We love the freedom and flexibility of home education. With no fixed timetable, the rhythm of our days ebb and flow as the needs of our children evolve, and the seasons pass.
But with so much freedom to organise our days in any way we like, there are times when it can feel like we have no organisation at all. This can be especially true during the summer months. In school term times our calendar is full of home ed groups, clubs, sports sessions, library workshops and park meets. Yet in the holidays, these can run a little thin on the ground.
And that’s where some regular home ed routines can help, a few customs and habits woven into the fabric of our lives that support our relationships and refresh our energy. Some of these routines happen daily, some weekly and some we use even less frequently, yet they have all served us well.
So if you’re looking for ways to boost connection and communication with your children. And you’re yearning for some kind of routine to bring a smidgen of order and predictability to your schedule. Then this post could be just up your street 🙂
1. Family meetings
We don’t have a regular time slot for this one, but we do love us a family meeting. They’re a great chance for us all to look at the week ahead and consider what we’d like to do with it. An ideal opportunity to pool our ideas on meal planning and trips out. To gather everyone’s views when there are decisions to be made (next year’s holiday, major purchases, decorating plans, birthday treats and so on). And a safe space to share concerns, celebrations and disappointments.
The formality of these meetings has varied over the years. In the past our children enjoyed planning agendas, taking minutes and rotating the role of chair, gently guiding the flow of our meetings, keeping us on track and ensuring everyone had a fair chance to contribute. As we’ve gained more trust and confidence in each other and the process, these meetings have got more relaxed but still serve an important function.
If you’re new to the idea of family meetings or are old hands but keen to learn more about how others use them, check out these posts –
2. Poetry teatime
A few years ago my daughter discovered the work of Edgar Allen Poe from a Wheezy Waiter video. So taken with Poe’s writing, she printed out ‘The Raven’ and wanted to share it with the rest of us. By happy coincidence, I learnt about poetry teatime around the same time. It was surely meant to be 🙂
Poetry teatime is a fantastic idea from Julie Bogart, essentially an excuse to eat cake and share poetry, pure joy. Over the years our teatimes have been more about the poetry than the cake. But as my youngest two have not yet come to love poetry as much as their older siblings, this year we’re making much more of the teatime bit, more cake, more biscuits, and more of whatever other yummy stuff we decide to make.
There’s a whole website devoted to poetry teatime with some fantastic resources and ideas. And if you search the ‘net you’ll find bucket-loads of inspiration.
3. Games afternoons
Or mornings, or evenings, whenever works for you. Make some space on the calendar for everyone to get together and enjoy playing some games, be they board, card or video. A brilliant way to spend some time together, focussed intently on the games themselves or just as a backdrop to those long, rambling, juicy conversations we all hold so dear.
And when energy levels are running low, this can be a great way to liven things up and lift everyone’s mood. And for those of you who aren’t sure if games are quite ‘educational’ enough, maybe you’re yet to hear about gameschooling 🙂
4. Reading time
Like so many families we’ve read bedtime stories to our babies from a young age, in fact since we knew we were pregnant with our first. That’s some 21 years we’ve been reading aloud round here 🙂
But reading isn’t just for bedtime. For one thing, there’s a little less danger that I’ll fall asleep and start spouting random gibberish in the daytime (please tell me I’m not the only one who does this). And after years of reading endless hours of Lord of the Rings, Artemis Fowl and even War and Peace, I’ve finally realised that ‘chapter books’ are far too exciting to confine to night-time. My 6 year old can’t wait for bedtime to find out who won the Quidditch, she must absolutely know now!
Yes, the Harry Potter years begin again. Although to be honest they never actually left, the audiobooks still a regular feature of many a long, or short car drive. But there is certainly something special about starting again, reading them in order with an eager, fresh audience 🙂 On a regular schedule, or an ad hoc basis, reading time is a one of our favourite ways to spend time together.
5. Visiting the library
We love the library so much we actually belong to three. This is a staple of our week and definitely a site of mutual fulfilment. There’s something for everyone at the library, much more than just books, though they’re still our very favourite bit 🙂
Sure, there are the usual computers, audiobooks, tourist information, summer reading challenge, places to study and wonderfully supportive, friendly and knowledgeable staff. But our local libraries also have a regular Lego club and vegan get together. Along with multiple special events through the year. We’ve been to circus skills workshops, science fairs, various wildlife talks and animal meet and greets. One library, close by, even has a dedicated teen lounging area with a games console and hot chocolate machine, living the dream 🙂
6. Invitations to play
One way to strew. Often prepared the night before and left on the dining room table, invitations to play can take many forms. An activity, toy, game or collection of interesting bits and pieces that might be fun for my littly to check out when she appears downstairs early in the morning. We might enjoy them together or she might be happy exploring while I get just that little bit more work done before breakfast.
It’s nice to have a few of these planned out ready for those moments when she’s looking for something to do together or seems in the mood for a bit of table time. Sometimes they’re as simple as a puzzle book or jigsaw we haven’t used for a while. Or they can be far more elaborately prepared set-ups designed to inspire open-ended play. The possibilities are immense and there are tons of suggestions online.
7. Table time
Table time is time we’ve set aside for working on projects that are important to us. Often it happens at our dining room table but not necessarily. It can just as easily happen at the garden table, on the grass, in the lounge or someone’s bedroom. My son has a particularly welcoming set up with a nice big desk and an old sofa of Grandmas – a favourite place for table time.
Table time sessions are sometimes planned in advance and sometimes initiated on the spur of the moment. Often by someone hollering from the dining room ‘Anyone want to join me for some table time?’ It’s a great opportunity to hang out, make some progress on a project, share our ideas and what we’re working on. All the time, knowing there are others close by to give us a hand, or some inspiration when we need it.
Lori Pickert talks a lot about dedicated project time in her book, Project-Based Homeschooling : Mentoring Self-Directed Learners – definitely a recommended read 🙂
8. Morning baskets
Or more accurately in our house, anytime baskets. Literally a basket, or more likely a big tub (or are they trugs, I’m not sure) filled with interesting books, games, or any other resources we’re currently enjoying or that we’d like to share with our children. Inspired by the idea of Morning Time, we have a basket of library books in the lounge. And two baskets, one for each of my two youngest children that move around the house. Funny how a change of scenery can help us see things in a different light, somehow making them seem that bit more appealing.
We can grab these baskets whenever we’ve got a quiet moment and want to spend some quality time together, or perhaps we’re looking for some inspiration. Along the same lines we love a project box to keep all the bits and pieces of a current project safe and sound ready to pick up whenever we feel in the mood. Depending on the size of the project these vary from laundry baskets right down to simple cardboard trays, the type that paper or bulk bought beans might have arrived home in 🙂
9. 5 min room rescues
Sometimes just the thought of cleaning up sends us running for cover, let alone actually getting on with it. In those moments, and we have a lot of them round here 🙂 5 minute room rescues are a gift from
the universe, ahem, Flylady. One of her best, the idea of a 5 minute room rescue is stunningly simple, magnificently manageable and extraordinarily effective. Can you tell I’m a fan?
Setting the timer for just 5 minutes and working together to clear and tidy a space can energise, refresh and inspire us all. Simple pleasures 🙂 Often these happen just before a bout of table time. Or when someone heads to the lounge for a fix of Friends, David Attenborough or Stampy and are greeted by less than ideal surroundings. Working as fast as we can, making a pile at the door to be rehomed when the timer stops (aka thrown in the bin, the sink or whatever other room they ought really to have been in the first place) or designating a runner to return items as we find them, straightening and tidying as we go.
In just 5 minutes it’s entirely possible to transform a room, at least superficially and this is so powerful, clearing the physical and emotional decks so we have the space to enjoy what’s coming next.
And there we have it…
9 home education routines that enhance the calm, comfort and connection in our home.
I’d love to know if you share any of these routines with us and how they work for you. And if you’re planning to try any of them out, be sure to have lots of fun and let us know how they go.
Bearing in mind the kind of homeschoolers we are, you won’t be surprised to hear that none of our children are required to take part in any of these routines, but are all invited to join in and more often than not, will happily do so. They’re all free to choose the level and the length of their involvement and each of them exercises that freedom in their own ways.
If you’re interested in learning more about why we’re so committed to ensuring everything is voluntary, please stay tuned for some upcoming posts discussing this very topic.
And if you can’t wait, then you might like to check out the recent post on ‘Who left the dog poo?’ Might seem like a leap, but I promise you it’s relevant 🙂
Happy day all x