My ultimate goal is for the children to be able to tolerate, cheerfully, approximately two hours of schoolwork approximately four days a week--part worksheet drills, part memorization, part hands-on projects. I want this work to be completed early in the day, to leave the rest of the day free for playgrounds, the library, drawing, listening to audiobooks, digging in the mud, etc. I want this work to be completely wholeheartedly, with a good attitude.
To that end, because this is NOT where we are right now, I've backed way up--basically, until they have it mastered, we're now going to spend our school time learning how to do school.
For now, forget the fun hands-on projects as part of school (I can sneak them in later in the day, if there's time and interest)--I'm not going to spend hours planning activities that get fussed at out-of-hand while the children test their boundaries. Forget work that requires a lot of parent interaction--I am profoundly weary of these negative experiences being the norm. For now, the children have approximately one hour of seatwork, at the table, to be completed right after breakfast.
All the work is in worksheet form, and can be completed independently, although I do sit with them as I read the paper and handle the day's emails and etsy shop business. Some of the worksheets are the meaningful work that they'd do anyway, such as math drills and handwriting copywork:
The rest, however, is interesting stuff that I'd normally call busywork, because it's not directly relevant or contextual to anything that we're already working on--a book of paper crafts that children can do independently, fact-based coloring pages, logic problems, drawing instruction, mazes and word searches, etc.
The work has to be stuff that I think they'll find interesting, because I do not want them to absolutely sit in tedium (unless it's necessary), but the time--approximately an hour--should also be a bit of a stretch, though just a bit. I'm pleased when I can see that they're ready to be done, and yet they still finish those last two worksheets without *much* complaint. When they're well accustomed to sitting and working, I'll take a stab at beginning to include something a little more parent-involved (and therefore more elaborate and fun), and if, by then, they've gotten themselves out of the habit of snapping at me like baby vipers just for the habit of snapping, then projects like color wheels and tulip dissection and bookmaking and microscopes can start to again take the place of some of that busywork.
When the children can sit and work for an hour, AND can interact with me appropriately in the context of school, then we're going to gradually work another, more active, hour into the work plan--nature studies, science experiments, movie making, etc.
And THEN I will win some sort of award for the nervous breakdown that I did not have in April 2012.