We have worked hard since June to be able to take a big break when Caleb is born this month. We have completed 109 days of work, more than half a school year! We still have the five months from January through May to finish the school year as well. I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t want to take two months off when baby Caleb arrives though. If I want to stay sane and have children who are not bored, we’re going to have to have some things going within a week or so of Caleb’s arrival. I don’t know about your children, but give mine more than a few days or a week off and they start arguing with each other, whining to me, and begging for things to do, even if it is just park themselves in front of a movie. I am realistic, I promise. I’m having my sixth child and I know what it means on my time and energy reserves. I think, however, that I have come up with a doable solution, one that takes minimal mommy energy, but gives my children some tasks to do each day.
One thing that we have not been doing regularly since summer ended is computer time. That’s going to change when Caleb arrives. For 3 days of the week the children will do strictly educational computer games. Typing, Reader Rabbit, Starfall.com, Scriptures 4 Kids, or other educational fun. The other two days of the week they can choose from any computer game. We’ve got some fun ones, though really they nearly all have an element of learning, like the Magic School Bus games.
Each child will have reading time every day. The beginning readers will keep reading aloud to me, which is easy to do while mom is holding the baby. Makayla will read something for herself, I’m gathering a small stack of books for her to choose from. Daniel and Oliver will continue their Little Reader program on the computer.
Makayla will do Mathletics, our online math subscription, to work on math independently for a while. She will also begin Student Writing Intensive A from IEW. This program is writing lessons on DVD, which takes a lot of the work out of it for me for a while.
I still need to figure out what Joseph, Emma, and Daniel will do for math. (Any suggestions for something self-directed and not too messy?) I have a few little math computer programs I think, and there are always math manipulatives. I am not sure exactly what we’ll end up doing for them.
Beyond that, each child will have a topic they are learning about each week (which can extend over several weeks if they wish). To begin with Makayla will choose from the Download ‘N Go units we own. She really likes working through those independently. The younger children like them as well, but need a bit of help. I think that is where we will start for them as well, only printing a few of the actual pages to do, but enjoying the interactive sections.
I’m also going to be reading aloud to them, beginning with the youngest child’s interest, working our way up. Each day a different child will choose the book for the day, which will give us some variety. I’ve got a lot of Curious George in my future with Daniel, I’m sure, but I have a few new books from the library book sale that I’m holding back until then to try and expand their horizons. I’m putting a selection into a box, and each day they can dig through to pick something.
Now, right about now I hear some of you saying, “She’s crazy!”. This is as good a time as any to make clear the fact that we won’t do ALL of this on any particular day. I’m going to set minimum goals for each child’s week and they’ll have a little sheet to check off. Each week I want Makayla doing Mathletics 3 times, for example. She can pick which days she does math, and she can decide to save her writing for different days if she wants. She may do 3 days worth of unit study in one day, but she can’t go beyond that until she’s finished off the rest of her sheet. These little weekly lists will ensure they are doing a variety over the course of the week, as they can’t do extra days on anything without finishing the minimum work on the list first.
I think this will be a good mix of independent work and free time, while still taking the minimum effort from me. I’m also printing a variety of activities to hand out as needed, from coloring pages and dot to dots to crossword puzzles, paper dolls, and puppets. We also have lots of board games and a few card games that the kids can play together, and puzzles too.
Have you got any other ideas for me? I’m making actual lists, because I know when the baby arrives I’ll forget pretty much anything that’s not written down, so leave a comment and I’ll add your ideas to my lists!