I know, I know… I can almost hear what you’re thinking: Cycles? Patterns? The same thing day after day? The same thing year after year? I’m going to die of boredom before I finish this first paragraph – let alone a whole year of it homeschooling!!
Let’s be real: When it comes to cycles and patterns, that how it feels a lot of times, isn’t it?
The some old thing over and over and over again…
Repeating yourself for the hundredth time…
Trapped in a horrific version of ‘Groundhog Day,’ never to be released…
But what if the cycles and patterns didn’t have to be boring? What if they saved you time? What if they allowed your children to learn more and retain more information? (That’s the golden nugget right there, isn’t it?)
What if you’ve been looking at cycles and patterns from the wrong perspective?
What They Are
Now, before you jump to any conclusions, rest assured that a cycle or a pattern is NOT doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That is, in fact, the definition of insanity and that’s a place we want to stay away from!!
A cycle is any complete round or series of occurrences that repeats or is repeated; a round of years in which certain events repeat themselves in the same order. Think of a yearly calendar: Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all fall at the same time each year, every year. This is a cycle.
A pattern is a natural configuration or design. For example, to make or fall into a pattern. Think of how you get ready in the morning. You may start by brushing your teeth, then washing your face, then brushing your hair, and finally choose your outfit. Now, you may not use this exact order, but if you think about it, when you get ready, you tend to do things in the same order day after day almost without thinking. This is a pattern.
Cycles and patterns help create predictable, repeatable events so everyone knows what’s coming. They set expectations for both you and your children.
And, when it comes to homeschooling, cycles and patterns allow you to cover material in a more in-depth way, allowing your children to retain more information in the long term.
So, all this is well and good, but what does it look like in reality? What does it look like to build cycles and patterns into your homeschooling?
Let’s start by looking at patterns…
Building a Pattern for Your Homeschooling Day
I tend to think of patterns in terms of the day-to-day details. In other words, the pattern of your day is the order in which you get things done.
Now, this pattern can have specific times of day associated with it, but in a bigger sense your pattern is the order in which you take on your homeschool day.
Let me see if I can break this down a bit more with an example…
Every morning at 10am, my children and I gather at our school room table and start what we call our “together time.” These are all the subjects that we work through together on a multi-grade level. Think: One room schoolhouse. (If you want to look deeper into this idea of a one-room schoolhouse, check out this post.)
When we finish the subjects that my middle schoolers are working through with us, they head off to work on their individual work. I then finish up the remainder of the together subjects with my younger children.
Once this is complete, we continue sitting at the school room table, but everyone brings out their school binder and works through their individual list of subjects. This includes subjects like math, reading, and spelling – important subjects, but ones that everyone is on a different level.
(Side note: We use individual lists that we prepare the night before so everyone knows exactly what they need to do before the day begins. This also saves a lot of “Mom, what do I do for math today?” questions as everyone starts working on different things!)
If you want to dive deeper into how to build a pattern for your homeschooling day, check out this post.
In a nutshell, building a pattern for your homeschooling day is creating an order of events that lets everyone know what’s coming.
Patterns and Time Frames
Now, here’s the tricky things with patterns: They are not time bound!
For example, a pattern doesn’t say: At 10am we will start our history lesson and we will spend 26 minutes studying Ancient Greece, then at 10:26 we move on to science. We will spend 39 minutes studying zoology and pick up ‘Prince Caspian’ and begin reading it together at 11:05.
A pattern flows naturally. This means that – continuing with the above example – your science lesson will start when your history lesson ends. Now, the history lesson could take 10 minutes, 26 minutes, or 55 minutes! Whatever the timing, when history is complete, science is next. And so on.
Now, you can create time anchor points in your pattern. This still allows you to keep the flexibility of a pattern while making sure things do not stretch on without some sort of structure.
For example, you can set an anchor point that your homeschool day starts at 10am with working through subjects together. Another anchor point might be stopping at noon for lunch. Whatever anchor points work for you, those are the ones you should set.
Again, if you’re looking for more information on this, check out this post.
Patterns Change as Children Grow
One last thing before we leave the idea of patterns and move on to cycles: Patterns change over time!
The pattern you create with your Kindergartener is very different from the pattern you will use when that Kindergartener grows into a Third Grader which will be different from when that Third Grader is in Middle School.
And when you have multiple children all at different grade levels, your pattern will change and adapt as your children grow and as different seasons of life come and go
Think of it as a working pattern. You find the pattern that works in a particular season. And when that pattern become very difficult, you look for how you can adjust to still accomplish your end goal: Leading your children through the journey of learning and making the journey an adventure.
Building Cycles for Your Homeschool
While a pattern is a particular order of doing things on a more day to day basis, a cycle is a pattern or a series of occurrences that repeats. Think of holidays on a calendar year. You can count on the fact that Independence Day will always fall on the 4th of July and that Christmas will fall on the 25th of December. This is a cycle.
Cycles become extremely helpful in homeschooling! For example, we found a history curriculum that is presented chronologically over 4 years. On top of that, this curriculum is written for multiple grade levels. In our family, we chose to use this curriculum for elementary and middle school.
Well, it takes a child 9 years to complete all the grades of elementary and middle school (when you count kindergarten). In my family, with 5 children, from the time my oldest started kindergarten until the time my youngest moves out of middle school, it will be 18 years! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look for a new history curriculum every year for those 18 years!
So, we have chosen to create a cycle of 4 years for our history curriculum. Now, this might seem tedious going over the same material every few years. But when you think about it, reviewing the material like this allows you to go deeper into the material. It allows your children to remember things that happened and expand their knowledge.
This idea of cycles works extremely well with the concept of teaching our children to be lifelong learners and not just having them hold onto information long enough to pass the test.
But creating this cycle doesn’t just involve our history curriculum. In fact, we decided to pair this 4-year history cycle with studying the world. So, for Year 1 and Year 2 of this cycle, we go though Adventures Around the World, checking out different countries and cultures and exploring the world in a hands-on, interactive way.
(If you’re looking for more information on Adventures Around the World, check out this post.)
During Year 3 and Year 4 of this cycle, we take an adventure through the states that make up the 50 states of the USA. My children and I have been working on refining this adventure through the years and it’s starting to take a more “formal” shape. I’m still putting the final touches on this, but it’s turning into Adventures Around the USA. More details coming soon…
Building Cycles Saves You Time and Money
Now, building and creating cycles for your homeschooling might sound intimidating at first. But when you look at it, it makes so much sense.
For example, our cycle repeats every 4 years. It allows us to build on the knowledge we’ve already gained. It allows us to go deeper into the different subjects each time we revisit them. And, homeschooling gives us the freedom to take some time and dig even deeper into a particular area that interests my children.
On top of that, cycles allow you to know what’s coming. It saves you time in your homeschool planning when you already have the big picture of the year with the cycle you have created. And it saves you money because you are able to reuse curriculum!
One Last Thing
‘Cycle’ and ‘Pattern’ are not words to be avoided at all costs. In fact, these two words can save you time, money, and frustration as you plan your homeschooling years and walk through your homeschooling days.
One very important thing to remember: Homeschooling is life. Homeschooling works with the seasons and patterns of your life. So don’t feel like once you figure out a cycle or pattern, you are locked in forever – You’re not!
Cycles and patterns are tools in your homeschooling toolbox to help you teach and train your children more effectively. But they are tools you can mold to fit the unique mix of your family and your homeschool.
- The One Room Schoolhouse Approach
- How To Create A Daily Homeschooling Routine
- How to Teach World Geography in a Fun, Engaging Way
- Set Up Your Homeschool Day for Greater Success
- How To Intentionally Create A Pattern for Your Day
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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.