Surviving Homeschool Mondays (and even liking it)

surviving homeschool mondays | homeschooling on the hard days | ideas for a casual learning routine

All year I have fought the battle of “Monday”—coerced, threatened, plotted, and plodded through the toughest day of the week for us. I know Mondays are tough for most of mankind, but being a pastor’s family, Mondays seem to be that much more daunting. We come into the week empty

Though I did know enough about our family and our routine to keep our Monday calendar empty, I caught myself demanding that much more from our homeschool because it was one of our few days spent entirely at home. I mean, just think of what we can get done! Except that we weren’t. I cracked the whip, but everyone else dragged their feet, and the day seemed endless. It seriously took my kids three times as long to do the same assignments on Monday as it did any other day of the week. A twenty minute math lesson any other day was going to take over an hour on Monday. Surviving homeschool Mondays became such a drudgery, and we all ended the day so out of sorts and cranky, that I finally decided to revamp our Mondays entirely. 

Introducing our new routine for…

Surviving Homeschool Mondays

Our new Monday schedule consists of three parts: meetings, projects, and games.

Monday Meetings: Okay, this is actually the only part of our typical Monday I kept. We’ve been doing this all year. Monday Meeting is when I meet with each kid, look over the previous week’s assignments, hand over their new assignment sheet and week’s work, and discuss the week with them (events, extra-curriculars, projects, etc.) For my fifth grader, this is my primary contact with him, nearly the only time all week we are together. The rest of the week, he works independently. For my third grader, this gives her the scope of the week and the expectations, but I will still meet with her each day for math and grammar. 

Projects: The bulk of the day is spent on projects. Sometimes, this includes notebooking projects and a read-aloud. Other times, this is our major art project time where we sculpt and paint and create. This is also our primary science experiment day. It’s our day to make the big messes and do those projects that take lots of time. I’ve loved this part of the routine. Because I have very little planned on Mondays now, I feel like I can relax with the messes and allow them the time to really enjoy their projects, rather than rushing through so that we “get to everything” before dinner. And trust me, Relaxed Mommy is a whole lot more fun than Stressed Mommy.

homeschooling on hard days | projects, games, & casual learning

Gameschooling: I’m embracing some “Gameschooling” on Mondays, as well, particularly for math. Our new favorite right now is Number Rings. All my kids can play and be challenged at each of their learning levels. I love it! So instead of the workbook math, we play games and embrace hands-on math lessons. Next year, I want to develop this even more, expand our games collection, and include some other subject areas.

Occasionally, I may also throw a DVD into our Monday mix of learning; my kids love “Bill Nye the Science Guy” DVDs from our library. Typically, we’ll have our meetings and game time in the morning, eat lunch, then start on our projects after lunch. 

I hesitated for so long to make this switch in our routine, worrying about falling behind in our work or ruining my kids’ character and work ethic. But the opposite has been true. Mondays are now paced to allow us to rest and recharge from Sundays, and we are better prepared for the rest of our week. And the kids have worked hard those other four days to get assignments done. It’s been a win-win all around, and I’m so glad I finally gave it a try. Not only are we surviving Homeschool Mondays, we are actually enjoying them.

 

Tailoring Tapestry of Grace to a Custom-Fit

Tapestry of Grace | tailoring Tapestry of Grace | customizing homeschool curriculum

I re-evaluated everything last spring, even Tapestry of Grace, and asked myself some hard questions. I was disillusioned with it, to be quite honest. I had expected the first year fog, but the second year I thought I ought to have found my stride. Unfortunately, I still had some growing pains. The kids were fine; they’re fine with just about anything I do. (Bless them!) But my expectations weren’t being met, or at least, I was feeling insecure. I started looking at other curriculums (gasp!) and wondering if Tapestry of Grace truly was our match.

I asked myself some hard questions. One of those questions: why had I loved Tapestry to begin with? My #1 reason wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t the book lists or activities; it wasn’t necessarily the whole family learning or the integration of subjects. I love many of those aspects, but at the top of my list was customization. Of course, you CAN customize just about any curriculum, but what I love is that Tapestry of Grace is designed to be customized.

I “customize” and find substitutes for a lot of the books a lot of the time. The activity suggestions I’ve almost entirely replaced; they just didn’t our family and my time-limits. I loved the Bible suggestions and world-view, but even those were merely a jumping off point.

Bottom-line, I’m not a curriculum-follower; I’m a curriculum-creator with not enough time to create from scratch. Tapestry of Grace allows me to customize, and I love that.

After learning that about myself and about Tapestry, I’m maximizing that possibility. I am customizing the curriculum to the point where some of you might not even recognize it. I’m tailoring Tapestry of Grace, and I’m loving it so far.

Tailoring Tapestry by Topics, not Weeks

Toward the end of last year, I found myself totally overwhelmed with keeping up with the week plans. Trying to accomplish the reading deadlines was throttling our joy of reading and learning together. I hated it. To survive, I tossed the week plans and studied by topic instead. We studied the explorers, the colonies, and the American War for Independence. We moved on when we were ready, when our books were read—and we took the time to enjoy our books.

This worked so well that I’ve implemented it from the very beginning of this year. I’ve selected the events we will cover (and we won’t cover them all; no history curriculum does) and arranged our terms by topic instead of by week.

I do have a rough idea of how long we will spend on each topic, but I’m keeping it rough.

Tailoring Tapestry by Terms, not Units

Tapestry is divided into four 9-week units. But I overhauled this, too. It became difficult last year to work our vacations around our units. Also, some units were very busy while others seemed pretty empty. By arranging our year by topics, I could smooth these busy times out. But then my units were all messed up.

Instead of units, I’ve arranged our year into three Terms of about 12 weeks. Tapestry, for the most part, will fit into the first two terms. (That’s right, 24 weeks instead of 36.) And the last term will be for science. Why?

To counter-act burnout. When spring hits, I’m ready for a change and so are the kids. Tapestry felt like it dragged on forever both years we’ve done it. When the sun comes out, I want to study outside and explore. Science seems like such a natural subject that time of year.

I’ve even rearranged Tapestry topics to tailor this. For instance, at different points in Year 3 we are supposed to study inventors and inventions. I’ve pulled these weeks out of place and arranged that topic for part of our science study in Term 3.

I told you, I gave Tapestry a massive overhaul. But it’s custom, and it fits.

 

Q/A:

What about maps?

I’m only using the maps as a reference point for our reading and discussion. We will be using the Classical Conversations dry-erase “Trivium Table” maps instead. And an old GeoSafari, for those who remember what that is.

What about chronology?

I’ve kept the topics in order for the most part. The only rearranged item were the inventors. I’m really wanting to free us up to form relationships with the people we are studying, something I felt too rushed to do in the past.

What about books?

I use Tapestry as a starting point and search my library by topic. I also do a lot of comparing on the SimplyCharlotteMason.com website. I’m pickier about book choices. We only have time for the best, living books. No dry fact summaries. And I’m not opposed to searching Netflix or my library’s videos. Liberty Kids was a life-saver toward the end of last year, and very effective.

What about activities?

There’s nothing wrong with Tapestry activities. In fact, when I first looked at Tapestry, this was a huge selling point for me—making bricks like the Israelites did, making armor like the medieval knights wore, etc. But, life happened. And I realize that I’m just not up for that most of the time. I don’t happen to have rebar or cement or wire or washers on hand. Not to mention that I’m tired of feeling guilty for not fitting it in. It’s just not us. (Not that my kids wouldn’t love it. You are more than welcome to come over and stomp bricks with them in the wading pool. But I’m lucky to have supper cooked and laundry caught up.)

Oldest likes to draw and caption, while Middlest likes to imagine and execute her own craft ideas. We like paper-crafts with glue and scissors. That’s more our speed.

Why do Tapestry at all if you are going to maul it like that?

This is my own question asked to myself. And my answer is, I looked at all the other curriculums very closely once more. Tapestry still had the core of what I wanted, more so than all the others. I like the literature woven into the history, I like the discussions and world view highlights, I like the 4 year rotation and the classical learning divisions (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric). I like that Tapestry was designed to be customized.

So there you have it. A face-lift, an overhaul, or a demolition—whatever you want to call it, I call it tailoring Tapestry of Grace to a perfect custom-fit.

**UPDATE: Curious to see how this turned out for us? Check out my update on our Tapestry of Grace changes.**