We are nicely settled in to our winter rhythms, our days of enjoying large doses of inside time while also embracing cold walks and winter sports.
Veteran homeschoolers, those experienced families that have been living and learning together for many years, talk about both the need for and gift of flexibility that homeschooling brings. Seasonal changes, family dynamics, differing learning styles, new interests and opportunities--all of these things continuously alter the way families approach homeschooling, adding constant vitality to the process of living and learning without school.
I find that the seasons affect our living and learning rhythms, as they should really, drawing us inside in winter with lots of table-side learning and crafting, baking and cooking, museum visits, classes, and endless reading, and propelling us outside in the warmer months to learn mostly from the natural world.
This winter, I decided to add a bit more structure to our mornings. I noticed that we had a relatively rhythmic pattern of waking up, playing, dressing, eating breakfast, and leaving home for our morning activities, but I wanted something a bit more focused, more symbolic to start each day. For inspiration, I purchased the Oak Meadow curriculum, a Waldorf-inspired, Vermont-based, highly-respected homeschooling curriculum. I'm not much of a curriculum person, gravitating more toward the unschooling philosophy, but Oak Meadow is really very open-ended and easily customizable, offering just the right blend of great ideas for me without feeling like a workbook-based, highly-structured learning methodology.
Now our morning winter rhythms involve eating breakfast together by candlelight while reading fairy tales, singing songs and reciting poems, writing and drawing in blank notebooks, listening to lively music, and doing some sort of craft or activity, often inspired by Oak Meadow's suggestions.
After our morning table time, we continue with the remainder of our day, which usually includes outside time and a morning activity or homeschool class. We try to have quiet time in the middle of the day while my littlest one naps, my four-year-old listens to music or audio books, and my six-year-old practices Spanish with our Rosetta Stone software, or watches a Khan Academy video. We then read a book together, which right now is likely one of the Magic Tree House series books. It's a good thing there are a lot of them because lately the big kids insist on us reading at least one a day. (I highly recommend the non-fiction Magic Tree House research guides that accompany many of the fictional stories to create an exciting learning experience.)
In the afternoons, we head outside, meet up with friends or family, run errands, prepare dinner and then wind down the day with evening snuggles and earlier winter bedtimes.
It's great to be able to experiment with different homeschooling resources and rhythms, incorporating many, tailoring others, and tossing out some. It keeps this family living and learning process interesting and engaging for both the children and the grown-ups, and helps us to settle in to daily and weekly rhythms that are tied to the seasons, to our family's changing needs and interests, to the learning opportunities that surround us, and, most importantly, to each other.
What do your family's winter rhythms look like?