Almost all of my state's schools were closed at least two days this week to cold weather (highs just barely broke zero degrees Fahrenheit). But, in our homeschool, it was our first full week back from Christmas break. And, it went REALLY well!
Last year (beginning of 2013) I made some changes in the new year which helped things to go more smoothly during class time. I think Christmas break is a really good time to evaluate how things are progressing, get organized, and reevaluate curriculum/schedule/priorities. I knew we needed to make some changes, and (one whole week into it!) so far, things are going well.
I had gotten into the habit of waiting until each morning to go over plans for class time. Now, each night, I spend some time diving into the next day's work. I skim everything we are going over the next day, and make an easy-to-follow schedule on the whiteboard. On the whiteboard, I also include any discussion questions I want to go over, which really helps things to go smoothly. When I wake up the next morning, I have additional ideas that I wouldn't have had if I would have waited until the morning to go over the curriculum.
I also make sure all the resources and materials I need are in the classroom and are easy-to-find.
Often, as I'm going over the days plans, I get the kids a quick bowl of cereal. Since I've been getting everything ready the night before, I can spend time making them a nice, hot breakfast. And, I can sit with them and eat with them - it is wonderful! We talk about our day, and spend time getting into the right mindset for school. As they get dressed, I can get the dishes done from breakfast.
Expanded Quiet Time
This was an issue I tried to resolve last year as well. We were only spending a little bit of time in the Bible each day - just the daily amount recommended our curriculum. Now we've been adding to that. Each morning, X-Man spends some time reading a Bible or devotional book to himself. Little Lou isn't quite reading, so I'll either read to her (whatever Bible story or devotional book she wants) or put in one of our Bibles on CD for her to listen to. I also try to spend some time in the Word when she's listening to her CD.
Then, we read a devotion together from a book that contains 365 devotions - they're geared toward small children, so they're short and perfect for my little people.
Clean as we go
By the end of the day, our homeschool room is a mess. Papers, pencils, toys, craft supplies, everything. Well, not now. As we go, they must pick up everything they had out for the previous subject. This also gives them some time to get up and move around.
Two Language Arts Sessions
This has been one of the biggest helps and positive changes in our day. Before, I would have both kids work on their Language Arts work, and ask me for help as they went along. Well, Little Lou still needs help with almost everything, and X-Man gets very frustrated with handwriting. So, as a solution, for our last subject of the day, we do Language Arts in two sessions. During the first session, I work directly with one child. This means sitting there and kindly reminding them how to properly write their letters as they go. If they start getting frustrated, I can spot it right away; instead of frustration ending in screaming or crying, I spot it, we take a deep breath or take a break and play with floam/playdoh/snuggle a stuffed animal. During this time, the other child has options on what they can do. They can write, color, read/look at books, do fine motor work, puzzles, Boggle, or even an educational app on my phone. Once the first child has completed their language arts work, they switch.
Since it's our last subject of the day, they can continue working on whatever they would like as soon as both are done with their work. I then have them stay in the classroom with me (contained mess) while I get everything ready, for the next day.
The Two Minute Rule
I get very overwhelmed when I see a sink full of dishes, or stacks of laundry in the hampers, or clutter. Before, I would wait until the end of school to get any house work done. This often meant that I rushed through the day so that I could do a quick clean-up before the hubby got home. Sometimes that quick clean up turned into a half hour or more of clean up. Now, I use the two minute rule. If something will take me less than two minutes to do, I do it right away. It could be wiping the kitchen counters, washing the dishes from breakfast, sharpening pencils as they break, filing school work in their portfolios, throwing a load of laundry in the washer, wiping the toothpaste off the sink, etc. As long as it takes less than two minutes, if it will bother me to leave it, I just do it right away. Then, when we're done, I don't have more work to do. I can get right into dinner preparations.
It's amazing to me how a few easy modifications can make a world of difference. Due to a few, minor changes, school is much easier, and it was pretty painless. What changes have you made in the new year?