Changes in These Middle Years (Video) ~ Defining Structure

This video is the second part in a two part video series about our Middle Homeschool Years. You can view the first video here.

The video is just a little over fifteen minutes. Kinda long, I know. But I think you'll enjoy it if you are curious about what the middle years look like following a relaxed early years education (exciting and a tad more intense for mama).

Here is the reading post I mention in the video.

One major change I failed to mention in the video, that really affects our homeschool routine, is that Damien is now home with us each and every day. It's wonderful yes. But life is still life and not the bliss some people might imagine that situation to be (smile).

There are bills to pay, another move to finance, and Damien works hard to provide. So his time at home doesn't influence our homeschool routine a lot right now.

But his presence at home to help the kids when they need assistance, help in the kitchen, and generally "be available" allows me to explore the idea of home-based paid work.

As we explore more shared income earning using our gifts and talents he will be more involved in the homeschool scene. It's our intention for him to be especially available as our kids get older and need more of his direct guidance navigating their young adults years.

This is one of the reasons we felt the need to move now, and not wait on immigration. We wanted to put the pieces in place for him to be home during the crucial young adult years.

Let's Talk Structure

I talk a lot about structure in this video. We are still committed to interest-led learning so you might be wondering, "What's up with all the structure?"

Let me explain a bit.

In the video I laid out pretty clearly that our oldest two children have definite learning needs that require an increased investment of my time. And as I explained, I find it very useful for me to block my time so I know I am giving my children the attention they need.

This works well with older children. Little kids pretty much need attention always (or at least for you to be available always), except when sleeping. Which is why we mothers LOVE naptime and bedtime. I know. I've been there.

Now that the kids are older I can say "I am unavailable for this hour, go play". But that only works for me (mentally, emotionally, intellectually, etc.) if I feel I have given my children lots of other time to connect with me and have me available for them.

Time to teach them what's on my heart to share. Time to help them with their interests. Time for relationship and time to learn, together.

A definite structure to our days is one way to provide what we all need - time with each other. It sounds funny since we all spend our days at home. But really, I need that structure to make sure we're connecting and not just orbiting each other.

But how does interest-led learning work within structure?

We structure our time more than the actual content.

There is a morning block set aside for "school", with more time in the afternoon for Celine if she needs/wants it. In that morning block the kids almost always do their individual math practice and some writing/language development (an eclectic mix of handwriting, copywork, and spelling). The language work is especially important for Laurent. Other than those routines the content of our school mornings is very open to our interests and inspiration.

We might sing songs (loudly with dancing), memorize scripture, read history, recite poetry, do Mad Libs (laughing like crazy), or write together. I am using a wide mix of curriculum and resources for guidance and I'll be sharing that later this year. 

I have goals I want to accomplish with the kids. Things I want to teach them. Ideas that inspire me and that I am inspired to pass on. This is what we do in our morning "school".

The afternoons remain largely open for individual pursuits, with help as needed from other family members. This is where we make time for playdates, nature walks, and trips to the beach. Most days the kids craft, read, listen to stories, explore, and play. This is also when I do my menu planning, bill paying, a once/week errand run and other home management.

The thing that's different during these middle years (and as a result of the changes I talk about in the video) is that I'm not messing around anymore with the morning school time. My diligence in that routine matters.

These years are short and I want to make the most of them. It's time for me to get serious. Notice I said "me", not the kids.

This concept of structuring time, not content is an idea we've practiced for years and the first place I saw it described was in Leadership Education.

The way the DeMilles' explain structuring time, not content resonates so strongly with me.

To read more about this concept check out the book for yourself. You can also read at Simple Homeschool how Jamie structures time, not content, for the early years.

Learning, living and growing together. It truly is an exciting journey.

Where are you at in your homeschool journey? 

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  • Natalia

    Natalia on Oct. 3, 2011, 10:40 a.m.

    Great post as always. It is interesting to see that the approach you describe is quite similar to what we are doing (the block of 'school' learning in the morning, afternoons for more individual pursuits or things outside the home) even though my learner is a bit younger. Makes me feel I might be on the right track :)

    Please keep up your posts about the 'middle years'. So much of the 'homeschooling' stuff I see is for early years, which is fine, but it seems to really peter off once you start looking for the age we are now - seven and above - when I feel is when 'homeschool' actually becomes a bit more structured (I also feel that there really is no need for structured learning before about age six anyway, but that is my personal philosophy). Seeing and reading what you are doing is very helpful.


  • Jacinda

    Jacinda on Oct. 3, 2011, 11:26 a.m.

    It's nice to have you chatting in my living room. I hear you about the routine and the interest-led philosophy. We are "playing with" a bit of a routine in the mornings. We all feel better when we have put aside time to meet the different needs of the girls...playing with structure serving us not us serving the structure.


  • Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds

    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds on Oct. 3, 2011, 11:52 a.m.

    First I have to say that I LOVE the videos! It is so wonderful to hear you talking about your homeschool journey and to see the excitement in you face as you talk about Celine's changing educational needs. You have encouraged me, for sure. I know that you have been where I am (with littles 1, 2, 4, and 5) and have felt some of the anxiety over whether or not this "method" of letting them be kids instead of pushing academics will really work out in the end. This post has given that little boost of confidence that, yes, I am doing what is best for my children, and yes, they are learning and growing just the way GOD intended.

    I am also encouraged to use this homeschooling journey as a personal journey as well.  Each year my kids grow I feel that I am growing as well, only now I am feeling that I should put as much intention in my own growth (spiritual, educational, physical, interests) as I have in theirs.  That is exciting and liberating to think about - that my children can learn and even benefit from my example of using my time to pursue my own interests.
    We are a military family and have many moves ahead of us.  I agree that moving is exhausting and time consuming.  I love that homeschooling will allow us to take breaks and give us more time that is needed - time to pack, organize, say goodbye to friends, and especially time to explore our new home.  

    Thanks again for taking time to share your experience with all of us.


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 3, 2011, 12:20 p.m.

      Becky, I am so happy to hear this! I really want to encourage those relaxed learners in the younger years.  And absolutely - this is a family learning journey. I get to learn too! I am excited about my own learning just as the kids are excited about their new skills and knowledge.   


  • Sage

    Sage on Oct. 3, 2011, 3:10 p.m.

    I really like the idea of structuring the time in your day, but not defining the specific "content." This is great advice for other aspects of life (and relationships) besides homeschool.

    I gave you a fun award on my blog today! Of course, you're under no obligation to participate. I just want my readers to know how great your blog is. :)


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Oct. 4, 2011, 3:35 a.m.

    I am really loving those videos, Renee! It feels like we are having a discussion in your living room! Your experience is priceless for me, as I am trying to navigate the terrain of relaxed homeschooling and unschooling after being quite into a 4 days a week Waldorf curriculum in the midst of our traveling plans for the coming years. It is so good to hear about Celine's request for more-I-am-ready-now after a childhood of freedom, play and relaxed homeschooling. What a beautiful journey we are on! I can't wait to hear more!


  • Casey

    Casey on Oct. 4, 2011, 5:15 a.m.

    Thank you for posting about the middle years - keep it coming! So much information you find these days is geared towards the littles, it seems like homeschool kids disappear at age 8! I think you have chosen a beautiful path for your son. I'm a special Ed teacher and a homeschooling mom of a daughter with leaning differences, and that's exactly what it is- a way of learning outside of the dominant method. Direct instruction and lots of time and patience works wonders.


  • Charity

    Charity on Oct. 4, 2011, 6:06 p.m.

    Thanks so much for sharing, Renee. I think this is definitely something I can tuck into the back of my mind for when mine are a little older.


  • shelli

    shelli on Oct. 4, 2011, 8:10 p.m.

    Renee, I'm always happy to see more of your homeschooling philosophy. I'll be coming back here over the next several years, I'm sure. As you know, I've just begun "Kindergarten" with my son this year, but it's very relaxed. I only do a reading lesson while my 2yo is napping, and I find that my 5yo is having trouble focusing, so I've tried to pull back. What is confusing is that he keeps asking for the lessons even though it seems like he doesn't want to be doing them when we are doing the lessons! So I do a little and don't push him. I'm looking forward to the coming years!

    Congratulations on launching your coaching services! I wish you much success in that!


  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on Oct. 5, 2011, 2:05 p.m.

    Our homeschooling experience has taken a turn for the better (thank God). I think it is because of the structure we (I) put into place for our mornings. I do have certain things I hope to get through each morning, but realized that I don't need to control every minute. By giving my girls the freedom to decide what's next, they are more enthusiastic about it.

    For me, routine and structure provide accountability - even in the early years. I have also found that having both of these, makes me more intentional with my children. Without the routine and structure, they would do their thing and I would do mine....that's not why I homeschool.


  • Nadine

    Nadine on Oct. 5, 2011, 3:16 p.m.

    Just sat down to watch your video(hard for me to find blocks of time to sit down;))...I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to watching more of these...I have a question for you if you do not mind...What is your approach to teaching Laurent to read...I have known since last year that Gabriel is dyslectic...he is certainly not on the mild side...and as you said this makes things a little more extended family thinks I am doing him a dis-service by homeschooling him and not putting him into school because of some of his issues... I on the other hand feel school might push him over the edge but there are days where I day dream about putting him in school as he rejects any kind of structured work...I must say in Gabriel defense that he has many diagnosis that don't help the issue of learning...he will be 8 soon...and yes he is still young...

    The dyslectic aspect of things bother me...he is not reading at all...not even one bit...most of his writing is backwards(letters and numbers)...and he doesn't even see it as wrong...I know this is how his brain is wired...but I was wondering if you have found tricks and material that you found useful in this journey... I have spend many $$$ on material that proved useless(or hard to comprehend/ as how to properly apply it) and it is always nice to have another momma on the journey share what has worked for her...

    Have a blessed day


  • Kika

    Kika on Oct. 5, 2011, 3:44 p.m.

    This year, as I think you know, my oldest went to highschool (first time in school). It was his choice and we support him but I also would support him in returning home if he chooses that in the future. So my role there has certainly changed. I try to get all my main "work" done earlier in the day to be available to him when he comes home and wants to talk my ear off or wants me to look over his work, or whatever. He is happy and strong academically and character-wise but my husband and I have constant frustrations with the school system - kind of funny considering my husband is a teacher. I do not want my daughters to ever go to school but we also think they do have a right to try it out in highschool if they want. Mostly, we encourage our kids to think for themselves about who they are and where they want to head in the future and we hope to help them accomplish their goals.

    Anyways, I am homeschooling my almost 12 year old in grade seven this year and my youngest, 6ys, for grade one. My middle daugther set most of her own goals for the year and I basically insist on continually building math and writing skills and I help set up a basic schedule for these goals combined. I have other "loose" objectives in other subject areas but they take backseat to our main goals for the year. Afternoons are not that structured. As an example, yesterday I did a fall craft of my 6 year old's choosing while her big sister spent extra time working on her music goals. I am not pushing too much structure on my youngest - she won't fit well into that at all. She tends to be a super sensitive/high anxiety little person and loves to play, sing, dance, read together, craft... so I want her to continue with that and a few times/wk we do a little more formal work building her reading and math skills. Part way through the year I'll probably increase the structured learning time if she is ready. I believe she is advanced in many ways for grade one anyways just b/c she hangs around her older siblings and her big sister started "playing school" with her when she was around 3ys old :)

    I guess, compared to the major work load of last year, teaching my son grade nine (easy enough) and some grade ten course work for credits (very time-consuming) this year feels breezy:) Having kids spread out like this certainly changes how homeschooling and life works. I see that more and more now as I read your posts - it is easier, probably, to have the kids closer in age as they move through various stages together (for the most part). I wouldn't change our family, for anything, however, but it presents its own unique challenges and blessings!


  • Mel

    Mel on Oct. 5, 2011, 9:41 p.m.

    I love seeing you "live!"

    We are at the very beginning of our homeschooling journey. I recently quit my job to stay home with my boys (3 and 4) while still freelancing. I haven't quite figured out how to fit it all in yet, but I love the idea of structuring time.

    As you mentioned, these little guys need/want me all the time, so working has been a challenge, but I know I only get this opportunity to hang out with 3 and 4 year olds once ;)


  • Aimee

    Aimee on July 23, 2012, 12:37 a.m.

    Wondering how Laurent is doing in reading? I have come to the conclusion this past year that my 9 year old probably has dyslexia. Many friends have been directing me towards Dianne Craft's materials. Have you used any of her resources?


    • renee

      renee on July 23, 2012, 1:18 a.m.

      Stay tuned Aimee. I will be talking about that in August. Navigating this road is a tricky one. I am going to check out Diane's materials - thanks for the recommend. 


      • Aimee

        Aimee on July 23, 2012, 3:03 p.m.

        yes, I am feeling a bit discouraged by it right now (doesn't help that I have a cold and don't feel great physically). It does seem "tricky" and there doesn't seem to be a quick or easy or simple answer to any of it. I keep reminding myself that he is fearfully and wonderfully made and that God has a plan for him that will be different and perfect for him. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


        • renee

          renee on July 24, 2012, 11:03 a.m.

          Aimee, I understand the discouragement and even fear you might be feeling. I know those feelings with regards to our journey with dyslexia. If you have just figured out this "diagnosis" (I don't like that word) - don't panic. You have time. Fear will motivate us into a "I have to fix this situation now" mode. Yes, it is tricky to navigate but you don't have to have all the answers today, tomorrow or next month. I'm a solid year into my knowledge of Laurent's dyslexia and I take it season by season. With both my understanding of what this means and strategies we're trying to overcome it. I will be posting in August about our journey down this road. I just wanted to say, give yourself some time to figure this out. You don't have to have all the answers now (or ever).


  • Rana

    Rana on Sept. 19, 2013, 4:17 a.m.

    Somehow I missed reading these posts and watching the videos which have been great.  Some days when I read your blog I feel like we are leading parallel lives only with our own families life goals being different.  My kiddos are 10 and slowly starting to  move into that next season of learning in the middle years.  I need help Renee.  I hear you with the "Mama" needs to be intentional.  I have a blocked schedule that when we do it works well.  Our schedule is similar to yours.  I guess what I'm needing is to bounce information/ideas off on another homeschool mom that has been where I'm at already.  It's not even a matter of  am I doing it right? I think I would like to schedule some time with you to help me figure out how to mold/sculpt this better.  I'm going to put together our philosophy and where we are at in the scheme of things and what curriculum we are using and maybe you can help me lay it out better so I feel we are making the most of what's left of our elementary time and transition a bit smoother into the middle years. As always thanks for your insights.


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