How Morning Baskets & Loop Schedules Are Saving Our Home School Day

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Home school mamas, I think I’ve finally done it. I think I’ve finally figured out THE method that is going to work for our home school.

But let’s back up a little. While I know my kids are learning and growing and covering material, our home school has not looked the way I really want it to the past few years… or maybe ever. I have tried many different methods for making it work.

The first couple of years, I lesson planned the entire year before we began. I had a page for every school day for the year and exactly what we needed to do that day, including art supplies, library books, and everything else we might need.

That worked for about two weeks each year. Because what would happen is we’d get through half a day and something would come up–a phone call, a headache, an unplanned doctor’s visit–and then that day wasn’t finished and so we’d pick up where we left off the next day and try to do 1.5 days of work and then before you know it we are a whole week behind and feel like we are drowning and once you reach that point, it’s over.

Then I tried something a little more laid back. I made each kid a list of everything they COULD work on (I included every learning game, workbook, art project, etc, that was available in the house) and I laminated it and then each morning they were supposed to give it to me to circle what I wanted them to do that day. They were responsible to record in a one subject notebook what things they actually did that day.

This worked OK for a little while. Then we got stuck in a rut. Even though I listed all kinds of fun and extras on the assignment sheet, I’d just circle the same things every day: math, work on your writing assignment, listen to your memory work, read a book, etc. None of the fun stuff was happening and none of the “extras” were being used. All those cool wrap ups I bought, the fun how to draw books, learning games, coloring sheets… all wasted because we were in a rut.

In the end, we got to the end of this school year and I looked at what we accomplished and felt like a gigantic failure.  Yes, we got through the MUST DOs. Math was done, books were read, science fair projects were completed. But where was the joy and the fun? Also, we weren’t doing anything together as a family and I hated that.

The reality is that most scheduling methods require us to be perfect. To stay on track, to not get stuck in ruts, to not have bad days, or bad weeks, or long winters where we just don’t care because it’s STILL SNOWING.

Then I saw some mentions of a Morning Basket on a few home school blogs I admire. This is the idea that you have some books, activities, and lessons that you do together as a family in the morning before everyone breaks off to do their individual grade level work. I liked this concept but immediately got overwhelmed. What happens when we sleep in and forget? What happens when a huge project is due for Classical Conversations and we decide to skip it? What happens when the morning basket activities take too long and they don’t have time to get their “real” work done? What books should we read? How many things should we put in our basket?

Then I started reading about Loop Scheduling.  Loop scheduling, from my reading on it,  means that you make a lesson plan for each subject  and list everything you want to do in that subject all year.  Each day, you start where you left off the day before.  So for example, you do day one of history, day one of science, day one of English, etc. When you get through day one of everything, you go back to history and start on day 2. This way, nothing is assigned to be done on a particular day and you are never behind! Life changing, right? And if the history project is to make purple ink by boiling blueberries (some of you know what I’m talking about, right? Story of the World isn’t for the faint of heart!) and it takes half the morning, well, then, you do less of everything else that day. There’s no rule that you must cover every subject every day. You just get through as much as you can with the time you have on any given day. And pick up where you left off the next day.

Well, I decided to combine these two concepts. I made a list of everything I wanted to learn about with all the kids together in our morning basket and made it into a loop schedule. I don’t want this time to become a burden on them because they have plenty of other grade level school work that has to get done. I wanted this to be a time of enjoyment with more of the fun and lighter subjects that always get pushed aside because we don’t have time for them. So we give it one hour every morning. We might read a chapter of history, play a math game, etc. But we just do one thing from each subject until our time is up.  And wherever we leave off, we pick up the next day.

The basket is next to my bed. This is another key. Other than those crazy history projects, we can do it all in my bed. Which means in the winter, when I feel absolutely awful (winters really are rough on me–I need sunshine to function and by January I am a mess!), we can still do this because it’s meant to do sitting on my bed. So there’s no “I don’t even have it in me to make it to the couch.” It’s realistic. I know how I get without sunshine and the morning basket concept gives me a way to still get the work done.

And the loop schedule means that I am not fighting my OCD. We don’t have to check everything off the list for today because nothing is assigned a day. We do what we can and pick up where we left off tomorrow. And because it’s not possible to get behind, I don’t feel defeated and give up.

This may not be the right method for some people but for me, it’s a miracle. It works with my flaws instead of forcing me to fight against them. I am learning that the best plans for success have to acknowledge our weaknesses and not just assume we can overcome. I’m a huge fan of Marie Kondo (you know, that KonMari method of decluttering your house?) and she says that you have to be honest with yourself about who you really are. In her case, she was talking about things like why you shouldn’t keep a shelf full of classic books because you wish you were the kind of person who enjoyed reading classics–if you don’t enjoy them, donate them! But I think it applies in many other areas as well. Being honest about my home school weaknesses has helped me come up with a plan to accomplish more WITHOUT me having to wake up a “better person” tomorrow.

Do you use loop scheduling or morning baskets? How does it work for you?



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