We have officially started our 2020-2021 school year. It takes a few weeks to get back into our school day rhythm. The girls and I look forward to the structure that school gives our days. During the COVID pandemic, much of our calendar has been in flux. We have had plenty of events canceled or rescheduled. There is consistency and predictability that the school year brings and our family was more than ready to embrace our school routine.
Our first day of school was refreshing, energizing, and exciting. My girls love thumbing through their new school books, cracking open fresh notebooks, and diving into new experiments. I was encouraged to hear them express how they were eager to be starting school and ready to take on new challenges.
We are exploring countries and cultures this year as I detailed in my post on homeschool curriculum. The girls’ creativity is already flowing as they look forward to planning fun menus, researching the culture, and learning about what life looks like in other countries for children their age.
Each school day has a natural flow. At times, all of the girls are gathered reading and learning the same material while other times each one is working independently. I use our school day rhythm to manage our time, keep a steady pace, and work one-on-one with each of my girls.
Truth. Goodness. Beauty. These are three attributes that I want to instill in my girls. After being part of the homeschool community for the last eight years, these are the three character traits that keep rising to the forefront. My personality naturally bends towards accomplishing, achieving, challenging, and striving. I do not see any of those things as bad in themselves, but as a teacher, I want to create an atmosphere that appreciates nature, art, music, literature, alongside the rigors of core subjects.
Cultivating appreciation for the arts requires me to slow the pace of our school day rhythm. I have learned that I need to plan in moments that give more space for noticing, appreciating, savoring, and cherishing learning experiences.
Here are the moments in our school day rhythm that help us be present, attentive, and connected.
Every day starts with Morning Time which I first heard about through Pam Barnhill. Morning Time starts right at 8:30 am after the girls are dressed and ate breakfast. The girls and I gather on the couch and start our day with the subjects that they have in common. Right now in our Morning Time Basket we have:
- Bible Study
- Window into the World
- Read Aloud
- Picture Books specific to the country we are studying
Morning Time is a way for us to start our day together. I want to create a warm, welcoming environment where we ease into our school day. All of my girls enjoy listening to books being read aloud so it is a perfect way for us to start our day.
The girls take turns reading out loud as well. It is beneficial for them to read our government and science books since non-fiction can be more challenging to read aloud. They are deciphering difficult vocabulary words that are not used frequently in fiction. This practice has increased their fluency, expression, and annunciation while reading.
During this time of the day, each girl is able to contribute to discussions and ask questions. They are able to learn from one another and challenge each other’s thinking and understanding about a particular subject. I value a student-centered environment where the girls are able to think critically and bounce ideas off of one another.
Morning Time sets the tone for our day. As a type-A personality, this daily school day rhythm helps me focus on the importance of being intentional and present as their teacher not just checking off the list of subjects completed.
To create an experience for the girls to cherish the beauty of art, we started incorporating tea time into our homeschool week. A few years ago, we celebrated Poetry Tea Time once a week. I would pull out all of our poetry books and check out a few new ones from the library, the girls would set the table with fancy teacups + a centerpiece, and we would take turns reading poetry aloud. It was simple, quick, and meaningful.
Over the years, this poetry tea time has grown and developed into quite the production. Each girl is baking up a special treat that is meaningful to a particular theme. Since our curriculum is highlighting a different country weekly, we have decided to create our tea times around the culture we are studying. This started during the summer because we had more time to research recipes, plan, gather ingredients, and bake. Tea time extends the girls’ learning and encourages them to try new food from around the world.
Our tea times have not always been centered on poetry. These are the resources I used to spur on our appreciation of the arts:
- A Child’s Introduction to the Orchestra
- A Child’s Introduction to Art
- A Child’s Introduction to Poetry
- 101 Hymn Stories
- Folk Songs
I am a nature lover at heart so it does not take much to convince me to take my girls on a hike or explore the outdoors. However, after hearing Kristin Rogers speak at a homeschool convention on Nature Journaling, I felt like this would be a fantastic way to make our hikes more meaningful.
I do not see myself as an artist so to enable the girls to be successful, I stocked up on nature books, watercolors, and journals. I purchased a 14 week Nature Journal Course and the girls began documenting their discoveries when we spent time outside. It was time that we set aside each week to notice, pause while we were outdoors, take in our surroundings, and observe the details of creation.
Nature journaling encouraged us to appreciate the beauty all around us and not take it for granted. Even in our backyard, the girls would notice a bird that they wanted to sketch, so we would look up videos by John Muir Laws, a naturalist who encourages curiosity, wonder, and attention to nature to more accurately draw the bird.
Throughout our school week, it is important to slow our pace and enjoy the beauty that is learning. I value reading and being challenged by home educators who are different than I am. Finding the community of homeschoolers at Wild + Free has helped me treasure the small things, adjust our school day rhythm to a slower pace, and cherish the girls’ childhood.
We have found a school day rhythm for our family that ebbs and flows between rigor + challenge and curiosity + wonder. Since the girls have the knowledge and ability to effectively communicate it makes our times of noticing richer. When we are observing nature and the girls recall studying that particular ecosystem, plant life, or animal, it makes their nature journal detailed and complete.
Tea time and nature study are not planned into our weekly school rhythm. The year we began tea time it was in our weekly schedule likewise with nature journaling. Now, we use them as afternoon activities that extend our learning in a particular area. I see a lot of tea times in this school year as we travel around the world through our books.
How to you incorporate curiosity and wonder into your school day rhythm?
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