September completely flew by. It was a month of summer carrying over. A month of new beginnings. A month of adjustments and adaptations. A month of being outside. A month of renewing our rhythm as a family and at home.
At the end of September, I took an inventory of my observations. Armed with my planning journal full of my dailies, I listed what worked and what didn’t. I listed times of the day, days of the week, and times of the month where we fell apart as a family and where we held it together. I analyzed patterns and looked at any correlations with what we were eating, our activity level, our individual energy levels and the weather.
I learned a few things.
Here is a new monthly post I want to share:
20 things I have learned in… (insert month here)
I am trying to pay attention to the rhythms of my family and the changing needs of the 7 of us. Although I am “the teacher,” I think I am the one who learns the most about myself, my children, and our family as we homeschool.
Here is the edited list of 20 things I have learned in September:
1. Outdoor lesson time made the transition to our fall rhythm easier. Doing lessons at our local farmer’s market or on top of a hill helped them re-adjust to their rhythm gently. The sun sometimes warmed them while they did their work.
After a brief hike up the hill, they were all ready to begin their lesson time with me:
2. #5 loves hands-on activities and he is definitely not a morning person. The only times that he feels great in the morning is when he goes out early with Ever-Patient to the track and runs around on it for twenty minutes or when I have something prepared for him to do first thing in the morning like making play dough or bread. If he has to wait for circle time and his “work,” he spends the rest of the morning under my chair like this:
When I have something planned, like this cloud experiment, everything is right with the world…(and this experiment was so much fun that all the kids wanted to play):
3. I still love doing chalkboard drawings. After a summer hiatus from them, I missed drawing them. Although doing 5 separate ones multiple times a week is just not doable. I am limited to about 30 minutes in the early morning to get them done. Now I do one a day and just add to the chalkboard drawings of the week. Each child gets one for their lesson per week. One day, I felt particularly lazy to draw St. George. But as I began sketching it out on the board, #4 woke up and watched me. The look of wonder in her eyes as the picture began to form renewed my resolve and by the end of the drawing, I was loving the process again.
4. My 5:00am morning ritual keeps me sane. I am so dependent on it. Waking up before the kids and being silent for about an hour has been life-changing. I look forward to my 5:00am wake-up. I can’t wait to start writing in my morning pages and meditating on the day ahead. If I was a less-than-patient person the day before, I renew my commitment to trying again that day. I centre myself. Then I come here or write some crappy first drafts for my other commitments.
5. Decaf coffee isn’t that bad. It’s not the greatest but it’s worked wonders for my sleep. I only put 1 scoop of caf to every 3 scoops of decaf in our french press in the morning. And I may have a full decaf Americano some afternoons. But that’s it and I feel better making the change.
6. My homeschooling friends still rock my world. I have known some of these women for many years and others for less than that but they all still amaze me. Whenever there is a challenge I am facing, they help – whether it’s helping out with the kids or trying to help me find a solution. They are always there for support and for understanding. Seeing them each week is another way in which I feel grounded in what we are doing at home.
7. Afternoon romps to the beach or to go hiking did wonders for all of our energy levels.
8. It’s tough to fit writing into a 45-minute time slot each day. I write best in the mornings. This is a problem that I am still working on. I am spent in the afternoons and find that I can only manage reading and tidying at the end of the day. Bits and pieces of writing also don’t work well. I like to hammer out a shitty first draft in one sitting but there is not enough time. I am still figuring out this particular challenge.
9. The children follow my lead. For example, nature art creations were always more interesting for everyone when I was creating something that interested me. I would suggest exploration activities and there would always be a lack-lustre response but when I lead them myself, they are more enthusiastic and would eventually go off on their own. They also follow my lead when it comes to their mood. If I remain upbeat and optimistic, they eventually get there too.
10. Sometimes I need to follow their lead. When I don’t push certain children too hard, they are more receptive to listening to me. When I give them time to feel comfortable greeting the day, they are able to put their energy into learning and being open to new things. This is how the little cloud people were created. I read Little Cloud by Eric Carle to #5 for his “cloud explorations” and #4 wanted to join in the fun and created little cloud people all morning. Armed with glue gun, she came up with great ideas on how to make them. We scrapped lessons that morning because she was just so darn happy doing this and playing with her brother. I just had to roll with it.
11. When all else fails, bust out the paints. Watercolour paints and our art journals have saved me on countless occasions this month.
12. Their aptitudes keep changing. I am constantly surprised when they pick up a skill so easily now when they struggled so badly with it last year. This has been evident in our math lessons. Things like times tables and long division caused many a tear last year but the kids have picked it up so fast this September. This has reminded me to keep introducing things and observing how they learn and which delivery methods work for each.
13. Their appetites have increased a hundred-fold. Some function very poorly on an empty stomach or an inadequate breakfast. I have to make sure we have more than enough food for breakfast and lunch. Snacking is minimal in our house. I suggest water or milk if they are hungry. But lately, I have found their need for more food during mealtime has increased dramatically.
14. I can change their moods through music and baking. We have been playing this pod cast every morning at 8:00am to wake up the children and they love it. Dancing in the morning is a normal sight now. When the kids are doing independent work, they want some happy music to tap their feet to in the background. Baking also works wonders. One child made applesauce while another dried apple rings in the oven. They were in such great moods during and after the baking. One morning, there was a request to make bagels. Making bagels isn’t a short process and the lazy part of me wanted to refuse her but I remembered how baking would do wonders for this child and her mood. We made bagels. As we were kneading the dough together, I was reminded of why I homeschool. For moments like this. For moments when I can change course and be there to witness how the simple act of baking bread can lift my child’s spirit.
15. Poetry produces a profound effect on some of my children, especially as they get older. Reading aloud a piece of poetry just for the sake of hearing the rhythm and beauty of the words that are strung together heals and works on their spirit just like music and baking. I have seen it on more than one occasion. This is #1’s poem/main lesson verse that I chose for her this year that she memorized and recites:
16. Six people doing work on our dining room table is VERY crowded. There is always a fight. A paint splattered on lesson work. An elbow poking someone in the face. A shake = spilt coffee or water. Someone is missing their eraser. I tell them to get another one. Nope. They want their eraser. Solution: Extend the other end of the table.
17. I still love seasonal rituals and festivals. I love our September ritual of going apple picking. I did not have seasonal rituals as a child. My children associate the seasons and the rhythms of the year in the space around them through rituals. There is something about celebrating the season’s bounty with friends too. This time it was especially amazing because we were able to visit our friend’s old orchard where she shared fond memories. (For one of her geography lessons, #3 made a map of the orchard and wrote a little description of the place including a bit of our friend’s story.)
I love celebrating festivals with our friends. The children are getting more involved with the planning process now and performing plays for their friends. We planned a Michaelmas feast/event with another family and invited all of our friends out to the event. We were blessed with a warm Autumn day under the golden canopy of a tree.
#2 decorating the dragon cake to be slew with skewers by our mighty warriors who conquered the obstacle course:
Last minute planning before the guests arrive…
The kids performing their play in the forest…
18. Training and sleep are also essential for my routine. Sleep is better because of lesson #5 on this list. I only get 6-7 hours but it is uninterrupted which is new for me. My 15-20 minutes of training can sometimes seem daunting. The thing that pushes me through, especially in the afternoon when that’s the only time I have to do it, is knowing how great I feel afterwards. My energy skyrockets for the rest of the day and even for the next day. Waking up after only 6-7 hours of sleep is easier too.
19. Some children need to move first thing in the morning while others need to move in the afternoon. I mean, MOVE. My lovely friend, Lara, reminded me how an active thing like going for a family morning walk or yoga pretzels can really do wonders for those children need to get their energy up in a positive way to greet the day. (We are starting that this week. I will let you know next month if it helped.)
20. Through my new planning process, I was able to achieve the goals that I had set out for each child. I was more flexible and less stressed about covering ALL the material. I focused on putting the pieces together of early civilization for #1 and getting her to practice observing the world through journalling. #2 focused on the order and beauty of nature through her geometry lessons. For #3’s geography block, I focused on her feeling grounded in her home and in her “world” by mapping her favourite places and new places we visited, like the orchard. But I also wanted her to write about the story of each place – what that land means to her and the people on it. For #4, we focused on courage and strength to conquer challenges in her Saints block. She related to St. Michael in every way. For #5, I wanted to focus on play and exploration outdoors but he didn’t like my themes. He was lukewarm about his opening week cloud theme. I had a dragon book that I used for #4’s St. George story and he immediately gravitated to the theme of dragons so I switched it up and scrapped my apple theme.
I have new goals for the month of October as we start new block lessons: #1 – Physics/English; #2 – Physics; #3 – Norse Mythology; #4 – Fables; #5 – Fall Harvest/Animals. This week is our wrap-up week and a new planning session for me as I read through all the material and choose what I want to cover based on the goals I have for each of them.
There were challenges this month which mostly had to do with morning transitions that we are still working on but now I feel like we are settled in. Settled into this new school year. Settled into our rhythms. Settled into the season.
How was your September?