One of the few constants of homeschooling is that there’s a need for trial and error to find a schedule that works for your family.  Every family is different with different needs and situations.  Just because it works for one family doesn’t mean it will work for another.  I’ve gone through a lot of curricula and schedules trying to find our family’s groove.  This year, I’ve FINALLY found it. There will always be little tweaks for us but the overall framework is here to stay.

My big boys REALLY like our timeline (daily schedule above) but I find it depends on our situation at the time whether or not I can keep up with it.  (Toddlers like to pull down the cards.  If I put it somewhere where the toddlers can’t get to it, then it’s not easy for me to access and I tend to forget about it.)

The routine we have going right now worked phenomenally this past semester and I plan to keep it for the long term.

In the morning, the boys have daily independent work that needs to be completed before lunch.  I have it taped to the wall as a reminder.

Morning Work: Math

We use Aleks (It’s geared for 3rd grade and up) and ixl

Morning Work: Reading

1 hour silent reading


Morning Work: Writing Skills

Handwriting, Spelling, Sentence Structure, Stories, Research, etc.

Morning Work: Lumosity

These video games are based on the science of neuroplasticity

Morning Work: Prayer

This semester, the boys are using a prayer rope and saying the Jesus Prayer in their room

Morning work posted on wall

When I was student teaching, my mentor teacher (who was a 1st grade teacher) had gradually taught her students to do independent work while she worked with a reading group.  She added one new task to their timeline of tasks on the bulletin board each Monday.  This was the inspiration for the variations on the timelines I’ve done with my kids over the years and for getting the big boys to do independent work now in the mornings.  It takes some training and patience – but it’s well worth the investment.  An additional benefit is that you don’t have to constantly ask, “Did you start your work?” or “Did you finish your math?” or any other variation.  They know they have to get these tasks done before lunch (which means they’ve handed to me, I’ve graded it, and they’ve made their corrections).  My early risers can start when they get up and then have free time before lunch.  My late risers know they need to allow themselves enough time to get their work done before lunch but they don’t have to get up as early as the others.  It has worked beautifully for us.

For Math: Aleks grades the work for you and it’s really self-guided for the child.  It will explain problems to the kids, give them tests, and give a detailed report to the parents.  It’s really a nice program.  We used it for Niki as well.  The only down side to this program is that the child really needs to be a strong reader before they can use it.

We started using ixl for Justin this year.  It’s working really well for his needs.

For Reading: This was an epic battle for us a few years ago.  The fact that they can read at all today is a success worth celebrating.  Two of my big boys don’t enjoy reading…at all.  One of them will gobble up books that pull him in and I won’t see him for hours when he finds a good chapter book.  The other two, well…they’ve been known to sit next to me staring at a book for long periods of time without reading a single word.  They may or may not turn an occasional page to make it seem like they are reading.  Some kids are readers, some are not. I can’t force them to read to themselves but I’ll at least try to entice them to read.

For Writing: This has been another struggle but not as bad as the civil war over reading and math.  The key for my boys (and in light of knowing they have fetal alcohol effects, it makes perfect sense) is to give them small chunks at a time.  I generally give them 5 spelling words a day.  They have to write the word 3 times each (repetition is critical with them), their handwriting counts, and they have to use each word in a sentence.  They’ve come a long way with this one but it was slow moving.  Children with fetal alcohol effects cannot transfer information from one situation to the next.  In light of this new information, I understand now why I wasn’t able to successfully have the boys write stories or book reports without it looking like I’d never taught them sentence structure.  This next semester, I’m going to be working on paragraph structure and writing in other situations beyond spelling sentences.

Lumosity: I specifically went ahead and got the family subscription for this in light of the knowledge of the boys having brain damage.  There really is not much you can do to fix it but I figure if I even have the slightest of chances to help them in some capacity to strengthen or re-route connections in their brains, then I’m going to go for it!  They love it and it gives me a glimpse at their brain’s abilities through their scores in different areas.

Prayer: I purposely made it simple and I don’t strongly monitor this one.  I don’t want it to be something that’s forced upon them and they resent it.  I want them to learn that prayer is about a personal relationship with God in addition to all the praying that happens in a group setting.  I have the prayer ropes hanging next to our family altar and while I will notice out of the corner of my eye when they take a prayer rope to say their prayers, I don’t ask them if they’ve done it.  I’m a strong believer in subtly modeling prayer but not shoving it down their throats.  I guess we’ll see how I did when they are all grown.

These are the areas that I consider foundational.  Everything else is built upon these so I have my kids do them daily.  (I would add manners to this as well.)

In the afternoon, we work on a daily theme.  This past semester, we worked on:

Monday Afternoon Theme:

Life Skills

Tuesday Afternoon Theme:

North American Saints

Wednesday Afternoon Theme:

Map Skills

Thursday Theme

Liturgy and Co-op

Friday Afternoon Theme

Living in God’s Creation

Saturday Theme

Exploring Our City

For Life Skills: Anything that will aid them in independent living as adults – washing their own clothes, simple cooking skills, using money, etc.

For North American Saints: We used the activity packet provided here as a foundation. We also did research on the Internet and labeled a map of Alaska and the United States.  The OCA religious ed department has a lot of resources on their website.

For Map Skills: How to read and use a map: exploring the city we live in, where to find our favorite animals at the zoo, the route we’ll take driving to grandma and grandpa’s house, etc.

For Liturgy and Co-op: Our parish has liturgy every Thursday (partly for the benefit of those of us who homeschool and thus structure our week to include it) and then we went to a co-op in the afternoon

For Living in God’s Creation: This is a broad topic but this semester I focused primarily on botany – identifying plants in our neighborhood, at the local botanical garden, at our local nature reserve, experimenting with natural dyes, and forest forensics.

For Exploring Our City: We didn’t do this every Saturday but we did many times throughout the semester.  We explored our local library, museums, parks, and local points of interest.