and complete Bible activity (game, mini-book, lapbook component, craft, copywork) if time is available.
9AM-10AM:  Memory Work: This is the only subject where we might not take a break afterwards because we are up and running around playing the majority of the time.
  • We sing along with our memory-work songs for new memory work and practice the timeline from Creation up to the current week's memory work using hand-motions.
  • Maps - Draw/Trace outline of continents (and states for our geography-lover).  Practice outline of United States (for Cycle 3).  Show me (where they point to the location I say) and tell me (where they tell me the name of what I'm pointing at) for Geography up to present day. 
  • Play games or complete activities to review previous weeks' memory work.
We have a tri-fold board with page protectors, in which
we place our memory work visuals for each week.
10AM-11AM:  Math
  • Manipulatives/Calendar.  Our third grader will likely assist in teaching his little brother his lessons because he gets easily distracted by the "fun" Kindergarten stuff. 
  • Lesson.  This is a reason why I like Saxon.  Because each lesson builds upon previous knowledge, our third grader can read through the lesson, complete what he knows, and then ask me questions when he gets stumped.  He tells me what he did or did not understand, which also teaches him to ask questions when he doesn't know something.  I only officially teach math to him when needed, and it usually clicks REALLY fast with him.  Now, he will also be interested in helping our kindergartner, and I will allow him to do so with supervision because it will re-inforce the early math skills as well (and provide our kindergartner with the attention he so desperately desires from his big brother).
  • Math games, flashcards, etc.  (We may do this before the lesson or after, depending upon the following two questions:  does it need to be used as a reward/incentive for completion of work? or does it need to be used to set the mind in gear for math?)
11AM-12PM:  Language Arts: Reading & Penmanship
  • Reading: Read-alouds by me (or our third grader).  These are advanced books that the boys will listen to me read or our third grader will read aloud with help from Mom if needed.  Boys will  narrate what we've read to check for comprehension.
  • Reading:  Picture books.  We pile onto the couch to read a few picture books together. 
  • Penmanship, copywork, spelling or dictation practice as I prepare lunch. 

1PM-2PM:  Language Arts (English Grammar & Writing)
  • Phonics Road to Reading Lesson for kindergartner. 
  • IEW and Essentials for 3rd Grader.
  • Latin lesson from Latin's Not So Tough or copywork (if time).
2-3PM:  Other Subjects
  • For Cycle 3, we will be completing a homemade "My USA Notebook" that consists of Crayola Coloring Pages and notebooking/penmanship/activity pages.  We plan to complete 1-2 state coloring pages per day (for Cycle 3).  Our two-year-old will also have a "My USA Notebook," though this is the time he usually goes down for a nap. 
  • Draw Write Now sketchbook/journal entry correlated to history topic for that week.
  • While coloring/drawing, boys listen to audio programs or audiobooks based on the history of the United States.
  • Subject focus for each day is as follows:
Presentation Prep
Puzzle books
Nature Study 
(This is our CC Meeting day)
Art & Music
Science Study & Experiments Lapbooking
  • Each day of the week is assigned a subject focus.  For example, after completing their daily work for the "My USA Notebook," on Wednesdays they will also have a special activity for Art or Music.  While the boys will likely practice music or art almost every day of the week, I've set aside Wednesdays as our days to really focus on Art & Music.  We may create a lapbook or craft that goes with the topics we're studying for that subject in Classical Conversations.  If we don't have anything special for that subject for that week, we have many additional Bible crafts and games that we can complete.
After 3PM: Finish anything we didn't complete

We listen to audio cds of our memory work in the car, and we also listen to stories quite a bit using audiobooks or old time radio programs.  It not only gives us more information surrounding that which we are memorizing, it also trains them to listen.  Not many people can do that very well (including me!).

An unreadable glimpse at my not-so-complete planner.  Some things are just easier to do by hand.

Now maybe I will finally get around to planning out resources we will use week-by-week.  As a side note, there are many things I'd like to do, and I plan as if we will be able to do them, but I also let reality come into play as I'm provided many opportunities to "Let go and let God."  The goal is to instill a love of God and a love of learning in my children.  I can't do that if I'm a tyrant trying to stay on schedule.  We have tons of games in our home that allow us to review topics from math to Bible.  When my actual plans go south, it really is great to have a fun back-up plan.  :)


  1. These posts are awesome!! So very helpful, keep them coming! :) Question? We are doing Saxon 2 this year...I found the workbooks cheap at a used book sale. Do you think I need to buy the teachers book? It looks like we can work through it independantly, but I wasn't sure. I don't follow the day to day say what the page says, we just do it and practice with games and other things.

  2. I'm so glad that CC posted the link to this post. It appears that I'm a couple years behind you--my boys are 5 1/2, 3 1/2, and 7 months. We did CC with our oldest last year and are looking forward to having both of the older two enrolled this year. Your post makes so much sense to me. I love the idea of having the older brother teach the younger brother math--next year when my boys are 2nd grade and kindergarten I might try that! Thanks for sharing! :)

  3. I'm so excited to start with my preschooler this year! I also have a 2 yo and a 2 month old (he'll be 5 months when we start CC). This seems to make classical education do-able. I really appreciate your post and the organization you have. Thanks for sharing your experiences - very encouraging!

  4. This is SOOOOO helpful to us newbies who are still trying to wrap our heads around how to do this homeschooling thing!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  5. Hi Brandy...your site completely amazes me! You are so humble! I have a ? about your schedule above (weekly one you are typing out). What program do you use? I would love to get my hubby to help me create one like that. I esp. like the subjects on the side. I don't know how to do was curious in what type of program you use to create it? Blessings!! Dana :)

  6. I use excel for it but am modifying it quite a bit because I work better with the bigger picture of what we're doing across the entire week instead of day-by-day. (I keep trying to fit a square peg into a round hole!) I'll email you a copy of our daily planner pages to see if it's something you can use. And thank you for your question and your compliments!

  7. I just want to thank you for blessing me. I have been really stressed and overwelmed these past few weeks. We are finishing up our first year in CC (Kindergarten). Your planning makes it seem more realistic and do-able. Reading your posts has been an answered prayer. I really wanted to add in some unit studies and just have a little fun. I can't wait to see your posts on cycle 1. I am starting to plan. Again Thank you!

  8. This is the verse the Lord gave me when he called me to begin homeschooling in 2010.

    Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

    ENCOURAGED. Thank you.