Those who have read most of my posts know that I am a fan of Pam Barnhill and her wonderful planning resources over at Homeschool Solutions. She also hops onto Facebook Live to give tips, hacks, and resources that help homeschooling moms along their journey. I cannot remember exactly when I heard her talk about a minimum viable day, but I do recall that it was a game changer for our homeschool.
We are beginning our fourth year of homeschooling and even though I still feel like a newbie at times, I do have some systems in place that allow us to keep the spirit of scholé in our homeschool day. Every homeschooling mama knows that there are days when the plan goes awry: the dishwasher leaks, the kids have orthodontist appointments, the siblings bicker, the laundry is piled into mountains and must be tackled, and so on. This is where the minimum viable day comes in handy.
When our homeschool day is interrupted or thrown off the rails, I rely upon my MVD list. I chose five areas of study that, when completed, give us a bonafide school day that I can check off on my calendar. If we spend time on these five arts, we have accomplished something. In our home, our CC memory work is encountered daily, even if we have to practice our memory work in the car (which is an EXCELLENT place to practice by the way). The memory work alone covers history, geography, english grammar, science, latin, and math. By spending 30 minutes singing, chanting, tracing or drawing our maps, and reviewing all of these subjects, we have covered a great deal in a short amount of time. I have been astonished at what the brain is capable of memorizing and how these “pegs” of memory provide a firm foundation upon which my children can later build, connect, discuss, persuade, and teach within the seven liberal arts.
As you can see, we also get in the three R’s: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. Math is a no-brainer. The girls know it must be done everyday, even if only for a half an hour. You can get a solid math lesson done in that amount of time when you homeschool. Some days math is a Singapore lesson for Sunshine and a Math U See Lesson for Rosebud, or a game of Tri-Facta or Board Slam combined with a drilling of the math facts for all four operations. Some days it is wrestling through word problems or working with manipulatives to strengthen conceptual understanding of decimals and fractions. As long as the girls are working toward mastery in mathematics, I feel like we are on the right track.
As for writing, both girls will be enrolled in the Classical Conversations grammar, math, and writing program known as Essentials. Spending 30-45 minutes on their IEW papers each day keeps the girls on track to complete their assignment. If the paper is completed, they can work on their presentation topic for community day. It is important to me that my girls are daily putting pen to paper. They are using tools that will help them to avoid writer’s block (invention and arrangement) and to express their thoughts clearly and beautifully (style, memory, and delivery). These are the writing tools that have stood the test of time–thousands of years to be exact! I want them to be able to wield these tools with mastery, and so a little bit of practice everyday is essential for our homeschool.
And now a bit about reading. Yes, the girls have “read to self” time each day, but in our home, reading aloud has risen to the top of our daily “to do” list. Reading aloud increases their vocabulary, teaches them how to ask themselves questions as they read, increases comprehension, and models what fluency really looks like. Most importantly, it is a true delight and joy. We absolutely love snuggling up together and cracking open a great story, or listening to an audiobook. Inevitably, a discussion will arise that cements the story in our minds and hearts. We make connections with other stories we’ve read, we relate to characters and ask “should” questions. “Should Batty have gone over to feed Yaz and Carla all by herself?” (If you haven’t listened to the audiobooks for The Penderwicks series, you are missing out on a delightful treat). We relate the stories to “The Great Conversation” that has been going on for millennia. Now that is time well spent and the girls have NEVER said “no” to read aloud time. When my girls leave the nest, I want them to remember those moments with fondness and cherish the precious time we spent together with a great book.
Don’t let the fact that I list music at the bottom of our minimum viable day lull you into thinking that it is last in our minds or of least importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Music is an integral part of our family life. Some days I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a broadway musical or opera scene. We sing…..a lot. At various times throughout the day you will hear the melodious sounds of our grand piano wafting through the house. Rosebud has begun flute lessons and Sunshine is soon to start cello. Both girls are involved in our children and youth choirs at church. Music is not considered an “extra curricular” activity in our homeschool. No, it is essential. It is one of the seven liberal arts given to us by our Creator. Research has shown that playing a musical instrument or singing in a choir: makes numerous neurological pathways in the brain, uses both the left and right side of the brain, taps into our creative expression as human beings, awakens the heart and soul, tunes our souls to the joys of harmony, order, and rhythm, and connects us to all the other arts we study in our day. There is nothing extra curricular about that! So, even if it is only for 20-30 minutes, we endeavor to embrace the theory and practice of music. Even if the girls don’t pursue music as a career later in life as her parents have, they will have experienced one of God’s great gifts to humankind.
Well, there you have it–our minimum viable day. Sometimes we can go a couple of weeks without one, but it is great to know we have a plan when one does unexpectedly arise.
Many may wonder why I haven’t included a Bible lesson as a part of our MVD. We have joined a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) group, so we will be going through our daily quiet time and study before our “school” day begins. Also, as a Christian Classical Educator, I desire to encounter each subject with the priority of pointing out how God is the origin of all we study. He is mathematical and musical. He has given us the beauty of language and expression. He has given us the capacity to remember, reason, and question. I don’t want to leave Him at the kitchen table where we do our Bible lesson. We need Him as we tackle every moment of our day. There are many days I fall short in this, but making Him the center of everything we do is my hope and desire for our homeschool.
DESIGNING AN MVD THAT FITS YOUR OWN HOMESCHOOL
You can easily design your own MVD graphic to hang in your homeschool or keep in your planner. I created this one for free on Canva. I started with one of their free layouts, changed up the color scheme and wording, and used some of their free icons. Easy. I want to finish by admonishing the homeschool mama who reads this post to think about what your minimum viable day might be for your homeschool. It may be completely different from mine and that is a beautiful thing. What works best for our family may not be what works best for yours. We all school differently, have different kids at different ages, and have different priorities. What is important is that we take the time to list three to five things that we can fall back on when our day goes off the rails. Truthfully, I know that there may be a few days this year when we only get to three of the five on my list. That’s ok too!
Y’all….God’s got this. Even on days when you just want to do this… 🙂
Any day that we pour just a little bit of truth, goodness, and beauty into the souls of our children is a day well spent.
Got an MVD in place for your homeschool? Share it in the comments!