What did we do all day: Homeschool, work cycles, and a look at what we actually did today

What did we do all day: Homeschool, work cycles, and a look at what we actually did today

I have talked about our rhythm a bit in a few posts but I have not done a post about what we actually do all day. Each day is a little different but our rhythm is the same. We hold space for the morning work cycle 4-5 days a week and an afternoon work cycle at least 3 days a week. On the other afternoons, we have activities, forest school, field trips, or playdates.

What is a work cycle? This is an uninterrupted block of time where the child is free to explore the prepared environment and work with the materials available to him/her. They are also free to explore in the outside environment as well. Maria Montessori observed that three hours was the ideal amount of time for children to physically be in the Montessori classroom (again, this includes the outdoor space as an extension of this environment). This was sufficient time for children to engage deeply with their work, repeat it, and to build concentration.

In a traditional Montessori classroom, it typically it takes about 30 minutes for the children to transition, then the next half hour is more for settling into the classroom rhythm (typically starting with a circle time or something similar or perhaps a large group lesson), then the children begin to look busy. They may fly from one activity to the next and may not complete a full cycle of activity. It’s after this short period of business or restlessness where the child shifts into a more focused concentration. If we aren’t holding space for the full 3 hour work cycle, there likely will not be space for concentrating on a specific work of interest. They will not have space to fully engage with the environment. For this reason, we hold space for this work cycle in our home.

A couple notes about differences I’ve noticed at home (so far). Our transition time includes lots of practical life work. Things that often are replicated on the shelf in a traditional Montessori classroom like brushing teeth for example. Our work cycle officially starts when breakfast is over. In 3-6 at least, this is completely appropriate. Transitioning in the home environment is short. We aren’t going from the hustle and bustle of a morning routine to get out the door on time and then traveling to a classroom with others. It’s just us so there isn’t much need for a down time before our circle time. Sometimes my child dives into work right away and I wait for a break to do circle time. Sometimes we do need more of a transition time though. We just roll with it.

Another difference I’ve noticed is that there may need to a little more direction or involvement from the adult to continue moving through materials or get in enough practice with them. Much of the Montessori classroom is social learning so we must be ready to recreate this in a different way at home. In 3-6, this may mean extra lessons with a material or extra modeling during my free choice time (organic and not inviting the child to participate although they may choose to).

There is a morning work cycle and an afternoon work cycle. The later comes into play once the child has given up their nap and is showing signs of readiness for a second work cycle. In our home, our toddler still naps but our preschooler wants to work. I often set up some invitations to engage with materials, art, or a story to listen to for her to transition into quiet time while the littlest miss is napping. Once I get our tot down, we will have free choice, read a book together, play a game together, or I may do a presentation one-on-one with my oldest. We prioritize outside time as often as possible and I shoot to get them both outside for at least 20 minutes (we rarely only spend 20 minutes outside!)

What did we actually do today? Today my preschooler (4.7):

  1. Transition: We were a little grouchy and needed a fun transition so we started our day with jingle bell bracelets & dancing plus our Christmas video lesson we have done as part of our Advent focus. This transitioned well into our next activity. (20 minutes?)
  2. Grace & Courtesy Lesson/Emotional Awareness Activity: We are working on not hitting or pushing when a sister snatches (or just because we are mad) so I put together a Daniel Tiger Inspired Grace and Courtesy Lesson. (Anyone else love this show for emotional intelligence/growth???) I said something like, “We are in control of our bodies. Even when we are mad. We can Stop, stop, stop, it’s ok to feel angry but it’s not ok to hurt someone (singing the part in italics). Let’s keep dancing and play a fun game where we show how in control we are of our bodies! When the music is playing, dance, but when it pauses, freeze.” Both girls loved this so much we played for several songs. (20 more minutes)
  3. Circle Time: Reviewed our continents/continent song, reviewed our Bible Verses (and recorded one!), Biome (We are wrapping up the temperate forest in North America- super short reference to it); New Presentation: New Sandpaper Letters + Review Letters (probably 15 minutes)
  4. Free Choice: I didn’t see what work she started with because I started this time by giving my toddler a presentation. When I was done, I personally chose to create some examples of Christmas metal inset work. This quickly drew her in. She watched me create a nativity scene with the pentagon shape. She took her time and had so much fun with it! During this time she also played with the stockings I put out for sister (see below) and played in her kitchen. She then chose to set the table for lunch. (probably about 2 hours – normally a little longer. We had some extra activities this morning.)
  5. Lunch
  6. Quiet Time: She chose to work again with the metal insets for a bit. Then she found my invitation to write and engaged with that. She then got into some pretend play, got in trouble and had to have the gate up to her room so sis could finish her nap (not common for us!) and she quietly played in there to wrap it up. (about an hour and a half)
  7. Snack and Story Time: We wrapped up our afternoon work cycle with snack and a story post quiet time. (20 Minutes?)
  8. Free Choice: Lots of open ended, pretend play; dolls, kitchen, building with blocks, and play silks were all touched. Lots of play with sis.

My tot (23 Months old):

  1. Transition (same)
  2. Grace & Courtesy (same)
  3. Circle Time: She nursed and then worked with the pink tower while I worked with older sister on the sandpaper letters.
  4. Presentation: I put out a new work for her – Montessori Inspired Christmas Practical Life Activity- hanging up stockings! I got this idea from Momtessori. She loved it and engaged with this for a while.
  5. Free choice: stockings, drawing beside sis, stockings again, jingle bells and dolls
  6. Lunch
  7. Nap Time: about an hour and half
  8. Snack and Story Time (same)
  9. Free Choice
  10. *Toilet Learning Journey – we are still working through our toilet learning journey. Imperfectly but happily! This happens all day of course.

Just a little look into how we do this Montessori homeschooling life. What did you do all day?

If you liked this post, you might love:

  1. The Beauty of Year Round, Montessori Homeschooling
  2. Planning for Year Two of the 3-6 Montessori Homeschool Classroom
  3. 2020-2021 Year in Review