Category Archives: Ruminations

Day in the Life 2013

Date: January 30, 2013

Players: Henry (7), Samuel (6), Kate (4), Becca (4)

The conundrum: It’s been a rough month getting back into the groove after the fun of the holidays. Kind of like trudging through the mud. I’ve been realizing lately that my children excel in the Art of Leisure (a.k.a. dilly-dallying) and that when we do school well, it’s to the exclusion of everything else. But we have to eat. We’re nicer to be around when we wear clean clothes. I’m more positive and patient when clutter is picked up. So what’s a mom to do?

The solution: Ha! Of course it’s not as simple as that. I think we’re probably only on version 1.6 on our way to success. But we’ll get there.

No, seriously, I spent last weekend brooding over this conundrum and woke in the middle of the night with a brilliant plan in my head. We had a Homeschooling Huddle on Sunday to talk about the new plan and get the kiddos on board. It was simply this: each child is assigned an hour slot in the morning to work with Mom one-on-one. When their tutoring session is over, they finish their assigned work independently before they’re free for the day. Simple enough.

So this is how the plan went down on Wednesday, January 30th.

I (surprisingly) popped out of bed at 5:20 a.m. ready and rarin’ to go. I read a chapter in the New Testament before double layering my usual walking attire and heading out into the 45-degree-plus-a-stiff-headwind  morning to meet my walking buddy.

I returned at 6:30 with a cold, red nose, and after stretching, bundled up in a cozy blanket and downed a couple of chapters in Don Quixote. The house still quiet, I took advantage of the extra minutes to enjoy  a quick, but nice warm shower. By the time I got out and dressed, the sleepy kiddos were starting to stagger into our room bleary-eyed, looking for a cuddle to help them wake up.

By 8: 15 a.m., the day’s normal volume had been attained and pop-up pancakes were baking in the oven. I fixed a bowl of greek yogurt and granola for the son with the egg allergy. Dad headed off to work for the day.

Now, the new schedule mandates that I begin school with Child #1 at 9:00. This has been a lot harder than I thought it would be but today, I knew the schedule needed to bend a little. Why? Double-ad Wednesdays at Sprouts. The kids and I have this worked out to a science. We try to be out the door by 9:30 at the latest so we can skip morning commute traffic but also avoid the lunchtime crowd at the grocery store. The kids are all actually very good at selecting the produce for the week and we can usually get all of the groceries we need (mainly produce, dairy, and bulk items) and be back in the car heading home in around 30 minutes.

We returned home by 10:15 a.m. and by 10:30, the cold-sensitive groceries now residing in the refrigerator, Samuel and I were in the middle of a math lesson on adding double digits to double digits (RightStart B). He kind of had a case of the dilly-dallies so I decided to cut the lesson a little short and push the math game for the day to Thursday. He read a chapter of The Littles to me while we cuddled on the bed together. I helped him work through a page in Explode the Code Book 5. Then we called Henry to join us for grammar (First Language Lessons Book 2) and writing (Writing with Ease Book 1). Then Sam was off for some independent reading while I did math with Henry (determining perimeter, also RightStart B).

By now it was 11:40 a.m. I felt panic starting to well up, but reminded myself that we were making forward progress, so I forged ahead. Henry and I cuddled up with his National Geographic’s Rocks and Minerals book and worked through reading a page together. This book is a reading level or two above his reading ability but the topic is one he’s passionate about now, so it’s worth it to me to take a team approach to reading it. He then happily did his Explode the Code Book 5 page by himself and went to the front room to do his independent reading while I started math with the girls. (Dizzy, yet?)

I forget what our math lesson was on (RightStart A) but feel fairly confident it involved both abacuses and giving out a chocolate chip for each correct answer. Becca and Kate worked in tandem on their handwriting pages (Getty and Dubay Italic Handwriting Book A) and then took turns on the couch with me, working on their reading, which right now equates to a page in The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, followed by practicing their mad skills on a BOB book.

1:12 p.m. Phew. Made it to lunch time! The kids were happy for some play time while I prepared lunch. We ate, and then they headed outside to play in the backyard while I hurriedly cleaned up the kitchen. I now had exactly one hour to get a batch of bread in the oven and the kitchen ready so a friend could come over and use my wheat grinder to grind her wheat.

3:00, friend comes over, grinds wheat. 3:10, two neighbor boys come over to play for the afternoon until their mom gets home. 3:30, new piano student shows up for a lesson. 4:00, piano lesson #2. 4:30, piano lesson #3. Thankfully (oh, so thankfully!) the weather had warmed up from the morning and all six kids (my four plus the neighbor’s two) were happy as clams playing outside.

5:00: Sent neighbor boys home. Started dinner.

6:00: Dinner while everyone caught Dad up on the news of the day.

7:00: Showers for four dirty children (how do they get so dirty playing outside???), all got ready for bed, stories, etc.

8:00: Lights out for the kiddos.

8:30: Drove to the church to meet a student for an organ lesson.

9:15: Back home and got ready for bed.

9:50: Lights out and ready for a good night’s rest!

Considering all of the external intrusions on the day’s schedule (grocery shopping, bread making, piano lessons), I felt pretty good about the work we completed. Looking back on our week overall on our new schedule, I think it has its merits. At least it was a great jumpstart to get us back in the groove. I just need to figure out how to get history and science back into the schedule and we’ll be 100% back on track.

I was actually talking to a friend about the “homeschooling to the exclusion of everything else” problem today. Does anyone else have this problem, too? I love being up to my eyeballs in schoolwork and discovery and learning with my kids, but sometimes think it would be nice to find a few hours to batch cook some freezer meals. Providing, of course, I am able to find an hour to actually plan said meals!

Hope you enjoyed the snapshot of our life right now.


Flipping the switch

One of the things I feel like I’ve constantly struggled with in terms of teaching the boys to read has been in making the transition from easy (EASY) readers to real book reading. We’ve been hovering in this no-man’s land for a year. I’ve been at a loss. We keep plugging away at The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and using Explode the Code to reinforce the concepts learned, but I haven’t been able to get away from the feeling that it should somehow be easier than this.

I don’t know what happened, but something flipped the switch in Henry’s mind. He wants to read now.

We were cuddling in a chair one night and were about to start reading a library book. A quick glance at the first page told me that he knew all of the words but one. So I encouraged him, saying, “I’ll bet you can read most of the words on this page!” I try that tactic every now and then, usually unsuccessfully. But this night he took the bait. And read that page. And turned the page and read the next one. And on and on until he finished the book. He was beaming. He’d just read a real, live book! It was an awesome moment for both of us.

But it didn’t stop there. The next night he brought me another book and sat down and read it to me.

Lately, it’s been a mad quest to see how many books we have on our shelves that he can read. The librarian congratulated me this week for checking out the most books of anyone that day (47).

But it hasn’t stopped there. Me-Too (a.k.a. Samuel) has entered the competitive arena and is keeping pace with his brother. On a good day, I’ll be on the couch with each of them for an hour at a time. AND I’M NOT THE ONE DOING THE READING.

Literally like flipping a switch. It’s so exciting for me to watch.

And speaking of switch flipping…let’s talk about Kate for a minute. I’ve been working with her and with Becca separately, and have discovered that Kate is anxious to move past the dinky dollar store workbooks and really start learning. I’ve been using the Explode the Code primer series with her and she is eating it up. She’s 3, people. And she’s doing 12 workbook pages a day. 5-6 days a week. Crazy awesome.

And this is why I home school. Readiness. I have the ability to teach my kids when they’re ready for it, rather than slip them in to a prescribed public school time line. For Henry, (and Becca, I suspect) readiness comes in it’s own time, perhaps a little past what their peers are doing. For Sam and Kate, it’s about being able to give it to them when they’re ready for it, instead of putting it off because they’re not “old enough.”

It all makes for a great balance, really. I get the full spectrum, from encouraging, teaching, re-teaching, and finding new things to try, to not being able to teach it fast enough. From practicing hard things a little bit every day, to watching the switch flip. Love it.


Ah, the well laid plans…

In 2004, Joe and I were teaching early morning seminary to a class full of 28 teenage students, ages 14-18, whom we knew next to nothing about. We flubbed our way along, one “learning experience” after another. After one of our lessons went disastrously in a different direction than we intended, I ended up calling our area supervisor for advice (and to let him hear our side of the story before it got to him some other way). He laughed and told me, “Every day’s the first day of seminary!” We got the point. If something wasn’t working, we were under no obligation to continue. Make a change! Get the train back on course!

I find myself thinking about that quote a lot. It was good to learn that lesson nearly eight years before I needed it.

We’ll be making changes to our homeschool days when we get back to it in January. We’re taking a break for a few weeks and will be lying low while I get things ready for Christmas, out of town guests, and finish up some painting and organization projects in our home.

What I wanted to have happen:

  1. Reading, ETC, Handwriting = 4 days a week
  2. Grammar = 3 days a week
  3. Math = 4 days a week
  4. History = 3 days a week
  5. Science = 2 days a week
  6. Piano = 5 days a week
Ambitious? Yes. But realistic. Handwriting, Grammar, and Piano only required 10 minutes or less a day.

What was happening in reality:

  1. It took about two weeks to turn into drudgery
  2. Mom spent most of every day encouraging, prodding, and cajoling to get the day’s work done, literally spending between 5-7 hours taking turns helping Henry and Sam one-on-one (so much for the teaching in tandem idea)
  3. Incentive charts were pulled out. Incentives seldom reached.
  4. Not a lot of time for play and decompressing
  5. The 10-minute timer was employed, with better results (each subject got timed for ten minutes and we’d just put it away when the timer dinged)
  6. Becca and Kate spent hours watching PBS every day so I could work with the boys
  7. All reading for fun disappeared

It really hasn’t taken me long to cry uncle.

I really liked “The Well-Trained Mind” theory. I thought it was a beautiful plan all laid out. But when I stopped to think about it, I realized that my kids are just that–kids. A 6- and 5-year old in whom I was squelching the joy of learning in favor of academic rigor. They didn’t need that. I wasn’t finding much joy in learning, either. I wasn’t finding time to work with my girls. I hated that we weren’t cuddling on the couch and reading together for hours on end. I was constantly stressed out because I had no time for meal planning or preparation. Not cool any way you sliced it.

Curtain down. Intermission.

So here’s what I want to do going forward: all of it, just scaled back. Instead of history three times a week, we’ll do one. Instead of handwriting four times a week, we’ll do two. And etc. Two or three subjects each day before lunch. Afternoons will be dedicated to reading, aloud, together, one-on-one, boys practicing their reading…piles of books everywhere.

I feel much more at peace with the new plan. Besides, I think back to my reflection on our first year, and even as erratic as it all seemed to me, we managed to get a lot accomplished just by baby stepping. So that’s my new focus: just do a little bit every day. We’ll get there!

I love that every day is the first day of seminary.


Year One in Review (July 2010-July 2011)

Trite as it sounds, I can hardly believe it was a year ago that I sat down at the kitchen table and began teaching Henry how to read, which was the advent of our home schooling. All things considered, we’ve had a wonderful ride on the home schooling roller coaster this year. All of us have learned much!

Perspective is a wonderful thing, really. When I take into consideration the fact that none of my kids knew the sounds the letters in the alphabet make a mere 365 days ago, it is a marvelous feeling of accomplishment to know that today, all four of them can tell me the sound any letter makes. Not only that, but Henry—and Samuel—and even Kate and Becca (if you count the capital letter magnets) can read. A lot can happen in a year.

What began as Henry’s Kindergarten year in July found us adding the start of Samuel’s Kindergarten year in January, and Kate and Becca’s preschool in April. We’ve gone from putting the girls down for afternoon naps and having two hours to quietly work on school to having Mom tutor each child in turn for most of the morning. We’ve gone from two kids with library cards to four kids with library cards…at two different libraries.

So yes, looking back, the feeling of achievement is terrific. Did we accomplish anything in a year? Here’s the list, in brief:

Henry:

  • Completed “Hooked on Phonics,” Kindergarten level
  • Is nearly done with RightStart Math Level A (will finish before we start our next school year in October)
  • Completed Getty-Dubay Italics Handwriting Book A; is making good headway in Book B
  • Completed “Explode the Code” Book 1 and 2; is halfway through Book 3
  • On Lesson 62 (of 231) in “Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading”
  • Completed numerous science and art projects
  • Completed “Hooked on Spanish”
  • Nearly finished our social studies book (“Children Just Like Me”)
  • Memorized three poems and several Articles of Faith
  • Logged HOURS of reading time, including 8 classic read-alouds
  • Began piano lessons

Samuel:

  • Learned his alphabet and the sounds the letters make
  • Read through the first set of BOB books
  • On Lesson 51 (of 231) in “Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading”
  • Completed “Explode the Code” Book 1; is halfway through Book 2
  • Halfway through Getty-Dubay Italics Handwriting Book A
  • Completed “Hooked on Spanish”
  • Completed numerous science and art projects
  • Nearly finished our social studies book (“Children Just Like Me”)
  • Memorized three poems and several Articles of Faith
  • Logged HOURS of reading time, including 8 classic read-alouds
  • Is begging to start math and piano lessons

Kate and Becca:

  • Learned their alphabet and the sounds the letters make
  • Completed a workbook on shapes
  • Completed a few art projects
  • Memorized two poems
  • Logged HOURS of reading time

I’ve learned a few things along the way, as well, no surprise. Mostly, I’ve been pleased to discover that the reasons we gravitated toward the home education option are better in reality than in theory. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the flexibility home schooling gives us. Flexibility to start and stop as needed. Flexibility to try new curriculae or approaches or even put something away until the time is right for that student. We love being able to do school in the morning or the afternoon as the day requires. We love traveling in the off-season, and schooling during the blasted hot summer. I’ve loved discovering how much I enjoy teaching things to my kids and am excited to keep learning things right along with them. I’ve been surprised at how frequently questions or problems I’ve encountered have taken me to my knees. And I’ve been really grateful for the answers I’m led to. I’m grateful for growth.

All in all, I’ll call our first year a grand success. It’s been a good one. Sign us up for another year!


More thoughts about reading

When a topic rankles your soul unrelentingly, consumes any thoughts you may have in your “free time” (kid-free), is a subject of much prayer and fasting, and you start having inner dialogues to argue and justify the aforementioned thoughts, it’s pretty much futile to just wait patiently, no matter what you told yourself earlier.

Such has been my life with Henry and reading. Or non-reading.

To avoid rehashing all of the inner dialogues, here is my grand conclusion:

Unreadiness is not the same as unwillingness.

If Henry were truly not ready to read, then we would not have completed the Kindergarten level of Hooked on Phonics in four months. He would have struggled with identifying letters, most likely wouldn’t have known the sounds they make, and would have had a difficult time connecting the dots. This was not the case for him.

Which led me to realize that when you’re five years old, Legos are more important to you than learning to read. Duly noted. Who wants to do hard things, ever?

Time for Life Lesson 105.

We started tackling reading again this week. But my approach has been modified. This is the recipe I’m trying to follow right now:

  1. Change in curriculum. Now we’re using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I believe it’s working for Henry because he doesn’t have the pressure of a brightly colored book waiting to be read. That was the part he would balk at before. In this new book, the stories are encapsulated in the lesson and are illustration-free. So it works. This change is working for me because I felt there were too many holes in the logic and sequence of the Hooked on Phonics program. I like the systematic and very thorough approach in Parent’s Guide.
  2. Set a timer. I’ve been setting an egg timer for 10 minutes when we sit down to work on reading. If we finish the lesson, great. If not, no biggie. Ten minutes keeps it from getting big and overwhelming for Henry.
  3. Lots of positive reinforcement. I didn’t praise him enough in Round One. I’m trying to find one thing he did well in each lesson and sincerely compliment him on it. I’m trying to stress less and laugh more. We have lots of High Fives and hugs.
  4. Reinforce lessons learned. Again, learning from my mistakes the first time. Once he mastered something, we would just plow on. This time, I’m using Explode the Code Book One to reinforce the things he already knows. It feels “easy” to him, so he feels successful.
  5. Incentives. Hooked on Phonics had a sticker chart. That was fun. We could see our progress and be excited about it. Overall? Not a big enough carrot. Now Henry’s working toward a Lego Bionicle toy that he wants. He still gets the daily sticker for doing reading, but he’s a leetle more motivated to sit down with me for our ten minutes of reading now.

(I am clearly not a 5-year old boy. This does NOT motivate me!)

Once we had the Bionicle chart on the fridge, Me-Too (a.k.a. Samuel) wanted in on the gig. So he’s working toward this guy:

(Seriously? What happened to chocolate as a motivator?)

He’s doing great. I started him at the beginning of the Parent’s Guide and we flew through the review of consonants and vowels. We’re two or three lessons into the short-vowel sound words, and he makes it quite clear that he wants to do this himself, with no help from the teacher! I think reading will come much easier to him than to Henry.

I feel much better with this change in course. We can all do hard things, and the one thing I can’t wait to teach my boys is how awesome the feeling of satisfaction is when you conquer a mountain. Wish us luck as we climb.


The Skirt Experiment

Last Monday, I found this gem of a blog post from Courtney on Latter-Day Homeschooling about the “Mom Uniform” and the image I portray by the way I dress. Simply stated and loosely quoted, she decided that she was going to make people think (herself included) that motherhood was the absolute best job in the world based on the way she looked and the countenance she carried.

I found myself smiling and nodding the whole time I read her post. With the help of two awesome friends, I broke out of the “Mom Uniform” (mine was solid color T-shirt and a pair of jeans) over a year ago and since then have had a blast redefining my Mom Style. I daily reap the benefits of looking and feeling my best. So I completely agreed with her.

But skirts. I hadn’t gone there yet.

And I had plenty of cute ones in my closet, too, just waiting for the Sunday rotation, my mood, and the stars to all align.

I immediately decided to try the uncharted world of skirts. So last week was “Skirt Week.” One skirt a day. Here’s what I learned:

  • Striking the balance of cute/casual in a skirt was harder for me than I thought it would be.
  • Yes, flip-flops go with skirts better than with yoga pants, but they don’t go with ALL skirts. I felt like one day, the skirt and flip-flop combo I tried gave me a stereotypical look I wasn’t going for.
  • I already knew this, but it was fun to be reminded: You can do everything/anything over the course of a normal day in a skirt.
  • I loved feeling pretty!
  • While introducing skirts immediately extended my wardrobe, it also gave me great urges to shop. I have a list now of pieces that would make skirt-wearing a more frequent occurrence if I had them. Dum dum dummmmm….
  • Who knew that the hubsters approved of this project 100%? Guess I don’t show enough leg on a regular basis.

Before I started The Skirt Experiment, my primary motivation for wearing make-up, styling my hair, and making a little more effort with my wardrobe was so that people wouldn’t look at me and think, “Oh. Homeschooling mom.” It’s not that I’m trying to hide the reality that I homeschool, or that I bake all of our own bread, make our laundry detergent, or stopped using shampoo months ago. I just thought it would be more fun if I could do all that plus look happy and–dare I say it?–normal.

But thanks to “The Mom Uniform,” I also realized that my motivation behind looking like I’m enjoying my journey as a mom was to send the message that I am. I love being a mom. I love teaching and nurturing and laughing and playing with these four wonderful little children I’ve been blessed with. I just want to look as happy as I feel.

It may seem silly to say this, but skirts took that happiness up a notch.

Bring it.


Ruminations on Reading

I remember clearly the afternoon last summer when Henry quietly tiptoed into my bedroom and whispered, “Mom, can you read to me?” We were on vacation, Dad and Sam were already sacked out on the couch for some afternoon zzz’s, and I was in the process of tucking the girls in for their naps when Henry tried to unobtrusively catch my attention.

“I can’t right now, honey. Can you read to yourself while you wait for me?”

Whisper-sob. “But I don’t know how to read!”

After I finished with his sisters and we were able to cuddle on the couch with the books of his choice, I remember asking him if he wanted to learn how to read and promising him that I’d teach him how as soon as we got home.

And literally a week after we returned home, Henry held me to my promise. So I dug in my closet and came up with the Kindergarten Hooked on Phonics kit I had purchased on sale at some earlier date.

It looked simple enough. An intro to a word ending page, a review page, and then a story or book to reinforce the ending just learned. A sticker chart to mark his progress. A CD to guide him through it if he didn’t feel like being coached by Mom.

I had complete confidence in the program. We were making great progress. Henry started to balk a little at the longer review pages, but we’d try to make games out of them to keep things fun. Then he started to balk at reading time during school time. We were SO CLOSE to finishing that I pushed and bribed a little to get those last few stickers on the chart before we’d take a negotiated break.

He was really doing well, so I was surprised at his vehement “I hate reading and I’m never going to read again!” reaction a week following the completion of Kindergarten reading, when I suggested starting the next level. So I backed off a little. Kind of confused. Not sure where to go from here. But definitely not about to push it while he had such strong feelings.

That was early December.

Since then, I’ve been grateful that we’re educating at home. Very grateful. If we were in the public system, regardless of how he felt about it, he would be expected to keep up with his peers and the lesson plans. He would be set up to develop a major dislike of reading, perhaps one that he’d never get over.

I’ve also been grateful that we can try different things until the spark is ignited again. I’m grateful that we can take our time with it. If he’s not ready to read for another year, it’ll be okay. If he’s not ready to read for another four years, it’ll still be okay.

The funny thing is, it’s just the act of sitting down with a book and asking him to read that makes him park his heels. He doesn’t have any qualms about other reading-type activities. He still loves to have us read to him. He likes it when I give him words to spell while I’m cooking dinner and he can figure out how to spell them with the letter magnets on the fridge. He still likes his handwriting workbook and learning how to form the letters correctly.

So I have confidence that the reading will come–in his time, and on his terms, maybe, but it will come.

I just want him to enjoy reading.

I found a book at the library this week called “I Don’t Like to Read” by Nancy Carlson. A little mouse named Henry doesn’t like to read. The first half of the book was almost an exact mirror to our Henry. In fact, he kept saying, “I say that!” or nodding as we read. The book ends happily, just as I know our story will end, too.

I’m so glad this journey is happening at home.


A Day in the Life

I’m joining in the fun at Simple Homeschool today as we share glimpses into each other’s homeschooling days.

This is our first “official” year homeschooling as Henry is of kindergarten age. So far, we’ve fallen into a rhythm that I’m happy with. Typically, I try to do school with the boys during nap time for the girls. But more often than not, I try to take my cues from the way the day is unfolding and fit whatever I can in whenever I can.

I sit down on Sunday night to plan our learning week. This is just a rough list of things I’d like to see happen by subject. I keep this list (complete with boxes I can check off) in a binder that I use to account for what we did each day. So none of our days are fixed; some days we might be schooling for several hours and other days, none at all. We shoot for four days a week, though.

We’re using RightStart Math (which we LOVE), Mudpies to Magnets for science, Getty and Dubay for handwriting, Storybook Art for art, Children Just Like Me for social studies, Hooked on Spanish for Spanish, and I’m up in the air right now with our Reading curriculum. Henry completed the Hooked on Phonics Kindergarten reading level in four months but is currently on a reading strike. I borrowed the BOB books from a friend to see if that would interest him. It didn’t, but it interested Samuel, who has been dying to learn to read. He’s doing well. I’m trying to back off and let Henry have a little break and we’ll come back to reading when he’s ready, but in the meantime, we still do spelling games and other word games that are non-book reading.

Anyway…

This is how our day unfolded yesterday.

5:00 a.m.: Rise, personal devotional and scripture study

7:00 a.m.: Get myself ready for the day, kids are up

7:30 a.m.: Scripture reading with the kids around the kitchen table

7:40 a.m.: Work on the poem we’re memorizing while the oatmeal cooks

8:10 a.m.: Breakfast finished, kitchen table cleared off, kids get dressed

9:20 a.m.: Out the door to a friend’s house (kids play while moms make laundry detergent)

12:20 p.m.: Back home for lunch

1:30 p.m.: Thing One down for nap

1:50 p.m.: Thing Two down for nap

2:00 p.m.: School, which consisted of reading to the boys, working on our art project for the week, doing a math lesson for Henry, and prepping our science project for later in the day. School time was also peppered with multiple interruptions from Thing Two, who kept needing potty breaks as an excuse to get out of napping.

4:00 p.m.: Henry (age 5.5) was playing with play dough, Becca (age 2.5) was still napping, Samuel (age 4) was playing in the front room with some toys, so I enlisted Kate (the non-napper, age 2.5)  to help me unload and load the dishwasher and help me start dinner.

5:00 p.m. Dad is home from work. Becca wakes up from nap.

5:20 p.m.: Read to Kate in the front room because she lost the privilege of watching her Wiggles show

5:40 p.m.: Grampa arrives for dinner and to help with science project

6:00 p.m.: Dinner

6:30 p.m.: Kids get ready for bed, no baths tonight

7:00 p.m.: Kate to bed

7:10 p.m.: Boys do their science project with Grampa while Becca sits at the kitchen table and draws

7:40 p.m.: Bedtime stories

8:00 p.m.: Bed

8:15 p.m.: Joe and I fold two baskets of laundry while we catch up with each other

9:00 p.m.: Lights out

My mom has always told me, “Flexible people are happy people.” I’m finding this to be my mantra with homeschooling and rearing four young children who are three years apart. Yes, I get a thrill when a day goes exactly according to plan and yes, I like happy, cooperative children. But I’m learning that if I can be less uptight about things when they don’t go according to plan and the kids are monsters, I can still go to bed happy.

We’re loving the journey!


Homeschooling Survival Tool #3

I think that one of the most important keys to maintaining your sanity as a homeschooling mom is to have a third-party sounding board or two. I call it Tool #3 because I think the only two tools that are more important are to be absolutely committed to it yourself and to have your spouse on board and 100% supportive.

Meet my sounding boards:

These are my go-to girls on my left and right. C & C. They offer wisdom, experience, and a fresh perspective. All of which were needed last night. We hit Mimi’s Cafe for hot chocolate and apple crisp and batted ideas around and swapped curriculum helps and marveled that we are even doing this at all. But what I needed most from the evening (and found) was their ability to take me by the figurative shoulders, pull me back, and show me that things are waaaaaayyy better than they appear myopically.

I needed that. Thanks, girls.


Getting to Yes

The simple question “Why?” pulled me up short this week.

Here’s the context.

We’ve spent the morning up to our elbows in an art project. The kids are now on an art kick and have gotten their drawing easels out. Chaos is reigning and Mom is trying to keep up with everyone, prevent unnecessary messes, and put necessary fires out. “No, don’t do that,” or some variation on the theme is frequently issuing forth from my lips.

We’ve hit a lull. I’m on the floor with somebody piled on my lap. As we chat and watch those still interested tackle the art easels with chalk or markers, I look up to see Samuel coloring all over a piece of chalk with a colored pencil.

“Samuel! Don’t color on the chalk!”

“Why, Mom?”

Enter stunned moment. Usually I’m pretty good about coming up with ludicrous answers on the spot but I sure didn’t have one good reason why he shouldn’t color on the chalk. So I said,

“Never mind. Go ahead and color on the chalk.”

How did I get here? To this spot where “No” flies out of my mouth like a knee-jerk reaction?

I mentally flogged myself all that afternoon.

It probably wasn’t chance that I heard echoes of advice I was given at a baby shower for Henry run through my mind that night as I brushed my teeth:

“Say ‘Yes’ as often as you can and save ‘No’ for the times when it really matters.”

I’ll try.