Sunday, 4 June 2017

Homeschooling through the seasons

As year-round homeschoolers, there is no defined beginning or end to our homeschooling year. We flow from season to season as we strive for a holistic life-learning approach to education. Each season, however, brings with it a rhythm of its own, a fresh way to look at our learning and to structure our days.


Here we are on the cusp of summer. With a fifth little one expected within the next week or two, our summer will certainly require a shifting of rhythms.

Most years, however, our summers are spent in outdoor exploration with little in the way of structure. We try out new beaches, parks, and playgrounds. We talk, ask questions, find answers. We learn the names of the flowers currently blooming and we tend our vegetable garden. Butterflies are raised and released. New recipes are tried. Our days are often flipped around to take advantage of the cooler morning weather.

This works well for a season, and as autumn approaches we find ourselves ready for a bit more routine to our day. Although we tend towards an unschooling approach, some sort of framework keeps that unschooling from sliding into chaos for us.


As the rain begins, we move into a different yet familiar rhythm. The specifics differ with each year, taking into account family circumstances and each child's individual needs, but the framework of it is generally the same.

After breakfast and a brief time of housework, we begin our Morning Gathering together on the couch. With some variation, this typically includes:

- Greeting, day's review, gratitude
- Bible story
- Hymn
- The Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed
- Peace

After this gathering, we move into individual RRR time. Each child spends some time sitting with me on the couch and doing some combination of reading, writing, and/or math, depending on their needs and goals for the year.

Reading includes reading practice for those who need it. Our preferred resources are Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons followed by Sets 1-5 of Bob Books.

Writing may include letter formation, copywork, dictation, spelling lists, creative writing, or expository writing.

Life of Fred is our preferred math resource, along with times tables practice, logic and numeracy games, and other varied forms of numeracy development.

Autumn lunches make for an ideal read-aloud time. We particularly enjoy using this time for broad overviews of history such as Hillyer's A Child's History of the World or Gombrich's A Little History of the World.

Fall Fridays are STEAM project day, where we set aside our usual Gathering and RRR times and focus on hands-on science and art instead.

A portion of each afternoon is reserved for quiet time, an essential part of our day for each of us.


As fall moves into winter and a new calendar year begins, we often find the need to freshen up our usual routines. While autumn tends to have an individual focus with a heavy emphasis on reading, writing, and math, winter seems to demand a more cozy, group-based rhythm.

Our Morning Gathering continues, but the spiritual portion is truncated. We read Scripture, pray together, and sing a hymn. We choose a hymn for about a week and go through it one verse per day, discussing what the words mean. This becomes a great theology and vocabulary lesson! The kids take turns reciting our monthly poem; we've been going through Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice book this past year. The poems are simple so it's been a great opportunity to focus less on memorization and more on how to make an entrance, introduce a poem, speak clearly, include expression, hold still, and be a good audience.

We then move on to a group lesson and discussion on science and history. This past winter we used David Macaulay's How Things Work for science and Gombrich's A Little History of the World for history.

Our gathering time finished, we move into a brief individual time. Our Life of Fred books are often finished by early December, so we take a break from the focused RRR time and work on more individual subjects. This past winter, for example:

- Jay would take The Jesus Storybook Bible and a regular Bible, read the relevant passages from the day's story in the Bible, and then compare/contrast the storybook version against the full version.
- Kai would read to me. He's a reluctant reader, so having him just sit and read to me each day greatly helped improve his fluency.
- Ell would work on letter recognition and printing with me, as well as early numeracy skills.

After that, if we started early enough, we had time for board games before lunch. With Life of Fred on pause for the time being, we chose to do some "gameschooling" for a while before jumping into the next LOF books.

This group routine is a good change each year, and the discussions add more science, history, and theology to our day than we typically have in the fall.


Eventually, however, our cozy winter group rhythm needs its usual seasonal sprucing up. We wind up our science and history and move once again into a more individual-based rhythm. It's a good time to reevaluate where each of the kids are and what each of them needs for the next couple of months. This spring, Ell insisted that I begin teaching her how to read, and both boys were eager to get back into Life of Fred. We also prepared and planted our garden, spent more time in nature, and of course had the usual pre-baby biology unit (always a favourite with the kids). This led to an unexpected enthusiastic interest in genetics and the opportunity for several other rabbit trails - perfect for spring.

As the weather warms up even more, our routine will shift once again into more of an outdoor/nature/exploration focus. This year we'll stay a bit closer to home, allowing me time to recover from childbirth and giving all of us the opportunity to get to know our new little one. We'll do less day trips and make good use of our backyard instead. There will be less audiobooks in the van and more read-alouds on the picnic blanket in the shade. It will be, as always, what our family needs.

This seasonal shift in routines works well for us and keeps things feeling fresh and relevant. I believe it to be one of the most important aspects of our homeschooling journey.

What seasonal shifts are currently happening in your daily rhythm?


  1. my kids are in public school, the school year just ended. I am reflecting as to what is in their best interest at the moment, we will be "schooling" over the summer, and decide what we will do then.
    My son is getting married, so i will also be gaining a daughter in law :)

    1. What an exciting time for your family! Congratulations!!