Sunday, 10 January 2016

Our Routine & Rules

Apologies, technology in our house has been playing up this week, so I've not been able to post alot of what I wanted.  

A number of people have asked me how we structure our day (in terms of Home Education) and how I manage the two different sets of needs the children have.  It's too huge a question to answer in just one post, and varies hugely with Good Days and Bad Days, but I will try and outline here our basic structure.

Mondays and Tuesdays are our main 'Table Days', as I call them.  By this I mean we start the days doing structured work at the table in the dining room. We usually start around 8.30am/9am but we do not have a fixed time - once every-one is up, washed, dressed and breakfasted we meet at the table to begin 'work'.  

Mondays begins with a Spelling Test - we either make our own lists, or use the ones on (which are already done for you and split by Key Stage and Year Group).  We use Spelling Books -  

Which are basic A5 lined notebooks (ours are from Wilkinsons - ) but any will do.  We cover ours with attractive wrapping paper and sticky back plastic - very old school I know, but the kids love it.  It makes them visually appealing, user friendly (easy to grab the correct book off the shelf) and protects them also.  

As the children are at different levels, spellings are set according to their ability - 

DD has 20 spellings a week and DS has 10.  As you can see, DD likes to mark her own, DS usually lets me mark his but sometimes he likes to do the ticking.  Some weeks he does not want to do his spellings, or we do them later in the week.  It has to be a Good Day for DS to want to engage with his spellings, and that's ok. I have learnt now it is better not to push it on a Bad Day. Some days are writing days, some days are not, I have learnt to roll with that now :-)  

Besides our weekly spellings, we also do reading - for which we keep Reading Diaries.  We do loads of reading together, and that doesn't get recorded in the diaries, these are just for reading they do themselves.  The diaries we keep are the same format as the spelling books - 

DD tends to keep her own diary now, as she free-reads whatever she is in the mood to read.  She loves reading, but tends to favour the same types of books so I am currently encouraging her to try and include at least one non-fiction book a week, to expand her reading.  

DS needs to be encouraged to do reading with me, as he is still very much learning to read.  We are currently on Raspberry level at our local library - basic storybooks with 1 -2 sentences per page and approximately 23 pages per book (1 page text/ 1 page picture).  

I know DD reads far more than she fills in her diary ('lights out' at bedtime is testament to this daily lol!) but DS's diary is an accurate record of the amount and frequency he reads.  Ideally I would like us to read every day, as he needs the practice, but again, due to his ASD I have to accept that some weeks this is possible, some not. For example on Monday he sat and read 3 books on the trot, one on Tuesday and none the rest of the week.  Again I'm learning not to measure or judge in the same way, sometimes it is more or less than that. The main things are that we keep moving forward and he continues to improve. 

We are also massive fans of the Leap Ahead series of Maths and English books.  

These are great - very bright and visual and also the kids are able to work on them independently.  I tend to stick a piece of paper over the answers on the back cover so there's no cheating lol! 

We have journals that the kids are encouraged to write, or draw in, daily.  Anything they like. And this is not marked, it is just to get them into the discipline of writing something every day - or getting their minds in thinking mode.  It can be done whenever they like - beginning or end of the day - and every now and then I will just take a glance through. 

Another thing we are using is a Project Book -  

Ours is from Wilkinsons again, is A5 spiral bound and is divided into 5 sections.  This is a great tool for independent learning and research.  At the moment we are only doing this with DD.  It is great for her to go and do some independent, focused learning which develops her research skills and helps her take ownership of her learning. It also enables me to spend 1-1 time with DS who needs more input to achieve his English and SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) goals.  

I have allowed DD to choose what 5 projects she wants to research.  She then fills the sections with pictures, writing and facts with handwritten or scanned from books and pasted in.  She looks up information in our own books, at the library and sometimes on the computer.  The projects she has chosen so far are Wild Dogs - 

Baking/ Cookery - 

And Sea Life - 

As with the journals, I do not 'mark' this work - as the value is in her researching the information and discovering where her interests lie, not in me correcting the grammar.  I save that for when we are doing English or SPaG specifically.

When DS has reached his 'Table Time limit' (trust me, you know when lol!) he is given 'Golden Time' - a phrase he understands to mean he can now choose what he would like to do.  He finds this achievable, whereas if I said he was now 'free to choose' the concept of that would overwhelm him. So we stick with the phrase he is comfortable with.  

While DS is having golden time, I may sometimes spend some 1-1 time with DD working on something together. Usually some type of craft, sewing or hands on project or cookery.  Other times she will also have 'golden time' and I am free to get on with other things I need to do in the day.

In the afternoons, weather permitting, we will try and get out of the house. There are so many local parks and playgrounds to choose from. Or we go on a bike ride, or the kids take out their scooters somewhere.  We might go and roller skate at one of the empty parks or go on a nature walk or scavenger hunt.  If I have alot to do around the house they may help with chores or play out in the garden while I get on with what I need to do. 

We have a general 'rule' in our house that we do not watch TV before 4pm on 'school' days (Monday to Friday).  This is because I find if I do allow my kids an hour or so of telly during the day they then become 'blobby brained' and their independent thought seems to switch off and they then require constant direction, which is not how I want to spend my days. 

We also have a 'rule' that computer games are for weekends only. The kids have a Tamagotchi  each but beyond that (Kindle, Tablet, Play Station etc) are all limited to the weekend only.  I do not police the amount of hours they spend on the technology at the weekends (as I want them to learn to self-regulate) however there are a few general ground rules - namely they are not allowed computer time until they are washed, dressed and have had breakfast, they must remember to take breaks if they need them and they may only pick one weekend day - ie. if they have played on Saturday they will be expected to do something else on Sunday.  

There are, of course, exceptions to the TV and Computer 'rules' - for example, there are days it is obvious we all need a 'break' and sitting down to watch a movie together is the perfect antedote - but generally speaking these are our 'rules' and I find they work really well for keeping open, active minds (and active bodies!) for the majority of the time. 

The rest of our week (beyond Monday & Tuesday) is governed largely by other groups and activities we do, and we fit any formal learning around that.  We attend a social group at a fantastic park midweek with 40+ other HE children, we do gymnastics on a Thursday and sometimes swimming after. Alternatively we may be working on projects (I'll cover another time) or doing trips by ourselves or with other HE groups.  And Fridays tend to be our 'mop up' day - finishing any work we have not finished during the week. 

These are just a few of our basic tools that we start off with.  Nothing that costs a fortune, or relies heavily on having particular IT equipment to support it.  This is what works for us and is the foundation we build from.  But I think that's enough for today :-) xx

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