About Classical, About Homeschooling, Uncategorized

Sometimes I Waffle About Classical Education, but Then I Remember My Own

  • Welcome to Farrar Williams our first guest contributor since the re-boot

I’ve been homeschooling for a while now, and in the course of educating my kids, I’ve tried on a variety of different styles and methods. My boys have their passions in the arts and sciences, not the humanities. They’re performers and creators. They’re much more interested in creative and hands-on learning. In the end, I’ve educated the kids I have, just like we all do, choosing experiences and styles that meet their needs best.


I’ve really only been classically influenced. However, every time I start to think about moving further away from that influence, I get dragged back to my own education, and I know I can’t let go of that influence.


I was fortunate to have attended a public magnet school where the humanities programs were profoundly influenced by neo-classical ideas. While newbies like Susan Wise Bauer and Leah Bortins and older writings like those of Dorothy Sayers and Charlotte Mason tend to dominate the classical education conversation in homeschooling circles, one of the loudest voices in education encouraging a return to classical thinking and great books was once Mortimer J. Adler. Adler’s work How to Read a Book, originally published in 1940, was a bestseller in its day. He helped solidify the term “Great Books” and proposed a system of classical education in his work The Paideia Proposal.


The school I attended took the idea of reading through the canon seriously, though it thankfully made it a more diverse canon than Adler ever envisioned (Adler’s refusal to include non-Western and non-white authors was one of the things that eventually made him unpopular in academic circles). It started slow, but by the time I graduated high school, I had read a dozen Shakespeare plays, several major epics like The Odyssey, classic works of British literature from The Canterbury Tales to Heart of Darkness, American works from The Scarlett Letter to The Joy Luck Club, and pretty much everything in between. I read Things Fall Apart in tenth grade. I did a deep dive on Native American authors in eleventh. People I know are often astounded by the number of books that I offhandedly mention were required reading for me in high school. I decided not to become an English major in college after realizing I’d spent four years mostly rereading.


In addition to the longer works, we read poems and excerpts of longer works. In history class, we tore through primary source documents in piles. I read The Communist Manifesto and A Vindication of the Rights of Women. We used Adler’s Paideia seminars as a reading approach, discussing everything from creation myths to Candide to Freud. Adler talked about ways to encourage close reading and then bring that knowledge to a classroom seminar for discussion where students would deepen their knowledge through other understandings of the text. The Socratic discussion was encouraged and modeled.


This is not to say that I was always the best student or that I didn’t cut corners occasionally. It was still high school, not an ivory tower paradise. However, overall, I loved it. I was challenged and academically fulfilled most of the time, given real work that was really worth doing. I wouldn’t give it up for the world.


When I look at my own kids, just beginning to be assigned classic literature like The Time Machine and To Kill a Mockingbird, both of which I read in high school, I’m pulled back to just how much I value that time in my own life. I am a better person to this day for having been pushed to read classic literature. I’m more informed, more cultured, more able to participate in that Great Conversation. I have more references, a better vocabulary, a deeper understanding of history, and a better understanding of other cultures from having read literature from Asia, Africa, and South America.


My own sons aren’t the bibliophiles I was as a child. I don’t think they’ll ever read the sheer volume of books I had to go through. Nor would they intentionally choose the harder options like I sometimes did, devouring Anna Karenina as a supplemental read instead of a shorter option. Instead, I find myself picking a smaller selection of those books carefully, looking at the shorter titles and thinking about how to push them toward that ability to read, understand, and most importantly, enjoy what they read. Despite having exposed them to history from start to finish and to as many good read aloud and well-written children’s versions of classical stories, they’re just not ready, even on the eve of high school, to be thrown into the deep end. I’m not letting that discourage me though.

I’m determined to give them a taste of that classically flavored experience to help them become well-rounded, literate individuals who can also participate in those deeper conversations about the world around us that are based in understanding our past.

Farrar Williams has headed the online homeschool community for Washington, D.C.-area homeschoolers, taught theater classes, at different local arts programs, coached Destination Imagination, and helped run a small, family-centered learning co-op. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she writes fiction and blogs about home-based education at I Capture the Rowhouse.

About Homeschooling, Education is a Life, Uncategorized

Who’s Keeping Score?

Post on any social media group where homeschoolers gather and you’ll find plenty of advice for compiling a transcript and making sure that your child has the extracurriculars, standardized test scores, and all the rest of the hoops that college entrance requires. There are people out there like Mike Rowe, a famous example of someone who will tell you that college isn’t for everyone. I think that intuitively parents sense that college may not be the right path for one or more of their children and trying to push them into it is stressful for everyone.

I guess what I want to address is the peer pressure aspect of it all. I would have loved to just keep my kids on a straight path like college attendance. Sure, we homeschooled them, but now they are going to be “normal” and go away to a four-year school like all our neighbors. This time of year it is especially in your face- dorm shopping sales, pictures of college campus visits on Facebook, and the curriculum catalogs that promise that if you buy their text, all will be well. Everyone still seems to assume that college attendance is the ideal and anything less is a failing on either the child or the parent for not inspiring them to attend.

I don’t want to dwell on my own family too much, for several reasons, one is this: what works for our family may not work for yours. Our family is full of fantastic academic under achievers, and that goes back at least three generations on both sides. We are a family of hands on specialists. We get going with something and don’t stop until we’ve conquered it. The traditional two years of Gen Ed classes can’t compete with starting life and getting good at your passion. I think if one of us had a career goal that required a degree he/she would do well at a university because of the requirement.


I’ll use myself as an example. In my third grade, public school classroom my teacher had paper hot air balloons for each class member. As you completed quick math fact sheets, your balloon was raised higher on the wall until at the end of the year everyone else had their balloon on the ceiling while mine was very low to the ground. I didn’t care. I spent the end of math class writing stories and couldn’t care less about memorizing math facts. Coincidentally, part of math that year introduced calculators so it really seemed like a waste of time to learn facts that you could look up in seconds.

I’m not saying that learning or formal education is not necessary- it is. I just want to live in a world where more people pursue their passion and not just go through the motions and get a degree, graduating not having any idea what they want to devote their working years too. Many times that can be alleviated by taking a gap year and working at something. I’ve seen it go a couple ways. Either you discover that what you thought was a dream job isn’t or it is and now you are motivated to get qualified for that field.

In some ways, this is an introductory article to what I hope will be a series that tells the other side of homeschooling. We all hear about the academic over achievers getting accepted to fantastic schools. Statistically, and in my own experience I know that there are plenty of homeschool students who are average and who graduate high school going straight into the job market, trade apprenticeships, or Community College Certificate Programs.




Veteran Homeschoolers

Hold My Hand


We are social beings. While I like my privacy, I don’t like to sleep alone. I don’t like to clean alone, and most of the time, I don’t like learning alone either.

It makes me sad when homeschoolers give their child a stack of workbooks and then leave the room or even the house and expect the student to school herself.

It makes me even sadder when parents are off pursuing their hobbies, and they leave an older child in charge of schooling the younger ones. Your kids deserve more.

Homeschooling is rewarding but also very repetitive and sometimes frustrating work. Homeschooling is a job. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and ask if we are really up to the task.

Maybe we started out enthused about homeschooling and then lost interest over the years. If that is the case, we have to start looking for a better educational placement for our students. Just because our child is not in a brick and mortar school does not mean they are magically getting a superior education. It takes work. It takes planning. It takes consistency and sometimes it takes handholding.

Most people can learn to work independently, and that can be a huge relief, but they still need a teacher of some sort. If we do not have the time or the inclination to be that teacher, we need to find someone who does.

I stay in the room when my kids are doing school. I want to be there for each question they ask, and each teachable moment we encounter.

I’ve had kids who reach the point where they want to learn from someone else. They already know my opinions. That’s when I know they are ready for some outside classes. They are willing to bounce their ideas off of different people with different backgrounds and different points of view. It is my job as a homeschooling mom to find those opportunities for my kids.

Then they become more independent and move on to even larger learning environments.  Guess what? There are still going to be times when I need to hold their hands. Sometimes the textbook seems impenetrable, and I need to read it out loud, explaining as I go, while they take notes. Sometimes the research topic seems too large, and I use my Google-fu to help narrow it down, flooding their email with links to relevant articles. But most often, they just need a sounding board. “Does this wording sound right to you?” “Can you read over this email to my professor?” “I’m at the airport. Where do I pay for parking?” And I hold their hand because there isn’t some magic age when kids can be left alone with a checklist to educate themselves. There isn’t a magic age where they should know how to navigate new situations. There is not a magic age when they no longer need a momma who has got their back.

I’m almost 50. This weekend, I need to paint my closet. Maybe I should call up a friend to hold my hand.

About Genevieve

Genevieve is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past sixteen. In her free time, she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy,

Education is a Life, Uncategorized

The Kitsch-en

“I can’t believe you have the patience to homeschool.”

“I could never do that.”

So often, it is not the actual act of planning lessons and teaching subjects that defeat us. It is the coffee that no one else seems able to make, but they are sure willing to drink it. It is the dirty dishes and the greasy stove that cast a shadow over what was otherwise a delightful meal.

I’m excited to see the beauty of these daily tasks through new eyes and the reminder that joy is present in the drudgery if I can open myself up to a new way of seeing.


“To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe


Pursue immortality, searching for forever,


But postpone to consider where momentarily time delays,


Repeating always, labors never finished,


Abode of classic timelessness, residing in the kitchen


Hidden in unwelcome chores, nonpareil moments lay


As bubbles gleam thoughts form and too, ascend


Swiftly comes dissatisfaction, focused outwardly on substance


Searching, searching, never seeing beauty in the fire


Awaken tendrils softly, contentment rising onwards


Does reflecting grease portray unrivaled stardust from within?


Resentment of vulgarian tasks procures no advantage.

Opportunity begrudged by me is celebrated by another.


Poem by Madeline McQuilling

About Homeschooling, Distance Learning, Uncategorized

My Ideal Online Student

Our very own Courtney is a teacher over at  Well Trained Mind Academy. I asked her to write up some guidelines for both students and parents who may be considering online classes there or anywhere else. It’s not too early to be thinking about next Fall. –JN

My Ideal Online Student Would:

  1. Read the syllabus. Most teachers put lots of time and effort into their syllabi. I provide a week-by-week breakdown of assignments, allowing students to plan their entire year in advance. Also, since I’ve been doing this for a while, I try to provide an answer in advance to most of the questions I receive in an average school year. This year is 2/3s of the way completed, and I’ve yet to receive an assignment question that isn’t already answered on the syllabus.
  2. Provide me with valid contact information for both themselves and their parent (I teach middle/high school). Online classes mean that most communication takes place by email. I faithfully update the parents of my students on their progress every week, but I inevitably receive emails from blindsided parents who provided no email address, a wrong email address, or never check their email.
  3. Reach out when they have difficulty. I don’t see these students every day to give them side eye when they fail to turn in their daily work. I can’t stop them after class for a quiet chat about paying attention while completing homework. I’m not across from them at the dining room table when they’re frustrated. I want to help–it’s my job to help–but I can’t help unless the student tells me there is a problem.
  4. Create a personal study schedule, and stick to it. Just because the Well-Trained Mind Academy caters to homeschoolers, and these are online courses, doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t take them seriously. Online classes quickly fall prey to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Even my 6th – 9th graders often require parental support in scheduling their study time and class attendance.
  5. Familiarize them with the online user interface. Most online learning systems have a significant learning curve. Blackboard is the most widely used software (over 1/2 of all K-12 students, nationwide), but it’s not necessarily intuitive. I provide an orientation session and work hard to establish a routine at the beginning of the school year so as to minimize confusion, but I inescapably have students who email me 3 weeks into the semester to ask me how to turn in their work.

Last, but not least, I treasure all my students. I attempt to establish a warm, professional relationship with my students and run my classes so that they have clear but reasonable standards and expectations. I deliberately schedule assignments so that students have less opportunity to forget about their classes. I offer daily office hours so that students can have one-to-one assistance. I answer my email after dinner and before breakfast to help my students. Every student matters, and I hope they know it!


Courtney– Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000 while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncts, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time, she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats


Dear Miz Socrates,, Veteran Homeschoolers

Dear Miz Socrates- Week 1

Thanks to Stacey and Anna who found my email address and pointed out that asking questions in private is optimal. I’ve passed their questions along to our expert panel of parents, and I’ll give you a link in case you have a question for next week. Ask us any kind of homeschooling related question here. Or join our Facebook Group.

From Stacey:

Dear Miz Socrates,

I find myself checking social media a lot more than I should. What are your thoughts on acceptable social media usage during the school day?


I think social media use can be a negative if you’re worried about missing out, or if you feel bad when you’re done. But, if it uplifts you, and your children are otherwise occupied, why not?-Courtney O.

Homeschooling is very child centered, and I don’t begrudge a mom social media time! Self-care is very important!–Anya W.

I actually agree. I feel guilty that I have never once felt guilty about my media usage.
I give up enough as it is.
Sometimes I knit or spin when the kids are working on their schoolwork. There is so much time when the kids are working on problems. I need something to keep me from being bored, but I need to be right there with them, so my options are limited.
The Internet is a good solution for me. Not going to apologize for it.-Genevieve M

Social media is my lifeline during the day.–Lynne M.

I think social media use can be a negative if you’re worried about missing out, or if you feel bad when you’re done. But, if it uplifts you, and your children are otherwise occupied, why not?–Courtney O.

As an introvert, social media is about as social as I get. I’m glad everyone else chimed in and feel basically the same way.–Jen N


From Anna:

Dear Miz Socrates,

I think I want to start homeschooling next year. My husband isn’t on board. What do you say? My 8yo daughter is miserable in school.

Homeschooling was an incredibly difficult decision for me. I come from a long, long line of public school teachers (my great-great grandmother was a schoolteacher in the Laura Ingalls Wilder days), and I believe in public schools.
But, our children are only with us for 936 Sundays. How many of those do we want our children to be miserable? How much misery is “right”? If an adult had a miserable job, they’d look for the first out they could, wouldn’t they? They’d job hunt, move to another city, or even go back to school to get out of a bad situation. Why is our child’s misery less credible than our own? Why should we not assist them in getting out of an intolerable situation?
That said, most spouses are not going to be on board with a parent unilaterally pulling a child out of school–divorce cases are especially nasty in homeschooling situations. Your best bet is to find their objection and help them overcome it in some way.
In my case, I just looked at it as a temporary situation. “Let’s do this for kindergarten. Kindergarten isn’t even required in some states. Even if I totally mess this up, she won’t miss out on much.” That became, “Let’s just do this until the end of the school year.” When the end of the school year came, she was a visibly happier child, and that result made all the spousal difference.–Courtney O.

When my husband and I would argue about homeschooling, he said all the typical things people say- socialization, they’ll be weird, etc. Finally, at one point he said, “I’m never going to agree to homeschool.” And then I said, “You don’t seem to understand that I do not agree to their current public schooling.” He just didn’t realize that I was as opposed to what was happening at the school as he was to the idea of homeschooling. That was a light bulb moment for him. He didn’t become fully on board until an incident happened at school that broke the camel’s back. After that, even he knew that the kids could not go back to our public school.–Lynne M.

When my first grader was unhappy in public school, we tried out homeschooling over Spring Break and homeschooled the entire summer after first grade as a trial period.
My husband was convinced after he saw how enthusiastic she became about learning and how much happier she was in general.
During the first year of homeschooling, I also researched private schools in case it didn’t work out, but after that first year, we all knew that homeschooling is an awesome option for our family!–Genevieve M.

We started our homeschool on a trial basis one Summer, and although my husband knew nothing about it, he saw how happy our boys were and trusted my judgment that this was the right thing for our family. Do some research and order a few things to try this Summer and see how it goes. –Jen N.


Science, Uncategorized

Textbooks in Moderation


First, I’m a fan of Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) by Dr. Nobel. It’s entirely hands-on, written to the parent. It meets and/or exceeds California state standards for science education, as well as the science standards drafted by the National Research Council, (the staff arm of the National Academy of Sciences), the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science–the Next Generation Science Standards. In my opinion, no other science program I have reviewed has such depth of inquiry in the early grades. Finally, BFSU is integrated science, which is essential for building practical skills in science–working scientists don’t tend to silo themselves in their disciplines.

However, BFSU is not open-and-go for educators. Some of the factors that contribute to its quality as a science program — the lack of a textbook, the depth of inquiry, the hands-on nature of the program — also create difficulties for day-to-day implementation. It’s written in dense text that can be difficult to parse with a busy classroom or screaming toddler in the background. Also, the highly verbal nature of the program can make it difficult for some students to cement understanding or skills. Further, it lacks some of the rich background content that classical education (and some traditional science textbooks) bring to science education. BFSU attempts to make up some of those lacks with a recommended reading list and some written assignments, but they produce little or no historical illumination.

To address these concerns, I have created a custom unit-based science program for my elder daughter that blends BFSU, Prentice Hall’s Science Explorer textbooks, and the book list from Beautiful Feet’s History of Science program.

The first week consists of reading, section questions, and narration from Prentice Hall’s Science Explorer textbooks, as well as a lab from the accompanying lab manuals–all centered around the BFSU chapter concept. This week helps cement the science concept and hands-on skills.

The second week consists of reading and narration from a middle grades biography of a historical figure central to the idea (when possible, and when not, a key historical figure or concept in the history of science), as well as filling in a science historical timeline. This week brings in the richness of classical education.

The third week consists of the discussion questions and lab with accompanying student-written lab report from the BFSU chapter. This week uses the understanding and background from the prior two weeks to dig deep into the BFSU chapter concept.

This science blend is an ambitious project. To make the project more manageable, I created a spreadsheet that listed all the BFSU chapters and sections in the order I want to use them and then listed the concepts addressed in those pages. Next, I listed relevant pages from the Science Explorer textbooks and the page numbers of the relevant labs in the lab manuals. Then, I listed the relevant page numbers in the Beautiful Feet History of Science pamphlet. Finally, I listed the books I want to use from the Beautiful Feet Booklist, the BFSU recommended reading, and others I’ve researched for supplementing the list. This overarching view helps me stay organized.

I’m using the spreadsheet as a guide. To make using the BFSU chapter easier, I also write lesson plans that pull out the key questions from the BFSU chapter, list lab materials, and dictate the lab report contents. The lesson plans are time-consuming because the BFSU text is so densely written, without any notation of key questions or manual lab items. I realize that Dr. Nobel wishes to make it as flexible as possible for educators, but that same flexibility and density are intimidating to the casual user. These lesson plans help me outsource some of the daily instruction time, which is critical to me. I did ask Dr. Nobel for permission to sell the lesson plans I write, but he refused, saying that he had already made an agreement with someone else. As of now, the lesson plans are apparently not published, so I continue with that work.

Finally, I’m creating a daily guide as I go, listing books and page numbers. The guide is a Word document, like the lesson plans. This work helps me keep track of what we’ve done, as well as where we need to go. Flipping back and forth between the three Prentice Hall textbooks and their accompanying lab manuals, the trade books and biographies, and the BFSU lesson plans can be confusing. As a result, the daily schedule is the document I refer to most often. It’s laid out in calendar format, in three-week chunks — again, based around the BFSU chapter concept.


One of the joys of homeschooling is the ability to be flexible. Blending three different styles of sources of information (while using one as a spine) is more flexible than the do-the-next-textbook-page science that is unfortunately so common. We can compress a week if the reading is short or she finds the book so attractive she can’t put it down, skip a lab if we’ve done it before, or watch a video for a supplemental background. But I can do any or all of those things knowing that the overarching goals of knowledge, skills, and competencies are being met.


Courtney– Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000, while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncting, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats.

About Classical, Uncategorized

The Link between the Heart and the Mouth

“Training the mind is no simple task!…But in a classical education, we are willing to work through these difficult mental exercises because we recognize that the mind is the vital link between the heart and the mouth.”

I recorded this into my commonplace book some time ago without an attribution. If you know who said it, please let me know, and I’ll attribute the quote.

In any case, I heartily agree with this sentiment. So many times I’ve heard the assertions that homeschooling must be so hard, so time-consuming, so, so, so…

You know it too. If you are just starting out, you’ll soon have a canned answer ready that you’ll whip out without a second thought. I joke that I didn’t want to awaken early enough to get four kids on a bus. I’ll admit that is was partly that and the fact that I wanted my children to know not only how to think, but how to think independently.

If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.-John F. Kennedy

I’ve found the classical education method to be the best avenue to achieve our educational goals. We go astray sometimes for months at a time, but always seem to return to our core basics. Reading and being read to are key. The more literature that children are exposed to the better.


Classical education is not all about being able to recite facts. It’s studying the past extensively and therefore having the knowledge to avoid mistakes that have been made again and again. It’s gaining empathy due to reading story after story of tragedy and loss. How can you relate to time you haven’t lived through?


You can get a real sense of history through both historical fiction and fact. Knowing the dates is a bonus as it allows you to have a sort of timeline in your head for what happened when. That doesn’t preclude the student also relating to the point in time creatively. Repeat after me: Classical Education is not boring. The materials and presentation can be annoying. A student will have subjects that he/she prefer over others. That doesn’t mean you skip it.  I don’t think specialization should be encouraged until age sixteen or so.

I’m afraid that this is turning into a generalized rant of how classical education is perceived by most of the homeschooling community. It isn’t meant to be that. It also isn’t intended to say that all other methods of education are inferior. Every family needs to determine their goals and values for educating their children soon after they decide to take on the responsibility themselves. I’m speaking as a classically influenced homeschooler who has been at this gig for over sixteen years.

This then is my actual point. Only through learning about the past and gaining empathy can we link the heart and the mouth thus providing the world with educated souls in what are seeming to be very interesting times.




Jen N. – Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she lives in a world of fandoms. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and reviews books at  www.recreationalscholar.com

About Homeschooling, Dear Miz Socrates,

Dear Miz Socrates

How do I choose curriculum?

Getting my 8-year-old to memorize his multiplication tables is killing both of us. Is there a better way?

My high school student wants to learn technical skills. How do I add them to her transcript?

Can I count Elvish as a foreign language?

You’ve all got questions, and we’ve got answers. Tap into our decades of home education experience by asking us a question or two, and we’ll answer them here on the blog.

Ask away here or on Facebook in our closed group, and we’ll answer on Tuesdays.


Jen N. – Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she lives in a world of fandoms. With three(soon to be four!) students graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and reviews books at  www.recreationalscholar.com and is Content Editor here at Sandbox to Socrates.

day in the life

A Day in the Life

7:30 Will the baby go back to sleep? She’s quiet…

7:54 No.

8:06 Morning ablutions with a fussy toddler on my hip. Meanwhile, elder DD has gone into the living room to watch YouTube.

8:10 Checking email while snagging breakfast. One important student email I need to respond to is flagged for later. I grab two breakfast burritos out of the freezer and jam them in the microwave. Husband can drive through McD’s tomorrow because I’m almost out of this batch of breakfast burritos — mental note to make another batch this weekend. With the toddler still on my hip, I grab a can of soda off the back porch. It’s too warm to keep storing my drinks on the back porch — mental note to bring it in. Sometimes when the toddler isn’t screaming at me to come back inside. Her separation anxiety is fierce. Meanwhile, the older is still watching YouTube. I think about saying something but don’t. The microwave beeps and the toddler demand my breakfast.

8:15 Trying to persuade the older child to eat breakfast is always a losing battle. Her gastroesophageal reflux tends to make her queasy in the morning. Nevertheless, I make her two pieces of cinnamon toast and get her a glass of water for her Prilosec.

8:20 While DD’s toast browns, I try to eat my breakfast and respond to email, but the toddler sits on my lap and eats all the sausage out of my burritos. DD is still watching YouTube.

8:25 The toast has been retrieved from the toaster and offered to the eldest child. Her Prilosec has been taken, anyway. I settle back in at my desk with the toddler, trying to finish answering my email.

8:37 Where did the time go? The toddler is wandering around the living room, wreaking havoc. The eldest child is still watching YouTube. I tell her that we will do school in 10 minutes and open up the tab for Facebook.

9:01 It’s a good thing eldest daughter wasn’t paying attention because I wasn’t either. The toddler has curled up on the Boppy in my lap and is nursing peacefully. I decide not to disturb her.

9:07 So much for peaceful nursing.

9:15 Having overcome the vociferous objections to doing academic work, I wrangled the child to the dining room table. Once she is actually seated, she works quickly. We do the math, poem memorization, composition, grammar, handwriting, history, and I decide to do Latin in the car, listening to the CD and repeating it.


10:20 I pick up the science book and start reading it to her, but then realize that we don’t have enough time to finish it because we all have to get dressed and tidied before the sitter gets here. I finish the paragraph.

10:25 The girls’ room is a mess. No time to clean. Must find suitable outfits for both. Of course, the younger child needs her diaper changed right now!

10:30 Strenuously objecting to the diaper change, younger daughter has run away half naked while I’m still not dressed for work. At least elder daughter is dressed, although she’s hungry, finally.

10:35 Younger daughter caught and dressed; bean burrito plucked out of the freezer and microwaving for elder daughter; I venture into my clean laundry pile. I need to buy some un-stained tops.

10:40 Finally, we are all dressed. I grab a cucumber out of the refrigerator and quickly slice some up. Cucumber in a little glass bowl, tomato slices in a bowl, chopped cold chicken in a bowl, bean burrito cut up on a plate, and applesauce poured into a bowl equals lunch for the older daughter. An extra handful of Cheerios, a pouch with some applesauce, and some diced cucumber for younger daughter means lunch is pretty much done. I grab a protein bar and another soda and frantically put away toys in the living room while I wait for the babysitter.

10:47 Of course sitter is running late. I pay almost 25% of my take-home salary in babysitting fees, and I am lucky to get her.

10:50 I deposit my screaming toddler in the arms of the college age babysitter and harden my heart as I walk away. She will be okay. It is only two hours. I try not to think about her tears as I walk downstairs.

10:52 I load my whiteboard and prep for class. I transfer all of my attention to my students. They’re my sole concern for the next two hours. Compartmentalization is a skill, and I can exercise it.


12:52 Hopefully I have been entertaining enough, engaging enough, and had enough relevant expertise to keep up with these fiercely bright and curious students today. My noon section was particularly on the ball, and I just needed a light hand to steer the conversation. They created their own lightbulb moment. I love teaching.

12:53 Back to motherhood. All is silent upstairs.

12:55 I quietly write a check for the sitter. She transfers the sleeping toddler into my arms, and of course, she wakes up. Her face is torn stained, and she grabs me, holding tight. I settle down at my desk to nurse her, but she-she doesn’t want to go back to sleep. She wiggles and twists and turns while she nurses. Meanwhile, eldest had settled on the sofa with a book, but since her sister is awake, she decides to go back to Minecraft.

1:11 The toddler wants to go outside, but I need to check the discussion forums in my classes. She wanders over to the window and bangs on it, while I load up Blackboard.

1:46 Only 45 minutes before we need to load up in the car. Of course, the toddler needs a new outfit. This one is smeared with the beans from her sister’s lunch.

2:06 I decide to load them up a bit early. It takes a half an hour to get anywhere, and this way we will have enough time to run through McDonald’s for an afternoon snack. Elder daughter grabs her Kindle to read in the car.

2:33 The toddler is screaming loudly when we drive through McDonald’s. Of course. I order an extra small french fry, in hopes that she’s just cranky because she’s hungry.

2:40 Having devoured the French fries, the toddler falls asleep. Unfortunately, I have to wake her up in 15 minutes to walk her sister into therapy.

2:55 Everybody out of the car. I snuggle the cranky, sleepy toddler in the mei tail so I can have my hands free while we walk in.

3:00 Big sister dropped off, we wait in the waiting room. I wonder how often they clean the toys and make polite conversation with the apparently harassed mother of two. Hers would look 3.5 and 2 if I had to guess. She’s got fabulous hair.

3:30 Big sister is finished, time to load everybody back into the car so I can go home and make dinner. I belatedly remember Latin, but I can’t figure out how to pause the CD in the car, and they speak so fast, I’m not sure it’s useful.

4:00 Time for dinner. Too hot for the planned Salisbury steak, I decide to make spaghetti Carbonara. It’s not much lighter, but it’s quick. Plus, I have a ham that needs to be eaten, and as expensive as that was, it’d be a shame to waste it.

4:07 Thank goodness Dear Husband arrives home. He takes the cranky, hungry toddler, while I chop ham, and eldest daughter complains about being bored.

4:27 Spaghetti is boiling, so I quickly write up the recipe as a possible submission to the faculty blog.

4:53 Dinner is on the table, and so is the toddler. I call the eldest daughter away from the computer, asking her to tell my mom that dinner is ready. She’d arrived home from work while I was cooking, but I’ve not yet talked to her today.

5:01 Why does the eldest child not want to eat this?! She gobbled it down last week!

5:03 My mother asks me if there’s egg in the sauce. Of course, there is. “Why are you letting her eat it?” Bad Mommy. I had forgotten that the allergist recommended the toddler avoid egg. *sigh*

5:45 Everyone has drifted away from the table, but I’m not clearing it. I need to check my email, and frankly, I’m tired. DH has gone outside with the girls, so I take a moment to call a potential Birth To Three client, review a specialty developmental assessment with my mother, balance the bank account, and return parent email.

6:37 I venture on the back porch, where DH and I have a tense discussion about the need to replace our 15-year-old car. The girls are filthy and will need baths.

7:09 I vegetate on Facebook while Dear Husband runs a bath for the girls.

7:29 I commence operation Scrub The Children. This is a complex, multi-part operation with up to four different players, which can easily take an hour.

8:34 I decide I need a shower.

9:06 Time to nag the eldest child to brush her teeth.

9:16 I try to quickly return a parent email, only to realize I’ve lost an important file. It takes me a good 25 minutes to find it, while DH wrangles the children into pajamas.

9:45 I attempt to nurse the toddler to sleep, but she’s discovered that Daddy is awake in the next room reading science to her sister, and she wants no part of a dull, dark room with Mommy. Three tries are required before she eventually falls asleep.

10:46 Dear Husband finally slips into bed with me, but we’re both so fried, we putter on electronic devices instead of talking.

11:30 I shut off my Kindle, as Allan Bloom is no longer making sense.


Courtney– Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000 while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncting, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time, she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats.