A Day in the Life @ Green Acres Homeschool

I wake up to my alarm. It’s not set that early: 7:30am. I hit snooze none the less and pray myself into a doze. Then roll out of my warm bed to the cold floor as the alarm sings prettily its second time. Two kids sleep deeply in my bed. The one year old and three year old found their way to me in the night. I sneak out of the room in the dark.

The hot water kettle boils and I make a strong tea. Then start the porridge for the kids. At 8:30am I rouse the boys. They would sleep another hour if I didn’t. I’m glad I could let them sleep this late. The school bus went by an hour ago for the country school 20 minutes away. I let the girls sleep later. They are only preschool and kindergarten.

While the boys eat their breakfast I go outside to feed and water the assortment of hobby farm animals we have. I really enjoy this time as the fresh air fully wakes me up and I get some extra mental preparation & prayer time before tackling the day ahead with the children. Plus it’s quite fun having turkeys gobbling morning greetings at you and puppies jumping all ’round your feet begging for a loving pat.

Back inside, I make another tea, scoop up the now awake baby from my room, and head downstairs with my boys to our schoolroom ~ a 12′ x 20′ room with two large basement windows looking out the front of the house, an electric fireplace to take off the winter chill, desks for all the students {children} & the teacher {myself} and walls covered in alphabet cards, number cards, learning posters, charts, maps and artwork. I love our schoolroom. It feels like a little old fashioned school house, but decorated to the nines. We even have a little bell we ring for recess.

My 8 year old son is in third grade. He’s a natural academic. He pulls his books from his desk and starts his lessons for the day, which he has mostly planned for himself, without being asked. My 7 year old pulls a random animal encyclopedia off the shelf and camps on his rocking stool at his own desk. He is in second grade but I am using a mix of curriculum for him from grade 1 to 4. In public school I believe he would have a difficult time and likely be labeled as ADHD. Hence, the rocking stool instead of a desk. And his cup of tea. And the jar of his own already-been-broken-in-half-and-chewed pencils. He’s not allowed to pull new pencils from the teacher’s jar or sharpen his own pencils ~ it would turn into a shaving-making-event with no pencil left over. He sits nearest the fireplace because heat makes him more calm and he’s furthest from the other children and the distractions of their activities. After giving him twenty minutes to browse the animal encyclopedia I ask him to pull out his favorite subject. It’s science. He’s doing a full course studying the human body rated grade 3-6. Because he’s interested, he gets through this work easily on his own. He listens to the audio CD version of the textbook while coloring the plates for the chapter and simultaneously following along in the text.

An hour into the morning the girls {ages 3 & 5} show up. I have a short train table set up with toddler attractions like a spinning letter wheel, large-piece wooden puzzles, and a doors ‘n’ latches board for the baby. The one year old amuses herself wandering back and forth across the room, snatching markers and pencils from her siblings desks and exploring the table of tot attractions. My preschooler pulls out her story book and asks me to read with her. The kindergartner pulls out a coloring book and starts on a fresh page.

Between 1030am and 11am I ring the little bell. The children jump from their desks and shout, “Recess!” Then they rush the snack basket which is full of granola bars, fruit gummies, mini cheezie bags and the like. They love their recess snack. I reorganize my thoughts and the stacks of lessons on my desk for the second grade boy, kindergarten and preschool girls. The baby is getting fussy. After a diaper change I wrap her in a blanket and walk her around in the room as she gets dozey.

One of the kids snags the chance to ring the bell for ending recess {recess is anywhere from ten to thirty minutes depending on if we started school on time, I didn’t get the outside chores done and need to do them now, or we want to finish school early. Usually we stick to 15 minutes}. If anyone doesn’t show up immediately, he or she will have multiple siblings yelling at them. I keep an eye on the third grader. By 1130am he starts to stall so I try to prompt him once in a while to keep at it. Second grade is done science so I hand him a page each of phonics and spelling. We learned last year that giving him the whole book was distracting. He would be constantly looking ahead or back or drawing pictures on page edges. One page on the desk at a time, two tops, keeps him on track. He likes today’s lesson: write an imaginary story. I give him my phone with the “Spell It” app on it so he doesn’t ask me every second word how to spell something. He aces all his spelling tests. I don’t get it. But he works away on his story and calls out to read it to me only fifteen minutes later.

Meanwhile, the baby has gotten sufficiently dozey so I go lay her down in the playpen and return with another tea. I hand more preschool worksheets out and get the kindergartner working on her reading and phonics pages. The first days of the week she drags her heels. This is a “Monday” so I get her to come to my desk and stand beside me as we talk through the exercises. I keep the eraser in hand and do the erasing for her when a letter or number comes out backwards. She’s very bright in both reading and math – a natural academic like my first boy. It’s fun to hear her read. Even on days when she mumbles it out. We struggle a bit to get moving forward on the math sheets, but after a few kinder-manipulated tears and a pep talk, we get there.

The preschooler has her worksheets done and asks for puzzles. She will happily spend the rest of the morning doing puzzle after puzzle at her desk. I have a LOT of puzzles stashed! Kindergarten gets another reminder to focus on her math pages and I move on to my second grader. He’s done everything but math. This is where he stalls. Saving his math lesson until the end of the morning gives me the chance to get the other children and my marking done. {Although some days he asks to tackle it first thing and gets through it by recess}. Now I try to focus on him exclusively. He knows how to do the work and can do it quite well, but his mind struggles with staying on task. At least every second question I am prompting him to move on. When he’s halfway through I ask him to bring it upstairs while I make lunch. I bring the art books and supplies with me. Afternoons are for group studies with all the children: Art, Science Experiments, Socials Projects, PE, Literature {reading a novel out loud}. We do a different one each day and spend one to two hours in it.

I set the timer on the stove for my struggling mathematician. His exercise has 7 questions. I give him four minutes. He does it in two. Next exercise has 6 questions. I reset the timer with sufficient time and he beats it again. This boy is such a mystery to me, but little by little, through trial and error, I’m finding ways to help him learn and accomplish.

After lunch we sit down to kitchen table with the art pages. Today is drawing simple pictures starting with circles marked on a page. Some of us have tea, too. I enjoy these afternoon classes. The kitchen is bright in the afternoon and the change of scene freshens the learning atmosphere. When spring comes, we’ll do this class out on the deck!

Once they are done art, I ask the children to check their “Magnet Chart.” It has a list of personal responsibilities {Making Bed, Brushing Teeth, Feeding Pet, Chore for Mom, etc.} for the children to do before they have ‘free play time.’ Often playtime and finishing the chart get mixed throughout the rest of the afternoon. I also get them all to dress up in snow gear and head outside together at some point. ‘Outside Time’ is a mathematical equation: 60 minutes minus the sub-zero temperature celsius equals how long you need to be out today. {Up to about -25C ~ Then I don’t force them to go out unless they are getting stir crazy. In which case, they dress up and run around the house as many times as they are old ~ that takes the edge off!}. Today it was minus 1 but “Feels like -8C” so I agree to 52 minutes. They stay out much longer anyhow. Being that it was warm, I dress up the one year old and put her in the back pack. Then we load our heap of Christmas garbage onto sleds and take a fifteen minute walk down snowmobile trails to the dumpsters to dispose of it. Now we nailed two subjects this afternoon! Art AND PE 😀

Once back, I come in with baby to cook supper and the kids play a bit longer. When they come in they ask me to check their rooms and beds so they can have their rewards: the boys collect hockey and Skylanders cards which I have stashes of to hand out. {These also come in handy when I need extra help: “an extra card today per pound of dog poop you pick up in the yard, boys!”} The girls like to play learning games on the tablet or watch learning DVD’s {another big stash I’ve collected} for their reward.

My husband wakes up and joins us for an early supper. I don’t know how he does it, but he sleeps through all our noise and activities. There is a lot of both. His schedule is a series of dayshifts, nightshifts and then days off. We do shift school alongside his schedule {sans Sundays}. So our Monday may be someone else’s Friday. Our weekend maybe Wednesday and Thursday. But I have found this works so much better for us. When I tried to do Monday to Friday school, and my husband was on days off during the week, I always felt tension. He was up for a town day or wanted to take the kids to the pool and I had lessons planned. Now we can be as random as we want on his days off and I still get my lessons done.

After dinner the kids go nuts playing some random imaginary games. When the kitchen is clean I stick my head in the cupboard and divulge in some chocolate. This is for the good of the children. My one year old knows about four words: mama, dog, out, and chocolate. I share with her. Then I send out instructions for pjs, toothbrushes and bedtime stories. The plan is to have the children in bed between 8pm and 830pm with reading lights until 830pm or 9pm. This is still a work in progress. Little children do love to pop out of bed “hungry”, “thirsty”, needing to go to the bathroom, offering a hug, etc.

That ends one of the smooth running days at our homeschooling hobby farm in the deep winter woods hidden away off the Alaska Highway in northern British Columbia.

{If you are interested in reading more homeschooling, mother-of-fiving, housewifing, and hobby farming stories, look for my blog titled “Tales From Green Acres” on Facebook}

Hannah Giesbrecht

RCOA Homeschooling Mom