{Wild Challenge} Wild Flower Foray

Wild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open Home

Guernsey is covered in wild flowers during the month of May so it was the perfect opportunity for us to tick off another experience nature activity for our RSPB Wild Challenge, tying in nicely with our regular nature walks.

Firstly, we walked along the coast from Portelet to the Fairy Ring, spotting a surprising amount of wild flowers along the way, 21!

Next we did a cliff walk up at Icart and through the nature reserve where we spotted a whopping 22 different wild flowers.

Then having done a couple of walks near the coast we headed inland to the country lanes of St. Peters to see how many wild flowers we could find on a country walk. The answer? 27!

And for a final wild flower walk we also visited the Orchid Fields down a L’Eree, part of the La Societe Guernesaise nature reserves.

Then to finish things off we searched through our field guides to identify the flowers we didn’t recognise and then drew some of our favourite wild flowers in our nature journals.

Here is the photo evidence:

Wild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open Home

Daisies, foxgloves, poppies, primroses, sea pinks and buttercups are amongst our favourite wild flowers.

What are your favourite wild flowers?

{Home Ed} Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

So in my last post on home education I introduced you to Charlotte who developed a theory of education that continues to be used by thousands of home educators worldwide today, including myself.

I also did my best to summarise, in one short paragraph, what the Charlotte Mason philosophy means to me and today I’d like to unpack that a little further, to help you see what a Charlotte Mason education looks like in practice and how you can implement the philosophy in your own home.

Now it’s important to remember that Charlotte created an educational philosophy not a curriculum (although she did create some of these for use in the PNEU schools). You can find some modern day curriculums out there based on Charlotte Mason’s principles, but these are not needed to create a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool, you simply need to implement her methods in your home.

So what are her methods I hear you ask?

Well below is by no means an exhaustive list of Charlotte Mason’s methods, but they are perhaps the most recognisable aspects of a Charlotte Mason education and the ones that in particular drew me to her philosophy of education.

For each point I’ll try to explain how we are currently implementing each method in our home, not that this is the one and only way to do so, but just so you can glean ideas and get a better picture of what this could look like in your home.

 

10 Ways to Implement a Charlotte Mason Education:

 

1. Delayed Academics

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life…” (Vol. 1, p. 44)

Charlotte believed the early years of learning should be “a quiet growing time” for children and formal lessons, including learning to read and write should wait until the child is around 6 years old. Families providing a Charlotte Mason education are often interested in protecting childhood, using the early years to develop useful life skills and to connect with their child through play.

In our home Blossom, only started to regularly practice reading, writing and maths at age 6 once she started the equivalent of Year 2. Before this I considered her to be in the early years of education and did not require her to sit still to practice such things. She had learnt phonics at age 5 and would attempt to sounds things out and write things off her own initiative, but not at my request.

 

2. Habit Training.

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“What you would have the man become, that you must train the child to be.”  (Vol. 2, p. 15)

Charlotte Mason encouraged parents to instruct their children in the formation of good habits and positive character traits. Now it’s never too late to work on instilling good habits in our children, but the early years of education, before the introduction of formal lessons is a great time to focus on habit formation, leading to smoother and easier school days in the years that are to follow.

Now in our home a big part of habit training in the early years has focused on encouraging the girls to gain independence in activities of daily living like washing, dressing, feeding and toileting and encouraging them to take part in household chores. These life skills are important and definitely part of habit training, but they aren’t what habit training is all about.

Over the course of Charlotte’s six volumes on education she mentioned 60+ different habits, some physical habits, some mental habits, others moral and religious. There’s a lot to work on!

In our home I am using the Laying Down the Rails resources from Simply Charlotte Mason to guide me through habit training as well as Habits for the Early Years from My Little Robins.

 

3. Living Books

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“Children must have books, living books, the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough.” (Vol. 2, p. 279)

Charlotte believed in reading children rich literature as opposed to dry textbooks and the dumbed down “twaddle” that so many of the modern day children’s books have become.  Books should spark the imagination and connect with the soul, not merely entertain. As C.S. Lewis said “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” I think Charlotte would have agreed.

In our home this involves reading a lot of classic children’s literature like Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, Milly-Molly-Mandy and The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse and avoiding the gaudily illustrated stories about underpants and bogeys that seem to be the focus of much of children’s literature these days. As with all things though the 80/20 Principle does apply. I do let my girls bring home books from the library at times that aren’t particularly to my taste, but I do not keep such stories on our bookshelves at home.

 

4. Nature Study

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects.” (Vol. 1, p. 71)

Charlotte advocated for ample amounts of time outdoors, particularly in the early years of education before formal lessons start. Children receiving a Charlotte Mason education often spend hours outdoors everyday, go on regular nature walks, keep nature journals and become familiar with the natural flora and fauna of their local landscape.

In our home this looks like attending a weekly nature explorers group with other home ed families, taking a weekly nature walk through the same public garden so that we can familiarise ourselves with this specific nature spot, completing a phenology wheel and calendar of firsts in our nature journals and dedicating time during our Monday morning book basket to learn more about natural history.

 

5. Art Enrichment

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“The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore a child should have a generous curriculum.” (Vol. 6, p. 111)

Charlotte believed in spreading a liberal feast of ideas before the child. She wasn’t just concerned with educating the mind, but educating the whole child. Children receiving a Charlotte Mason education fill their hearts and minds with the beauty and wisdom of hymns and folksongs, they memorise poetry and scripture and also study the works of great artists and composers.

In our home we implement this by having a poet, artist and composer whose work we study for the term as well as familiarising ourselves with a new hymn every month or so. Practically we do this by including an art enrichment slot in our morning book basket everyday. On Monday we do hymn study, on Tuesday picture study, on Wednesday composer study and then on Thursday we review one of our old hymns. As for poems we read a few every day during our morning basket and try to memorise a couple of our favourites over the term.

 

6. Short Lessons.

Home Ed | Implementing Charlotte Mason | The Open Home

“… the lessons are short, seldom more than twenty minutes in length for children under eight.” (Vol. 1, p. 142)

Once a child is ready for formal lessons these lessons are kept short so as to engage the child and keep them fully attentive. A child may have lessons in reading, writing, maths, literature, history, picture study and poetry all in one day, but no lesson is more than 20 minutes long for a new student and some last only 5 minutes or so.

In our home our Table Time work, which includes copy work (writing practice) and maths for my 7 year old only takes about 30 minutes for the two subjects. Our morning book basket, which consists of our daily devotions (bible reading, prayers and gratitude journal), art enrichment as mentioned above and then our main lesson (either history, geography, natural history or PSHE) is all done within an hour. The short lessons means all our formal school work is currently done within an hour and a half every morning a little longer if we add in craft projects to accompany our main lesson.

 

7. Narration

Home Ed | Implementing Charlotte Mason | The Open Home

“Narrating is not the work of a parrot, but of absorbing into oneself the beautiful thought from the book, making it one’s own and then giving it forth again with just that little touch that come’s from one’s own mind.” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 125)

Charlotte recognised that children naturally narrate or “tell back” stories from their day so she used this as a key tool in their education. Once a child is receiving formal lessons from around age 6 they can then be asked to narrate orally (and creatively) and then around age 10 they can begin to write their narrations. Narration has the double benefit of enabling the child to express and process what they’ve learnt from a lesson without the need of having to fill in a dry comprehensive worksheet.

In our home we are just starting out with oral narrations for my 7 year old and I have chosen to start with our art enrichment subjects of picture study and composer study. After studying a picture or listening to a piece of music I simply ask a question about what we’ve studied, questions like; How did that piece of music make you feel? What instruments could you hear? What do you think the people in this picture were feeling? What do you particularly like about this picture?

In time, we will start adding in narrations for our history, geography and nature read alouds too, making it 1-2 oral narrations per day. I have personally chosen not to do narrations for our literature read alouds as I want these books to simply be savoured and enjoyed as a family.

 

8. Copy work

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“A certain sense of possession and delight may be added… if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem or another.” (Vol. 1, p. 238)

Copy work is another of Charlotte’s methods introduced once formal lessons have begun around age 6, although Charlotte called it transcription. Copy work initially begins as a way of practicing letter formation and hand writing but in time, if done well, it is also a fabulous way of getting a child to slow down to take notice of spelling and grammar and also enables them to internalise words of great beauty.

For my 7 year old, who started copy work at the start of this academic year when 6 years old, I simply write out scripture verses, poems, or hymns that she’s enjoyed into a little handwriting exercise book and encourage her to copy it using her best handwriting. She started by writing just a short list of words back in the autumn term and now as we come to the end of the school year she will write out several lines and has also moved on to joined up (cursive) handwriting.

Now some people choose to buy handwriting curriculum to use for copy work, but I have to say I have found this simple approach to be highly sufficient not to mention cost effective. The improvement in my 7 year olds handwriting over this academic year with just a few minutes of writing practice every school day has been incredible.

 

9. Handicrafts

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“The human hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause for joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success.” (Vol. 6, p. 328) 

Children receiving a Charlotte Mason education are encouraged to learn meaningful arts and crafts and produce useful pieces of work, as opposed to throw away crafts that often come in a pack. Think knitting, sewing, pottery, woodwork, sculpting, baking and calligraphy, all things that make for great life long skills.

In our home this currently looks like embroidery and weaving which we aim to work on once a week, but it’s often more like once or twice a month. With their embroidery the girls will eventually be making some personalised bags as gifts and with their weaving they are due to start making a wall hanging to display in their newly decorated bedroom.

 

10. Free Afternoons

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There is “… satisfaction to do the day’s work in the day, and be free to enjoy the day’s leisure.” (Vol. 4, p. 173)

Charlotte advocated that children should have afternoons free from formal lessons, made possible by the short lessons mentioned above that ensured that school work was out of the way by lunch time. The afternoons aren’t a time to simply be idle but a time to be productive and learn in more hands on and practical ways.

Things like going on nature walks, music practice and lessons, working on handcrafts, serving in the community, pursuing hobbies and following their own interests.

In our home this looks like poetry tea time on a Monday, handcrafts or baking on a Tuesday, a play date on a Wednesday, nature walk on a Thursday and Girl Guiding on a Friday, all with lots of free play throw in.

———-

Home Ed | Implementing Charlotte Mason | The Open Home

So there you have it. Ten ways that you can implement a Charlotte Mason education in your own home.

Which of Charlotte’s methods appeal to you most?

{Home Ed} Introducing Charlotte

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

Since we started home educating Blossom two and a half years ago, six families have been in contact with me directly to discuss the possibility of home educating their little one(s) at home on this island, not to mention the countless others I have spoken with online via a Facebook group for home educators in Guernsey.

They usually start by asking me what do we do and are then very eager to know what we use to do it.

This line of thought often has people bogged down in the “how to” of home educating, most often before they have even given much thought as to the “why” of home educating.

I personally feel it’s important to understand why you want to home educate your kids before you start planning how to home educate them and unfortunately, I’m often not much help when it comes to the “how to” of home educating, especially not when someone is after a curriculum suggestion, as we do not follow the national curriculum nor a box set of curriculum.

What I do follow however, is an educational philosophy.

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

Now if a curriculum is the “how to” of an education then an educational philosophy is the “why”. It’s the guiding principle that keeps the big picture in mind and the reference point for all learning.

This is why when prospective home educators are seeking advice on how to home educate their kids I like to encourage them to first take some time to think about why they want to home educate their kids. I find researching the various educational philosophies can really help with this, enabling you to identify the educational values and methods that aren’t always used in schools, but are important to you.

Now there are many educational philosophies out there and not everyone that home educates chooses to follow one and many even glean ideas from a few. Waldorf Steiner, Montessori, Classical, Charlotte Mason and Un-schooling seem to be the most popular ones, but there are others and I’m not going to go into the details of all of these here as I do not follow them all.

Instead today I would just like to introduce you to Charlotte Mason, the creator of the one educational philosophy that I do follow.

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

Now Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. As a child she was mostly educated at home by her parents and then as an adult went on to become a teacher, lecturer and educator who authored many books on the topic of educational theory. She also co-founded an organisation, the Parents Educational Union later renamed the Parents National Education Union, or the PNEU for short which offered support and resources to parents who were educating their children at home.

As her theory of education became popular the first school based on her principles was opened in 1890 and there are still a few PNEU private schools operating in the UK today, not to mention thousands of home educators worldwide choosing to educate their children the Charlotte Mason way.

Now I won’t go into all the principles of a Charlotte Mason education here nor will I share in detail about all of her wonderful methods, which appeal to so many. I will save that for a later post as this one is already getting rather long. Today I just wanted to briefly introduce you to Charlotte, to put her on your radar and then in my later home ed posts I can unpack the philosophy a little more.

Personally I have found following an educational philosophy, particularly the Charlotte Mason philosophy to be very grounding and affirming in my journey as a home educator. It’s enabled me to better understand my educational values, to keep focused on what I’m trying to achieve in our homeschool and it gives me greater freedom when making decisions as I have some guiding principles to come back to.

So in conclusion today I would just like to briefly sum up, in my own words what the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education looks like. I’m sure that other home educators would explain it very differently, as different aspects of the philosophy may appeal to them more, but for those who are unsure of some of the traits of a Charlotte Mason education then these are the elements that drew me to the philosophy.

Here we go:

“The Charlotte Mason philosophy of education is also known as the gentle art of learning. It provides an education rich in the liberal arts offering a wide variety of subjects that educate the whole child, not just his mind. There is a focus on forming good habits, gaining life skills, spending time outdoors and using quality children’s literature, with short formal lessons being delayed until a child is around 6 years old.”

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

So in my next Charlotte Mason post I’ll share more about how we implement the Charlotte Mason philosophy in our homeschool, mentioning some of the main methods she used that have now become some of the key characteristics of a Charlotte Mason homeschool education.

So tell me, what are your questions about a Charlotte Mason education?

{Wild Challenge} Feed the Birds

Wild Challenge | Feed the Birds | The Open Home

The girls have ticked off their first help nature activity as part of their RSPB Wild Challenge bronze award, meaning we’re now half way to achieving it! This time they got their hands sticky in an attempt to feed the birds.

We stocked up on nuts, bird seed, suet bites and meal worms and mixed it all together with some grated cheese, raisins and lard. We were able to create 7 yogurt pot sized bird feeders for hanging around the garden as well as a bird food cake to put in our ground feeder.

Our resident robin in particular is especially appreciating their efforts and the girls feel pleased they are helping nature right in their own back yard.

Here is the photo evidence:

The Open Home 1465Wild Challenge | Feed the Birds | The Open HomeThe Open Home 1455The Open Home 1457The Open Home 1456The Open Home 1458The Open Home 1459The Open Home 1464The Open Home 1461The Open Home 1463Wild Challenge | Feed the Birds | The Open Home

When was the last time you fed the birds?

{Wild Challenge} Bird Watching

RSPB Wild Challenge | Bird Watching | The Open Home

The girls have ticked off another experience nature activity as part of their RSPB Wild Challenge bronze award, this time by going bird watching. They made use of a break in the rainy weather a couple of weeks back and embarked on a Daddy expedition to the bird hides by vale pond taking with them their nature supplies complete with binoculars, camera, field guide, clipboards and of course, those all important snacks.

They managed to spot snipes and coots, herring gulls and ducks, great tits and pigeons, a robin, blackbird and plenty of crows.

Here is the photo evidence:

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When was the last time you went birdwatching?

{Wild Challenge} Signs of Spring

RSPB Wild Challenge | Signs of Spring | The Open Home

This year we’ve decided to take on the RSPB Wild Challenge as a family and we’re currently working towards our Bronze Award. For each award you need to complete three “Experience Nature” activities and three “Help Nature” activities. We started with an experience nature activity looking for signs of spring in our beloved weekly nature spot, Candie Gardens.

We spied new buds, admired spring bulbs, sniffed sweet blossoms, counted petals, compared leaves, listened to bird song and hunted for bugs and frogs.

Here’s our photo evidence:

RSPB Wild Challenge | Signs of Spring | The Open HomeThe Open Home 1421The Open Home 1422The Open Home 1423The Open Home 1426The Open Home 1427RSPB Wild Challenge | Signs of Spring | The Open HomeThe Open Home 1429The Open Home 1430RSPB Wild Challenge | Signs of Spring | The Open HomeThe Open Home 1428RSPB Wild Challenge | Signs of Spring | The Open HomeThe Open Home 1431RSPB Wild Challenge | Signs of Spring | The Open HomeRSPB Wild Challenge | Signs of Spring | The Open Home

 

What are your favourite signs of spring?

 

 

Homeschool Day in the Life (with a 6 & 4 year old)

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

Following on from my post last week about our homeschool rhythm I thought I’d unpack that a little further with a day in the life post that will hopefully help you to see how that rhythm flows in practice as well as give you a glimpse into what home educating young children can look like.

This day in the life is from a Wednesday earlier this month. Lets jump straight in.


 

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

7:10 – Today’s wake up call from Bubbles felt a little earlier than usual but it was in fact a pretty average time for her. I quickly snuck into the girls room where Bubbles had already made a spot in her bed for me, morning cuddles are a regular thing for us and it gives Blossom a bit more time to wake up.

7:30 – Bubbles couldn’t possibly wait for breakfast any longer so we girls headed downstairs in our pyjamas to start the day. I prepared breakfast whilst the girls squabbled over some random nonsense which continued on and off over breakfast. Apologies were necessary from both sides and bad attitudes looked set to persist.

8:20 – The Husby left for work whilst we got on with our morning chores. Blossom emptied the washing machine and sorted the laundry into piles whilst Bubbles helped me to unload the dishwasher.

8:40 – We finally finished chores and started table time but Blossom, who was still in a grump following the earlier squabbles was now feeling reluctant to do her maths. Rather than battle it out and force her to work under duress I suggested she complete just the one page of maths today instead of the usual two and that seemed to help.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

(On a side note, we’re currently using Oxford International Primary Maths, just in case you’re interested. It’s the only workbook and curriculum we are currently using in our homeschool and it’s working well for Blossom who considers herself “a maths whizz”).

After maths Blossom moved on to her copy work (writing practice) which today was simply a list of words, but some days it’s a line from a poem, hymn or scripture we’re learning. 

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

Whilst Blossom got on with her work Bubbles chose to play with the mathlink cubes for her table time activity and was busy laying them out and counting them with me, declaring “this is good mathing!”

Once Blossom finished her copy work she too joined in with the hands on maths and started to play with the math sticks, as we call them, making up her own sums.

9:20 – Once the essentials were done it was time for my workout. The girls headed upstairs to get dressed and then busied themselves playing for a bit before joining me in the lounge (Bubbles still in her pyjamas!) whilst I finished my exercise.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

10:00 – I usually head straight upstairs to shower and dress after my workout but as the girls were both still grumpy and on the verge of another fall out I suggested we do our morning basket straight away which they were eager to do.

We did our morning basket snuggled up on the sofa in the lounge and today we covered:

  • Devotions

We read the next chapter in The Jesus Storybook Bible (which we’re really enjoying), looked up a verse and song for our advent devotions, recorded some gratitudes in our gratitude journal and then said a short prayer.

  • Art Enrichment

Next up was our art enrichment slot which, as always I started with a poem. This term we’ve been familiarising ourselves with the work of A.A. Milne and today we read “The Old Sailor” from “Now We Are Six“.

Next up was composer study. This term we’ve been studying the work of Tchaikovsky, starting with his ballets, first Swan Lake, then Sleeping Beauty and today we started The Nutcracker. We watched a short youtube video of The Royal Opera House’s “The Waltz of the Snowflakes” discussing the music and story as we watched. The girls remarked that the snow most be getting heavier as the music was getting faster.

  • Main Lesson

On Wednesdays our main lesson is usually history but we wrapped up our stone age studies last week ready to focus on advent readings and activities throughout December. So today we continued reading “How Winston Delivered Christmas”  and also read today’s advent picture book, “Babushka.”

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

10:45 – I finally had the opportunity to get showered and dressed now that morning basket was over and the girls’ grumpy attitudes were gone. The snuggles and books seemed to do the trick and they then played happily together downstairs whilst I got myself ready upstairs.

11:30 – Most days of the week we head out mid to late morning for an outing or group, but not on a Wednesday. Wednesday is our catch up day and the day we have more time to work on crafts. With all the earlier squabbling we were running a little later this morning though and there was no longer time left to fit in the craft I had planned to do before lunch.

Instead I got on with some laundry and prepped lunch whilst the girls continued to play happily in the lounge, singing the Twelve Days of Christmas together as they did!

12:00 – I finally managed to convince Bubbles to actually get dressed in time for lunch and she kindly told us a “silly stone age story” whilst we ate.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

12:20 – After lunch we quickly tidied up the lounge together and then snuggled up once more for our current read aloud, “Holly & Ivy” The girls are loving this book and would happily sit for me to finish the whole thing but today I cut it short so we could fit in that craft we didn’t get round to earlier.

12:45 – Time for some painting! As a neat freak I tend to steer away from messy crafts, but both the girls love to create and Bubbles in particular loves the sensory process of painting so I’m making a real effort to include it more often.

Today they painted some colourful skies (a moonlit one for Bubbles and a sunrise for Blossom). Next week they’ll add some black pieces of card to the picture to make some stone circle silhouettes.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

13:30 – The girls usually join their grandparents for a playdate on their farm on a Wednesday afternoon but they were poorly this week so the girls joined me on a couple of errands instead for part of their afternoon activity.

First we popped into my office at work so I could collect a few things to work on from home and then we headed to Waitrose to stock up on a few groceries.

15:00 – Once home I prepared the girls a snack and allowed them a mid week movie in leu of their playdate so I could get some work done at the kitchen table. Brother Bear was chosen, one of the movies I recently introduced to help bring  prehistoric history to life.

16:30 – The Husby returned from work and thankfully got on with making dinner so I could continue my work at the table.

17:30 – The girls had an early dinner together today and then joined the Husby in the lounge to read books and play whilst I snuck upstairs for a hot bath.

18:30 – Tired and grumpy yet again, Bubbles trudged up the stairs and we started her bedtime routine early whilst Blossom hid in my bedroom, unwinding from the day and getting herself changed for bed.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

19:00 – Bubbles is tucked up early tonight with no bedtime call backs. I folded laundry with Blossom in my bedroom and then we did her reading practice together using The Complete Book of First Experiences from Usborne. I then read her a bedtime story from our beloved Milly-Molly-Mandy before tucking her up in bed around 19:45.

20:00 – The Husby and I finally sat down to dinner together and then chilled out in front of the TV to watch The Big Bang Theory for the zillionth time. Tomorrow is his day off so Wednesday is effectively our Friday night so we have that weekend feeling, so much so that I ended up falling asleep on the sofa before retreating to bed early.


 

So that’s what our homeschool rhythm looks like in practice.

What does your (home) school day look like?