How We Make it Work, Uncategorized

I’m pregnant, I have a toddler, and I still have to educate older children! by Cheryl

Courtesy FreeImages.com

First, take a deep breath! (That’s just as much for me as it is for you.) Then, take a nap.

Okay, now you are ready to think about school, a toddler, and a baby.

Last time I was pregnant with a toddler, I only had one school-age child, and he was only in first grade. We had relatively few problems, even though I was very sick for six months of the pregnancy. Now I have a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, and an energetic preschooler.

The best thing I have done with our homeschooling was to train my oldest to be independent. He works alone, and then I check his work. We go over troublesome issues together, but he normally does well on his own.

Not all kids can do this – my daughter cannot. I have to sit with her for every minute of school. So, how do we make this work?

We are combining some subjects. Last year we started The Prairie Primer but only made it half-way through the book. We will spend this year finishing that. With this curriculum, we cover literature, some history, some science, and some nature study.

My oldest is working on a book of centuries for history. He is reading through the Kingfisher Encylopedia of World History a couple of pages a day, making notes in his book, and following up on what truly interests him with other books we have at home or that he finds at the library. He can also make entries from our Little House on the Prairie studies. This is completely independent.

We have always used Real Science 4 Kids for science. We will work through the middle school series for geology and astronomy this year. Because they are only ten chapters each, it is easy to finish two in a year. Even if we miss a few weeks, we can still finish the books. If we are on track to complete everything, we can supplement with other labs, books, and activities. The flexibility is great!

Everything else – math, grammar, writing, reading, etc – is open and go, just do the next thing. No planning, no searching out supplementary books. I simply track our days, and we do the next thing until we have completed 180 days, or really close to it.

We also attend a weekly co-op. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it has always been great for us. I enroll each kid in a class that is fun and fluff and one class that is more educational. Plus, they both do PE. If I put them each in a science class, I know that if we fall behind at home and skip science, they will still be getting science all year.

While these things help us maintain our education in the busy times in life, it is not perfect. I still have to remind myself that this is just one short season in life. I am only pregnant for a short time, they are only babies for a short time, and while toddlerhood seems never ending – too soon they are preteens.

We got behind a little when Matthew was born, and again when I had gall bladder surgery. Both times, we caught up and even surpassed what I had planned. The break from the norm may help reset everyone so that your school time is more effective. Relax, breathe, and enjoy the new baby smell.

 

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How We Make it Work

Homeschooling While Working Part-Time, by Jane Emily

I’ve homeschooled my two kids for over ten years now, and for five of those years I’ve been working part-time.  I won’t say it’s ideal, but it’s reality for many families. Here’s how I manage.

I’m a librarian, and for several years when my children were very small I was doing extra work for the public library. They would call me once in a while to substitute or to fill in a few hours on the schedule.  My plan was to keep doing that until a position opened up (hopefully in the children’s room!), and then I could just bring my kids to the library for school time.  A previous children’s librarian had done this, so there was precedent.

That plan unraveled completely when the county decided that no library needed more than one librarian to run the whole place.  I,  along with anyone else who wasn’t a head librarian of a branch, was let go, and there wasn’t much prospect of future employment. I was out of work for a couple of years, and this started to get worrying. I live in a small city and the demand for my expertise had disappeared.  I worried that I would have to go back to school and train in another field to get good work in the future, but for the moment I was homeschooling two daughters and that was plenty for my plate.

I got an unexpected job offer though – the local community college needed a librarian for less than ten hours a week. Few people want to work that little.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to work that much, but our financial needs were pressing.  I felt very strongly about continuing to homeschool our daughters, so I figured I’d just try to muddle along.

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A free speech display made as part of my job

My girls were seven and ten when I started working three days a week, three hours at a time.  No family members were available to stay with them, but friends helped out.  Over the next couple of years, depending on who was available, my daughters would spend those hours at the homes of various friends.  Sometimes I paid – usually about $25 a day – and sometimes, if the friend was also a homeschooler, I would barter.  I sewed a fancy baptism dress for a friend’s daughter, for example.

In the mornings, we would do as much work as we could and pack up the more portable or independent work for someone else’s house.   I tried to make lists of what they should do, but more often my instructions were verbal.  They’d have a pile of books to go through, so it wasn’t hard to remember, but checklists were much superior.  Then after work, I would  go over what they had done and do more work directly with them.

It was not easy for my kids to go to other homes.  They often struggled with distractions as younger children watched television or played. While my older daughter has always preferred to work independently, the younger one wants me right by her side.  Their hosts were not familiar with the work they were doing and could not keep noses to the grindstone in the way that I would (nor would it have been fair to ask it).  It was too easy for the girls to say they’d done more work than they really had, and by the time I’d done drop-off, the commute, the work, and then the pickup, most of the day was gone.

I enjoy my job, but it was not easy for me either.  Switching focus takes energy and organization, and I looked forward to the days at home with no worries about getting everything done before I had to go.  Working while homeschooling is very draining, and the house certainly suffered.  My meal-planning skills were not really up to the challenge either.  I had less time for personal reading or sewing, and both are very important to me.  Over and over, I would remind myself that I am happier when I can get some sewing time in every so often, and then I would forget again as life got too busy.

As the girls got older, I didn’t need to take them to others’ homes quite as much.  My work schedule changed a bit every year, and at one point I was working two hours on Fridays. By then I figured they were old enough and could manage for that long alone.  They much preferred staying home together where it was quiet.

It’s now been over a year since my mom – another librarian – retired from full-time work.  I promptly recruited her as a backup homeschooler!  This works much better since she comes to my house and is able to keep a closer eye on their work (I’m better at checklists now too).  She discusses books with them and can critique their writing. This year she and my now-15-year-old are reading Dante together.  I really appreciate all the help she is able to give us.  Right now, a couple of my work shifts are scheduled later in the afternoon, so we have the whole morning to work together, and then they finish up while I’m gone.

It’s still not easy. I won’t lie – this is not an ideal way to homeschool.  Homeschooling is already a full-time job, and I’ve piled a part-time job on top of it.  The house and meals are still suffering, but my older girl makes dinner sometimes, which helps.She is a soup artist! If I could afford some cleaning help, that would probably make a huge difference, but I’ve never felt able to do that.

By the time summer rolls around, I’m pretty burned out. Luckily my workplace does not want me over the summer, so I do get some time off (albeit no money).  By then I need to spend a lot of time not thinking about school.  This year I avoided it as long as possible and only got things under control a couple of weeks before we were due to start back!  I try to do a lot of planning in spring when it’s easy to see what my kids will need.  Summer is for relaxing, trying to get the house into some semblance of order, sewing, and a road trip or two.

That annoying pest, Reality, dictates that many of us work while homeschooling.  It may not be ideal, but it can work as long as the paid job is not too onerous.  I would definitely not recommend that you try it while working more than, say, 15 hours a week at most. Fifteen would make it really quite difficult to keep up the energy and dedication needed for your children to thrive.  (During some difficulties staffing my workplace, I found that 12 was too much for my family’s well-being.)  I hope you are good at efficient meal-planning…and try to squeeze a housecleaner into your budget!

One more thought.  If you really, truly have to work more than a few hours per week, keep a sharp eye on your children’s well-being.  The more hours you have to work, the more possible it becomes for them to suffer without getting noticed.  If a child is struggling with something, don’t just assume it will get better; pay attention and think seriously about whether some changes might be necessary.  It is better for a child to be doing well in a school setting than it is for him to be troubled at home.  Don’t let your dream of an ideal homeschool cloud your sight as to what is actually going on; it’s not appropriate to subordinate a child’s needs to a parent’s ideal.

 

Jane-Emily–Jane-Emily is a classically homeschooling LDS mom of two girls, and a librarian at the local community college, very part-time. She loves to read and will pick up almost anything. She also loves to sew and mostly does quilting, heirloom sewing, and smocking. And she’s a Bollywood addict. Jane-Emily is our Webmistress.

How We Make it Work

Overcome the Slump, by Georgiana

The signs are obvious: wiggles and squiggles, wandering gazes, attempts to cut out early or not do school at all.

And the kids are restless too.

It happens every spring. If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time, you recognize signs of Spring – Spring Slump, when even scrubbing showers and organizing the garage look more appealing than working through one more word problem.

The question is, what can we do about it? Browsing the shiny new catalogs that flood the mailbox with promises of classical education being anything other than what it is—hard work—only fuel the discontent that hits after months of carefully adhering to a rigorous academic schedule. Let’s face it, the Spring Slump can happen even if we’ve not quite met our own high standards and are doing our best to eke out one more day.
A few adjustments in the days and weeks that inch along until summer can make all the difference in attitudes…and results!

* Change of scenery. The easiest way to quash the Spring Slump is to get out of your schoolroom, office, or dining room. Weather permitting, it’s time to take the learning outside, to the library, or to the coffee shop. There’s something about changing your surroundings that helps kick start your motivation. Funny thing is, with other people around, my kids suddenly behave like angels. Go figure.

*Alternative learning methods. I rarely advocate substituting videos for good old-fashioned books, but a carefully selected documentary is better than poking my eyes out with a sharp pencil when school isn’t going well. There are myriad ways to learn besides books and videos. How about games, puzzles and, dare I say, crafts? The fun learning is what I usually axe in the daily quest to “finish the list,” but ironically those are the activities my kids often glean the most from to solidify information.

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*Field trips. Don’t groan! As basic as this suggestion is, kids have the opportunity to casually pick up more knowledge when an activity doesn’t scream, “learning, learning!” Trips that tie into what you’re already studying are good—museums, an observatory, national parks—but how about  a trip to foster your child’s particular interest? A bakery for your budding baker, a seamstress’ shop for a child who loves to sew. Not only will they learn about something they already enjoy, but it may plant the seeds for future mentorship opportunities.

*Kid takeover! Let’s face it, kids love to be in charge, especially when they can be in charge of one another. Each child can pick a subject to lead. If they put in the time to prepare and master the material so they can teach, they will benefit. It’s also a good lesson in courtesy and being an attentive student.

*Kid swap. This one is not for the faint of heart, and frankly I’ve been too chicken to try. Trade kids with another homeschool family for a day. I can almost guarantee kids will be more focused and work harder for someone else. Plus it gives children the important opportunity to learn from other adults. The bonus for you is getting a free peek at other curricula!

If all else fails, it might be time to take a short break. I’m not suggesting entire weeks off school—perish the thought!—or even days. Surprising the kids by allowing them to sleep in for a few mornings or spending time snuggling in the afternoons might be just enough of a break to help you power through until summertime, when you and your children can gleefully toss out the schoolbooks in favor of brain-candy novels and trips to the pool.

How will you take advantage of the flexibility homeschooling offers and recreate your day?

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Georgiana– Georgiana resides in the beautiful mountains of Arizona with her super-generous husband, and three talented daughters. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, and now has the privilege of homeschooling by day and wrestling with the keyboard by night. She’s the author of Table for One and A Daughter’s Redemption, and is exceedingly thankful for her own happily ever after.

How We Make it Work

A Week in the Life, by Jen N.

I always like to put my own spin on things so I’m changing this to A Week in the Life. The problem is that I could do a day in the life with my at-home days or a day in the life on my work days. If you only see one of these days it isn’t going to make much sense. I’m hoping that this helps someone who, for whatever reason, isn’t an at-home-all-day homeschooler to see that your kids can still thrive without a traditional schedule.

You may be wondering: Why do I have this strange schedule?

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Long story short: My father-in-law has dementia and needs full-time care. He needs to live with us and the only way that we can afford to make this happen is to remodel a home that we used to rent out so that we can all live there together. We are doing all of the work ourselves. Right now the upstairs is done and one of our older sons is staying there with my father-in-law. They have a makeshift kitchen and one full bathroom. I have two days a week that I don’t go there, and my son has two nights where we bring my father-in-law home with us so that he gets a break. Once we finish and move, I’ll be tweaking the whole thing again. It’s always something, right?

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Monday– This is my Saturday. We spend it catching up on cleaning, shopping, haircuts, all of that fun stuff. I admit to spending every Monday morning watching Downton Abbey and pursuing other selfish “me time” activities.  At noon, I walk over and meet my husband for lunch at his office. We used to do that more often, so now Monday is non-negotiable as we hold onto our old habits desperately. Caring for elderly family members is hard on the entire family. Give yourself some grace. No school today.

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Tuesday– I’m up at 5:00 am.

This is our heaviest school day. I won’t be home all day again until next Monday. I find that every Tuesday I wake with a sense of urgency and purpose. It’s truly now or never. Whatever we don’t get done today may actually get pushed into next week depending on how the rest of this week plays out. Tuesdays are days where I try to introduce new skills or anything that may result in frustration in either student or teacher.

Lesson planning comes first. I always plan on getting that done over the weekend but never do. My planning consists of dividing the subjects by day and by criteria like:

Q: Do I want to carry The Golden Children’s Bible in my backpack all day?

A: It’s really heavy. No, I do not. (BTW: How do school kids do that? Textbooks are really heavy. I can see why the trend to iPad school is so strong.)

Q: Do I want to introduce long multiplication at the Barnes and Noble Cafe?

A: That might not be a bad idea. Knowing that we have people listening in will keep both of us calm. Plus they have brownies available right there.

To any of you Type A box-checking people: you need to look away now. This is going to get ugly.

For my grade schooler, I elected to use mostly Memoria Press curriculum this year, mostly because they provide a daily schedule that I just need to tweak and not invent. Their schedule, and my old schedule for that matter, contain afternoon classes that are scheduled once a week on a block-type schedule. That doesn’t work for us too well right now. And so I tweak. I often write it out as scheduled and then, looking at the whole thing, start adding arrows to different days.

I make us all a good at-home breakfast and the kids come tumbling out by 8:00 am.

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Then we work all day. The only other thing I will do on Tuesday is laundry. It fits in perfectly with our complete stay-at-home day. I work the schedule so that I introduce new lessons and concepts on Tuesdays.

 

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Wednesday

I’m home until noon.  We spend the morning doing math, grammar, Latin, and literature. The kids stay home and my older daughter teaches her younger brother art and goes over all his memory work with him. I usually schedule any Netflix movies for that afternoon also. They play board games and make dinner together. I won’t be home until 10:00 pm. I’ll spend the day redirecting and driving to the home improvement store. My husband takes the train up at 5:00 pm and we work until 9:00 pm. The drive home is about 45 minutes. We get home and after scavenging leftovers, we go to bed.

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Thursday

Teen girl has a weekly Homeschool Media Club date at our library. She meets up withfriends there and makes a day of it. My ten-year-old son and I head out early for a full day at the remodeling house. We bring our books with us. We sneak off from 1:00 pm- 3:00 pm and make the rounds of our school-away-from places. Our preferred location is Barnes and Noble. Sometimes it is too loud there. We check Starbucks and McDonald’s in turn. If all else fails, we will work in the car. Usually, my husband is on the early train so we get a lot more done. We work on the house from 3:45 pm until 9:00 pm again and head home.

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Friday

Teen girl and I spend the morning checking her work from the week. We email and message back and forth on days I’m not home.This would not have worked with her older brothers. She is pretty diligent about getting her assignments done. We all go up to the remodeling house around noon. I’ll leave with my grade schooler, and we’ll use our remote classroom. Again we work until 9pm. We bring my father-in-law back with us, so adult son has his weekend night to himself. Over the weekend he does things like building his own TV antenna and placing it on the roof. Once you start creating, it’s hard to stop.

This isn’t even the current model. Now we get 62 channels with the newest model on the roofline.

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Saturday

According to the lesson plans, this is our Day Five and it is mostly quiz/test review day. We get all that done in the morning at home. The kids bring whatever books they are reading and their Kindle for games in the car. We head up to the house by noon and work again until 9pm. Again we bring my father-in-law home to the condo. It’s a bit like Ground Hog Day as each week he says the same things in the elevator.

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Sunday

We do memory/recitation work and anything else that we didn’t get done during the week. It’s our Friday so we are usually in good spirits heading up to the house. The traffic on the weekends is much worse so it takes about 90 minutes to get to the suburbs. I spend the time in the car torturing the kids with old music. We call it School of Rock. We try to leave a bit earlier that night and rent a movie when we get home. After driving so much all week I have no desire to go anywhere.

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And so it goes. This is our fifteenth year homeschooling, and I can honestly say every year has been different. The keys are flexibility, patience, and just plain giving yourself permission to leap even further outside the box to do whatever you need to do for your family.

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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 calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog: www.recreationalscholar.wordpress.com

How We Make it Work

Fun and Games, by Lynne

I thought I was being all clever in my plan to teach United States geography to my kids. I was going to have them label the states they recognized on a blank map before we even started our curriculum. Then I was going to have them repeat the exercise at the end of the year to see how many more they remembered. Well, the joke was on me. Both of them labeled each and every state correctly and even labeled several of the state capitals. I was shocked and stunned! “How did you know all of this?”, I asked. “We learned it from Stack the States (Android here) and Clever Dragons.”

Games? Games, you say? This wasn’t in the Classical Education Handbook! Wait. There is no Classical Education Handbook. That was just in my fantasy world.

So, you can learn stuff from games. Interesting.

Okay, I’ll stop being silly now. We’ve been including games in our homeschool since we started five years ago. Games are a really fun way of getting back on track when you’ve lost your groove or they can be a nice way to break up a challenging day.

My kids play some educational games on the computer, and I’m quite surprised and pleased about how much they learn and retain from these games. But our favorite way to learn with games is to include them in real life within our school day.

We have used games in almost every subject. Some games I purchased purposely to use for school, like Main Idea Bingo.

But the regular old games you have stacked on your shelf can be just as educational. Boggle, Scrabble, and Bananagrams are great for spelling. Games like Chess, Settlers of Catan, Risk, and Rush Hour help develop your strategy skills. Zoom, Yahtzee, and Monopoly are all good for reinforcing math skills. These math dice were so simple, and yet they were one of the things my kids enjoyed playing the most. We have several of these Professor Noggin’s games for history and science. I could go on and on listing games for various skill development and building a general knowledge base.

Playing with the math dice

Professor Noggin’s Ancient Civilizations game

You don’t have to buy games to use them in your homeschool. We have made several games related to things we’ve been learning about in school.

We have made memory games like the one in the above photo that came from the Colonial America History Pockets book, I believe. We made another memory game for our Ancients study where the kids had to match up the Greek god name with its Roman god equivalent. When we were learning about action verbs, the kids invented an Angry Birds-inspired game called Angry Verbs, and they glued action verbs onto foam balls which they then threw at some stacked up boxes.

Angry Verbs

I made a few Pinterest-inspired games for them too, such as Scrabble Eggs. I put some scrabble tiles in plastic chicken eggs, and they had to make as many words as possible from the letters. Definitely check out Pinterest for game ideas.

Whatever you do, make time for some fun and laughter in your homeschool. It doesn’t have to be all serious all the time. Even with your high schoolers. Sure, they have a lot of work to do, but a family game of Apples to Apples or Pandemic will be sure to improve the spirits.

Don’t worry about games being educational all the time either. Sometimes it’s just nice to have fun.

How We Make it Work

A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool, by Briana Elizabeth

Thursday

I woke up around 7:30 to the dogs barking because my 10th grader was leaving for music classes. He walks down to the local public school (and home) about four times a day between all of his classes and marching band. I stayed in bed. Husband had a conference online with a Chinese company and didn’t get home until 1:30 am, and I sat up to wait for him. I’m dreading the day. Slightly.

7:50  I go downstairs, start my pear jelly, and make a pot of tea. I turn the oatmeal on (I let mine soak overnight so this is easy) and walk a dog or two.

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8:19  Everyone is around the table drinking coffee and reading. I join them. Eventually I go over the schedules, and people start talking about presidential candidates. The whole table joins in, it becomes a civics lesson, and I reroute them back to reading.

8:27  I forgot to add ginger to my jelly, so I get up and add that in.

8:33  Still drinking tea and reading–really reading this time.

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8:37  Last sleepy head wakes up and joins us, and I confess I did wake her up. We’ll go too long if she doesn’t start soon, and she wants to play with the neighbors everyday. I like to make that happen for her.

9:20  Jelly is done.

9:22  10th grader comes home, and we stop reading to eat breakfast.

9:30  Daughter has to be driven to work. (Thankfully this is less than 2 miles away).

9:45  Another cup of tea.

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9:46  Dh is about to leave, and I get him ready to go to work for the day. Normally he leaves around 9, but this is a somewhat off day.

10:03  Kids are finishing up algebra, some are eating, and I review notes with my son on a paper he wrote.

10:15  I make my own omelet and sit down to eat and help two kids with math.

10:17  Son takes over teaching his sisters algebra, so I can help a small person.

“God gave you fingers, use them.” Yes, I just said that.

10:20  Son is so adorable and kind as he helps his sisters. We are all laughing at the problem.

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10:22  Pugsly is in the kitchen making himself an omelet. I can’t eat oatmeal; he hates it.

11:00 Complained about algebra on Facebook and was not only commiserated with but given the idea to buy Dragonbox. Done deal. Smaller kids are playing while the stragglers get showers. I am looking up meme quotes while everyone takes a breather.

11:10 I grab a straggler to do some language arts and my commonplace book.

11:15  Everyone is at the table doing “English”.

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11:45  I split everyone up and sneak off to teach small child history.

12:12 People have written some excellent stuff today! We successfully pulled out of the algebra tailspin.

12:22 Three kids are still writing and working on compositions. I send Pugsly to read a poem, while I do mapwork with Small Child. Pugsly comes and reads me poem, and we talk about it.

12:32  Three STILL working on compositions (why would I go and ruin a good thing by stopping them?). I finish poetry analyzation with Pugsly, and we bank one lesson extra.

I am finally going to get a shower.

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12:48  Downstairs again. Made my bed and switched around the wash while I was up there. Dinner is mostly made, and I have a meeting at 7 pm. I need to remember to start tomorrow’s dinner too (soak beans, make stock). We have a picnic and a church service tomorrow, so I need to ‘bank’ as much as I can!

12:56  I call an end to the writing. Two have music class at 1:30, and I need to eat. I walk a dog and load the second batch of dishes into the dishwasher (the boys did the first earlier). My neighbor stops over for a few minutes.

1:22  Daughter decided she’s not going to band, so Pugsly is off to class by himself. The girls are still working on compositions, smallest child is doing some spelling corrections, and it’s all very, very quiet.

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1:26  Smallest child is done, and she will have lunch. All she has left is Nature Study.

1:36 Both daughters are done with compositions (history crossover), and they were both so well done that I get to cross off over a weeks worth of writing exercises. This homeschool thing might work after all.

All I have left is poetry, science, and history with the olders. Oldest son has physical therapy (had an operation) at 3:40. Hopefully I can get it all done by then.

1:40  Older boy leaves for honors choir. He’ll be home at 3:30. I have to make some puppy formula, and one daughter hits the shower.

2:07  Puppy pen is clean, and they are fed. I am doing nature study with Smallest Child.

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2:47 She looked for bugs, and I picked sage and apples and weeded a bit. We have worms and grubs, millipedes and … bugs to look at. I was hoping to see the baby roly poly that I saw the other day, but we couldn’t find him. The older girls are now working on mapwork of the fall of Rome.

2:57  Science! Pugsly is home, and wants to go play football at the school, so we are Getting It Done.

3:40.  PT.  Dropped Pugsly off at the high school to play football on the way to PT.

3:58  Heading to the screened-in porch (called The Fake Outside) to do poetry with the girls.

4:18  Finished poetry. The girls are going to give one dog a bath. I’m going to sit out here for a bit and enjoy the sun.

4:30  Girls feed puppies and take off to play with friends.

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5:00 Another sink full of dishes, and I sit down with an iced coffee to do some STS work.

From here on out I put the clipboard down and it’s muddled, but it goes something like this:

6:00 I start dinner. This is late for a lot of people, but Dh regularly works until 7:30/8 pm and we all eat together. When my kids were small, they ate much earlier.

6:55 Dinner is in the oven finishing up, and I walk out the door to go to my meeting. Since it’s only a block away, I make it in time.

8:00  I come in the door and Dh just got home. The kids served themselves, fed puppies, and walked dogs, so we all gather around the table.

8:20 pm I decide I don’t want to go to the store in the morning for bread, so I leave to pick some groceries up and buy a can opener. We have a picnic tomorrow and church at 12:05, so I want to  leave myself wiggle room in there. Thankfully I live in town and the store is less than a mile.

9:00 pm I’m home. Dh took care of the pool, and I see wine on the counter. I pour myself a glass and sit out in the library with him to chat.

9:30 pm  Football game is on. I shut the kitchen down for the day, then head to poke around the internet.

10:00 pm, I walk all the dogs, give them water, straighten things up, and grab a book.

10:30 pm I’m in bed and the kids are too.

Looking back at this list, I realize I accomplished a good bit more than I thought I did.

Now to do it all again tomorrow.


Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

Education is a Life, Homeschool Wisdom, How We Make it Work

Homeschool Carousel, by Briana Elizabeth

I woke up this morning feeling a strong sense of deja vu. It’s a homeschooling carousel, the music and bright lights being the books and pedagogies, and the choosing of what to do each year is the up and down of the circular ride.

Though I am wed to classical schooling, each child is so different that I have to reassess subjects each year and decide what is to take precedence.

This year has been particularly hard for me, so I’m going to do something I never really do: I’m going to share about one of my children specifically so you can understand how some of these questions and struggles never leave until your last student is out on his own. This is just part of homeschooling, and you can expect it. It’s nothing to angst over, and yet these are our children and our high calling, and so we dwell on these questions.

He is entering his sophomore year and is my first child that I have homeschooled from the very beginning. There has been a marked difference between his studies and that of his two older siblings whom I pulled out of public school. Though my other children were good students, their public school years served as a birth defect in their education. This son’s studies, his abilities, his bent, if you will, are a shining example of how education informs character and will and forms loves. I say this only to remind myself that there is no right or wrong decisions with his schooling at this point; there are only right and wrong decisions as to what is best for him. Let me unpack that and share how though your children get older, the struggles of what to teach each year are still there, no matter how long you’ve been a homeschooler. My purpose is to hopefully give you some peace; this is how it goes; this is a stage of every year, just like stages of growth in children, and in relationships.

I could graduate him. Yes, as a sophomore, I could enroll him into the community college in my town and let him loose. He has finished his required subjects for graduation. However, he is also enrolled in our local public school’s extra curricular activities of marching band, jazz band, concert band, wind ensemble, honors choir (this is a hugely popular choir whose performances with purchased tickets are standing room only – rightly so), and this year he is auditing AP music theory. He also participates in track and swimming. To graduate him would mean that he would have to give up those very worthy classes, having  been matriculated, and these are classes and experiences that I would not be able to afford him privately.

He has also started his own business, and is working toward his Eagle Scout. He is taking coveted classes with a renowned luthier.

And so I am left with deciding which subjects are the most important for him to know in these three short years we have.

This is no small decision. And this is where I can say there is no wrong answer -he is essentially finished – yet our choices are of the utmost importance because we have to choose the very best for him. He doesn’t have the time for me to throw a full schedule at him; he only has 24 hours in his day and I insist on his sleeping at least 8 of those hours, and having some hours to stare at a wall if he chooses. Eating is also high on the priority list.

Believe it or not, he loves Latin enough to continue on with Henle 2 this year. I thought for sure we could cut out Latin because we had more than finished it as a requirement, but this is what he wants, and how can I argue other wise? He has a wonderful mentor in Scouting who was classically educated, and they conjugate verbs and talk of translating when they’re not teaching young scouts to shoot rifles, and my son’s affection for this mentor, and this language are so worthy of his time. However, I am leaving it all up to him. He can take The National Latin exam if he chooses also.

We could cut out math, but should we? With his desires to continue his education, quitting math might be a danger because his lack of using it might lead to forgetting much of what he had learned. Math continues. It will be what he chooses, and we’ve been toying with the idea of  a course in statistics.

Science is our own course, The Physics of High Fidelity and some Biology* this year because I love dissecting things, and I think he should too. This is not a course that I’ve built for him, rather he has built it for himself and I’m just giving him the credit. It is basically what his business is. He is designing guitar foot pedals (they alter the sound on the guitar, and he can design them to make different sounds; he then draws the schematics and builds them with electrical circuits. It’s a lot of wire and welding) He chose to do Chemistry last year, and we can switch things up like that because we’re homeschoolers.

So that leaves humanities to whittle down – and the pain of this you cannot imagine. Which books to cut? It’s a knife to my humanities-loving heart. His father and I have an abiding love of history, and he wants to pursue a minor in history in college.  He happens to love the Catholic Textbook Project’s textbooks, so it will stay as a spine. (Did you know I hate textbooks? Hate. These are amazing. I have all but one.) But we can’t do all of the wonderful assignments. He can’t outline every chapter. We read (I try to keep up with him) and we discuss – this is what we’ve done for years. How can I argue with this streamlined option when it made him love history so much in the first place?

The last choices would be what books to read. With this schedule, it’s leaves only room for the most excellent. However, because I’ve used the Norms list since seventh grade, he has some excellent books under his belt already. Now I can cherry-pick the ones from the tenth grade list he hasn’t read and that I feel are most important. He doesn’t have time to write reports on all of them. Again, we read, and we discuss. I can’t bring myself to fix what ain’t broke.

When I have to pare reading lists down to what is most essential, I always check myself with Memoria Press’ choices. You can’t go wrong if their books are the only ones read for the year. More is not always better. For this year I’ve chosen The Aeneid, Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, St. Augustine’s Confessions, Dante’s Inferno, Pico’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, Erasmus’ Education of a Christian Prince. That still is quite a list, and we will just keep chipping away at it. Literature is read year-round in our house, so there is no set month he has to finish these. If he is still reading them next year in eleventh grade, is that the worst thing? Not in the least. Poetry will be interspersed because that’s how I roll.

The last of my decisions, and what I will require, is one small paper each semester and one research paper to be handed in at the end of the year. Because he has been homeschooled from the start, because right thinking leads to good writing, we’ve climbed this ladder well. We’re honing skills at this point, and our lingering family dinners have made this possible as much as any writing courses we’ve done over the years.

So that’s it. It’s the most of what we can do, and the least of it.

I can get anxious over what he might be missing–what I thought he should have done – but would that really be worth the anxiety? Isn’t he doing enough? Is it not classical? Is it not beautiful and crafted specifically to him?

This is why I don’t really pore over books and schedules and get upset, fretting that we didn’t do everything. Those books and schedules don’t have MY child, with his talents and loves. I’m not saying to not look at them, but don’t be bound by them. Glean what they have for you, but be free in leaving what is not for you, your family, your child. Leave it with no look back.

*This is my friend Macbeth’s homeschooling site. She’s a biologist who has graduated four kids. We love her science recommendations.

How We Make it Work

Always Almost, by Briana Elizabeth

I have been trying to write an article on why classical homeschooling is not elitist, and it’s taken me weeks. Not because I can’t think of reasons but because the words for that article aren’t coming. I keep writing another article in my head – one about being present and aware in the moment, not rushing through to what is to be done next in our heads as we are teaching our children now, not being always almost-present.

A friend from my local homeschooling group emailed us all a letter she wanted to discuss at the next Mom’s Night Out about how answering the need of a child is like answering the monastery call to prayer. A Blessed Be the Interruptions type article. I had read it before and it is lovely, but as I had pondered that article many moons ago, I kept thinking about how the problem we have is not with thinking of every thing that goes wrong as a wretched interruption, but that we are so on to The Next Thing in our heads, we’re never fully present for what we should be attending to.

We are moms. We are not only moms but also homeschooling moms and sometimes working-from-home homeschooling moms and working-OUTside-the-home homeschooling moms and phew! – to run this unit efficiently we need schedules and checklists and menus and planners and yes, yes we do. We need all of it. I can’t hold all of those things in my head, and I need that brain dump onto paper and the checklist and the menu–but what I need most is to be present in the moment I am living right.this.instant.

And, my head just exploded, right, because isn’t that just One More Thing to Do? Argh! I’ll just put that on The List. Be Present. Right under the weekly menu and the activities and the chores and the schedule and the lessons…Be Present.

If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.

Thankfully that is not what we need, and that is not what I’m talking about.

We are mothers. Our day is made up of interruption after interruption. It just is. These little humans we are charged with loving and raising don’t understand the schedule thing or the list thing or the task thing–even when they are older and you are so, so tired and ready to go to bed, and your teen chooses that moment to have a three hour talk with you, and you know what you do? You talk. You connect and you love them when they reach out to be loved–because that’s what the interruptions are. They are people (our children are people) reaching out to connect with us. That is the ultimate reason we are home with them, no? – to be reachable? Can we think of interruptions as beautiful moments we are offered to love one another?

So we CAN make our lists and be orderly because we need that, too. But we do it at a certain time, when we are able. And then we can use that schedule as a guide to our day. But whatever moment you are in, be *present* in that moment. Be conscious of those you are with and yourself and what you are attending to in that moment. Not what’s next. And when the interruptions come – and they will – see them as just a part of the cycle of the day, not a deterrent. Otherwise we go through our day in a madly-driven fog, and isn’t that tiring? It’s monotonous, boring, unhuman–it is the automaton of our age. That’s not who we are raising, and that’s not what we are.

So how can we connect and practice this mindfulness? In my own life, I do it a few ways. I have crucifixes and statues and icons all over my house that, as my gaze falls on them,  pull me into the present. They make me stop and think with consciousness. When I start thinking about something other than the task before me? I catch myself and pull my mind back into what I am doing. When I feel irritation rising within me, it is an alarm bell as to my motives in that moment. I feel it and I can stop and judge if I am rightly attending to the situation before me.

For a non-religious person, there are many beautiful ways to practice mindfulness. You can write words on stones and leave them on your desk or windowsill, and when you glance at them, you can reconnect with your purpose.  A nature table is another meaningful way to bring mindfulness into your family’s life. As we gaze upon beauty, we should stop and be thankful for it.

How can we work a habit of mindfulness and consciousness into our children?

When we become aware of our own inattention, we can see the inattention in them and readjust them. A slight touch on the shoulder, a hug, a kiss, an affectionate reminder of giving our full attention to the task at hand is a loving way to pull a child back. Just a slight readjustment of the sails can remind them to attend to what they are doing.

There is a beauty and a bounty to being present. The beauty comes with the connection we experience, not only with our work but also our loved ones. I will tell you a secret. The bounty of being present comes with getting work accomplished.  I don’t know what magic it is, but when I am fully attentive to my day, in the evening I can reflect back with amazement on how much I accomplished and how I was able to connect with those whom I encountered that day.

Instead of ending our day with being always almost-attentive, we can be present, there, fully engaged, come what may. Isn’t that so much more than a checklist?

If you would like to read more on being present, Eckhert Tolle has an article on the idea, and he calls it the Joy of Being.

Briana1  

Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

Self-Employed and Hs'ing

Homeschooling as a Single Mom: An Interview, by Emma & Genevieve

Sandbox to Socrates recently did a series on our biggest homeschooling challenges. Time constraints and self-discipline are surely hurdles which every homeschooling family must clear, but we can’t think of many things more challenging than homeschooling as a single parent.

Emma, one of our contributing writers, graciously agreed to be interviewed on this topic.

What kind of job do you have? 

I am a graphic designer and have my own freelancing business. I have also recently begun working for a publishing company as the creative director of two of their magazines.

What do the kids do while you are at work?

A friend and fellow homeschooler cares for and teaches my children in addition to hers while I’m at work.

What are your work hours?

It varies depending on workload. Freelancing is sink or swim: I either have five projects going at a time or no work at all. The magazines are similar. The weeks near deadline are busy, and I work three to four days a week for 7-8 hours. Otherwise, it is two to three days a week for a few hours.

When do you do school?

We school in the morning, except for Fridays when we have co-op in the afternoon.

If you share parenting, how does that affect your homeschooling?

It makes it complicated. Their father was not teaching them when he took them during the week, so we had to rearrange the schedule so that he only gets them on weekends and one evening.

Where do you do school?

We generally school in the dining room and kitchen.

What are your homeschooling hours?

We start around 8:30am and are usually done by lunch, unless they work slowly or there’s more work than usual.

Does your former spouse homeschool them as well? 

Their father does not participate in their schooling.

What is your biggest challenge as a single homeschooling parent?

My biggest challenge is how to fit everything in: work, housekeeping, schooling, personal life, time with the kids. It’s a lot of juggling.

What is one thing that friends and loved ones could do to help you?

I try not to ask friends and family for too much help. However, when one offers to help with the kids, babysit or even run an errand for me, thus taking one thing, even something small, off of my plate is a HUGE help.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We hope this will be an inspiration to others wondering if they can still homeschool as a single parent.

About Homeschooling, How We Make it Work

Homeschooling is the Right Choice…But How Do I Convince Others? by Brandy

As any homeschool mom will tell you, there are daily challenges – the baby is sick, the furnace went out, the middle child is dragging his feet through spelling, and the toddler is wrecking the living room. But sometimes there are bigger challenges which must be confronted before homeschooling can even start.

I was determined to homeschool, but my husband was dead set against it.

I currently homeschool my two older children. My daughter is seven and my son is five . Neither one have ever been to public school. That was almost not the case though.

When I was much younger and in school myself, homeschooling was only attempted by radical “crazy” people. My aunt pulled my cousins out of school and homeschooled them through graduation. I clearly remember thinking she was doing them a huge disservice and that they were going to be so messed up. Fast forward ten years. My very first sweet baby was approaching the age where most parents start to consider preschool. I was not ready for her to be away from me for any amount of time, so I kept putting it off. I started looking into homeschooling. The more research I did, the more it convinced me this was the right thing for my girl and our family. I kept that thought to myself for a long time. My husband felt about homeschooling exactly as I had ten years earlier and was not going to be easy to convince otherwise. He is a very open-minded man, but this was one area I knew he just would not see the positive side.

Finally, a few years had passed, I had done hours upon hours of research, and I was determined to homeschool my daughter who would be starting kindergarten in the fall. I brought it up to my husband and just like I thought, he was against it. He thought she needed to go to school to make friends and learn and be in a regular classroom environment. My daughter was, and still is, what many call “spirited.” I knew if she went to a traditional classroom she would get into trouble often and her unique qualities could very easily be stifled.

I was determined, but not only was my husband not on board, every other support person in my life thought I was crazy as well. Those people did not really have an impact on whether it happened or not, but they definitely had an impact on my confidence in this endeavor. I suppose I could have played the dictator and just said “this is what is going to happen,” but that is not how my marriage works nor how I want it to work.

At this point, homeschooling was non-negotiable for me, but I was the only one who felt that way. I had to find a way to convince my husband that this was what was best for our family. I  approached him again and asked for a trial year. Our daughter would be a fairly new five year old when starting kindergarten and I knew that even if it did not work out, she would not miss too much. So I worded it that way – asking him if he would let us take a year to see how it goes. “She is so young that she will not miss out on much and if it does not work out, we can always enroll her in school.” Those were the exact words I remember saying to him. He grudgingly agreed to that one year.

Three and a half years later, we are still going strong. I can’t say that he is 100% on board even now, but he sees how much our children grow and thrive everyday and knows this is what is best for them at this time, and he 100% supports that. Will we always homeschool? I hope so, but if it is ever in any of my children’s best interests, we will put them in public school. So while I struggle with other challenges such as children crying because they hate reading or trying to do school while my four month old screams and my three year old climbs on everything,  getting my husband to agree to try homeschooling was my biggest challenge. And it’s been worth every minute.