Routines and traditions can develop naturally over time, but the best routines and traditions are the ones that are initiated for some purpose, and modified over time as circumstance warrants.
For this reason, I have started a few daily routines in school with Sam, right from the start, but I know I’ll have to be constantly observing Sam so that we can update them as needed.
We start each school day with a handshake, and I say, “Let the school day begin.” I look at the clock and note the time out loud. Then Sam marks the day with an X on our yearly calendar and tells me what day it is. The handshake reinforces awareness of right and left. Along with my statement, the handshake also marks the beginning of the school day with something more concrete and clear-cut than just coming downstairs. Looking at the calendar and saying the date is practice in awareness of time (we are doing other, more specific work on time) and also just practice in the formal way we state the date in the U.S.
Since we have a Montessori-like environment, Sam always takes her work materials to her table or the floor and puts them away when she is finished. Any work-product she creates gets put into 3-ring-binders. She writes her name and the date on each piece of work. In just 3 days of school, Sam has learned how to check the calendar, write the date properly, use a 3-hole-punch, open and close her 3-ring-binders, and put all papers in the back of the folders so that they are in order by date. I thought she might balk at this structure, but she loves it. And I am surprised that she has learned it all so quickly. Her fine motor skills and her sense of order are not her strong suits, so it is all great practice for her. Today, she even remembered the date after looking it up a few times!
Because her Montessori school did it this way, Sam asked me to make a bathroom pass and a snack necklace. We do have a snack sometime during our 3-hour school day, and Sam loves to wear the necklace. She uses the bathroom pass, too. I like this tradition because it helps tie together her Montessori and homeschool experiences.
At the end of the school day, we shake hands and I say, “Let the school day end,” and mark the time. Again, it’s just a way to make school a separate and distinct event. As opposed to the unschooling notion that learning happens all the time and should not be marked off as a separate and distinct activity, I believe that formal learning should be experienced as a special part of the day. Of course, we do all kinds of learning outside the classroom as well, especially at this age. Today at lunch, Sam and I talked about midgets, gravity, and how a double-el says, “yu” in Spanish. But that’s the point: those things are random snatches of knowledge, and do not constitute an education.
So, we have our routines, and I’m sure they will change and grow as Sam does. I hope I can keep up!