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  • Writer's pictureGraceful Willow Learning

Graceful Willow Learning: Guiding Your Catholic Homeschooling Journey

Updated: Nov 14, 2023



Welcome to our Catholic-centered homeschool learning haven. I believe that our main job as parents is to lead our souls and guide those of our family's to heaven. Everything else is an extra that should place itself under that main goal, helping you and everyone else to achieve it.


Since we are brought to Earth to learn and know God, live for others, and enjoy His creation, we are still called to live in the world. Being able to live in the world (and being not of this world) requires certain skills and knowledge only parents can teach.


The whole idea behind my business is to create a flexible curriculum that I can use with my own kids, and share it with you. I also hope to receive as many suggestions and interactions as possible, so we can all build this community and learn from one another.


The starting point is to define what type(s) of educational approaches I like, what kind of homeschooling I believe in, and how to organize your days to have a successful life-long learning and teaching routine.



What is an educational approach?

An educational approach is the philosophy you believe in behind your idea of education.


So, for example, if you think that education is about teaching information and your kids receiving that information, you stand behind the active teacher and passive student approach. Many of us grew up under this philosophy.


Another approach is the active student and teacher as a guide. In here the student is the one actively seeking to learn with the help of a teacher that either encourages their interests, or exposes them to different interesting situations that spark curiosity.


The main difference between the two is the role each person takes in the learning experience. But the most dramatic difference is the amount of significant and long-lasting learning that happens: on the teacher centered approach, students merely receive information. If that information is relevant to them on that specific day, they may retain bits and pieces, but mostly they will memorize it for tests, and then forget them. On the other hand, with the student-centered approach, the teacher provides the tools and teaches the skills for them to learn on their own, providing interesting and exciting activities that will allow their young brains to engage in the activity and make significant learning and promoting more synapses (brain connections between previous knowledge and new information).


Can you guess which approach I like better? The student based is my favorite because I feel -and know- like they learn more and better.



What are the different homeschooling styles?

In the same way, there are different styles of homeschooling. Some prefer the Classical Homeschooling, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Eclectic, Unschooling, Roadschooling, and even replicating a classroom but at home.


I am more of an Eclectic and Unschooling type of mom, but I also think that mixing those with some Unit Studies every once in a while is very helpful, especially for families with multiple kids in different age groups.


Regardless of my approach, you can get anything you want from my website and apply it to your own personal style. There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing your homeschooling style and materials, because every family has a different dynamic and personalities, so what works for me may not work for you. This is when your opinion matters: send me your suggestions, or comment your experiences so we can all learn from each other and provide the best education and sense of home to our families.


How do I organize my days for homeschooling?

The first step you need to follow is go to the Homeschooling Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.com) to learn about your state's specific regulations and standards.


Once you know what the law requires from your homeschool, you can organize your year, months, weeks, and days.


I would start by understanding what qualifies as homeschooling activities, and what doesn't. For example, daily hygiene does not fit under homeschooling but cooking does. Once you know exactly what aspects of your daily life you can integrate to your hours. Then, you can add whatever activities you feel your kids would benefit from like swimming, maths, science, socializing, etc.


Also, if you are choosing to homeschool, there is a big chance that one of your reasons is because you want your kids to actually learn, and not just memorize content to pass tests and be in compliance. With this being said, you can decide when and how long you want your children to spend on formal learning tasks. This remote learning recommendations from the Illinois State Board of Education are very clear: targeted learning shouldn't be to spend hours and hours on each subject, but actually use the attention span guidelines to promote better learning. Look at the following table:

Standard / Grade Level

Minimum

Maximum

Attention Span

Pre-K

20 minutes/day

60 minutes/day

3-5 minutes

K

30 minutes/day

90 minutes/day

3-5 minutes

1-2

45 minutes/day

90 minutes/day

5-10 minutes

3-5

60 minutes/day

120 minutes/day

10-15 minutes

6-8

90 minutes/day

180 minutes/day

1 class = 15-30 minute

9-12

120 minutes/day

270 minutes/day

1 class = 20-45 minutes

It is amazing to see how the maximum amount of instruction per day does not go past 5 hours, but kids attend school (from k to 12) an average of 7 hours with only a 30 minute recess and a 30 minute lunch.


It is also easy to get confused and overwhelmed thinking we need to keep our children learning for 7 hours a day like they do in schools, but the reality of things is that because of the amount of students per class, the different rhythms, interruptions, special activities, time spent delivering materials, etc. the average amount of actual instruction during a day is less than 1.5 hours (some studies even suggest a lower number ranging from 30 to 50 minutes).


Now, in this other table, you will see what they suggest as extra activities, and how these also count as learning and important tasks to be practiced on a daily basis for a healthy and rounded development.

Mind

Body

Spirit

Environment

Family

● Reading, e.g., independent reading, listening to someone else read, audiobooks


● Puzzles, Word Searches


● Write a story or in a journal


● Count money


● Draw a map of your neighborhood


● Building with blocks or Legos


● Listen to a podcast


● Watch a documentary


● Practice another language


● Invent something

● Take a walk


● Dance


● Exercise


● Fine/gross motor activities


● Stretch or do yoga


● Play a sport

● Listen to music or sing


● Playing (inside or outside)


● Creative arts


● Coloring or drawing


●Imaginative play


● Meditate


● Do something you’ve been avoiding

● Clean up your room


● Do age-appropriate chores


● Gardening


● Fix something broken


● Take care of pets or plants


● Cook or bake

● Write a letter to someone


● Play board games with a family member


● Tell jokes or riddles


● Build a fort and tell stories in it


● Offer to help someone

The document from which these tables have been taken, provides a lot of useful information on what to do as subject-specific activities, definitions on what grading is and what it should look like, among other things. So, if you want to read more on this, click here.


Now that we know where to begin, organizing your days should be easy. Once you have a clear understanding of your state's specific homeschooling regulations and standards, it's time to organize your year, months, weeks, and days. Creating a well-structured daily routine can significantly enhance your homeschooling experience. Below is a sample schedule that reflects how I structure my days with my own children, keeping in mind that they are still in their early years.


Person / Time

Kid 1

Kid 2

Me

6 am

Wake up

Sleep

Forcefully wake up

7 am

Breakfast

Wake up and breakfast

Breakfast

8 am

Free Play

Free Play

Morning Chores

9 am

Learning Activities

Learning Activities

Learning Activities

10 am

Learning Activities

Learning Activities

Learning Activities

11 am

Mass

Mass

Mass

12 pm

Lunch

Lunch

Lunch and Clean up

1 pm

Nap

Nap

Midday chores

2 pm

Nap

Nap

Nap

3 pm

Free Play

Free Play

Other chores

4 pm

Park + Walk

Park + Walk

Park + Walk

5 pm

Dinner

Dinner

Dinner and clean up

6 pm

Walk + bath

Walk + bath

Walk + bathe

7 pm

Night routine

Night Routine

Sing + Read + Pray

8 pm

Sleep

Sleep

Night Routine + Relax

9 pm

Sleep

Sleep

Sleep


Remember that learning activities can be anything from core subjects, to whatever sparks your kids' interests... even if that is screen time (watching a movie, a series, documentary, etc).


It can also be visits to a museum, park, zoo, beach, etc. The key is to be intentional about your outings: if you are going to the beach, don't just bathe in the ocean and get a sun tan, but look for sharks' teeth, sea creatures, research sea weeds, study the tide, etc.


For specific activities targeted to different age groups, explore the website and find the post that best suits your needs.


Thank you for reading and I appreciate any suggestions and feedback you may have. Please click on the suggestion form below, leave a comment, or e-mail me.


Thanks for reading and God Bless.

Maria Ignacia


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