What comes to mind when you think of the phrase “one room schoolhouse?”
No, really. Stop and think about it for a moment. Think of all those descriptions of the schoolrooms in ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ in ‘The Long Winter,’ in ‘Little Women.’ Do you have those descriptions in your mind? Can you picture it?
Think of all the desks lined up neat and tidy in their rows, the little desks in front and the desks getting bigger as you move towards the back of the room. The teacher up at the front of the classroom writing spelling words like ‘cat’ and ‘hat’ on one side of the blackboard and algebraic equations on the other side. The children sitting quietly in their seats with their heads bent over their books.
The teacher calls the class to attention and they go through their morning routine as one big group. Then, starting with the youngest students, the teacher calls them up to her desk and begins working with them on a particular subject. When the oral review is done, those students sit down and the next group come up to work on the same subject with their teacher at a different learning level. On and on the day goes, the teacher working with each group in their turn, always jumping from one learning level to another, always giving assignments for the children to work on while she works with another group.
Your Homeschool is a One Room Schoolhouse
Did you know that you’re very similar to the schoolteacher in that one-room schoolhouse? Okay, there are some differences. One of the obvious ones is that most one-room schoolhouses had children from more than one family in them. Typically, the teacher was not directly related to the students (although there always was a possibility). The schoolhouses were also built to hold from 10 to 30 students – and I’m guessing that you don’t have 30 children of your own that you’re homeschooling on a day to day basis.
But think about it, you are teaching your children. You are teaching multiple children on multiple different learning levels. As you work with your throughout the day, you’re jumping from one learning level to another. You’re attempting to keep them all going in the correct direction so you can accomplish what needs to be done each day.
Let’s face it: This is no easy task!
So, how can you approach your homeschooling in a way that helps your children learn, teaches them diligence and responsibility, keeps them moving towards the goal of finishing their schoolwork for the day, allows you to work with each child individually when they need help and guidance, and keeps momma from pulling her hair out? Again, NOT EASY!
And yet, when you start looking at your homeschool as a one room schoolhouse, you can start to find time and freedom to work with each of your children individually. You can start to create a pattern and routines to help you accomplish all that you need to get done in a day.
And you can do it all without pulling your hair out…or losing your mind!
A Glimpse at Our Homeschooling Adventure
Through the years as we’ve been homeschooling our children, we’ve adopted this one room schoolhouse mentality. And, believe it or not, it has brought a lot of perspective and peace to our school days.
Before I get into the details of the one room schoolhouse, you need to understand a couple things about our homeschooling adventure. Before we even had our first child, my husband and I talked about the idea of homeschooling. We both knew this was the route we wanted to take with our children – and we knew that we wanted more than one child.
So, even as our children were really young, this is the mindset I started with. Even when they were only 2 year old, I had a “school” plan to accomplish. But you know what? Those early school plans for my 2-year-old were more for me than they were for my child! Oh, don’t get me wrong, we had fun. We read books, played games, and had snacks. We would count stuffed animals and read books about counting.
There were many people who thought I was nuts for starting a “school” plan so early with my children. But, the plan was more for me than it was for them. I knew I needed to get myself into the habit of having schoolwork to accomplish. I figured that if I started training myself while they were still little, by the time we needed to start on preschool work at least I would be used to the school routine and mentality!
As our family has grown, we’ve had to homeschool around many different life events. My older children have had to work around having a newborn sibling in the house. We’ve had to work around nap times and toddler tantrums. We’ve had to work around stopping to feed the baby at specific times. In these seasons, I’ve been so grateful for the flexibility that homeschooling has given us.
And as my children grew (and as we had more children!), I realized something: If I tried to sit down and work through an entire day of school with each and every child, well, there just wasn’t enough time in my day!
This is where the one room schoolhouse mentality comes in. I’ve found that I have to be strategic in how I divide up my time working with each child on their schoolwork. So, the solution that our family came up with was to create our ‘together time’ and our ‘individual lists.’
Let me elaborate…
When our school day starts each morning, we begin by reading a chapter or two from a book. These are books that I read out loud to my children, books that I want all my children to hear. For example, we just recently finished ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E.B. White. Reading together at the start of the day really sets the tone for us and helps us transition from that ‘get up, get ready’ phase to the ‘school day’ phase.
From there, we tackle our ‘together’ subjects. These are subjects we can all do together even though we have 5 different learning levels in our family. Our list of together subjects includes history, science, and learning about composers. Working through these subjects together lends a lot of simplicity to our school day. Also, I can easily give my older children more worksheets or more in-depth activities on the lesson while my younger ones are happy to color a coloring sheet with a picture of whatever that particular lesson is on.
Once our ‘together’ subjects are completed, my older children start working on their ‘individual lists.’ You see, the night before, my older children fill out their own individual list. Now, these aren’t anything fancy, just a printed page with their individual school subjects on it. I laminated these pages so they can write on them with a dry erase marker, wipe it off, and use it all year long. We also make copies of the worksheets they need, so my children have all the materials they need to begin working on their own.
Some of the subjects that are included on their individual lists are reading silently, math, spelling lists, handwriting and typing lessons. Essentially, core subjects, but ones that each child is on a different level within that subject.
As my older children head to their chosen spot to begin working, I am freed up to begin working with my younger children. Let’s be honest, it takes a while for children to reach the point where they can work all on their own. Kindergarten and younger just struggle with staying on task unless they have someone working with them!
Final Check In
Once I’m done working with the little ones, I let my older children know that I’ve available. This is their time to come and work with me. In this time frame, we cover everything from giving spelling tests to working through a math or grammar lesson they’re struggling with to helping to walk through and clarify a lesson.
Before each child is done with school for the day, they have to check in with me so that I can make sure they’ve completed all their work as well as checking their work.
Now, this does mean that the school day ends at a different time for each of my children. My preschooler will most likely finish before my middle schooler. And yet, the time that each child finishes is not only based on their age, but on how well they have focused and accomplished their lessons for the day.
Let me be clear: I don’t share all of this information with you to hold my family up on this pedestal as a shining example of what every homeschooling family should aspire to be like – far from it!! We are a mess! We do our best to love our children well, to teach our children well, and to learn and grow together. But we’re humans. We mess up. We have bad days. We get frustrated with each other. And we make mistakes. But we do our best to learn from our mistakes.
So now the question is up to you: What lessons can your learn from a one room schoolhouse?
How can you adjust your approach to homeschooling to create a bit of breathing space for you?
What perspective can the past lend you?
Your lessons, your approach to homeschooling will be different than mine. Remember, the best approach to homeschooling is the one that fits your family, the one that honors each individual member of your family, and the approach that you can keep going.
- A Day In the Homeschooling Life
- Set Your Homeschooling Day Up for Greater Success
- Simple Ways to Overcome Frustration and Enjoy Your Homeschooling Day
- The Importance of Knowing Your Homeschooling Inspiration
- How To Measure Your Child’s Homeschooling Progress
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.